As you know I am not a super big fan of NIH grant review sentiments which boil down to "tut, tut, Dr. Junior Faculty, let's not get too big for your britches. Try this small starter award and see how you do with that before you get to play with the big kids."
I believe things like size of grant and number of grants (and relatedly, overall total direct costs) should be taken on a case by case basis. And I believe that modern "junior" faculty are pretty old, phenomenally broadly experienced and generally pretty capable compared to junior faculty minted in, say, the early to mid eighties.
The question of the day, however, has more to do with lab size and specifically to do with the number of academic trainees.
Is there a limit to the number of grad students, postdocs or grad students plus postdocs that most junior faculty should be training?
My gut take is "heck yes". I don't know that I've ever had to act up this. I can't recall a time when I ever had to judge a R-mechanism or F-mechanism where the PI or supervisor (respectively) was seemingly overburdened with trainees. But my gut says that this is possible. There would be times where I might raise an eyebrow about how many concurrent trainees a junior (or senior, but that's another argument) PI might be proposing to have. Whether that be due to taking a look at the "training environment" for a F32/F31 application or in looking at relative commitment levels for a new Rproposal there are seemingly times that this might come up. Conceivably.
My gut feeling on this is guided by my own experience which, as we know, is wildly out of touch with y'all.
We have had one or two conversations about what people think of as a small, medium or large lab. My takeaway from these is that people think a 6-7 person lab is average, medium, normal and basically expected value.
To me this is "on the larger side".
I have run anywhere from 0-4 concurrent academic trainees and when I am at 4 postdocs I definitely feel a bit stretched.
I have been doing this gig for some time now. When I was a wee newbie PI I thought that two concurrent trainees was pretty much good. Three was not something that I thought was sustainable.
Whatcha think, Dear Reader?
Can most junior PIs handle 5 or more concurrent academic trainees? Should they just take as many as possible?
*I solemnly swear this is not a troll to further complain about the training of too many PhDs.