Tuesday, May 31, 2005

RETAINING SENIOR SCIENTISTS AND EXTERNALLY SUPPORTED BASIC SCIENCE AT LANL

From Anonymous:

RETAINING SENIOR SCIENTISTS AND EXTERNALLY SUPPORTED BASIC SCIENCE AT LANL:
Part of the potential brain-drain from LANL comprises senior basic researchers,
who may either retire early or leave for greener pastures, or both. These
senior researchers are often Principal Investigators of their own basic
research grants obtained from outside funding institutions (NASA, NIH, ARPA etc.).
These outside grants typically support in addition to the PI, other staff
members and postdocs (who may later become staff members), and form a key
component of basic science at LANL. The potential loss of senior Principal
Investigators and their grants, and the personnel the grants support, will
have wide ripple effects on basic science at LANL.

Does anyone know what the current status is of a senior researcher who retires,
in terms of their outside grant support? Can they remain as PI of their
external grants at LANL, and continue to lead the research effort and
be paid for doing so from the grant? Such an early retiree still needs
to consider their future "real" retirement (their early retirement was basically
forced by circumstances, i.e. retention of their present UC benefits).
Can such an early retiree contribute volountarily to e.g. the 403b and 457
(clearly UCRP is not an option if the researcher is officially retired)?
One might hope the answer is "yes", particularly if the grant is
assessed the same high overhead, i.e. there should be some inducement to keep
the PI and the grant at LANL. These questions are about the current
situation at LANL, i.e. if someone knows the facts then it would be helpful
to post it.

Regardless of current policy, the issue of retention of senior basic research
scientists and their external grant support at LANL is an issue affecting the
future of basic science at LANL. Thus it might be one that the new contractor
would wish to address in a postive way.

Comments:
I have come back as a Laboratory Fellow Affiliate and am able to contribute to 403b (and I believe 457). The limitation is that I can only work 40% of the time over a 12 month period at 85% of my preretirement salary. I'm not a PI on any project but am assisting several projects. It is easier for me because of being a Fellow, but there is no reason the Lab couldn't do this in a broader way should they consider it to the advantage of the Lab. This all could change, of course, with a new manager.
 
The senior scientists that I know who were externally supported have been able to take their grants with them. I know of about 20 of these. I do not know of any who then came back to LANL to work themselves. I know of a couple who left LANL but still supported some LANL folks.
 
The almost universal Office of Science requirement to PI a grant is to be employed by the institution receiving the grant as faculty or staff.
 
We had one of our staff leave after the shutdown, and he took his NIH grant with him. No complaint, mind you, it was the correct thing to do. The thing is, he requested to leave part of the funding here to allow the team to finish some work they had been doing, and our LANL budget folks said, "We don't know how to do that."

So he took the whole grant with him.
 
To 8:08:

With NIH, the grant follows the P/I, should he decide to move, not the institution where he worked when he received the grant.
 
Just to be clear, the question was aimed at *keeping* senior scientists and their active, external grants at LANL, even if they retire (e.g. to lock in UC benefits). That one can retire, leave LANL, and go to another scientific institution with your external grant is given (subject to the granting agency's approval). However it's to the Lab's benefit to keep such senior scientists and the science their grants support, doing science here.

We have the following info so far:
(a) A Lab fellow can retire and come back as a Lab Fellow Affiliate, work 40% time at 85% of pre-retirement salary, and also contribute to the 403b. That's "employment" in some sense, the researcher is receiving a salary via LANL.
(b) A statement that external grants require (reasonably enough) that the PI be employed by the institution.

It would still be of interest to know of examples (if they exist) of a LANL PI of an external grant who retires, but returns to work on his grant at LANL, and draws a salary (perhaps subject to restrictions such as (a), above).
 
When you leave LANL, be mindful of the fact that UC owns any intellectual property that you may develop for the following two years after retirement or resignation. This may not be of great concern if you are going to academia, but it can be a problem if you are founding a new start-up company or if you go for an industrial research position. Good Luck to all of you!!!!!!
 
Of course the UC would have to show some initiative to come after any intellectual property they thought was theirs...and it would have to be worth the risk of their losing the challenge….you should be so lucky.
 
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