A man covering his face with his hands


‘Twas the night before grant deadline

‘Twas the night before grant deadline, 7:15.
Many creatures were stirring, thanks to caffeine.
The comments accepted, the references done,
In hopes someone might fund my first R01.

I wrote like a showman. My prose was terrific.
My font was New Roman. My aims were specific.
I showed prior data and new innovation—
I even nailed my budget justification.

The footnotes were hung like superscript pendants,
Each at the end of a well-crafted sentence.
I sighed with relief; it had all turned out fine,
And I dreamed of the day when I’d hear the pay line.

I’d labored for months while my spouse gazed with pity:
This would have to influence my tenure committee.
The time and the effort I’d spent really showed.
Now the grant was complete; it was time to upload.

When what should my wondering eyes chance to scan
But the tiniest typo in my research plan?
Then more and more errors came as I read through!
And I knew it would never survive peer review.

So quickly I rose from my chair made of vinyl
And opened the files I’d all labeled “FINAL.”
“Sweet merciful Darwin!” I cried to the heavens.
“There’s no Figure 6! There are two Figure 7s!”

My spacing was shrunk and my margins too wide!
My titles and headings were right-justified!
Even the sections I’d thought in grand shape
Had been converted from portrait to landscape!

What fate had befallen my grant so idyllic?
The tables were merged—and is that Cyrillic?
So many errors! Oh, how could this be?
All I did was convert from Mac to …


Now swiftly I read one line to the next,
Putting symbols back in and repairing the text,
Fixing all of the words over which I had sweated,
The objects and worksheets that now were embedded.

“But it’s science!” I screamed, my heart pitter-patting.
“Why must I spend all my time on formatting?
Why would anyone panic? Why would they care if
My spacing was close, or my font had a serif?”

When all of a sudden, there came such a din
That I ran to the door—and then he walked in.
“Cease your worry!” said he, in his bold way of talking.
“All good scientists get a grant in their stocking.

You’ve done all the research that one could deem prudent.
(Well, not you—your postdocs and graduate student.)
Your grant is the greatest thing since streptomycin!”
And I knew right away he was Neil deGrasse Tyson.

He was dressed in a blazer; his elbows were patched.
And, like most astronomers, none of it matched.
His mustache, so bushy! His loafers, how dirty!
His visage, so kind, and his necktie, how nerdy!

“Oh please, Dr. Tyson!” I then interrupted.
“The grant is due soon, and my file’s corrupted!
If my department chair sees that I’ve flunked,
I might be demoted to teaching adjunct!”

With a wink and a nod and a friendly high-five,
He placed in my hand a USB drive.
The files it held were my own grant, but better!
He even provided a new cover letter!

As I marveled and gawked at my mended submission,
With every page break in its proper position,
He climbed in his sleigh. (Why a sleigh? Don’t ask me.)
He took up the reins, and he shouted with glee:

“Now funding! Now finance! Now tech transfer offers!
On private foundations! On government coffers!
Now sit back and watch as your budget increases
For keeping your postdocs on H1-B visas!”

“Oh, thank you!” I yelled, “for each PDF’d page!
My lab techs will cheer at their new living wage!
On supplies and equipment we’ll run up a tab.
My undergrads won’t have to sleep in the lab!”

I dreamed of results from the money we’d spend,
Professional meetings we now could attend,
The safety routines we’d bring up to compliance,
The last-author papers I’d publish in Science.

For grant applications are vaguely abusive;
Funding is fleeting and tenure elusive.
In science, we struggle for basic support.
I guess we’re less vital than, say, a sport.

He pointed his sleigh toward a twinkling star,
Then flew off to help with an SBIR.
And I heard him exclaim, in a voice to enchant,
“Merry deadline to all! Now go start your next grant.”

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