Monday, July 25, 2011

Why start this blog?

Dear Research Friends and Colleagues at UVM,

Over the last few years you may have received one or more of my "tirades" on some aspect of protocols at UVM that consume time (and money) that we could otherwise productively put to use doing research that helps our state and region and to provide opportunities for our students to gain experience and participate in the creation of new ideas. Most of these tirades were written in jest and were mainly a way for me to vent my frustration. But they all had an element of truth. And unfortunately, the consequences are no longer humorous.

The fact is that conducting research in today's highly regulated environment is complicated. Certainly the research is becoming more complicated. But the frustrating thing for all of us is that simply managing the research is getting so complicated that one sometimes wonders if it is worth it to respond to a new call for a proposal because of the headaches you'll have to negotiate.

Many of the rules that are making our research lives so complicated are created outside UVM, by agencies and by agency watchdogs. But it is also the case that many rules are made or re-interpreted by UVM. And these rules are all changing daily. I think it is also a fact that grants and contracts administrator and the researchers with which they interact simply don't understand one another. From my biased researcher point of view, grants and contracts administrators have no clue what I have to do keep a research program going. But I'm willing to admit that I might not have clue what a grants and contracts administrator has to put up with in their normal working day. This disconnect is hurting us.

I take it as a given that those of us who are interested in making UVM one the best small, full-spectrum, teaching-research universities in the country, would like to see our systems work for us in a way that makes our lives easier and more productive. I assume this to be true of both the researcher and the grants and contacts communities. However, issues still arise. The problem is that there is no easy way to document these issues and track whether and how something can be done to resolve the issues.

Thus, this blog.

I resolve to avoid tirades. Instead, I would like to start documenting a civil and proactive that we can start making this a better place at which to do research. I invite you to please send me your civil and proactive issues as well. My intention is make this a moderated blog. I will remove posts that are inappropriate. However, I encourage you to send me your own issues...or better...your own solutions to issues. Thoughtful comments on theses issues...from other researchers and from the grants and contracts community are welcome.

You are welcome to comment on this blog. Alternatively, you may write me directly at It would be helpful if you put something like "Research Blog" in the subject line. I'll post issues and ideas as I receive them. If you want to remain anonymous, just let me know.

Please feel free to pass this blog URL on to your colleagues at UVM. Let's see if we can make it easier to do good research at UVM.

Breck Bowden
Patrick Professor of Watershed Science
Director, Vermont Water Resrouces and Lakes Studies Center
Director, Theme I, Northeastern States Research Cooperative
Coordinator, NSF Arctic Long-Term Research Program Streams Research

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