Monday, August 5, 2013

You have to pay kickbacks for grants in China?

This is a terribly interesting letter in this week's C&EN from Stanford emeritus professor James Collman:
Congratulations on the interesting article “China Homecoming” (C&EN, June 10, page 34). There is, however, one important issue not mentioned that would complete this analysis of Chinese chemists returning to take academic positions in China. Although research grants are relatively easy to obtain there, large grants require an illegal kickback, paid in cash, to some official who controls the expenditure. This problem is widely known but seldom discussed. 
James P. Collman
Stanford, Calif. 
I am not so naive to believe that this doesn't exist in China; that said, I wonder how widespread the problem is? I suppose we'll never know.  


  1. Before we get too smug about occupying the moral high ground on this issue we should also have a discussion about "overhead" expenses charges to research grants by universities. I remember when I got my first industrial grants that it felt like my university mugged me and left me bleeding in the alley. Once I understood how the system worked I was able to recover much of the funds charged to my grants by discussion only deals with the Dean in the form of salary support for post-docs. I remember one department head explaining to me that if it wasn't for overhead expenses that the department would not have any funds to support research and travel for faculty that did not have any grants. He said that to me in a tone that suggested that he thought that I would be overcome by the collegial goodness of the expense. I was as outraged as any tenure-track academic could be (I wrote three letters that I did not send and went home, ranted to my wife promising myself that once I got tenure rights would be wronged).

    1. Overhead nowadays is essential to support 6-figure salary tenured faculty who no longer pull grants and refuse to retire (in my institution 100% of their salary is paid, no matter if they bring in grants or not). I think of it as kind of a very generous welfare benefit to those that were lucky enough to get tenure.

      The american taxpayer, without question, is being ripped off.

    2. Overhead at my old institution went primarily to pay the salaries of armies of non-PR, non-citizen scientists who, because of their immigration statuses, could not be paid from NIH salaries. And because they were not paid from NIH salaries, they could pay them wages well below the NIH mandate. And if they bitched about their salaries or working conditions, they just threatened to relieve them of their work visas.

      Agreed, if only the taxpayer knew, but who is going to tell the story?


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