Touker Suleyman of Dragon’s Den fame, said that, in business, ‘Cash is King’. Gender-dependent references aside, I’d say it’s data that tops the hierarchy in research. Whilst leading grants is a complicated, bureaucratic and often thankless task, it is balanced by the joy and reassurance of data rolling in. With data, the mind is stimulated, the reasoning begins and interpretations are developed. These datastreams feed the outputs, they feed the applications. Data is the cash of research. As the datastream dries-up, the returns on research investment dwindle. Research eventually goes bust and talented people are lost from the system.
The hiatus to research activity caused by lockdown has been double edged. Researchers have used what was otherwise wasted commuting time to develop new grant proposals, helping shift an equilibrium from the fiscal reliance on students towards fully economically costed grant income. By doing so, the future of research-led university teaching is more secure; that synergy between research, practice and teaching has been reinvigorated by new logistics and necessity. On the other hand, lockdown has been a nightmarish experience; a threat to the datastreams we rely on. Labs have been closed, projects are on hold, careers are in jeopardy.
Grant awarding agencies have mitigated the negative outcomes of lockdown, by providing extensions to staff contracts as well as no-cost extensions. It’s important that researchers at all career stages appreciate the existence and importance of extensions. The medical science grants I’m associated with have received very generous no-cost extensions (thank you Kidney Research UK!), allowing us to sustain our efforts but they’ve also indirectly helped by allowing me to completely re-write a major grant application affected by lockdown. Circumstances have dictated that I apply for extensions a few times, to support staff and protect projects. In my experience, most awarding agencies employ a flexible (yet diligently cautious) approach to extending grant deadlines. This provides security for early career researchers and research assistants, which therefore protects that all important datastream.
Thankfully, the response to the current situation has seen extensions being applied across all areas of research activity. It’s in everyone’s interest to request and be given these extensions. They protect people and by doing so, the datastream.
Not all early career researchers are aware of extensions but you should be, they are an important means for successfully managing your future team! All grant awarding agencies have extension policies and I’d recommend re-reading the information posted by BU’s RDS team with links to the UK funding agencies Covid-19 info. https://blogs.bournemouth.ac.uk/research/contact/rds-advice-to-academics-during-covid-19/uk-funder-news/