Schedule: The Next 6 Months..

Yesterday I felt things spinning out of control so I decided to make a schedule to put above my desk (maybe on my forehead would be better) of all the grants that I’m writing/ participating in in the next 6 months. My colleague called it ‘ambitious’, I call it ‘insane’.

That’s 8, count em- 8 federal grants in the next 6 months. 1 A2, 1 A1 (I’m bein’ a pessimist), a new NIH submission, 2 non-NIH resubmissions, and 3 new submissions as co-PI.  I better get those manuscripts off my desk before the shit really hits the fan here in a couple of days. That’s 4 manuscripts … 1 in revision that must go out this week, 1 in revision that we are finishing experiments for (that’s keeping me up nights), 1 review that must go out this week, and 1 that is only in need of a discussion that must go out SOON.

This landscape will be complicated by teaching … not so much, just 8 lectures in the next 3 months or so, but still complicated.

Stick with me, it should be an interesting ride!


15 thoughts on “Schedule: The Next 6 Months..

  1. I don’t think you can do it, and I’m not sure you should try. Have you asked your local mentors their opinions? I think it would be better to do one or two really well, than do a mediocre job on all of them. It’s not a lottery: your number doesn’t come up randomly, it comes up from quality.

  2. whimple- I know it’s a lot- I appreciate your concern. But with some of this it’s unavoidable since the funding agency in question has a deadline once a year only- and for one of the grants I’ve been waiting TWO YEARS to resubmit. They only put out their call for proposals in December…. so I’m stuck with that. Perhaps on freakish chance one of the two I have under review right now will come back with a reasonable score…I can always fantasize about that to make myself feel better.

    And from watching DrMrA struggle for several years I know that the more you send the better your chances are. Sadly there is a lottery element there that’s unfortunate, and unavoidable.

    Academic- I’m having a hugely productive day in the writing zone, so it must be working! 🙂

  3. And from watching DrMrA struggle for several years I know that the more you send the better your chances are.

    There’s no law of diminishing returns here? I don’t believe it.

    How do you know it isn’t really that the more he wrote, the better at it he got? We had a recently retired NIH SRO give a talk here the other day. He said the best proposals (i.e. the ones that get funded) take 8 months to write. It might seem random, but I think that’s mainly true for brand new proposals where the randomness comes from the assignment of the initial reviewers. For resubmissions, a lot of the randomness of who the reviewers are is eliminated. Do you think you’re better off sending in two so-so resubmissions, or concentrating on one and really putting your effort there to boost your score by 5 points? Over here, we only have 24 hours in each day so the quality/quantity tradeoff becomes a real consideration. :/

  4. Does the shit ever stop hitting the fan? Ever? Seriously?

    I’ve stopped writing to-do lists. They’re so long they make me panic. Instead, I’ve started keeping have-done lists, one for every day.

  5. whimple- Oh I’m sure the more he wrote the better he got at it. But here’s the thing about DrMrA- he is absolutely the most organized and excellent writer that I know. Hands down. He’s done with the first draft about 6 or so weeks BEFORE the deadline, he’s got 3 senior, highly funded colleagues reading his proposals. He takes their criticsm and advice. He was doing everything he was supposed to be doing. There are issues like study sections getting dissolved between submissions, randomness in reviewer assignment etc. that one can not control. There are other issues beyond one’s control that I don’t really want to elaborate on here.

  6. whimple, SROs and POs don’t know squat. From a certain perspective. You see, they believe in the process. Because they have no other touchstone. So as far as they are concerned review outcome is equal to objective grant quality. This is incorrect

    They know some things and always have useful perspectives but they have big blindspots about the process as well.

    When we are talking about grants in play, those in the top 25% or so, it simply is not about concentrating your effort so as to write your way into funding. This does not happen.

  7. BM: Yes, I totally agree. I asked this recently retired SRO, given his experience, what changes (if any) in the review process he’d like to see. He responded that he thought the current system was perfect just as it was (except maybe to give the whole enterprise more cash).

    Regarding the randomness in the system: if your grant really is “in play”, then sure, give it a chance to win. However, 75% of the grants submitted (maybe more) are not “in play”. What do you do with them? Send them back and see if the reviewers spontaneously realize the error of their previous ways, or do you re-write and re-configure to get your grant into the “in play” category?

  8. It is my contention that there are a large number of grants which are pretty decent. Well written, good ideas, supported by all the usual investigator and environment qualities.

    Many of these fall out of play through essentially chance events. The allocation of specific reviewers, the other applications in those reviewers’ piles for that round, random stuff having to do with revision status of those other applications, etc.

    My belief is that the only way to win through this component of the process is to put in a good number of proposals, hoping that the stars align for one of them.

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