Grant Hilarity

Thanks to an exchange with PhysioProf after this comment, I dug up the summary statement for the first R01 proposal I ever submitted to the NIH as a PI. I was trying to remember how badly I got hammered on the "investigator" criterion.

They were pretty nice about it but it boiled down to a pronounced skepticism that some noob-ass not-yet-assistant-professor upjumped postdoc was going to be able to pull off an R01 sized, collaborative study.

Of course, within a 12 month interval from that review I was heading up at least 2X that amount of work and the eventual publication record was, I would argue, adequate at the least.

This is not to brag and I don't think this is unusual at all. This comment is to further reinforce my assertions that questioning the ability of a newly minted Assistant Professor of the current usual type in biomedical researchdom to handle a $250K direct cost R01 project is absurd.

I mean sure, if there are unusual circumstance yes, you can raise an eyebrow. But for someone of the usual training duration (3+ years of postdoc after 5+ years of grad training), with at least some first and middle author publications who is now in their mid 30s or later and has competed successfully for a job.... I mean come. on.

They can handle this. The only thing between them and producing is the grant award.

sorry, the "hilarity" part is my reaction to reading such an old dusty pink sheet. man, I was but a wee grantwriting tot back then.

9 responses so far

  • Pinko Punko says:

    I call them that (pink sheets) even though I've never seen one, because this is they were always discussed when colleagues got them and I would always want to hear what they were all about.

    But I fully agree with this point, though I think there StockGrantsmanship™ approaches to anticipate Mr/Ms "I just don't know if they can do it"

  • lurker says:

    3 yr postdoc? 5 yr PhD? Either you're a golden child or you are dating yourself to a time when training periods were still reasonable.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    What part of + wasn't clear to you?

  • Dr Becca says:

    I was really worried about this when I submitted my R21 before my lab was even finished being built, but did what I could to take preventative measures. My PO suggested I get a letter of support from fancy pants post-doc mentor, simply stating his confidence that I'm going to be a kick ass PI, so I did that. I also got a letter from my current senior faculty mentor, stating that he's there to help in any way he can. I do think it helped. I still had one reviewer express some concern over my n00b-ness, but it didn't seem to matter in the end.

    For my R01, I'm proposing a number of techniques that I've never done before, but again tried to cover my bases in terms of concrete commitments from people who could consult. I won't have my summary statement for another month, but hopefully those kinds of critiques will be nipped in the bud.

  • Ola says:

    I think what worked for me on my first RO1 (in addition to having a string of publications) is that for about a year and a half beforehand I went to literally every conference in the field, with a different poster each time, shook a lot of hands, even got chosen for short talks sometimes. This was often paid for out of my own pocket (cheap air fare, bunk on the floor of a friend's hotel room, do a 1 day registration but attend the whole meeting anyways). Thus, when my name came up at study section I would say close to a dozen people in the room had already met me, seen me talk, knew what I was capable of. There's simply no way they could've known that without face-time.

    In addition (@Dr Becca) my experience with mentors was different - mine specifically recommended that he NOT be anywhere on my grant. No support letter, no "this noob is welcome to use my lab space". That stuff just detracts from the overall impression of independence. A single letter from the Department chair is all that's needed - we consider this person to be an independent PI and they don't need their mentor's resources to succeed.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Good advice Ola.

    On the letter front it is a matter of figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of your own CV. I had certain features that screamed "independent" so it wouldn't have been risky to get a BSD letter. You had pubs, you say, so maybe that was a balancing strength....

  • Boehninglab says:

    Sorry, posted this on GrantRant VI by accident. I just dug up my first R01 summary statement. One of the comments in the "Investigator" section stated that since most of the tools were developed in the post-doc lab I should have a letter from post-doc mentor showing support and non-overlap of the studies. Thus, I am with Dr. Becca on this one! Another thing: I have had a few good summary statements and more than a few train wrecks. Of the particularly bad ones the worst investigator score I have gotten is a "3".

  • joatmon says:

    I submitted my R01 when I was a research faculty. I did not include my research advisor as my consultant. Instead, I have a few established scientists from different fields as my consultants — reviewers were very impressed with that. It got the grant funded the first go at 12%tile.

  • drugmonkey says:

    well done joatmon!

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