K-mechanism and Job Titles

Apr 27 2009 Published by under Careerism, NIH

We had two comments in a prior thread which are suggesting something new to me. Either that or we are exploring, yet again, the dark underbelly of career transition and it is important to understand it and make it work for you. Instead of letting it get you down.
msphd noted:

even if my scored-but-unfunded K-grant proposal were suddenly back in for reconsideration, I would still have the problem that my university doesn't want to give me a job title that NIH would find suitable enough.

to which I responded:

Something doesn't add up.

Why would msphd's institution submit the proposal on her behalf then refuse the promotion? Now if it was a promotion contingent on the award, that would be familiar...but then this comment wouldn't make any sense.

another person agreed with msphd:

I'm in the same boat. As a postdoc, one can apply for a K-award through my institution. But they ain't promising a promotion contingent on the award. Not to everyone who applies, anyway.

Strolling on over to the NIH's K Kiosk I found the following graphical representation.

kawardresearch.gif

So we need to be a little clearer about what we are discussing. The minimally utilized K22 and the new-ish K99/R00 or the traditional K01? Usually when someone refers to a K, unmodified, I'm going to assume the K01. The K99 is awarded to postdocs by design so it seems unlikely we are talking about this one.
The K01 should be awarded to someone with an independent scientist type appointment. Which is not the same as an Assistant Professor slot. So if you are expecting this latter to come with a K01 award, well, that isn't obligatory. The University may, however, use one of an unending word salad of titles such as Adjunct Assistant Professor, Assistant Professor in Residence, Assistant Professor of -ology, as their non-tenure track titles for an independent scientist. Some may simply use Research Associate, Research Scientist, Project Scientist or other descriptor. Just so long as the position is arguably a real job with nominal independence from any other professor at the University, all is well. So far as awarding the grant goes anyway because (repeat after me) the NIH grant is awarded to the institution, not the PI. Well, okay, K-mechs are a little more arguable but in the pre-award phase the point is that anyone is qualified if the institution says so. NIH doesn't care what the local name for the position is.
Now, I don't know if msphd's original comment referred to this situation or not. But it would not be at all unusual if the offer of the nominally independent position depended on the grant award. So, if I read her comment right, the institution isn't "refusing", she just hasn't fulfilled the other side by getting the award funded. It would also not be unusual, IME, for the institution to have changed policies once or twice between submission of the K-mech and the present. This is why I suggest that anyone involved in these contingent offer situations get as much as possible in writing. I have seen more than one person secure their position under changing institutional policies because of the paper trail (and suitable ranting from supportive Full Professors, of course).
Other than that...???? Are you all really hearing of places that allow K01 submissions and never intend for you to receive it at their institution? Are they expecting you to do this as a trial run, or to get a leg up, while you are getting a job elsewhere? This is all very foreign to me if so....

20 responses so far

  • becca says:

    Also "Instructor" may be an acceptable title (judging from the one person I know who got the K99/R00).

  • Dr. Feelgood says:

    Oh Becca, you had me at "instructor"! Plus, that was the first non-angry post I can recall from you. 😀
    Back on topic...I have no idea of any institution that would even balk at research assistant professor. They hand those out like tic tacs....
    Doc F

  • Arlenna says:

    I know of one institution (it's located near the Museum of Science and Industry, Windy City, south side...) that is extremely reticent to appoint people as research assistant professors unless they are clinical fellows...

  • becca says:

    Doc F- I leave many non-angry posts. Albeit often not around these parts.
    You gets what you rewards in other people; you can thank DM. Snarkery for fun and profit!
    Also, I am frequently filled with wild, incoherent, unspeakable rage. Like the hulk. But much, much tinier. It's rather sad, actually.
    Also, really? Like tic tacs? (in a hopeful, can-I-have-one sorta tone)
    Arlenna- yeah, but isn't it dangerous to make generalizations based on those weirdos?
    (note, grandparents on both sides of my family worked at a certain institution, so I am oddly familiar with associated weirdness. And probably influenced by it overmuch.)

  • Anonymous says:

    "I know of one institution (it's located near the Museum of Science and Industry, Windy City, south side...) that is extremely reticent to appoint people as research assistant professors unless they are clinical fellows.."
    They have a reputation to protect. That's pretty much all they have -- reputation. They are a ruin with respect to biomedical science, and have been for at least a decade.

  • pinus says:

    my post-doc institute made me give them a up to date CV to get promoted to some imaginary position that allowed me to be elgible to get a K. I thought most places didn't care, as the 'offer letter' has a funding contingency, where if you can't pay for yourself, you are done.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    It seems like the NY Times was channeling YFS today -- did you see this?

    The dirty secret of higher education is that without underpaid graduate students to help in laboratories and with teaching, universities couldn’t conduct research or even instruct their growing undergraduate populations. That’s one of the main reasons we still encourage people to enroll in doctoral programs. It is simply cheaper to provide graduate students with modest stipends and adjuncts with as little as $5,000 a course — with no benefits — than it is to hire full-time professors.
    In other words, young people enroll in graduate programs, work hard for subsistence pay and assume huge debt burdens, all because of the illusory promise of faculty appointments. But their economical presence, coupled with the intransigence of tenure, ensures that there will always be too many candidates for too few openings.

  • ...work hard for subsistence pay and assume huge debt burdens...

    Um.....WTF????

  • Dan says:

    Isis- Remember that in many programs in the humanities and social sciences, grad students receive little or no support, so some (many?) of them do leave with substantial debt.

  • Luigi says:

    "Remember that in many programs in the humanities and social sciences, grad students receive little or no support, so some (many?) of them do leave with substantial debt."
    Maybe matriculating grad students in the humanities should get a stack of books by Suze Orman, in addition to their 19th century classics.

  • Dr. Feelgood says:

    Becca smash!!!!!

  • Cashmoney says:

    Feelgood- when did you finally learn that when you put your finger in the flame it gives you an owie?

  • becca says:

    Doc F- one of my ex's used to say exactly that phrase.
    ~righteous anger section~
    " ...work hard for subsistence pay and assume huge debt burdens...
    Um.....WTF????"

    Uhmm, Dr. Isis... Daycare costs + grad stipends = qualifying for welfare.
    I thought you would realize that.
    (also, not all fields are biomedical sciences, which is probably more what the NYT was getting at. After all, going and majoring in philosophy is Following Your Passion, whereas doing something as incredibly and impossibly STUPID as having a child while in graduate school means that you asked to be poor*).
    *note, I'm not actually too concerned about poverty, so I'm not trying to be all "poor me". I just think poverty is a fact of many (albeit not all) grad students' lives.
    /smash

  • Anonymous says:

    I know of one institution (it's located near the Museum of Science and Industry, Windy City, south side...)

    (note, grandparents on both sides of my family worked at a certain institution, so I am oddly familiar with associated weirdness. And probably influenced by it overmuch.)

    HEY! That's my alma mater you people are talking about!! Go Maroons!
    sigh Course it's all true. Buncha geeks and freaks there. Good place to be a geek though.
    On topic, my current locale of begins with H and ends in D is the same as what Arlenna mentioned. Instructors are mostly clinical people, and it's the crap job with (relative) crap pay they dole out to people as a pre-Assistant Professor gig. I know cause my wife was one. As for research Ph.D. based instructors, there are very few of them. And the one I knew was strongly discouraged from writing a K. Course, there's no shortage of money around these parts.

  • Nat says:

    Yeah, that Anonymous above is me. I guess I was all hot and bothered with geek love and representing my college-niz.

  • kiwi says:

    Re #8 Dr Isis:
    In New Zealand almost every student leaves with a huge debt burden, whether they are in the arts or sciences.
    If you are lucky, you might win a scholarship at Masters or PhD level, but these may not cover much more than your basic expenses, let alone any field expenses that may have to come out of your own pocket.I have heard many stories about PhD students, both arts and sciences, spending more than $40,000 of their own money on field expenses. . .

  • Dr. Feelgood says:

    Cashmoney: Fire bad?!??! Doc F SMASH!!!!
    Doc F

  • pinus says:

    I don't understand why any place wouldn't want people applying for K awards. Even if the indirects are small, it is still money?
    Right? Or am I not thinking like a bureaucrat?

  • Arlenna says:

    Lol Becca!
    Yeah, there are a lot of weirdos and all (look at NAT for goodness sake, 😛 heheh), but still they attempt to model themselves after certain other more easterly institutions to maintain that thar reputation. It was always very politically-oriented and arbitrary as far as I could tell...

  • DSKS says:

    "I have no idea of any institution that would even balk at research assistant professor. They hand those out like tic tacs...."
    Sshhhh!!! For my folks back in Blighty I like the fact that the very presence of the word "Professor" makes me look prestigious.

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