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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Grant Funding and Buying Out Your Time: Request for Information

In part because my work lies at the intersection of law and medicine, I have been able to participate in some wonderful grant-funded projects. So few of my non-clinical colleagues do grant-funded work, that Harvard has faced a series of interesting and new-ish questions about how to manage my time in relation to these grants. For those who are unfamiliar with "soft money" environments, many of my colleagues at our medical and public health schools, in particular, are "soft money" funded. Essentially this means they are expected to raise much of their salaries through grants, and end up teaching more or making less if they do not reach their goal in grant funding. 

The law school environment is quite different, of course. I love teaching and would like to think I add some value to the teaching program there. At the same time, grant-funded work can be a really nice way to influence policy and contribute to solving tangible problems and working with stakeholders I would never encounter writing more theoretical or doctrinal scholarship. For example I am extremely excited that myself and my center at the law school will be working with our medical school, other parts of the university, and the National Football League Players' Association, on a 10-year 100 million dollar Harvard Integrated Program to Protect and Improve the Health of NFLPA Members funded by the players through the association. This is the kind of work I could never do except in the grant-funded milieu and I am also excited to involve our students in this kind of work.

As law school resources become more scarce I think many schools will be thinking more about whether there are grants that their non-clinical faculty could and should pursue. For thos schools that have encountered these situations before, though, I am very curious to learn if there are policies in place regulating non-clinical law faculty and their time in these regards? For example, does your school have a limit as to how much time you can buy out? Should it (my own prior is yes, but I have not deeply thought about it yet). To the extent your school has limits on the amount of "outside activities" such as consulting you can do (we have such limits at Harvard), is grant funded work counted as such? Should it be? In medical and public health schools the ability to get grant funded work is a major component of promotion and tenure decisions. I am also curious whether law schools have considered this in lateral or promotion cases?

- I. Glenn Cohen

Posted by Ivan Cohen on May 30, 2013 at 10:28 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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This sounds like an excellent workshop topic for ASLME, AALS, or SEALS. At least in bioethics, we have an excellent four-hour pre-conference workshop scheduled for the October 2013 ASBH Annual meeting in Atlanta.

Posted by: Thaddeus Pope | Jun 16, 2013 11:06:54 PM

Law professors interested in possibly doing funded work should not assume that it has to be funded only from grants, nor that it has to consist primarily of traditional legal research.

For more than 40 years, while a full time professor of law at George Washington University, I also served as Executive Director and Chief Counsel of a 501(c)(3) legal-action antismoking and nonsmokers' rights organization [Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)] which was able to do everything from getting cigarette commercials banned to starting the nonsmokers' rights movement, encouraging litigation against the tobacco industry by smokers, nonsmokers, and the federal governments, implementing an international tobacco control treaty, and, most recently, getting a 50% surcharge on smokers into the Obamacare legislation.

While some of our money came from grants, we were also able to raise lots of our funding [$4 million when I left in 2010] and a comfortable endowment from donations from individuals who were delighted that we were using the largely untapped power of legal action to protect them and fight smoking. If you can do things people really want done, and publicize it, you may also be able to attract tax-deductible contributions.

Law professors also should not assume that the work they seek financial support for has to - or even should - consist primarily of traditional legal research published in law reviews. Indeed, as I have noted in the National Law Journal, New York Times, and elsewhere, those who assert that new ideas can only be advanced through scholarly journals are myopic legal eunuchs.

As my own work, and that of many other academic colleagues has shown, law professors who produce legal scholarship in the form of petitions for rulemaking, trial memos, legislative proposals, complaints to agencies, etc. can frequently have a far greater impact on the real world than most law review articles.

Posted by: John Banzhaf | Jun 2, 2013 1:45:15 PM

Do you have any recommendations for where to find out more about how to get grants? In my experience, law schools are becoming more interested in this. I'm personally most interested in interdisciplinary research on sexuality (so basically law and psychology) and have worked on a non-grant funded, co-authored project in this area. Thanks!

Posted by: Ann Tweedy | Jun 2, 2013 8:43:25 AM

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