Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A compilation of K99 and R00 advice

Lovingly nicknamed the "kangaroo" grant by the NIH, the K99/R00 Transition to Independence award is designed to help postdoctoral fellows leap into a faculty position by supplying two years of mentored research time to obtain training to develop their independent project (K99) and supporting the newly independent investigator for 3 years (R00). There has been a lot of discussion of really who should be eligible for this and review strategies vary from institute to institute at the NIH, so you better do your research on what your desired institute prefers. However, in this cash strapped funding environment this "kangaroo grant" can really make a difference between getting a job and remaining on the market.  Since my K99 and R00 transition posts are by far the most popular in my blog, I thought I would put together an aggregator post to try and coordinate all the ideas that I have discussed on this subject. I feel a little like a band putting out a greatest hits album, but everyone is doing it and coordinating one year of posts in some coherent way may make them more useful. As you check out the posts that interest you, I also recommend reading the comments below, since there have been many wonderful questions and discussion and you may find additional answers there.

So here it goes.

1) BEFORE THE K99. Due to the recent changes in eligibility limiting the time of application to 4 years from the receipt of your PhD or other terminal degree, if you are interested in applying for a K99/R00 Transition to Independence award, you need to start thinking about it early during the 2nd year of your postdoc. How this may change the way you need to think about it is discussed here.

2) WRITING A K99. For some info on how to prepare yourself for the application and what to expect during and after the writing phase you can go here. Wonderful books you can read on how to write an NIH grant are here.

3) SALARY MANAGEMENT WITH A K99. The K99 will give you power to renegotiate your post-doc salary and to define your faculty salary. Things you need to know when you negotiate are here.

4) TRANSITION YOUR R00 TO YOUR NEW POSITION. A point by point description on how to put together your R00 application is here. Lots of followup questions and answers can be found in the comments.

5) DEALING WITH THE NEW RPPR. Going through your annual reporting using the new NIH RPPR online system is described here.

6) PAYING ATTENTION TO YOUR EFFORT. How to distribute effort on your grants when you have 75% tied in your R00 is discussed here. Plus some planning advice on how to use review timelines (here) to devise a multi-year grant plan is here.

7) OTHER GRANTS TO THINK ABOUT. Can be found here.

Finally, interesting thoughts from other bloggers about the K99/R00 process can be found below:
- Great how-to guides for putting together your K99 from ChemicalBiLOLogy and K99advice
- Dr Becca (@doc_becca) on the deadline changes and better definition of the review priorities
- ASBMB president Jeremy Berg on the decline of the funding rate and how more than half R00 awardees do not have an R01 one year after the end of the K99/R00

Image credit: Illustration of Macropus fuliginosus from Wikimedia commons

22 comments:

  1. Just found your blog through Prof-like Substance/Scientopia, and after having read a number of your posts, I really like it! I wish you all the best.

    I hope your be in your position soon (i.e., starting my own lab), although I'm only now just about to graduate with my PhD. The K-grant sounds like a wonderful opportunity, but considering the timeline of the award, it assumes that someone will need ~5 yrs of training post-PhD before they are ready to set out on their own? I think this is kind of overkill. There are people in my field (bioengineering) who have gotten faculty offers after only 2-3 yrs as postdoc. So I'm not sure what to make of this.... Why so long in biomedical sciences before one is ready to set out on one's own?

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    1. Dear Hope, that is a great question. A postdoc in the biomedical sciences is usually 5-7 years and the NIH cut the K99 deadline to 4 years to try and speed things up. I don't know if it will work. Getting a job in the biomedical sciences at a research university often requires a very big publication in one of the Nature or Cell Press journals, and those take time. I had friends resubmit the same paper to Nature and Science for years before it got in...or before they went to a "lower" Cell Press or npg journal.
      I don't thing it's a question of being ready. It's just that the jobs are few and far between and the standards are really high.I am not at a top tier school and I still had almost a million in federal funding and 6 first author papers in journals with impact around 10 to get a job.
      My impression now is that unless you are at the very top, funding will be the deciding factor.
      What are the standards in bioengineering?

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  2. Unfortunately, I have not been able to land a TT position. The K99 was supposed to help, but I learnt that in the end the most important thing that departments look for is a fit of the research within their ecosystem. Not that my research was way out of scope, but I may have focused too much on the big picture I feel. Anyway, the options for me are to (1) go to a smaller school with no medical school, (2) try to bring in the R00 at my current position at a hospital, or (3) leave academic science. I write this more for myself to be able to flush things out but if you have any comments/suggestions, I will appreciate.

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    1. Sorry to hear that. I think that before leaving academic science, you should explore the other options. How feasible could it be to stay where you are with the R00? I had friends who were awesome scientists and had trouble finding a job exactly for the "fit" issue you describe. Maybe the fit was too narrow or too different and things didn't work out. But if taking a position where you are is possible, the NIH should not give you trouble especially if you did a nationwide search before. This would help you to continue your research uninterrupted and go for the R01 conversion. At that point it should be easier to get a job. Someone was just telling me how universities nowadays prefer young people who are battle tested, i.e. have set up a lab and gotten funding. A smaller school with no medical school is also an option if you have a medical school nearby where you could establish strong collaborations...or maybe a small school near the hospital where you are now, a long as you can continue to collaborate. I met someone in this situation and he was quite happy because he still had full access to the old facilities and collaborators. His department didn't worry much about those ties and was not considering them a problem for tenure. Hope this helps.

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    2. @Dear Anonymous, if you didn't get a TT job WITH a K99, it simply means YOU did it wrong. Having a K99 does not automatically entitle you to work in a Ivy league medical school department and I'm assuming you probably only looked at those 'top tier' schools while ignoring all the smaller ones. I attended an interview in a Biology department of a Univ with no medical school. This was just a small town university that you wouldn't hear about unless you worked there. I casually asked the Chair of the Search Committee how many applications they received for this one position, he said 350!!!!, yeah, then just imagine the number in the top schools!!!! As far as your options go, yes, most certainly #1, swallow your pride and humble yourself. If #1 does not work then #2. But as a bright individual WITH a K99, if you choose #3, you really need a re-look at all your life's decisions.

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    3. I think it is much more complicated than that. The R00 transition is not guaranteed and if you cannot secure a tenure track job, the R00 could be removed. I have personally known candidates with a K99 in a similar situation to Anonymous 1 who had to remain to their institution of origin (but that is not guaranteed either). I don't know about Anonymous 1, but the people I knew did not just look at Ivy League schools and were casting a very broad net, but fit is always a concern, being the 2nd/3rd applicant from the same large lab is a concern. Multiple factors can sway a committee, and if you are not ready to go on the market during the 1st year of your K99, you may get stuck with doing only one search in your 2nd year and if that search is not successful, you are in trouble. Being on the other side, I can tell you that fit is incredibly important, it is important for the department, but also it is important for the candidate. If you find yourself in a place where you don't fit, where you don't have the resources for your research program, you put yourself at a disadvantage.

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  3. Theoretically speaking, how wrong is it to decline an offer after accepting it? I guess how long after accepting matters - so, let's say after a month. It seems very wrong morally, but any legal issues? The thing is due to the different deadlines pulling me in different directions, I am accepting an okay offer in a barely-okay place. Apart from this offer, I have another possible offer coming but that will take about a month. I have tried everything to get more time on the current offer but to no avail. I am contemplating taking this offer b./c not taking it is very risky. If the other one also becomes a reality, then probably take that one and decline this one. Do I have to tell the other school that I have accepted an offer? Have you heard of anyone else being in this situation and the outcome?

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    1. Hum, just as a disclaimer, this is something that you really need to strategize with the senior faculty advising you. I'll just give you my two cents based on what I know. I had a friend who rescinded an offer after accepting, but only to take a huge job in pharma. That pissed the university off to no end, but he was out of academia, so who cares? You only really start the job when you show up and get hired, so signing the offer may not be binding. You can also just quit the moment you get there. I know of multiple people who showed up and said "No, Jose" and turned around, but these were all established people. At our level it could generate a precedent which may taint you for future jobs. If you want a career in academia, you have to make sure who the players involved are and you have to talk to them honestly (or with some honesty). You don't sound excited about the okay offer from the barely-okay place, so that's already a problem. This market sucks and it's terrifying and you have to consider yourself lucky you were offered a job, BUT if you don't like where you are going, are not sure it's good for you and are not given the resources you need, you could be tanking your career. Places look at their best when you interview, then once you get there all the dirty laundry comes out, so if you don't like it now...just you wait once you get there. I had friends who had the guts to say no to their only offer because the place was not optimal, they regrouped, tried again and got what they wanted the following year. If you had two offers in this market, you're a viable candidate. This said, how do you navigate this particular situation? I would talk to the department chair of place #2 and tell them exactly what is going on: you have another offer with a university putting pressure on you to make a decision, you are very interested in uni #2 and would definitely go there (as long as a suitable offer is extended). They could put wheels in motion to make the offer happen sooner...there is nothing like competition to make people move. Also, it will give you an idea of how effective and powerful your future department chair is (can he/she make things happen? This is really important) If uni #1 is a lower tier one they are putting pressure on candidates to decide quickly, so that they don't compete with other schools. Did you tell them you cannot make a decision until the 2nd offer comes in? Why cannot they wait 3-4 weeks? That sounds suspicious.
      Hope this helps....it's a tricky situation.

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  4. Actually, the place with the offer gave me only 1 week to decide. My request to extend the accept-by date to 2 weeks was denied. I have explained the situation to the other place but they are late in the whole hiring process and just about getting ready to start interviewing. You are right - it is a very tricky situation.

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  5. Does the NIH allow one to change the R00 institution? In other words, start the R00 at an institution and then transfer it to another institution? I wonder because grants are assigned to an institution and not an individual. Will the first institution have to agree to the transfer?

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    1. I assume (but I don't know for certain) that the R00 is like an R01 and that you can move it. Grants are assigned to an institution, but if you move to another one, in general you can get approval of the funding agency to move them with you. The first institution usually agrees because there is not much else that they can do if you resign and accept a job somewhere else....they'll just have to do some soul-searching on why they invested start-up money in someone and lost it so quickly. As all grant transitions and depending on how efficient your grants office is, it may take some time.

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  6. Looking for opinions on whether it pays for me to apply for a K99. Should I apply and eventually get one (hopefully!) I may be in a predicament. I am married and unable to move due to my spouse's job. I have a major research institution where I am currently a post-doc, however if a position does not open at this institution I would not be mobile to relocate to another institution with an R00.

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    1. Definitely apply. Pretend you will be doing a full job search. If you need to stay in the area, the K99 will help finding other options or swaying your institution. I know people who did a search, but did not find anything that fit and stayed with the R00 where they were. It may end up being a Research Assistant Professor position (non tenure-track), but it will keep you going towards the R01. If that's what you want.

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  7. Hi NewPI,
    I have a question about transitioning from R00 to an R01. Are you sending your R01 to the same IC as your R00 and treating your R01 like a virtual competitive renewal of your R00? I am currently in the R00 phase and am looking to apply to my first R01 soon. I have a paper that came out of the K99 phase with my postdoc advisor as last author. I don't have any papers since then, but I have been building up preliminary data during the R00 phase. I am wondering whether it is better to have an entire section dedicated to preliminary data in the Approaches section, or whether I should include the relevant preliminary data in the rationale section under each specific aim.
    Do you have (or received from others) advice about the best way to format your first R01?

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    1. Hi, my R01 went to a different IC, because my program officer told me to send it somewhere else. The institute where I had my R00 was good for training, but the paylines for R01 are among the lowest at the NIH. My PO told me to request double assignment to her IC, but to request a different primary, so that I would have a better chance. As far as considering this a renewal, I think they are not supposed to, because the productivity would have to be a lot higher than what is possible in a new lab in 3 years. I know people who got the R01 in year 2 with no publications and in my case they wanted tons of work and feasibility data on everything I proposed, so I had to do 1 year of experiments between the first and second submission. I think it depends on the study section.
      Finally as far as the preliminary data, I have it everywhere and I was told to have it everywhere. You have some in the significance to explain the premise of your hypothesis and you have all the feasibility data in the approach. It will very much depend on what you propose and what preliminary data you have. My last submission had 11 figures of preliminary data...but again I think it's study section dependent.

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  8. Hi, NewPI,
    I really appreciate this website explaining many aspects of being an independent investigator. I have a question. I am about to get K99/R00 award. PO said it will be singed in one to two weeks. Do you think I can change one of the mentors of my K99 application? It has been more than a year since I submitted my application and things have been changed a lot. So it would be better to work with other co-mentors. Just curious.

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    1. Congratulations!!! Let me tell you a secret. Once you get the Notice of Award you don't really have to do what you said you were going to do. As long as you do something related to your project, you will be fine. I never spoke to one of my mentors again after I got the letter and never did any of the proposed experiments, but I did all the rest and moved in some new direction. All my progress reports had new data and transition to the R00 was fine. You can even change the scope of the project at the R00 phase. I wrote a whole new grant for that....it just has to be on the same project.

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    2. By I didn't do the proposed experiments, I meant the ones related to that specific mentor. I completed the other 2 aims :)

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    4. Thank so much. I actually did two specfic aims done out of three. And the third one is also on-going status now.

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  9. Thank you so much.

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