Response to future cuts
The leadership of our research unit is responding to UC budget reductions by seeking to increase revenue and cut costs. Beyond what has already been done, one near-term cost-cutting plan is the elimination of all non-SOE lecturers, thus requiring ladder-rank faculty to teach more (a rumor suggests faculty will be allowed to "buy out" from teaching). Another strong possibility is that research-series faculty, who currently receive half of their salaries from institutional funds and half from their own grants, will have the institutional component of their salaries cut. A third cost-cutting measure is stronger encouragement for older faculty to retire (and go RTAD if they are still productive). We may also expand our small and technically self-supporting professional masters program since that returns some money directly to our department. Obviously, anything and everything that can possibly be charged directly to extramural sources will no longer be supported by institutional funding (except for short-term start-up packages for new appointees). In the long term, our leadership expects to substantially reduce the number of faculty in our unit (primarily through attrition of research faculty) since faculty salaries are the largest part of our continuously decreasing core UC funding.
Apart from a restoration of UC core funding, the most desired revenue-enhancing measure is to have a greater fraction of the indirect cost recovery (ICR) we generate from extramural funding returned to us rather than diverted elsewhere in the UC system, but this plan has met with little success with the campus administration and UCOP. Since we do get a third of our ICR returned, we are nonetheless striving to increase the amount of our extramural funding to an even higher level. Private fundraising makes a small contribution, although this has fallen off in the current economic climate. The leadership of our unit also plans to increase the faculty teaching load and is encouraging professors to develop new large-enrollment undergraduate classes. Considered alone, these actions would be revenue enhancing because we receive funding through the campus partially on the basis of the number of undergraduate students taught and the number of graduate students enrolled.
It remains to be seen, however, whether any additional teaching pays off since we may merely cannibalize students from our current courses. Moreover, every hour spent by a professor on teaching is an hour not spent on preparing a grant proposal. In terms of incentives for individual faculty and payoff for our unit, additional extramural funding is much more remunerative than additional teaching. This is the case even though only a third of our ICR is returned and only about 30% of grant proposals in our discipline are successful (a percentage nevertheless higher than that for almost any other discipline). Our leadership has acknowledged that the faculty cannot indefinitely continue doing more with less, but they hope we have not yet reached the breaking point.
While we have been able to temporarily substitute federal funding for some of the shortfall in state funding, this is only a short-term solution. Start-up packages still need to be offered, matching funds from the institution may be required, and maintenance of facilities cannot be directly charged to a grant. Science faculty may ride out a brief crisis by paying themselves from extramural funds, but in the long term they will leave and go to an institution that provides more hard-money support. Extramural funds cannot replace core funds; they merely leverage core funds to support a greater amount of research.