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If you have a choice...

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 8:18 am
by Kelly
I think it used to be more realistic to think that one could effectively compete for a grant as an RAP. Right now however, it is a very risky venture.

This year's NIH budget contained a 2% increase; this doesn't keep up with the 3% cost of inflation. The thing I would urge people to keep in mind is that the NIH made significant commitments during the years of the doubling of the NIH budget. People who had one grant are now carrying two or three. Thus, the NIH has current obligations to cover grants that were funded in 2002 and 2003. These obligations extend to 2008 mostly likely without a budget increase. People generally miss that it is not a brand new pot of money every year. Based on the OMB report for the 2006 proposed budget the number of possible new grants was very very low. The Grant Doctor addressed this issue in an aritcle entitled "Hey Dude where's my grant?; Science; Jan 2005)Bottom line: the money in the budget is spent right now covering past commitments (unless they get an increase which I won't bet on).

It isn't impossible to get funding right now. But it is very very tough for any young person (the Grant Doctor also notes that the success rate for competing renewals is generally about 50% whilst the over-all success rates on R01s right now is about 12-15%; one needs to do the math and recognize the deal). For a young person even in a tenure track position, I highly advocate going after targeted funding, a pot of money already set-aside for some special interest or defined priority.

I think study sections recognize the importance of doing the best they can to get funding into the hands of young people on tenure track and they are trying to do this. The pecking order right now is keeping funded productive labs funded via competing renewals, then young people in whom institutions have made investements and then whoever is left standing with a good proposal. In short, I think RAP positions were a much more viable option in the long-term past and up until about 2 years ago.

What can we do? Every single person with funding in hand right now needs to become a public advocate for sustaining Federally sponsored health related research. Talk to your neighbors, talk to people in stores. My trick is to wear clothing with my institution's name; standing in the groceryline you would be surprised how many people will say "Oh you work at X University." I say yes I do. I do biomedical research and study Y. I have my little talking points where I roll out specific basic science findings in my field and how they ahve DIRECTLY contributed to advancing our understanding for improving health and reducing/curing disease and how my current work funded by their tax dollars extends this. I tell them about the importance of Federally funded work and how difficult it has become. I also listen: people in the lay public will generally volunteer something they know about a disease that has impacted their lives. Be ready to response with what you know and the research that has lead to health and healing (you know a lot more than you think you know). You may be the ONLY Federally funded scientist this person EVER talks to. This is your opportunity to become the face of the NIH and build public support for its mission. Learn to be an effective public advocate. This is the only way we are going to change the current situation.

The tenured will take care of it...

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:03 am
by Emil Chuck
I will agree with Jim that even though I and many others here will trash the concept of the RAP, the fact is that those positions are here to stay and they are growing. I don't quite know about the impact of these positions in academe being good (if anything they are basically the science versions of adjuncts and contract faculty who do a lot of work with none of the benefits), but I agree if you want to do research, you can find those positions. They won't be easy to come by, but they are additional options if industry really isn't what you want.

To Kelly's point (time to raise a new discussion thread), the mindset in academia is that only those people with tenure should be out in the "streets" and clamoring in this way. If you are without tenure as a postdoc or faculty-person, you are making a lot of waves that really distract you from your "role" as being a 24/7 researcher. The advice I had always gotten is that "The tenured faculty will take care of it" because your interest in advocacy will take that amount of precious time away from you. (Students have more protections.) Even signing online petitions could get you into trouble. Leave the advocacy to the lobbyists and lawyers that your institutions have hired... or your professional societies. As a non-tenured employee, your job is to do your work, go with the flow, and don't raise a ruckus.

Besides... who knows if you're talking to someone in the grocery line who is an animal-rights "activist."

The tenured will take care of it...

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 10:46 am
by Kelly
We do disagree. I think it is important for everyone to voice their support for Federally funded research.

As for animal rights, yes this is very touchy. Get trained. I have been asked about animal research. Most lay people do support use of animals in research. Unfortunately, because we kept quiet for years, the wacko's were the only voice the public heard. We figured everyone would know they were nuts (just like because I am from TX I assumed a certain person running for president as an independent about 10 years ago via grass roots would never be taken seriously).

Notice in my previous post I do not introduce myself: never use your name; this can make you a target. But the most important thing is to indicate animals are an important part of learning about health and disease. And move on quickly, do not get into a philosphy-driven discussion on animal rights with the lay public. You are going to change someone's mind.


1. talk about peer review for scientific merit of studies involving animals.
2. emphasize the Federal guidelines in the NIH guide; that the govenmnent has a huge document based on years of consideration of what exactly is permitted.
3. talk about institutional animal care and use committees that must review and approve protocols.

The major misunderstanding that the lay public has with respect to animal use is that an individual investigator can alone decide what is permitted. People are generally very comfortable with the level of monitoring and compliance after they know it exists. they usually say something like "wow that's a lot you have to go through." We have allowed the animal rights activists to completely craft the public notion of what it means to do animal research. We lost by our silence not by virture of what we actually do.

The tenured will take care of it...

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 11:35 am
by Emil Chuck
Actually, Kelly, I do agree with you, but I wanted to present the contrary opinion. I actually don't agree with it (those of you who know me recognize I don't hesitate to send emails to the representatives in Congress), but this is the straight dope I got from people who are in position to decide who gets tenure and who does not (further supported in various higher education articles and accounts from all throughout the internet). I'm just pointing out the frustration we see about why people don't stand up more for things that truly matter. Sure R01 funding stinks, but just focus on your work and play the game rather than clamor for lowering the pay line so that you might get in... . *

I also will point out one other little problem. The graduate and postdoctoral populations have a lot of non-US-citizens, and as such, they really have no say in the grant-funding pay lines. Furthermore, because they don't want to be out of a job due to visa restrictions, they HAVE to keep working, not raise a ruckus, and think 24/7 of their research or else they go home.

Again, otherwise, I'm really not arguing against your points... just saying people aren't going to stand up as much as we'd like. This dilemma of people being afraid of the technologies we develop for their benefit, of losing funding increases relative to inflation, and of a general disdain of animal research (or scientific investigation in general) is part of the bed we as academic research scientists have made.

* If there is more of a generational gap, it's the knowledge that tenured professors tell me how much of a funding crisis there was when various NIH agencies decided to only pay those grants that rise above the 50th percentile. Yeah, those were the days.

The tenured will take care of it...

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 11:59 am
by Kelly
I agre with you Emil that one has to be careful with public statements. Also, I wanted to clarify my own comments. I do not think that a trainee or any scientist should make advocacy their full time job (there are great jobs for this).

The tack I take is to make opportunities for advocacy as I go about my everyday business. I'm not standing on the streets passing out fliers either!!! (no time and it certainly isn't rewarded in any direct sense). But taking the time to speak with someone while waiting to check out with groceries doesn't take away from my research time. And if enough of us do this, it creates support in the public. Remember; they vote and they will call congressmen.

As for paylines, I'm in (under 10th percentile on R01, R03 and R21 in a real hard institute). I do real well in terms of funding. I've tried to pass along how this is possible in other posts (which someone commented a couple of weeks ago about being over the top so I won't respond to the F32 question in another thread).

It is possible to get funded as a young person. But you have to do the homework.

The tenured will take care of it...

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 12:57 pm
by Kelly
we wanted the payline RAISED not lowered. Right now the paylines are so low percentile-wise, a better a rich man could get into heaven easier than getting most grants funded BUT there are ways. Study it like you would any other problem.

The tenured will take care of it...

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 2:51 pm
by Emil Chuck
I agree, but then again, I'm still not quite sure what's wrong with not taking things to the streets at times. Protesters get media attention, and the public read or watch it on TV. How do you fight that battle with just a "meet and greet a scientist" when the public has the battlefield shaped for them. I don't want to get into too much discussion on political science and advertising, but that's a real problem we're having now.

Scientists in general do not have access to the public in the same sense that teachers (as an example) do. If teachers are disgruntled and walk out of their positions for an hour, the parents are going to start to care about things, not to mention admins and the public. Let's say that graduate students and TA's that are fed up with being cheap labor decide that en masse, we'll just take a half-day away from the bench... the state of science at an institute doesn't shut down to the same extent (as opposed to doctors).

I think the meet-and-greet approach provides us some sympathy, but does not necessarily engender us to having broad support politically. I do think that many organizations that do have public connections (most notably those professional clinical societies that support researchers) have the professionals to garner that support. I mean, why not hand out flyers at a 5K hosted by the American Heart Association or the Komen Breast Cancer Foundation? Your federal taxes also support research, but ...

Is the bar being raised for tenured track faculty positions?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 3:07 pm
by Phil B
After reading through this thread, I assume the applicant pool for tt faculty positions now include many RAPs. These candidates will have more years of experience and more publications. Also, RAPs could have their own independent funding; K awards, R21, R03 or even R01?s (at least a score and critiques on a R01). Will not department search committees favor the more ?proven? candidate? Say someone who can get their R01 funded their first or second year after being hired, rather than use their start up money to gather the preliminary data and go through several grant submission cycles until funded. Where does this leave the 3-4th post-doc looking for tt faculty positions?

Is the bar being raised for tenured track faculty positions?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 3:15 pm
by Frank1
This is purely circumstantial evidence from the medical school I work at: but it seems that with R01 funding tight- many recent faculty appointments are just horizontal moves. That is, recruitment of allready tenured faculty from other universities who bring their own grant money with them and get the benefit of a large start up package.

It seems to me this is making it even more difficult for people moving from PostDoc to tenure track.

Is the bar being raised for tenured track faculty positions?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 3:25 pm
by Kelly
Q1: Will not department search committees favor the more ?proven? candidate?

Depends; some institutions like bird in hand some are willing to gamble that someone will be funded.
My perspective is that given the present funding climate, gambling is not smart for the institutional investment or for the hire.

Q2: Say someone who can get their R01 funded their first or second year after being hired, rather than use their start up money to gather the preliminary data and go through several grant submission cycles until funded.

Coming in funded has benefits and problems. If you are funded, then you have the additional pressure of getting a lab up and running to maintain productivity on an active grant.

Do not go with the plan that during your first year you will set-up a lab, during your second year collect preliminary data and write a grant, during your third year submit and wait 10 months and then revise and resubmit. You will spend your 4th year looking for a new job.

If at all possible, try to submit your first grant the year you are looking for a job. It won't likely get funded first time but you will have feedback on which to revise. The next best case is having a grant ready to submit in the first or second cycle after you start. The thrid case, is just having preliminary data in hand but the grant not written. All of these are better than showing up thinking you are going to start from the basement on a grant in our first year. The 5 year pretenure period is short, a lot shorter than you think.

At a minimum have your preliminary data in hand before you start.