In my experience, people do NOT go into academic research for the money. They do not choose a field based on the money either. Finally they do not choose a specialty based on the money.
In my household, here is where the glory of grant money has made itself known:
- A spare monitor for the home computer, for the use by the resident researcher.
- A spare printer for the home computer, also for the use by the resident researcher.
Note that both of these MIGHT be used by others such as myself at times.
- Summer salary. Faculty salary typically officially covers 9 months, and you are not paid for the summer (Though you can take your salary over 12 months). Summer salary can be paid as part of a grant, which adds a little more cash flow to the family.
- Cost of attending certain conferences (airfare, conference fees, hotel, food) which we would have paid for out of pocket if not covered by the grant.
Now with that amazing bounty added to my partner’s pay package, that drives her to alter her research not one bit. She focused on a topic years ago, continues to study it, and continues to publish. The only alteration to her course of research has been due to some advances in the science.
Yes, a nice grant package can outfit a lab - computers, testing gear, payments for subjects, etc. But that belongs to the University.
Yes, you have to dance the controversy sometimes. That means if you want to be published, you have to say more than “I found that out too!.” You also have to be damned sure that you are right if you choose to go against any of the current beliefs / theories / thoughts. But you can still get it done. My partner is in a long-term pissing match with a couple others in her field that goes back to her mentor vs. their mentor in some cases. In some cases it has made articles take longer to get published, and in one case almost cost her grant money due to one of these people. This is petty politics, and there is no way she could walk away from decades of work just to get one grant funded from the feds.
TL/DR - I call “bullshit” based ONLY on personal anecdotes and observation that people are changing their tune in climate research just to get another NSF grant. The money just is not worth it - but their careers might be in danger if not tenured and you can’t get published. Which might be a contradiction.