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You make an excellent point, Nick.
I’ve been working with a professor/PI on his safety program. Fundamentally, he runs a small business, under the auspices of the University environment. He has to find money (writing grants) to support his employees (grad students and post-docs). He has to order supplies, manage his employees, produce an excellent research “produc t.” He’s on a 9-month appointment which means he has to pay himself from his grant funding for the 3 months (summer) where he isn’t on the Univers ity payroll. It also means he’s less likely to be interested in 220;University business” during the summer. He certainly isn’t unique. Naturally, he works with pyrophors so his safety program must be paramount – and it is.
None of this is an excuse for a lack luster safety program, as you say. But it’s important to be cognizant of the realities of the academic environment in which I toil and try to make compliance straightfor ward and flexible. We try to make it easy to comply, as best we can. Most folks are cooperative – some are real pills! p>
And another $0.02!
Debbie M. Decker, Campus Chemical Safety Officer
Environmental Health and Safety
University of California, Davis
1 Shields Ave.
Davis, CA 95616
Co-Conspirator to Make the World A
Better Place -- Visit www.HeroicS tories.com and join the conspiracy
Debbie et al,
I think a key concept here is the de facto business model in academia. Far from being a highly centralized, command-and-control organization, academia is heavily de-centralized in many ways. Easy t o say, but what does that mean?
I have taken to saying that each PI is the CEO of their own research shop. The buck stops with them. Their business is research, meaning the widgets they produce are publications of research results, they recruit their “employees” to explore research que stions, their research enterprises rise and fall on how well they keep their resear ch machine moving along. Each CEO has to line up enough “venture capital” in the form of grant money, so the Grant Application machine has got to be humming. Academic departments are not tightly managed busin ess units with production goals, but loose federations of CEOs. Colleges and Universities are loose federations of these loose federations. (This may all sound like a monstrosity, but how can a department head dictate researc h goals to a faculty member, especially when many of these leadership positio ns are subject to term limits?) For the small business CEO with the rese arch shop, membership in the “research consortium” means certain ris ks are centralized away (such as medical coverage for research personnel invol ved in an accident) while opportunities remain to advance one’s career reputation as a prolific researcher.
So it seems to me. Your results may vary. span>
Not intended as an excuse for the state of affairs, but a description of the lay of the land. And not at all intended as representative of my employer, etc.
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