I'm a 1st year computer science PhD student in Poland, who started about 6 months ago. I'm working on a nice project towards a publication. My supervisor recently made an ultimatum: either I will apply for a research grant or we stop working together. This came as a surprise and sadness to me, because in the beginning I had no idea that this would be a requirement.

I'm not keen on signing for a grant, because it's binding for a couple of years (if you abort a grant you need to give the money back), you need to have a plan, write reports, it's a lot of work to even write the proposal down (and it can also be not accepted) and the money to my pocket is almost nothing. Most of grant could be spent on computing resources and conferences. But I could pay for conferences even from my own pocket (I work part time to cover my costs). For computing, there are some resources our group has access to that would be sufficient for my research.

I was thinking for a couple of days about this situation. Is it normal that a supervisor would force me to apply for grants? Can he do that? Should I talk to somebody? I'm feeling down and lost. I'm close to giving up the whole PhD. I mean, I give my time for no money. I was hoping that at least I could get an access to the computing resources. He doesn't have time to meet in person, although I have ask several times before. We talk via email. Before PhD studies I moved to live closer to the university, to have more interactions, but that turned out to be futile.

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    What's going on here? You don't have a stipend, you've never met your supervisor? – Azor Ahai -him- May 8 '18 at 23:17
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    Mentioning what country or region you're in may help you get better answers about how normal this is. – cactus_pardner May 8 '18 at 23:18
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    @Cactus Poland. – student May 8 '18 at 23:28
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    @student I suspect some of the European posters will have seen situations like this. In general it's useful to practice applying for grants, even if one may not get them, and it would be a reasonable exercise for a professor to ask one to draft a grant application. You're in a tough situation, since you're not sure about committing to the content of a grant and you and your supervisor are not on the same page. – cactus_pardner May 8 '18 at 23:48
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    You should never agree to pay conference costs. At least not until you have exhausted all other options and you absolutely need to be there. – TheWanderer May 9 '18 at 8:23

So, first of all, in Europe the relation PhD sutudent–supervisor can be detached from the relation employee–employer.

While it is possible to obtain a PhD sitting on a different job all the time, I can only support the urge to move to a grant-funded position. You would have much more time for your research when compared to part-timing for money. I am speaking out of experience.

So, the first conclusion is: you probably need a grant.

Now, for application. Typical funding bodies I know, require the applicant to hold a PhD already. So, it's your supervisor, who needs to apply. Contrarily, a stipend can be granted for a student. I heavily suggest talking in person about this issue.

The second conclusion is: you need to clarify, what kind of funding it is and who would do most of the writing. Talk with your supervisor.

The general rule of thumb is: agree with your supervisor, as he/she has much more experience in the academic questions than you do. There are some common pitfalls and non-obvious issues. For example: where to publish, what kind of a position is better, etc.

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    Thank you for sharing your experience. To make some facts straight: this is not a typical grant, this one is for beginners, pre-PhD. I would be the person to apply. I could give myself a stipend from this grant (as principal investigator) but it's tiny, I can't live out of that. I would do most of the writing. – student May 9 '18 at 7:49
  • I thought the relation will be more like student-advisor (it was most of the time). – student May 9 '18 at 8:01
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    @student - What would happen if your grant application were unsuccessful? If it were successful, what other sources of funding would there be, if any? Have you talked to a department administrator? – aparente001 May 9 '18 at 17:24
  • @aparente If unsuccessful - nothing happens. I will probably need to apply every year or to other funding bodies. If successful - I don't think there will be other funding sources. I haven't talked to a department administrator... I'm not sure to which person you refer to... I'm also not sure that this will help. – student May 9 '18 at 19:00
  • What I had in mind was for you to understand the flow chart as well as you can, so that you can make an informed decision. A department typically has some sort of director and some other administrators, such as a dean or director of graduate studies. Your university might identify the administrators in the department on its website, or you might just need to ask around. There are several different types of people you can ask: students (at various levels), professors (young / more senior), secretaries. You can choose who you feel comfortable asking. – aparente001 May 9 '18 at 20:54

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