Fixing NIH postdoc awards?

Dec 13 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Many of you science peeps are familiar with NIH and their constant worry over the careers of early investigators. How to help postdocs transition to independent researcher positions, etc etc. I am in the middle of all that myself.

A possible improvement struck me. The process of applying for funding takes a long time. Even if you ignore writing the proposal and producing pilot data. Just from application submission to funding is about a year. Postdoc positions are almost by nature unstable. The amount of time needed to secure a TT job is certainly more than how much funding can usually be obtained at once. I don't think it's uncommon to patch together funding, 2 years of this, 1 year of that, during a postdoc. If you are interested in one of those NIH grants for postdocs you basically need to get funding in order to apply for funding. Two years of funding might give you enough time to put together something and apply. Three if you plan for the inevitable resubmission. (Four if you are a person I know who waited >6 months after being recommended for funding).

This strikes me as not good. Particularly given the stated purpose of these postdoc awards. Why not try to speed up the process just for the postdoc mechanisms. Cut down the waiting time to something  like 4 or even 3 months? Is that crazy? Not possible?

6 responses so far

  • drugmonkey says:

    Or only allow one application, no revisions. Within one year of PhD.

    • That makes it very hard to learn a new technique in your postdoc, because writing a grant about a technique you're not yet familiar with is super hard.

      • drugmonkey says:

        So? It should be easy?

      • No it shouldn't be easy, but the way you're proposing makes it easier for people who stay in their field doing the techniques they're familiar with and makes it harder for people who want to learn something new or switch fields. I'm not sure the first group of people would necessarily make better PIs (but your system would improve their chances of becoming one over the more adventurous second group).

  • Morgan Price says:

    IThe whole business of PIs competing for funding so that they can hire postdocs seems odd to me. Why not move some money from R01s to postdoc grants, and allow a single short application focused on the candidate's past work so that it can be reviewed while the candidate is choosing their next lab. Hopefully this will enable speedy review.

  • Sxydocma1 says:

    My biggest difficulty in securing funding during my post-doc was that I didn't have a first author publication from my post-doc. My mentor was great, but he wanted to hold out for glamor mag pubs. I applied for two fellowships but didn't get them because I needed to demonstrate productivity in order to be competative.

    Three years into my post-doc, I did publish 2 first author papers in very good journals. But, by then, it was too late to apply to funding. A year later, I left academia for industry.

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