Washington, D.C.— Federal scientists working for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have been ordered to raise funds to support their research projects or face unfavorable performance evaluations, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The scientists are tasked with finding private, state and other federal sponsors to buy the scientists’ time.
These scientists are not trained in fundraising nor do their position descriptions include generating financial support. Nonetheless, to achieve a “fully successful” rating the scientists are to find sponsors willing to pay for 70 to 89 percent of their total time (called “billable hours”) calculated on the basis of fifty-two 40-hour workweeks. As a result, each Bureau scientist at the GS-11 level or higher, for example, has to solicit between $712 and $848 per day to meet acceptable standards.
“These fundraising quotas pressure federal scientists to make their conclusions palatable to potential public and private sponsors,” stated PEER Program Director Rebecca Roose. “This policy puts the dollar value above the quality or importance of the scientific work.”
The new “Productivity Critical Element” for high-grade scientists set the following fundraising quotas for each “Performance Standard”:
- Unsatisfactory performance “is less than 50 percent of potential billable hours for the year, which is not adequate for the position. This equates to less than $110,240”;
- Minimally Successful performance means “between 50 and 69 percent of potential billable hours for the year. This equates to a range of $110,20 to $154,336”;
- Fully Successful performance indicates the “employee generates a workload between 70 and 89 percent of potential billable hours for the year. This equates to a range of $154,336 to $198,432”;
- Superior performance requires the employee to generate a workload “in the target range of $352,768 to $529,152”; and
- Exceptional performance means generating a workload “resulting in a target amount of greater than $529,152.”
“Public agency science is not supposed to be a fee-for-service enterprise,” added Roose, noting that affected scientists who get sick or take family leave may fall behind in their “billables” and risk poor ratings. “Prowess in fund raising is how politicians, not scientists, are supposed to be judged.”
These new “marketing performance standards” apply so far to approximately 30 scientists working within the Bureau’s Ecological Planning & Assessment and Ecological Research & Investigations units located in Denver, Colorado. Similar entrepreneurial standards are being proposed for other units in the Bureau of Reclamation as well as other agencies within the Interior Department.