Friday, August 3, 2007

PV = nRT

I have uncovered a new law regarding proposal writing, which if it hasn't been already exposed by Piled Higher and Deeper, Jorge Cham is hereby authorized to use this law for purpose of educating the academic masses:

Ideal Grant Proposal Law:


P = the amount of money requested by a proposal, in thousands of dollars (USD, unfortunately given the poor exchange rate)
V = Proposal volume, i.e., number of words/pages of a 12 pt. Palatino or Helvetica font (gets you the most letters per space within regulation) with 1.5 line spacing, 300 words is approximately equal to one page

Then the product of these (PV) is equal to the product of nRT, where:

n= 1 + number of post-docs available to write proposal for you
R = years since P.I. obtained Ph.D.
T= time spent writing, rewriting, editing the proposal, running forms around for signatures, drafting and redrafting figures, and checking references to be sure all potential reviewers are sufficiently represented, in hours

The observed behavior is that T expands to fill every minute between the time you realize you are screwed, there is no way to meet the proposal deadline and you are never going to get tenure to the proposal deadline itself.

Recently, experiments were performed using the given parameters:
P= 50
V= 1700 words = 5.667 pages
n= 1
R= 0.667

Given these conditions, T= 429.318 hours, and averaging 4 hours of sleep that's about three weeks, but it felt more like 429,319 because through my powers of procrastination I reduced T by about 50%. Aside from procrastination effects, the only other proven way to minimize T, is to either only write short grant proposal for pocket change from foundations of former pillagers of the earth (i.e., Rockerfeller, Carnegie, Getty, etc. - no offense intended, I'll still accept your money!), have a lot of post-docs, or just wait for the mere passage of time, during which you either acquire tenure or apathy.

Future investigations are planned to investigate the relationship between mechanisms inducing a decrease in T and rates of successful granstpersonship and/or promotion to associate professorship.

If anyone knows some serious string theory kung-fu, I'd be interested in hearing about quantum methods of reducing T, but only for the dimensions of which or in which I'm conscious (I know there's at least one!)

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