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I recently received a grant (JSPS Kakenhi) to support research funds. For personal equipment, I will be listing a computer and camera. The computer is for computational parts of my research and the camera is to document fieldwork for professional-level photos that can be used in press releases, presentations, and publications.

I plan to ask the funding source (JSPS Kakenhi) directly. However, I am curious to know, in general, how funding agencies view individuals using equipment for personal projects (in addition to their intended research uses).

Is it in general appropriate or inappropriate (ethical or unethical) to use the camera as well for personal use in a manner that would not render it less useful for its research use? What should become of the camera after the two-year research support concludes? Is it only appropriate/ethical to use the camera for personal uses after the research funding end date?

Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge.

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    Are the "personal projects" likely to lead to one or more peer-reviewed publications in which you can acknowledge the funding source in the usual way, or to other deliverables of interest to the funding agency that you could include in end-of-grant or interim reports? – Daniel Hatton Sep 30 at 15:27
  • The intended research project would use the photos in conferences, presentations, and papers and acknowledge the funding source. However, the "personal project" would not result in work that would acknowledge the funding source. – lavenderGem Oct 3 at 0:46
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Generally, the rules will say that the equipment is only to be used for research purposes. In practice, no one is going to mind if you watch a bit of netflix, or send some personal emails on your work laptop. No one will even check. I routinely use my work laptop (purchased on a grant) to edit holiday photos, and even have a couple of games installed. Similarly, no one is going to mind if you use your research camera for a few snaps of the research group's social lunch, but I wouldn't use if for your weekend side hussle of paid wedding photography. Its about being reasonable.

One important consideration is that these piece of equipment are often portable. This means that they can be lost/stolen, and no one is going to be very happy if your research camera is stolen while you are on a bar trip.

In both the last two places I have worked there have been schemes to purchase personal items of equipment like this when you leave the university. The price is often only nominal because the university writes off the value of small consumer electronics after 3 years.

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    Indeed, I have always seen the "in Academia, no one looks too closely if it is private or personal use, as long as it is not used excessively" as a perk of Academia (or maybe as a compensation for people far away from home who can not carry all private things with them). No postdoc I have ever seen who is only here for one year buys a new printer, they just print out the 20 pages of contracts/emergency whatever etc. at the university printer. No one cares. – user111388 Sep 30 at 14:06
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    Would avoid porn, tho – Azor Ahai -him- Sep 30 at 15:05
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Is it in general appropriate to use the camera for personal use in a manner that would not render it less useful for its research use?

It is inappropriate because it creates the false impression that the funds were spent for personal purposes instead of research purposes. Do not do it. However, it is not unethical if the funds were really spent for research purposes.

What should become of the camera after the two-year research support concludes?

The owner (usually the university) should continue to use the camera for research purposes until it is disposed of as worthless. There may be a process for the university to sell the equipment, but usually this process is deemed more effort than it is worth.

Is it only appropriate/ethical to use the camera for personal uses after the research funding end date?

The funding end date does not matter.

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    The owner is often not the university for personal fellowships - these often state that if the fellow moves to a new institution, even after the fellowship has ended, equipment bought on the fellowship must move with them. – Ian Sudbery Sep 30 at 10:45

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