Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

Taking the Money for Grant(ed) – Part I

with 45 comments

Update 03/22/2010: Part II now available

Two of the more dubious claims related to climate research funding are:

1)  Scientists are getting rich from research grants!

2)  Scientists holding an anti-AGW viewpoint cannot get funding! 

The first question can be answered by asking another question:

 How many climate scientists are driving a Mercedes sports coupe or other $100,000+ car  into a three car garage in a posh gated neighborhood?

Not convinced?  I will delve deeper into claim #1 later in this post and also in a future post (Part II).

The second question is easier to answer.  There are a few publishing scientists that strongly disagree with the established consensus that humans are the primary drivers of modern climate change and yet they seem to find funding without much difficulty.  These include, among others, Dr. Richard S. Lindzen (MIT), Dr. John R. Christy (UAH), Dr. Roy Spencer (UAH/NASA), and Dr. William M. Gray (CSU).  Wikipedia hosts a list of others and many of those scientists appear to be funded.

Fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil stand to lose revenue if carbon emissions are restricted so they certainly would dole out money to any scientist that was working on a landmark anti-AGW paper.  Over the years, ExxonMobil alone has kicked in millions and millions of dollars to deny the science.  Surely a company that showed a net profit of $45 billion in 2008 has a few dollars to spend on real anti-AGW research that has a much higher credibility rating than the anti-science information campaign that they have bankrolled since the mid-1990s. 

 Claim #2 is just plain nonsense!

Getting back to claim #1.  Are scientists getting rich from grant funding?  I will use myself as a case study in this post and, in Part II, I will write about others’ experiences.

I recall a lecture I gave on climate change back in April 2009.  After I was finished, a gentleman told me that he though the whole thing was a hoax so that we scientists could get rich from funding.  Before I even had a chance to reply, a voice from the crowd (my wife) yelled out, “Trust me, I can tell you, he isn’t making any money from this. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing!”  The truth hurts, doesn’t it?

I am currently listed as a co-investigator (co-I) on a NASA grant proposal that is to be submitted this month.  The principal investigator (PI) is a colleague of mine who I will call Prof. X and the grant budget is requesting $437,232.67 over a three year period.  Funding from the proposal will be used to create a learning institute to educate secondary education teachers about climate change.  These teachers will be trained to use climate data from NASA in order to incorporate the latest climate change science and data into their curricula.  Essentially, NASA will be using some of its funds so that our children will become more informed.

Assuming the grant is approved, it would be easy for somebody doing a cursory scan of NASA grants to shout out that “Prof. X received a grant for $437,232.  He is getting rich from research funding!  No wonder he claims that humans are causing global warming.  He is in it for the money!”  Sound familiar?  It is often the case where a climate scientist receives a large grant and then there are cries of outrage from those that have no idea of how the money gets spent.

Here is how the $437,232,67 from my grant will be spent over three years:

  1. Participant/Trainee Support Costs = $152,678.50 (135 teachers will participate over three years)
  2. Consulting Services = $4000  (To assess the curricula developed)
  3. Indirect Costs: $76,064.25 (Administrative fees and other fees that are not collected by those named on the grant)
  4. Direct Labor = $204,489.92

$204,489.92 is what the investigators on the grant are paid over three years.  There are six (6) of us working on this grant.  Three of us, including the PI, will receive the majority of that amount.  I will receive $48,264.75 over three years ($16,088.25 per year).  The PI will receive $49,175.31 over three years. 

Imagine that!  What appeared to be a grant for Prof. X for $437,232.67 really nets him $16,391.77 per year.

But, even that is very misleading.  At Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) and many other institutions, grant money can only REPLACE teaching load.  Grant money does not add to our salaries.  For me, $16,088.25 per year equates to 11.8 credit hours of overload teaching.  (Overload hours are those that go above the base salary of fifteen credit hours per semester.  I typically teach 20 overload hours per year which is four classes.)  Rounding to 12 hours, I will give up 2.5 classes per year in order to participate in this grant endeavor.

Bottom line: If the grant proposal is accepted, my W-2 will not change for year 2010.  Instead of all of my salary coming from SCCC, most will come from SCCC and some will come from NASA. 

Unfortunately, the Mercedes will have to wait a little longer.

Claim #1 is also nonsense!  (Too bad for me.)

Part II will examine how grant budgets work at other institutions.  Feel free to comment on this post and let me know about your grant experiences.


Written by Scott Mandia

March 11, 2010 at 10:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized

45 Responses

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  1. Exactly right! And good for using a real-world example. I work with contracts awarded by NIH and it’s similar in that world, although instead of teaching offsets, an investigator is just required to have varying levels of his or her salary come from grants or contracts. The salary level remains fixed, but the university’s contribution is adjusted according to the outside support.

    I am just amazed that this charge is made in the first place.

    David Cassatt

    March 11, 2010 at 3:17 pm

  2. Thank you for this answer to the common denialist myth. I’ve not seen any other response from a scientist to the baseless accusations of profit for AGW research.

    Daniel Henling

    March 12, 2010 at 12:17 pm

  3. Scott, in Australia, scientists are not ‘in it for the money’.

    ARC grants in Australia are quite prestigious and mostly go to Universities and government research institutions. There are various categories of grants. This page lists the salaries:

    ARC grants are probably at the more generous end of the scale to grants from other funding bodies, such as industry research funding bodies.

    As you can see, the salaries are not exhorbitant by any stretch of the imagination and are often/generally below the salaries paid to scientists in government funded positions and private corporations. I don’t have a list of comparable salaries paid by government agencies, but job advertisements or public sector/university websites in Australia might be used for comparison.

    In Australia, research grants are never paid in addition to normal salary. They are only paid to fund extra positions required for the research, or to fund equipment and sometimes facilities or other capital items.

    Government research institutions do not normally permit scientists to earn money outside their salary from work-related activities and most grants are for equipment and additional temporary staff.

    Universities used to allow staff to earn extra funding from private activities such as consulting, but most these days either limit personal earnings from such activity or prohibit it. In any case, it has no relationship to research grants.

    Hope this helps.


    March 13, 2010 at 10:29 am

    • This is very helpful. Thank you. I assume that because it is posted here you are ok with me using this info in my upcoming Part II? Just let me know via email if you want any of this revised.


      Scott A. Mandia

      March 13, 2010 at 12:06 pm

  4. Hi Scott, Very nice article. This site might give you some usable info:

    The increase of spending and number of lobbyists re climate on the fossil fuel side is indicative. There may be other sites on this but I have not had time to delve more.

    I’ve argued similarly that scientists really don’t get raises when they get funding, rather it goes to research, equipment, expenses, travel, etc.

    Heck, I’m still waiting to get rich on climate. I can’t understand it? Not one single penny have I made to date on global warming. This is very disappointing.


    • Agreed, John. I have a section regarding the Lobby on my Reasons for the Misinformation page.

      Scott Mandia

      March 14, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    • I’m sure Al Gore is getting rich either. Still awaiting one solid piece of evidence that mankind causes global warming. The earth has warmed and cooled innumberable times over millions of years without industry to blame it on. Cycles are just that…cycles. I think you gents should take solar activity more into you contrived computer models.


      January 14, 2011 at 6:20 pm

  5. I’m really glad to know that MR Pachauri and Mr Gore aren’t making any more out of AGW….just for a moment I thought there might be a problem…..

    Seriously…where are these accusations that scientists are making shedloads of money being made? I read the blogs and can’t remember seeing one.

    Stirling English

    March 18, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    • I am glad to hear that you never see them but I see these claims often enough on blog comments that I felt the need to address them here. If you recall, I had somebody make these claims to my face in a public forum.

      A simple Google search reveals examples. For example, during the CRU hack, I saw the claims made at RC on several occasions. Gavin was accused of getting rich because he secured a 7 figure grant recently.

      Scott Mandia

      March 18, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    • I can only assume you’ve just begun to read the blogs; I hear this preposterous claim made constantly, and very little response to it. I’m happy to have found this site.

      Of course, AGW deniers have to come up with a reason as to why nearly all earth scientists would conspire to deceive humanity, and the idea of a “gravy train” of lavish grant funding is the best they could come up with. It is a constant refrain. Below is yet one more article making that claim, the link having been sent to me by my sole AGW denier friend.

      John Mayer

      April 18, 2010 at 11:04 pm

  6. who has claimed that scientists are getting rich?

    Mandia: See my reply to the previous comment

    will your analysis consider the implications (in terms of advancement, criticism by peers, etc.) of professors that are pro, neutral or con the agw theory? judith curry comes to mind – it will be interesting to see where she goes now that she has moved towards the center.

    Mandia: Now THAT is a very good question for which I do not have an answer. This post is to rebut the money claim which is easy to do. I would never state that scientists are not human so there are always politics. I imagine that holding a strong opposing view might make one’s career path more difficult.

    people like tamino support eli rabbet’s assertion that all scientists that do not believe the theory should be dismissed (exact wording forgotton as the link is now broken).

    Mandia: I do not agree with that view. However, people like S. Fred Singer and others who knowingly mislead the public should be held accountable.


    March 18, 2010 at 12:20 pm

  7. oh, here it is:
    “The NAS members need to take the lead in withdrawing respect and collegiality from the Pielkes, the Lindzens and the Christys.”

    yes, if they don’t believe your theory, blackball them. just like discussed doing in the climategate emails. great idea to support.


    March 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    • Being open to different points of view, based on valid but conflicting interpretations of data, is not the same as simply accepting all opinions, no matter how ill-founded, equal weight. The New England Journal of Medicine is not obligated to include papers by homeopaths until the basic foundation of homeopathy is validated, a highly unlikely occurrence. Likewise, as the controversy on a Florida campus demonstrated, a medical college is not obligated to provide chiropractic training .

      John Mayer

      April 18, 2010 at 11:11 pm

  8. If a scientist just wanted to make money is it more prudent to join the tens of thousands pursuing climate change science and finding reinforcing data on AGW or would it be easier to make a name and a buck, from the press, speaking engagements or grants by being one of the handful of skeptics? I have spent each of the past 30 summers working on glaciers. No riches in $’s. I simply hope to cover all expenses. Though riches indeed in terms of a long term data set
    and the experience.


    March 18, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    • Becoming a sell-out anti-AGW science advisor is, very likely, the one and only chance many researchers will have to leave behind drab, obscure and humdrum toil for a moment of fame and fortune. Maybe even girls. If you want to make your master’s degree (in SCIENCE!) pay off, emailing your résumé to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity is your best bet!

      John Mayer

      April 18, 2010 at 11:28 pm

  9. Yes, at academic institutions, salaries are set by the institution. A grant saves the university money, but it does not put money in my pocket. It may help me indirectly–getting grants is good for advancement, which will move me into a higher salary scale, but academic salaries top out at levels that are decent, but still modest compared to what say, corporate executives or lawyers make. Nobody gets wealthy off of grants. Converting grant money to personal use is not easy to do even if you are dishonest, because as far as the university is concerned, that money belongs to them, not you, and you are only administrating it. So they keep pretty close track of where the dollars go. Perhaps you can winkle a couple of meeting junkets a year, or a better computer than you would be able to afford otherwise, but that’s about it. Scientists who are wealthy have made their money from patents, or consulting, or they started a successful company.

    Now this is not to say that science is not a pretty sweet gig. It is, after all, a job in which you can receive a moderately decent salary for doing what you enjoy doing, which is more than most people get. Yes, there are many jobs that pay better, but few of them are as much fun. But what is it that scientists enjoy? Making real discoveries. Knowing something new about nature for the first time. Fabricating fake research sounds like no fun at all. And besides, if you are going to conduct a fraud, science is still not a very lucrative field in which to do it–you’d do a lot better setting up a Ponzi scheme, or starting a company based on a fake discovery. Or becoming a critic of global warming. After all, there are many wealthy interests who may be harmed by CO2 reduction efforts, and who might be willing to pay you to cast doubt on global warming. And if you do it outside of an academic institution, you don’t have to worry about academic salary scales, or institutional auditors keeping track of how you spend your money. The sky’s the limit. Now *that* might be lucrative enough to compensate you for the annoying work of concocting and maintaining a fraud!


    March 18, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    • Can you email me or post here which institution you work for? You can remain anonymous but the institution name is important as a “verification” for those that may not believe you.

      Scott Mandia

      March 18, 2010 at 12:43 pm

  10. Stirling English: “Seriously…where are these accusations that scientists are making shedloads of money being made? I read the blogs and can’t remember seeing one.”


    When is all of the credibility left in science going to be sacrificed at the alter of the AGW hoax? Credibility is not a renewable resource, regardless how much grant money they shovel your way.

    Climate science is full of $ceintific $uper $tars if grant money is the measure of a scientist.

    Meanwhile the scientists whored-out science itself to keep the grant money coming in. It was a match made in heaven and this synergism worked very well for 15 years until Nov 21, 2009.

    For all the grant funding funneled thru UEA, they should expect a top flight organized operation.

    Look at Mann-$4500,000 grant just rewarded.

    The Climate Research Unit at East Anglia had profited to the tune of at least $20 million in “research” grants from the Team’s activities.

    Hey, will someone give me a research grant for a study of forest fires upwind of Mann’s tree-ring site? I hypothesize that the increased temps, carbon dioxide, and ash (fertilizer) from large enough fires would have impacted the width of the rings. Surely there must have been some over the last thousand years. A grant of, say $2 million would allow my co-researchers and me to meet in Tahiti to discuss the project, and pay someone in Russia to undertake the work. Thanks for your support!

    These rock star scientists dined with the elite and feasted on government grants

    This is a situation where the “high priests” of Global Baloney WILL NEVER admit to being wrong — too much is at stake for them: Grants, professional pride, and world-view.

    The latest example of this is a $500,000 grant to Michael Mann, Professor at Penn State University and unintended co-star of the ClimateGate e-mail scandal.

    I guess this means they don’t want a AGW ‘grant’ cookie?

    Science, schmience. There’s grants that need gettin’.

    This isn’t science, it’s grant farming.

    their ‘go-to’ click of agw scientists like Michael Mann feeding at the trough of public grant money,

    Also, that grant funding is only what went to CRU over the years [a quick scan shows well over $4 million paid to Phil Jones and pals in just the last reported year].

    What should be deeply worrying to the scientific community is that they’ve allowed climate science to become noble cause corrupted by monied interests. Some serious retrospection is needed.
    –Anthony Watts

    That’s a quick look at one blog using the search words ‘grant’ and ‘mann’.

    J Bowers

    March 18, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    • Nice reply – thank you. 🙂

      Scott Mandia

      March 18, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    • JB,
      What was your post about?
      I thought you were linking to claimed proofs of these shedloads of money climate scientists are making off AGW? You shared 13 links, and not one of them offers up what you promised: that is some claims/proof of the oodles of money scientists were raking in!

      #5 had nothing about Mann’s 4.5mil – though it did bitch about more grant money going to studying the Himalayan glaciers – what’s wrong with that? Or do you suggest ignoring what’s happening up those valleys?

      #6 come on man, gag me with a spoon – Lord Monckton the serial liar extraordinar, this is who you consider a reliable source? I thought you were “sceptical.” Besides nothing about money there either, just hawking his “ClimateGate – caught green handed” SPPI garbage.

      #8 has nothing about Mann’s .5mil, rather it’s about last years cold snap in Florida proving AGW is a hoax

      If you claim you have proof, shouldn’t you at least offer links that have to do with what you’re claiming to prove?
      Or was this just sarcastic humor that went over my head?

      Although it was interesting reviewing Mr.WUWT’s website again, it is an amazing bit of political theater and attack smoke’n mirror… same as it ever was.


      December 31, 2010 at 4:58 pm

      • Peter, jb was just cataloguing a few to answer Stirling English’s question ….

        “where are these -accusations- that scientists are making shedloads of money being made? I read the blogs and can’t remember seeing one.”

        Plenty of accusations, but as you note, not one of them offers any proof about the oodles of money apparently floating in the air around these *rich* scientists.


        January 2, 2011 at 8:21 pm

  11. Hi Scott,

    I’d like to translate the skeptics’ megaphone blasts into a concern that they haven’t articulated, but certainly feel, and should be relevant to this discussion.

    Running an academic research department succesfully requires a more or less constant search for funding. Research ‘themes’ are broadly mapped out by funding organisations, such as the EU frameworks and NSF papers.

    If you had the patience to trawl through the skeptic weblogs, you would find a number of commenters who claim to be researchers who have said that they rewrote grant proposals to include climate change as part of their study (obviously it’s possible that the same commenter dropped the comment on various weblogs, but it doesn’t seem that way), and others have remarked that the establishment frame of reference acts to intimidate researchers who are (scientifically) skeptical about certain lines of work while rewarding those who toe the line.

    At the time, nobody was thinking that scientists would get rich this way. The thinking was that it kept a stream of funding going that insured employment.

    I don’t think some skeptics have thought this through very carefully–even in business people distinguish between revenue and profit–and I think their reaction after reading your ‘case study’ would be ‘Oh. Yeah. I guess that’s right.’

    Good luck with your search for more evidence.

    Tom Fuller

    March 18, 2010 at 4:38 pm

  12. Scott, me and you must be living on separate planets. I worked in climate change over 30 years ago. Many people told me that I could have a nice career if I got on the right side of AGW, meaning to support it. I’m unemployed. Last week I had an interview to be a sabbatical replacement. The salary was 40,000. When AGW came up, I lied about what I really believed. I need that job.
    Michael Mann gets $160,000/yr to make up numbers. He gets a travel and expense account on top of that. If you don’t think that’s rich, you have it too good.
    Both claims that you are challenging are true from my point of view.
    The few “skeptics” who are making money are simply political hacks cultivating a wedge issue.


    March 19, 2010 at 12:35 am

    • I wish you the very best in getting that job. Not having that steady income must be frightening. I am very lucky in that sense so I am “rich” for that.

      Scott Mandia

      March 19, 2010 at 4:59 am

  13. Scott, Try this. Go to a local public research university. Find the faculty parking lot. Drive around and count the Mercedes and other luxury cars. Count the fuel efficient economy cars. That should give you a good idea of what is really happening.

    I drive a Chevrolet Aveo with 140,000 miles on it.


    March 19, 2010 at 1:24 am

    • “…Find the faculty parking lot…”

      Actually, that’s not a bad idea. You could send an email to each faculty asking their members what car they drive and how old it is, or if they use public transport, bicycles, motorbikes, etc.

      Fight memes with facts.

      J Bowers

      March 19, 2010 at 4:23 am

    • Marty, I believe Dr. James Hanson is still driving a ten year old Volvo. 🙂

      I live up the road from one of the top research institutions in the world: SUNY at Stony Brook. The faculty parking lots there show cars that are much less exciting than those of the students. The same is true at SCCC where I work, although SCCC is not a research institution.

      Scott Mandia

      March 19, 2010 at 5:01 am

  14. I went to graduate school for six years, making on average $18,000 a year. I did a two year post doc, making a decent salary, but not rich by any means. And you know what-I’m not complaining because I get to work at something I love. But the idea that I would go into this field (instead of finance, business, law, medicine) because I wanted to get rich is just simply ludicrous.

    As for some scientists getting blackballed: Pielke(s), Lindzen, Christy, Spencer, Singer are all quite gainfully employed or emeritus.


    March 19, 2010 at 10:22 am

  15. […] a comment » In Part I, I addressed the following two […]

  16. I am pleased to see this blog, having been directed here from ClimateSight. My research is on the geological record of climate change, and my research is funded under both the Australian Research Council (ARC), and now in Canada by NSERC. Another poster has described how things work in Australia / ARC (and I agree with the description), so I’ll stick to talking about NSERC and Canada.

    NSERC won’t pay my salary and won’t even buy out my teaching. I can buy equipment, pay for travel for research and attending conferences, and pay salaries to graduate students and other research personnel. I can’t use grant funds for sabbaitical travel or living costs. Any items I buy remain the property of my university.

    I haven’t had someone at a presentation accuse me of lining my pockets, but I teach environmental science at Brandon University (Manitoba), and climate change is always a topic in my senior class. I have had undergraduates in class make the point ‘Climate change researchers are doing the research so they can get big grants to spend on themselves’. I refute this using my own circumstance, but I think examples from other scientists whose research is more in the ‘front line’ of AGW than mine is more instructive.

    David Greenwood

    May 27, 2010 at 6:35 pm

  17. […] Taking the Money for Grant(ed) – Part I […]

  18. […] personal advantage to producing research that shows that human-caused global warming is a crisis. Their funding isn’t dependent on their producing such results, and I doubt whether clean energy companies are making sufficient profits yet to be paying these […]

  19. everybody wants to get rich but not everybody wants to sweat to get rich ~

    Wire Gauge :

    November 1, 2010 at 12:44 am

  20. […] newFontSize); return false; }); }); Font size: Taking the Money for Grant(ed) – Part Iwith 32 commentsUpdate 03/22/2010: Part II now availableby Scott Mandia, “Global Warming — Man […]

  21. […] In light of the second major snowstorm to strike the globe the northeastern US in two weeks, I declare that this whole man-made global warming scientific theory hoax is a plot to make money. […]

  22. […] cannot get rich from public grant funding.  I blogged about that fallacy here and […]

  23. […] Piles of scientific evidence exist that have convinced 98% of climate scientists that global warming is occuring and that it is caused by man’s activities. Why, then, do some Americans continue to deny the whole idea of global warming? From presidential candidates to average Americans, some people continue to oppose scientific evidence.  These people either claim “it’s natural warming” (of course, they are neither scientists nor historians), or they claim that scientists make huge money off of fears of global warming […]

  24. obviously like your web-site however you have to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I in finding it very bothersome to tell the reality on the other hand I’ll surely come back again.


    January 30, 2012 at 12:36 am

  25. Hello my loved one! I wish to say that this post is amazing, great written and include approximately all vital infos. I’d like to look more posts like this .


    January 30, 2012 at 12:37 am

  26. This claim always struck me as ludicrous. I’ve never taught, but I recall that no one in the science departments at UT were pulling down lavish paychecks. Now, with coaches it’s a different story.

    Thanks for laying out the matter so clearly and succinctly.

    John Mayer

    January 15, 2013 at 3:34 am

  27. […] professor Scott Mandia wrote two posts at his blog describing exactly how this works. Essentially, principal investigators have their salary reduced by some amount to account for the additional income from research […]

  28. Just for fun, from The Daily Mash:

    “MOST scientific discoveries are fabricated in order to get money and fame, a scientist has revealed….”

    Paul A

    November 21, 2013 at 8:06 am

  29. […] Taking the Money for Grant(ed) by Scott Mandia at Global Warming: Man or Myth? […]

  30. […] Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College on Long Island, whose 2010 blog entry is cited on the Skeptical Science […]

  31. […] Mainly research grants, which sometimes can reach millions of dollars. However, Scott Mandia, writing on his WordPress blog, has a question for deniers who follow this line of […]

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