Having spent the last week with Ms. Fastlane (an overfussy bitch if there ever was one), Eli's thought turned once more to the differences between the University of California and the NRHU where he toils. This was brought home by his discussion today with our refugee from big Pharma who has not quite figured out where he is.
So, for the benefit of those who might want to figure out where they will be (and NRHUs are the fate of most graduates from the really big ones) here are a few rules about research in a research hostile environment:
Research is an addiction like alcoholism, worse there are no social researchers that it pays to hang out with.
a. Find at least one other faculty member to work with. If possible collaborate with people at multiple institutions. You cannot do it yourself.
b. Pick your problems carefully. If you work on a problem that someone at MIT is working on, you will lose. They have an army, you don't even have your own time.
c. Theoretical work is better than experimental work. You don't have a lab at home.
d. Unsponsored research is expensive onanism.
e. Understand your administrative system. Find the key people and be their friend. Take the time to explain to them what your research is about. They will be interested and they will develop an interest in seeing you succeed.
f. Find local businesses that can sell you what you need. They are your stockroom and shop. It pays to talk to the guys at the counter, they may know better than you what you need.
g. You will have to be imaginative. For example, we once saved over $1000 by realizing that a cooler a laser company wanted to sell us was a radiator from a motorcycle. The motorcycle store was more than happy to do the repair which was slightly non-standard, because they could tell the story to others.
h. Support your students. Faculty who take any grant to support their students are prostitutes. Faculty who expect their students to support them are pimps.
i. Some grants are not worth having, especially if you cannot possibly do the work, they require expertise you do not have or chew all your time up in administrivia.
j. The only time you have any leverage is at the beginning.
k. ALWAYS tell the truth. Social lies will kill you. Exaggerating will not help you. If you don't want to answer a question don't say anything.