Opening the DM mailbag over my coffee this morning I noticed the following query from a loyal friend of the blog:
I am working on getting [my first] R01 submitted [soon]. This is in keeping with many people saying that I need to get going as fast as possible with R01 (including yourself and cPP). Guest speaker, who is on a study section (not the one I am going to) said I should definitely wait two years so I can get things rolling before applying. hmmm.
Here's the answer you need to give to such people:
"Dude, WTF are you smoking and where can I get some o dat???"
Seriously though, you send them right over to this blog so that they can explain their thinking. I'll take that comment on any handy post.
This advice is absolutely nonsensical to me.
The only possible conditions that would make that right would be a near complete and utter lack of preliminary data and a very healthy startup package and/or local developmental grants to be obtained for the asking. And even then I'd have to question it.
First and foremost, you need R01 level funding for the long term health of your lab and career. For those of us in the NIH game, this is obligatory. So the earlier the better. Everything is easier with serious levels of funding and many things only possible with such funding.
Second, waiting is not going to magically jump you over the vast majority of hurdles the n00b PI has to overcome when it comes to getting a grant funded. That extra bit of preliminary data is not going to force the study section to see the inevitable brilliance, it is no guarantee of funding. Getting a few papers "from your new lab" helps to stave off one StockCritique, but it is not panacea; some smartacre is going to ask for even more papers. You can work and slave and bounce your application off of senior colleagues for a year-- and you still might get criticisms over grantsmanship.
Third, a lack of perfection when it comes to grant preparation, preliminary data, etc is not an automatic death knell. This is because the random factors that work against you also work in your favor. If someone is really charged up about a certain aspect of your ideas/work, then they will overlook many tasty bits of StockCritique bait that you have left hanging.
Fourth, multiple grant review cycles are probably going to be necessary. Statistically speaking. We're cutting into the revision cycle a little bit with the new limit to a single revision of a given proposal. But let's not be dense. It will still take a number of submissions (including new and revisions) to have a decent chance at funding an R01. This takes time. Waiting for two years is not magically going to make this better.
Fifth, the advice from sitting members of study sections may reflect a certain culture and an admission of the bias against new investigators. This certainly exists. There are people that think that n00b PIs need to show they can do it with smaller awards first before they should be "allowed" to have an R01. I think this is crap and I am not alone. Strategically, I would say that if you just give up and accept this, there is zero chance of getting your award. If you submit anyway, at least you have a nonzero chance of someone like me being on the panel and arguing against this unjustified bias/tradition. On my section, for example, we have at least as many people who lean more toward my direction when it comes to new PIs as we do that express the "calm down and wait your turn young'un" phenotype (there is also an unexplored middle for whom I do not have a distinct read).
So to wrap up, ignore that "go slow" advice about R01 submission. Even better, ask the person bloviating just what they mean, why and what evidence they have to support their case. ...and then send them over to this blog to 'splain it to me, would ya?