NIDDK tries to help its K-awardees succeed

Sep 11 2015 Published by under Careerism, NIH, NIH Budgets and Economics, NIH Careerism

NIDDK announced a Limited Competition: Small Grant Program for NIDDK K01/K08/K23 Recipients (R03)

The stated goal is clearly one of helping their new generation of hand-picked (ok, study section picked) scientists succeed.

Through the use of this mechanism, the NIDDK is seeking to enhance the capability of its K01, K08, and K23 award recipients to conduct research as they complete their transition to fully independent investigator status. .... The R03 is, therefore, intended to support research projects that can be carried out in a short period of time with limited resources and that may provide preliminary data to support a subsequent R01, or equivalent, application.

$50k direct for two years is what the R03 gets you. Not all that much for a launch to full independence but better than nothing. What does NIDDK think they will accomplish for the awardee?

Increased fiscal independence for the award recipient as a precursor to complete independence.

An opportunity for the recipient to generate additional publications and data to support a subsequent R01 application.

An opportunity for the awardee to demonstrate additional success in the peer review process during the course of their career development award.

Ok, the third one is easy- accomplished by definition and a benefit not to be sneezed at. Valid.

Increased fiscal independence? Well.....maybe. If the poor K-awardee is hooked up with jerk mentors, this may not be enough. If the PI is not a jerk, the K-awardee probably already controls this much budget from the surrounding projects. But sure, every bit of independent PI-status R-mech funding helps. Valid.

The middle one though. Helps to get a publication? Maybe. For some people. And depending on the other available funds, sure this will permit preliminary data to be generated. I'm giving this goal partial marks.

So...my analysis says this is basically well intentioned and will slightly help the awardees to move up the career arc. It isn't anywhere enough, in my view. I'd rather see something R01ish for this purpose. If NIDDK really wants a hard launch, that would be smarter and more successful.

9 responses so far

  • Kate says:

    Word on the street is that the NIDDK does not like the K99 mechanism... perhaps this special R03 is a way to (try to) bulk up their K01s?

  • jmz4 says:

    Ive been advocating for something like this for a while. 50k isn't enough to do the CNS paper you need to get independent, but it will help you in several ways.
    1 budget management. You get to figure out how ordering systems work, payroll (if you hire someone), how and when the funds are dispersed, how to manage them to make sure they last, etc.
    2 preliminary data that you can legitimately fence off as yours for when you leave the lab (if jerk boss, you simply don't have to tell him about it), provided this is also giving the uni IDCs as well. 50k buys a lot of rna-seqs, antibodies, cloning and other frills that you wouldn't necessarily splurge on, but save you a lot of time ( which you can then devote to your CNS). Also, you can use it to go get some crossover exposure to another labs techniques without feeling bad about using up resources from either lab.
    3). Psychologically, you feel much much more at ease once you have your own stream of research $$. Goes double if you have a micromanaging boss.

  • Philapodia says:

    Who the fucke ever said you need to have fukken CNS papers to be fukken independent. Many fukken scientists have gone their fukken entire independent careers without a single fukken Glam humping paper and have done great fukken science. This constant fukken glamhumping is bad for fukken junior scientists and for fukken science in general.

    Gosh!

  • LIZR says:

    NIAMS has a similar has a similar R03 for new investigators (K01/K08 not required to apply; K22 and K99/R00 awardees are ineligible). It is up to $50k for three years:
    http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PAR-12-045.html

    And here is another new investigator R03 from NIDCR that is up to $150K spread over two years:
    http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PAR-13-348.html

    And yet another R03 from NIDDK for under represented minorities. This one is up to $125K a year for three years. Enough money to make a difference:
    http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PAR-13-074.html

    I think the paylines for these new investigator awards are generally pretty good. A few years ago I contacted the PO in charge of the NIDCR R03, and she said around 25% of the applications are funded in a typical year. Given the better pay lines and the fact the competition is between newbies, I've been encouraging new hires in my department to apply for these types of R03's.

  • SM says:

    NIDDK has had this mechanism in place for a long time. It was a great boost for me.

  • Dave says:

    This has been around for years; they just re-issued the PAR.

    Couple of points about this specific mech that are worth mentioning:

    - They want to see at least one first or (preferably) senior author paper/year of the K. This is relaxed a little for the clinical Ks. This is doable, but not guaranteed. The advice is that you absolutely, 100% should not submit if you are not competitive here.
    - The research proposal must be related to your K. It is very unlikely they will fund an unrelated pilot project, which I think is a shame. Of course this can be interpreted in many ways, but it has been made clear to me that it should basically be an extension of the K. Kind of like a no-cost extension but with a bit of cash thrown in.
    - Career progress on the K is reviewed heavily. This includes the 'training' component of the award, which the NIDDK is very insistent on. This might be a problem for some who may not pursue the training component as much as they should,
    - It is not enough money for soft-money folk to keep their jobs in between K and R, and surely not enough for tenure.
    - You can't apply if you have been awarded an R already. Seems fair, but it would still be nice to have this to get prelim data on a non-K related project.
    - NIDDK does not support unsolicited R03 or R21 apps, so there is a lack of options for smaller mechs at the NIDDK.

    Overall, it's a great mech. One other point to note is that the NIDDK also relaxes the payline for the first R01 renewal, which might be even more important down the road.

  • Dave says:

    Word on the street is that the NIDDK does not like the K99 mechanism... perhaps this special R03 is a way to (try to) bulk up their K01s?

    I don't think that's true per se, but it's probably one of the hardest ICs to get a K99 from.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Great points, Dave, especially the part about them not supporting small mechs unsolicited.

  • Dave says:

    ...further point.

    The NIDDK frequently shortens their Ks to 3 years. This means that the R03 has to go in no later than the end of the first year as the applicant needs to have one year left of the K at the earliest start date of the R03. This makes some of requirements above even harder to meet. Perfect for a 5 year K though.

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