Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Perspective on Power

So my labs are almost done. This is actually pretty amazing since that the lab space I was given was built in the dark ages - not literally, but the space pretty much had to be gutted and rebuilt from scratch - new floors, new ceilings, etc. They even cleaned out the ductwork in the building while they were at it.

Now that this is done, I have to fill it. This may sound like a fun task, but it really isn't. I started rounding up quotes in April/May - yes, many months ago. I then started submitting purchase requests at the end of June. With many requests, I even submitted secondary forms stating that this vendor was the only vendor in the universe who made this item, and the school shouldn't bother to look elsewhere.

It is now August. Many of my quotes had 90day expirations. I have been contacted by some of the salespeople because they know that their quotes have expired and they want to know if I would like a new (and non-expired one). Um, why wasn't the PO issued a month ago?

I can tell you - Purchasing (in their infinite wisdom) decided that they knew best, and sent the item out for bid to see if I was indeed right. So, instead of my item getting ordered in June/July, it is now August, and the item has yet to be ordered. And my labs are done, and I have items I can put in them, but no single complete system. Therefore, all of the individual items are essentially worthless. Like have screws without the screwdriver.

I experienced this to a lesser degree at my graduate/post-doc institution and to a non-existent degree at my undergrad institution (but then I didn't really order anything over $200 there, so it probably doesn't count).

I can really see this slowing down my research to a huge degree in the future, and causing major problems. I'm not sure how to correct this - or if this is even something that can be "corrected".

I know people often use personal credit cards to fix this (purchase immediately then get reimbursed), but putting several 100k of equipment on my CC isn't really an option - and the school "discourages" purchases over 5k. I can't really being doing anything that the school discourages.

So, right now, I'm just really frustrated. However, this whole thing has given me some perspective. When you are an undergrad/grad student, it seems like the professors have infinite power. Once you become a professor, you realize the people in purchasing and in grants administration have all the power.

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