Let us assume you have secured a hefty funding to do some exciting research. The problem is, the funding is about to end, you have done that hard part already and are interested in a follow-up, but it would be a project much smaller in scope - maybe you have created a compound or an apparatus previously and now what is left is putting it to work. And that creates a conflict of interest.

For researchers, the gains from the continuation are obvious and plentiful: your own creation is viewed as an asset, and it would be absurd to not reap the fruits of your own labor. Building the LHC or Webb's and then letting it collect dust would be unthinkable, but for some reason it still happens with smaller projects.

That is because for (a given) administration, the old project is just a liability at this point, given they have gotten their chunk of the funding pie. They want to do a bare minimum to wrap it up and, simply put, only care about financially large projects where they get their cut for moving papers from one side of their desk to another. In this extreme case the proposed follow-up is not just low value, it is seemingly perceived as negative value - they would not only have to work for relatively cheap, their "managerial success" which is already almost at hand now goes back under further scrutiny. Thus, the administration tries to shut the proposal down by action or inaction.

Are there any reasonable strategies for gaining leverage while being a researcher in that scenario? More broadly, what are the instruments one employs to have a measure of control over their own research/lab so to not get involved in what is, well, corruption and still grease the wheels of the bureaucratic machine to get it going? Even the trivial "scientific output is still - at the end of the day - funding" seems to imply getting someone on your side - who would that be?

This is fairly similar to a question about a PhD and their ex-head of the lab, but plays out at another level, which is why I feel it warrants a separate one.

For context: this is not an immediate concern of mine, but I have seen a fair share of this kind of dynamics in play. The situation in here (Russia) is infamously bad, but I also believe similar things happen elsewhere as well. If that is heavily region-specific, I would be interested in learning about offices and facilities getting involved regardless.

  • 2
    Somehow this feels like a fairly, idk, specific problem? I would imagine in the general case the "value" for the institution, in terms of papers and reputations, is not in owning a specific device, but in actually producing important findings with it? It feels that more people should have the opposite problem - unwillingness of the org to invest into a new line of research as long as papers could still reasonably be squeezed out of what they already have ...
    – xLeitix
    Feb 2, 2022 at 9:16
  • Planning for what happens after the funding ends usually starts before the funding begins, and often the funding agency wants to know what the plans are as part of the proposal (or in evaluations during the grant).
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 2, 2022 at 20:04
  • "Let us assume [...]" Agreed with @xLeitix Is it a real or imaginary situation?
    – enthu
    Feb 3, 2022 at 8:44
  • @xLeitix Welp, I guess it is indeed specific to Russia then. Sorry. Long-term planning is basically nonexistent on the administrative level here, everyone knows the heads will roll every three years or so, so administration, including that in funding agencies, prefers to handle each individual grant as uneventfully as possible. Similarly, everyone subsided by the government tries to show some tiiiiny gains to stay afloat - doing too well is dangerous. And if in 5 years all the funding is funneled into nanotechnology, your project better be about it even if you are doing astronomy...
    – Lodinn
    Feb 3, 2022 at 10:25
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    @enthu Very real. The situation that prompted me to ask this is recently witnessed few million euro project being consistently driven into ground by shutting down prospective collaborations, but this is far from an isolated case (although especially egregious).
    – Lodinn
    Feb 3, 2022 at 10:36


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