Archive for the 'Careerism' category

NCI announces the R50 Research Specialist career award

Nov 02 2015 Published by under Careerism, NIH, NIH Careerism

PAR-16-025 invites applications for the R50 Research Specialist award.

The Research Specialist Award is designed to encourage the development of stable research career opportunities for exceptional scientists who want to pursue research within the context of an existing cancer research program, but not serve as independent investigators. These scientists, such as researchers within a research program, core facility managers, and data scientists, are vital to sustaining the biomedical research enterprise. The Research Specialist Award is intended to provide desirable salaries and sufficient autonomy so that individuals are not solely dependent on grants held by Principal Investigators for career continuity.

This mechanism is for salary support up to 100% and for travel up to $5,000 per year. Maximum duration is 5 years. It is interesting that they chose to make this an R mech instead of a K mech. I like that. A lot.

This idea was discussed by NCI a little bit ago, as discussed in this blog post, in the wake of a hint from Varmus when he left the NCI Director office. The devil will be in the detail but this new mechanism appears to leave some wiggle room for the Research Specialist to avoid some deficits I identified in the original discussion (start at 2:20).

I was most concerned about all the discussion focusing on the original PI and how this proposed new mechanism was to his or her benefit more than the Research Specialist themselves.

2:29 -the research proposal is to be written jointly by the applicant and the sponsoring PI, describing the research.

[DM- I think this is workable even though my eye started to twitch. There is going to be some slippage here with respect to the goals of making this award portable and not tied to the fate of one lab's research grant]

2:29:55 -Initially the Research Specialist to apply while supported on an existing research grant. Once the K05 is awarded, it would be expected to be 50/50 support with the grant and then continuing on the K05 100% once the grant ended.

2:30:30 - Review criteria. Accomplishment of applicant individually and within the nominating lab's program. Accomplishment of the PI and Uni. Importance of the applicant to the research program of the PI.

[DM- Welp. This is certainly going down a road of contributing to the rich getting richer which is not something I support. Unless "importance to the research program of the PI" means helping to stabilize the science of a have-not type of PI who struggles to maintain consistent funding.]


2:32: slide on portability of the award - possible but requires PO approval if PI and K05 move together, if the PI leaves and K05 stays, if the grant is lost, etc.

if K05 Specialist chooses on her/his own hook to leave old lab, it will require a new PI, approval, etc. The old PI is eligible for 2 year administrative supplement because they are "suddenly missing a critical support component".

[DM- ugh, this last part. Why should the original grant be compensated for the K05 person deciding to leave? It will already have benefited from that 50% free effort. Rich get richer, one. and a reward for that scenario where the PI is such a jerkface that the K05 leaves him/her? no. and regarding "critical support component", dude, what about when any postdoc chooses to leave? happens all the time. can I get some free money for suddenly missing an awesome postdoc?]

2:36 on assessment of the pilot. "critical to get input from the PI about how well their needs have been served"

[DM- well sure. but...... grrrr. this should be about the K05 awardee's perspective. The whole point is that the existing system puts these people's careers into the hands of the big cheese PI. That is what the focus should be on here. The K05 Research Specialist. Not on whether the PI's loss of control has allowed him or her to continue to exploit or whether this is just a way to shield the haves of the world from the grant game a little bit more.]

Two interesting parts of note in the section on Award Administration from this new PAR:

5) Funds freed up through the R50 will be restricted from any other personnel use, but may be rebudgeted for other research costs with NCI prior approval.

6) Research Specialists would have the option, with prior NCI approval, to move to other research programs or institutions (e.g. if the Unit Director's laboratory is closed, if the institution closes a core, etc.).

Number 5 is a bit weird. Why not be able to hire another person to work on the project? And re-budgeting is allowed only with prior approval? For a salary? This is unusual.

But everything about this rests on what Number 6 turns out to be in practice. It echos another part in the FOA scope part that reads:

The proposed new research support is intended to provide desirable salaries and sufficient autonomy so that individuals are not solely dependent on grants held by Principal Investigators for career continuity. Research Specialists would have the option, with prior NCI approval, to move to other research programs or institutions while maintaining funding from this award (e.g., if the Principal Investigator's laboratory is closed, if the institution closes a core, etc.).

This is the part that gives the Research Specialist the true "sufficient autonomy" and "not solely dependent" business that is written all throughout the PAR. It is essential how broadly this "e.g." is interpreted, particularly with respect to who makes the decisions about permitting a change. Obviously, the one major thing missing from these examples is the autonomous choice of the Research Specialist. What if she or he simply wants to join a different lab or university? How easily can it be moved to another city when the person's spouse gets a new job? How easily can they detach themselves from a toxic PI? etc.

h/t: @superkash

29 responses so far

Advice for Asst Prof stage 

Oct 27 2015 Published by under Careerism, Uncategorized

They will only stand up when you stand down.

17 responses so far

Are departments and Universities realizing their mistake?

Oct 26 2015 Published by under Academics, Careerism

Entirely predictable but I have not heard a lot about this, personally.

What about you Dear Reader? And if you have heard muttering, what is the source of the concern that is driving it?

21 responses so far

SFN 2015: What are the socials for?

The SFN Annual Meeting is famous for the overwhelming barrage of science being fire-hosed at you. It is intimidating and can be impersonal.

Almost equally famous, particularly for the experienced hands, are the evening thematic socials. These are gatherings that may be focused on a scientific topic (Dopamine), University, lab (for the big ones), academic society (yes, the competition comes to SFN to troll for members) and/or organized by vendors (such as a journal/publisher).

Here is a list of the things I accomplished at one social this year:

-Talked with a colleague from whom I requested an emergency grant support letter just prior to the meeting. I explained the wheres/whys and thanked her profusely.

-Chatted with a colleague who is in semi-competition with one of our research domains. We worked some stuff out, talked a little about plans and I hope pre-empted what could have been bad feelings on one side or another.

-I met a junior scientist (that I didn't know except second hand) who had asked me for a letter of support for a grant application on the recommendation of a PO. This person told me more about the project and I was able to comment on a few things.

-Met a philanthropist who donated to a lab in which I have an interest. I kid you not.

-Chatted with a more-senior member of my field who is of pretty high stature in a subfield. I would not necessarily have gotten to know this investigator absent this particular SFN social over the past couple of years. This PI commented about my research directions in a thoughtful way that shows she actually knows me beyond social recognition.

-Met a postdoc who is nearing the job market in a subfield in which I have slightly better than average ear-tuning about job openings. I will be able to forward things that I hear about to this person now.

That's off the top of my head. I am sure there were several less-obviously work-related conversations that in fact have a work-related component to them.

So there are two points.

First, when you hear people talking about this or that fantastic party they attended at SFN, remember that these socials are there for work and career related purposes.

Second, the party that I am referring to was BANTER, organized by Scientopia's very own Dr Becca over the past five or six years. The organizing theme is not any of the usual one that you might think of as being specific to your career interests. It is based on the online science community, most especially the Twitter-based neuroscience community. It is not screened for any particular subdomain of neuroscience, including mine, and yet I had the above-mentioned interactions.

The implication* of this latter observation is that you can engage in useful work-related conversations at almost any SFN social, which means that it can be less forced. Go to the ones where you have the most interest, or an "in" or whatever. The key is to

*I think it also points to how firmly BANTER has become implanted on the SFN social map. Well done Dr Becca, well done.

41 responses so far

Survey of the day: Postdoc diploma

Oct 02 2015 Published by under Careerism, Postdoctoral Training

Are you familiar with any Universities that award some sort of  official recognition of the completion of a postdoctoral term of scientific training? 
When, where, etc if you feel comfortable.....

30 responses so far

Glam cost

Sep 24 2015 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Academics, Careerism, Fixing the NIH

How much do you think it costs to generate the manuscript that is accepted for publication at your average Glam journal?

How do you align this with your views on fair distribution of research funding?

52 responses so far

Poll of the day

Sep 16 2015 Published by under Careerism, NIH, NIH Careerism

Do you now, or have you ever, thought that a "Co-PI" was an official designation on an NIH grant?

Where did you come by this notion, if you have?

How recently have you had colleagues describe this as a real thing (and not as a confusion for the Multi-PI)?

Are there other major or minor funding agencies you are aware of that use "Co-PI" in some formal way?

Is it the same as NIH's Multi-PI or more like the "co-I, but better" implied by the old, inaccurate use with respect to NIH grants? 

33 responses so far

Thought of the day

Sep 15 2015 Published by under Careerism, NIH, NIH Careerism, Uncategorized

If you are not the (or a) PI on a grant, you can be cut off of it at any time. 
Where do people get the idea they have rights independent of the PI's plans? 

32 responses so far

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. 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

Backstabber? Really?

Sep 04 2015 Published by under Anger, Careerism, Conduct of Science

iBAM is pissed off!

A couple years ago I was applying for personal fellowships ...I talked to a junior groupleader (JG)...we brainstormed about what I would write in my fellowship. I wrote the fellowship and asked JG for feedback because they had experience with said fellowship. I submitted the fellowship and it got rejected. Twice. ....JG told me they were doing one of the experiments that I had proposed in my fellowship. And recently I saw that they had published the results. .......
What is the worst academic backstabbing you have experienced?

Look, I grasp that there are many situations of intellectual theft in this wide world of science.

But for every actual intellectual theft, there are scores of people who are deluded about their own unique special flower contribution and refuse to understand that many, many people probably had the same thoughts they did. People in your field read the same literature. They are interested in what you are interested in when it comes to understanding biology or whatever. How can you be shocked that someone else conducts the same experiments that you plan to conduct?

I have on more than one occasion read a grant proposal chock-a-block full of ideas that I've already thought up. Some of these never escaped the inside my head. Some were expressed to lab members or colleagues during conversations. Some were expressed in grant proposals, either submitted or left on the editing room floor, so to speak. Some of the ideas were of current interest, and some I'd dreamed up years before.

Maybe I have a lot of ideas about what science should be done next. Maybe more than most of you, I don't know. But I rather suspect that most of you also have way more thoughts about cool experiments to run than you can possibly get around to completing. Is it unfair if someone else completes a few of them?

And yeah. There have been cases where I have been unable to get a grant proposal on a given topic funded and lo and behold someone else later gets "my" grant to do the work I thought up...OUTRAGE! There must be a CONSPIRACY, maaang!

um. no.

It sometimes smarts. A lot. And can seem really, really unfair.

Look, I don't know the particulars of iBAM's case, but it doesn't generalize well, in my view. She "brainstormed with" this person. This person told her that they were doing the experiments. Is there maybe a wee hint of a chance that this person thought that the "brainstorming" session meant there was some co-ownership of ideas? That in mentioning the fact that they were starting to work on it this person thought they were giving fair warning to iBAM to assert some sort of involvement iF she chose?

The dangers of going overboard into the belief that the mere mention of a research plan or experiment to someone else means that they have to avoid working on that topic should be obvious. In this case, for example, iBAM didn't get the fellowship and eventually exited academic science. So perhaps those experiments would not have been completed if this sounding board person didn't do them. Or maybe they wouldn't have been done so soon.

And that would, presumably, be bad for science. After all, if you thought it was a good experiment to do, you should feel a little bit of dismay if that experiment never gets completed, right?

76 responses so far

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