Saturday, April 12, 2014

Salary negotiations for K99 and R00 awardees

You now have you K99/R00 award from the NIH, but what are you going to do with it? April is negotiation time and I have been speaking with multiple friends dealing with job offers. Through the years I have collected information from multiple K99 recipients and gone through my own negotiations and learned a few things.

How much you get out of it depends on how much you can push your bosses. When negotiating I was advised to push as much as I could and back off only when you get the feeling that you have reached a limit. You must absolutely get what you need to do your work, but then there may still be things that you want which would make your life easier. So you must get what you need and keep trying to get what you want.

When you get your K99, if you are not already a Staff Scientist/Instructor, you should ask for a promotion which comes with a salary increase. As a PhD at this point you should be making between $60-80,000 depending on the salary structure at your institution. The decision may be yours in relation to how much you want to pay yourself. You may need more money if you have expensive child-care and a mortgage and should clearly state this to your boss or you may decide to funnel more money into the supply budget and keep your salary lower.

- No salary support from K99: I talked to someone who was able not to put any salary on the K99 portion because his boss agreed to support him and he could use all the money to pay for a technician and to buy small equipment and supplies. That is a huge chunk of money that you can use to offset your start-up.

- Partial salary support from K99: You must put at least 75% effort on your K99, but the rest of the salary can come from somewhere else. As I discovered, if you help your PI with an R01 and are listed as Key Personnel on it, you cannot be removed, so an additional portion of your salary can come from that.

Faculty salary negotiations always catch people unaware. We have no training whatsoever to negotiate for salary and in a lot of cases we do not even know how much an Assistant Professor is supposed to make. Depending on the institution and geographical location it is safe to say that a research university pays between $70,000 and $130,000. That is a huge spread and for a frame of reference for your specific institution you can use Glassdoor. As far as I know salary negotiation for myself and most of my friends went like this - Chair:"We are going to pay you $X" Interviewee: "Oh, OK. That sounds good." Whatever they offer may be fine for you, but your should make some calculations before to make sure you get what you need if you have tuition or a mortgage to pay. If you can justify a specific need, you should ask for what you want. And then you need to discuss how much you will put on your R00...

- No salary support from R00: For a long time I thought this was a white whale, something you really want and that keeps eluding you. I was intrigued by this wording in the K99/R00 Program Announcement "Institutions must provide a startup and salary package equivalent to that provided to a newly hired faculty member who does not have a grant; R00 funds may not be used to offset the typical startup package or to offset the usual institutional commitment to provide salary for tenure-track (or equivalent) assistant professors who are hired without grant support."  My assumption is that if other tenure-track assistant professors are hired with full salary support for the first three years, putting part of your salary on the R00 does offset your start-up package, but everyone I knew has partial salary on the R00. Until I found out that someone was able to negotiate no salary on the R00! This allows you to hire one or two extra people and can make all the difference in generating data during the first few years. It doesn't hurt to try.

- Partial salary support from R00: The R00 also requires 75% effort, but that doesn't mean that you have to put 75% of your salary on it. If you cannot get 0% salary, you should try and negotiate that as little as possible of your salary goes on your R00, so that you can use the money otherwise. It is going to be very difficult to change it afterwards. If you can get as low as 10% and get the department to cost share the rest, go for it (see comment below and cite this precedent). But in general, I've heard numbers around 40-50%. You have to particularly careful about your effort from now on as I discuss in a follow-up post.
Hope this is helpful. Please keep me posted on how your negotiations go, so that I can update.


23 comments:

  1. Dr. Noncoding ArenayApril 14, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Interesting post, I look forward to your updated post once you have more data from K99/R00ers....

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  2. 10% of my salary comes from my R00. This low % was one of my requests during negotiations, and it wasn't met with any resistance at all.

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    1. Thank you for sharing. I updated the post to include this information. I had a weird situation where I didn't want to put any and had a flexible offer letter, but got strong-armed into putting down 50% later on. If I had had precedents to cite I probably would have been able to fight it.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. One thing I am realizing after campus visits is that setting up of new labs (renovation, etc) takes time, which no amount of money can fix. I wonder if it is a good idea to delay the start of R00 funds. I Have heard stories where new PIs were able to start work in the labs only after 10-14 months of start - I will be dead if the first year of R00 gets wasted like that, not just time wise but also for $$. What do you think?

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    1. It is very unlikely that your institution is going to let you do that, because most departments will want the indirects. You can ask that your grant do not be started until renovations on your lab are completed and you can access it, and I think that would be valid. I didn't do that, and I wish I had, because you can dangle the money in front of them and make them move forward. In general, even if construction is completed you have to expect 6-9 months before you can do experiments in earnest, so a break is to be expected and you will not be dead (you will be angry, frustrated, terrified, doubtful...but not dead). It is okay to describe setting up your lab in your Year 1 progress report, I clearly summarized resources that were established, reagents that were generated and that the lab was finally set up. It was fine. This year in Year 2 we had lots of data to report. Hope they like it.

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  5. Wait... my institute says 75% of PI salary must be allocated for R00. Is this negotiable? When should I start negotiating with the institute? And who at the institute?

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    1. Unless your institute is special, 75% of your EFFORT must be devoted to research, which is a very different thing. It means that the university cannot ask you to teach 50% of the time and must protect 3/4 of your time for research. How that 75% effort is distributed is a discussion you can have with your program officer and your department chair. I have 75% effort on my R00, but only 50% salary comes from that. Some people pay less of their salary and the department cost shares (i.e. pays) the rest. When you apply for an R01 you want to put at least 30% effort on it and that can come out of the 75% effort after approval from your program officer. Effort just means the time you will devote to it, I have 5-10% effort on foundation grants who do not allow for my salary, so there is no salary disbursement. Hope this helps.

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  6. Thank you. So, if I understand it correctly, effort % and salary % are different. The school I am considering is paying a 9-month salary plus summer support for 2 yrs, which makes it fully covered. I guess I can put 75% effort, 25% salary to cover the summer on the R00, and request the school to defer the summer salary to after the R00 or be converted to student support at that time. What do you think?

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    1. Yes, you can go about it 2 ways. You can put 75% effort and 25% salary on your R00, and ask the school to pay the summer salary when the R00 ends (that is similar to the deal I have). The caveat is that if you get R01 funding, it's better to put salary on it, so you may get screwed out of the later part of the deal. OR you can put 0% salary on the R00 and just keep the money to pay for a student. :)

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  7. This is an excellent post. Thank you. One question.
    My offer letter has a guaranteed salary support for 3 years. But then there is a weird statement in the research support. Please see below. What do you think they mean by "salary savings". I think this is too vague.

    Research support. Initial research support will include $650,000 over 3 years to be used at your discretion for supplies, equipment, professional development and personnel. This includes the surplus in the startup package resulting from salary savings gained from your NIH Early Independence award.

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    1. I would clarify that when you talk to them because it's not clear to me either. You should make clear that the $650K is exclusively devoted to supplies, equipment and personnel and doe NOT include your salary. My understanding is that they are not asking you to put any salary on the R00, is that correct?

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  8. Hi, this blog has been very helpful. Quick question. I'm waiting to hear back about my K99 (waiting for paylines to be drawn), and I was interested in trying to bump up my salary if I get it. However, I don't think my current PI would be willing to pay me more off a grant, and so probably would not sponsor me for Instructor (which is required at our institution). He also insisted, when I applied, that I put in the NIH base, out of a misguided "fairness" impulse. So that's what's in the budget for the application under review.
    In your opinion, what would be the best time, and who should I try to convince, to increase my salary, if I get the award. I.e. should I be trying to get promoted to Instructor now, so that we can change the K99 budget, or is it already too late for that?

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    1. Hi, so sorry for the delay. It's a tricky situation, but in the end all your salary and fringe would be coming from the K99, so you should be able to talk to your PI about getting a raise. I don't think you need to be promoted to Instructor before this happens, but you may need to figure out how to change the salary budget on the K99. I don't think any of these details are insurmountable. Do you have a financial administrator in your department who can explain the policies regarding salary and raises and the ranges you could use? Once the salary comes entirely from the K99 there is no reason for the PI to deny it to you...

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  9. I am a post-doctoral researcher submitting my first K99/R00. Currently my salary ($46K) is covered by my PI and my office administrator believes that I have to use this amount ($46K) as my budget request on grant application for the K99 phase. Please tell me that is NOT the intention of the K99. I assume as with all K's that there is a salary increase up to limit allowable by the agency which is between typically $75-$90K.

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    1. So sorry for the delay. I was stuck in the middle of R01 ugliness as I imagine you're getting ready to submit your K99. Did you figure it out? It's a very tricky question because it's very institution dependent. I had a stipulation that I would be promoted to instructor (a non-tenure track faculty position) and I put my salary at $65K. If you will remain a postdoctoral fellow, it depend on the institution, since some are very strict with salary increases. BUT, if the money comes from grants there is always wiggle room if you speak with your department chair. If the K99 gives you $90K and you salary only takes $46+fringe, so $50-60K depending on your fringe, then you'll have 30K in supplies to spend which is A LOT, unless you have some sequencing to do or some other expensive project. Hope this helps.

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  10. Hello, Thanks for your posts. These are very helpful for new bees like me. I have a K99 and I got a faculty job offer. My K99 started on September-15th/2015. Can I start my new appointment on August-15th? The guidelines says that I have to stay for at least one year in K99 mentors lab. But my host institution would like to start by August for some administrative reasons. I guess I have to ask my program officer about this. But wondering if you could give some suggestion on how to handle early move! Thanks in advance

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    1. Hi. I am actually not in favor of early moves. You forfeit a lot of your award that way, because you will lose the entirety of your second year. Your salary will be lost anyways, but if you stay for the first couple of months of your second year you get all your supply budget and you can spend it down to offset some of your start-up. It really comes in handy.
      In any case I would talk to your program officer. If they let you go, the timing is up to you depending on your personal/family obligations. If they do not allow you to transition, you may have to start in January and then you get to do a lot of shopping. It is unlikely that the new institution will say no because they are in to get a lot of money with your R00 and pretty much have to do what the NIH says....

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  11. Regarding your scenario of partial salary support from the K99, can a K99 awardee receive 75% of the salary from the K99 and additional salary from the mentor/PI's R01? I was under the impression that K99 awardees are not allowed to receive supplemental salary support from any other NIH grants, but it sounds like you did this before and it was OK? Thanks!

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    1. As far as I know, you can, but that may depend on the institute also. Every IC has different rules. I had 90% on the K99 and 10% on my mentor's R01, because I was Key Personell.

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  12. Thank you for this very helpful blog! Question: Is NIH's commitment to pay some portion of the R00 salary based on a 9-month or 12-month contract? This assumes of course that an R00 recipient has negotiated that the NIH salary support will be greater than 0%. For example, say the R00 covers 50% and a school covers the other 50% of salary (with the understanding that 75% effort is required). And lets say the school has 9-month contracts and doesn't include summer support (maybe PIs look to other funding typically to cover this). Is the 50% covered by the R00 spread across 9 months (which is how the 50% covered by the school is structured since they don't cover summer) OR is the 50% covered by the R00 spread across 12 months if that's how the PI prefers to budget it? Thanks for your guidance.

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  13. Hi New PI,
    Thank you so much for your blog. This has been the most helpful blog in my k99 process. Finally, PO said I may get the K99 in a couple of weeks. So I will negotiate my salary with my PI. I am now postdoc and $56k salary (my PI supports me now). The proposed budget in k99 was $58k at the first year, which mean all my salary will come from k99. I will ask my PI to pay $22k to make $80k. And I will ask for a promotion to non-tenure track faculty position (research professor). I think this promotion can rationalize my salary increase to $80k. My concern here is that before I really got NOA, I should be postdoc. When is a good time for me to promote to non-tenure track faculty? Do you think is it possible or what is the best strategy to raise my salary to $80k? What is the best negotiation strategy with my PI?. Thank you so much.

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    1. Sorry, I lost track of things and I'm getting back to comments now. I was promoted to non-tenure track after I got my K99, but I don't think it makes any difference to the NIH whether you're a postdoc when you get your NOA. As far as the PI I would be honest and I would clearly express my need with specific requests. I had friends who had 2 kids in private school and asked a $15k raise to cope. I myself gave $10K raise because the postdoc articulated clearly that between mortgage and lost benefits because of the fellowship it wasn't feasible for them to continue with the job. You want to be rational but firm. If the PI is reasonable and CAN do it, they will do it. If they cannot do it because of other budgetary constraints, they may meet you half way or explain clearly why they cannot. ALSO, you can modify salary by a certain number without getting NIH approval, so you can work with your grants office to get more than the budgeted $58K in your K99. Just some options.

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