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Oh, the guilt...
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Priority Score Confusion
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Working from home sucks; aka "Preeclampsia for Dummies"
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Editor's choice
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Let the obsessing begin
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DonorChoose - start giving!
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Careful what I say...
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Challenges at the bench
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What am I really?
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A double standard
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Dr. O's advice to new grad students
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Open Letter
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What you should know as a new TT faculty
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How picky is too picky?
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Dr. O

After a frustrating year on the tenure-track job hunt, my eyes are still on the prize, and I've learned that sheer will might be the most important quality required for this career track.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

So I thought I'd provide a quick update on my priority score dilemma, for any one who's interested. I got a lot of great advice, and several PIs out there shared their opinions and personal experience regarding their K grant scores. Thanks to all of you!

My solution (for better or worse, since the TT job apps have all made it out the internet door):

1. My cover letter has always briefly mentioned my application for a career development grant. While I didn't explicitly state the score in the letter, I did add in that it received a competitive score.

2. My CV, under "Grants and Awards", has "Pending NIAID Career Development Award, Received a Priority Score of 31" listed first, so it should be obvious to anyone thumbing through (unless they go straight to the back page to look at my publications).

3. My research statement, which has always broken up my future plans into current and potential grant applications, has the score listed as well. The K grant project now reads something like this: "Determine how to prevent the spread of infectious disease (included in an NIAID Career Development Award that received a priority score of 31)"

So the search committees have my score - not in the cover letter, but they don't have to look very hard to find it. Fingers are crossed that this score helps move me into consideration for at least a couple of jobs.

Now, for the grant itself. I've decided that I'm pleased with my score, even if it's not obviously fundable. It means that the study section liked the grant, and that's quite the hurdle to jump. Would it be great to have a score that makes last year's payline cut? Of course. But money is tight, and (I hope) a K grant isn't a requirement to getting a TT job. Besides, it's not a given that the grant won't get funded, although I'm not holding my breath. I've also received some great advice to turn this K grant, if unfunded, into an R21 once securing a faculty position, which means I have a grant just about ready to go when I walk into my new office (that is, if I get a TT job). My summary statement, which should be available in another few weeks, will hopefully provide some good advice on how to strengthen it even more for this purpose.

So that's where things stand for now, just in case somebody really wanted to know the rest of the story.

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Odyssey
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Sounds like a plan. And no, a K award is not a prerequisite to getting a TT job. I won't deny that it helps, but it's not essential. Good science and good publications are essential.

One thing though, and I'm channeling CPP here, ditch the R21 plan. Make it an R01. An R21 won't give you enough money and time to get your research program up to full speed. And it won't get you tenure. It shouldn't be that hard to extend your plans enough to make it an R01-level grant.

 


Nikkilina
Washington University School of Medicine
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I think you got some good advice and made a good choice. I wish there were some sort of course or book that could explain the whole process and what the best options are. The non-research part of science can be as mind-boggling as the actual lab work!


Odyssey
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@Nikkilina:
Who needs a book when you have blogs? Wink


Dr. O
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@Odyssey - It's definitely something to think on. I have 2-3 aims - with some preliminary data - that are fairly distinct from (although related to) the K grant aims, and I had envisioned those being the core of my R01 submission, sometime into my 2nd year. But nothing is set of course. I'm sure I'll be sitting down with my chair and other PIs in the department (if I get a job), and talking to lots of others, to map out the grant apps. And I certainly won't depend on the R21 alone. I think the suggestion was based on the idea that the R21 could be a ready-to-go grant, in addition to all those other pilot/small org grants I write the first year, while getting more preliminary data for an R01.

@Nikkilina - There is a good book out there from HHMI, called "Making the Right Moves". You can download it for free here. If you're interested in an academic career, it's a must-read, IMO. Also, talk to everyone you can about how they got their job and set up their labs. Everyone has a different philosophy, but it gives you an idea of what not to do. Also, plan ahead. I've had a pretty good idea of what my research program will look like for a couple of years now. It may change, but at least I haven't been (and won't be) wandering around trying to figure out what to do instead of working on getting money. Money mouth


Dr. O
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Odyssey said:

@Nikkilina:
Who needs a book when you have blogs? Wink

The blogs have been a great source for me this past year...definitely take advantage!!! :)


Nikkilina
Washington University School of Medicine
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Good point! You guys are a wealth of information!


Namnezia
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Having a K99 is not a requirement for a TT job, but having gone through several recent faculty searches in my department it is a HUGE plus.


Gerty-Z
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There is definitely no requirement for a K99 grant. And it can't even really get you on the interview list without the rest of the package (pubs, research that folks think is interesting). I am sitting on my first faculty search right now, and it seems to me that the general view is that it gets you "credit" for another publication. Great, but not required. Good luck! I think you chose a good plan of action.

expat

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A few comments:

 

1. I'd put in the cover letter but that's me. (see point 3).

2. Def go R01 ... you're young and still ESi/NI (or what it's called now) ... and R21 is short-term non-renewable and an R01 is necessary (usually a renewal is) for tenure. An R21 doesn't really count at all.

3. I can't beleive that a funded K99/R00 is equivalent to one paper. Maybe I am missing something!? How many papers would be considered significant after a 2-year, 3-year, 5-year or 7-year postdoc? In the EU, most people are looking for 10 or so after 3 years of PD and about 15 after 5 years of PD. And no relly small stuff, just 10-15 bread-and-butter (meat-and-potato for you guys) JMB/JBC/JACS/MolMicro/JB/etc (IF 4 to 7) papers (in any authorship position). I just have a hard time comprehending that a funded K99/R00 is just a +1 to this stack.

4. Could you give us a slight beakdown of the trends your seeing from applicants? Years of PD, papers, requirement for a C/N/S paper, other stuff and the role of fit.

-expat

 

Comrade PhysioProf

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I had envisioned those being the core of my R01 submission, sometime into my 2nd year.

You say this as if you anticipate writing a single R01 application over your first few years as a PI. This is totally fucken wrong.

You will need to think very carefully about how to strategize this--including with extensive mentoring from PIs who are either senior assistant professors or have recently been promoted to associate--but you should plan to submit multiple distinct R01 applications during your first few years if you want to have a good chance of having one funded.

OnePerRound

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Listen to CPeePee, she's totally correct. "sometime in the 2nd year" is dangerously late to be putting in your first R01 (or equivalent big grant proposal).

Dr. O
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@CPP - I have three potential R01 projects that I can submit in my research plan (in addition to the K22 project, which can be extended to an R01 - I'm definitely not sold on the R21 idea). The one I referred to is closest to being ready to submit. I was planning to work on getting one R01 funded at a time, but it sounds like you're saying it's a better idea to be working on several overlapping? I just hadn't thought of doing this and want to make sure I understand your point.

@OPR - I've heard several philosophies on when to submit the first R01, anytime from immediately to 3rd year when you're start-up money is running out. I was shooting somewhere in the middle with my "sometime into the 2nd year" statement, but this is certainly not a hard & fast timeline right now. I def plan to take advantage of the strategic planning that CPP mentioned to determine the timing of these submissions. It also seems that the type of place I end up is going to be relevant in the decision-making process, yes? (I'm thinking undergraduate institution with more teaching responsibility versus med school where I'll need several R01's for tenure.)

Comrade Physioprof

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I was planning to work on getting one R01 funded at a time, but it sounds like you're saying it's a better idea to be working on several overlapping?

Yeah, this is exactly the point. You seem to be operating on the assumption that you will be able to get any given R01 ultimately funded, and this is where you are totally wrong. You need to have multiple R01s in the pipeline simultaneously, because it is highly likely that some of them will never be funded.

If your plan is to "get one funded at a time", then what happens when that first R01 that you are working on "getting funded" ends up outside the payline as an A1 two years later?


Dr. O
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You seem to be operating on the assumption that you will be able to get any given R01 ultimately funded, and this is where you are totally wrong.

Good point to keep in mind CPP, especially with the paylines right now and only one resubmission. I guess I had put the idea of not getting funded out of mind, which isn't the smartest idea in the world. :P  It does push the idea of expanding the K22 into an R01, especially with as much preliminary data I already have for it after two submissions.

Grant Slave

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With paylines of 10% and the best success rates only around 20%...can you please explain exactly why you feel that the success rate for *your* applications will be so much greater Dr. O.

 

I'm honestly wondering where the disconnect is between your orientation and the NIH stats, in part because I need to figure out how to explain reality to some of my colleagues.


Odyssey
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Grant Slave said:

With paylines of 10% and the best success rates only around 20%...can you please explain exactly why you feel that the success rate for *your* applications will be so much greater Dr. O.

 

I'm honestly wondering where the disconnect is between your orientation and the NIH stats, in part because I need to figure out how to explain reality to some of my colleagues.

@Grant Slave:

I believe it's called cautious optimism. If you don't have it you're not likely to ever be funded. Reviewers can detect optimism, confidence and enthusiasm in a proposal. That's good. They can also detect pessimism, a lack of confidence and a lack of enthusiasm. That's bad. Really, really bad.

 


Dr. O
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With paylines of 10% and the best success rates only around 20%...can you please explain exactly why you feel that the success rate for *your* applications will be so much greater Dr. O.

GS, I really have no excuse other than to say I'm delusional. Embarassed

But seriously, it's not that I imagined my grant would be so special that it would get funded. It's just that I hadn't yet made it in my thought process all the way to the second submission coming back outside the payline, seeing as I haven't even have an interview for a TT position. I'm normally quite the planner, especially when it comes to back up plans. I'd blame late pregnancy for my slip-up, but I fear that would only act to show that women with families shouldn't be doing this job. Instead, let's just go with temporary stupidity that has now been corrected with a swift kick in the blogging ass. I'm sure I'll be plotting out the beginnings of a couple more R01 outlines in the next few months.


Dr. O
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Oh, I like the "cautious optimism" rationale a lot better, Odyssey. :)

DrugMonkey

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Odyssey. There's optimism/pessimism that should be expressed in the actual grant application and then there's optimism/pessmism that should be expressed in planning grant application strategies. They differ considerably.

DrugMonkey

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Dr. O. Remember that your grant application strategy / knowledge has already been put on the table if you refer to scores and planned grants in your cover letter or plan of research in your application for a job. The more convincing you are to the local associate professors that you know what time it is on NIH / NSF street, the better. PP is not kicking your ass, he's providing mentoring to help you think through your approach.

 

Remember that many of us shooting our blog mouths off are doing so precisely because we were even more clueless than you are earlier in our careers....


Dr. O
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Dr. O. Remember that your grant application strategy / knowledge has already been put on the table if you refer to scores and planned grants in your cover letter or plan of research in your application for a job.

Here's hoping it'll come across as a somewhat sane strategy. If I do get interviews, I'm sure I'll get taken to task for something, if not at least questioned about my strategy. As much as I can stand up for my research plans, I also know I have a lot to learn about the grant-getting process.

I actually really appreciate CPP's, yours and all the other bloggers' mentoring on here too, and I recognize it as such. I blog about these topics partly to educate students/less senior PDs, but largely because I want your advice, whatever it may be. It's a great learning experience when pride doesn't get in the way. The "blogging kick in the ass" statement was more for effect, but I do think the wake up call of being prepared for more than one R01 in those first couple of years is a good one. I'm quite entertained by and grateful for CPP's cursing comments, even if at my own expense. :)


Odyssey
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DrugMonkey said:

Odyssey. There's optimism/pessimism that should be expressed in the actual grant application and then there's optimism/pessmism that should be expressed in planning grant application strategies. They differ considerably.

I absolutely agree. I was trying, somewhat unclearly, to respond to Grants Slave's rather snarky comment.

The point I should have made is that being overly pessimistic about funding can easily lead you down the wrong path, such as blanketing agencies with hastily written sub-par proposals, or at the opposite extreme, grant submission paralysis. I've seen both. It ain't pretty. Being overly optimistic can lead to submitting too few proposals. There is a balance. The realistic approach is the one outlined by CPP. Coupled with cautious optimism of course. :-)

People seem to get all caught up in the doom and gloom of reduced funding levels and forget that a lot of money is still being given out. Billions in fact.

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