Note to Self
Grants are awarded to institutions. My research is oddly enough not attached to me.
Case in point: The Superior Court of San Diego has issued an injunction to block transition of the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) from UC San Diego to the University of Southern California. ADCS is an NIH-funded, nationwide study aimed at accelerating new Alzheimer’s treatments. The study began at UC San Diego in 1991 and was considered portable by its PI, who took the helm in 2007. A massive recruitment package from USC seemed designed to lure both him and the study away. Though legal wrangling continues, the odds makers favor the data and related grants returning to their origin. The LA Times has been covering the story.
As scientists, we are not mentored about being prepared for academic moves between institutions. After all, who would want to coach us on how to be prepared to leave? While we can rail about precedent in this case and stake out sides, less angst can be involved for most of us if we find new opportunities calling. What’s the lesson here?
Prudent investigators will heed this note-to-self and structure data sharing agreements and processes for review of requests for data or resources to support collaborative, multi-institutional participation, in case you end up being the player at a new institution. A formal document that outlines shared governance among the investigators who have been funded on the project (prior and current) and a process for reviewing and approving requests for data for grant development, publications, graduate education, and other activities is key as soon as there is more than small change on the table or more than one investigator involved. Not after a move is in view.
As you set study governance policies, imagine you could, in a worst case scenario, become a distant rather than local beneficiary of that policy. While most grants and many resources will transfer, you don’t want to end up involuntarily divorced from your study. And if push comes to shove – which it often does in divorces. (Even if amicable among the faculty partners, institutional sparring partners can appear – remember you are not the negotiator.) As PI, you do not “own” the science. Work early to have ways to keep the scientific team united so that cross-institutional discussions and planning for joint benefits can be realized by your new institution as well as your prior academic home.
Update: As of January 2016, UCSD has been given “read only rights” to the data in the study above.