Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Getting my ducks in a row for the twin R01s

We are 18 weeks out from submission day and I have started putting all my ducks in a row to see if this crazy idea of submitting two R01s at once is really going to work.

Just a note on where I am coming from to put everything into prospective, since there was a really awesome discussion on Drugmonkey's blog about whether it makes sense for a new investigator to go big with multiple grants in rapid succession or at the same time.
My lab does two things which are in the same field, but that overall can be quite different and use different approaches and animal models. The reason why I do two things is that these two projects have been continuously funded for the past 7 years as I have been writing back to back grants on them for that long. My strategy is: the moment you get a grant, you write another grant, because money begets money. These projects got me four postdoctoral fellowships, and when I started my K99, I also received an equivalent internal grant for the other project. As a new faculty I have my R00 and I have equivalent (actually, a bit more) foundation funding for the other project. So the way I look at it, they're pretty much even. No project is new, no project has no history of continued funding/productivity, hopefully in the next few months I will have last author publications for both, and both projects have direct human disease relevance. Also, my start-up is fully banked, my R00 ends in 2016 and my other funding ends in 2017, so I am not panicking and I have money to resubmit these babies over and over again as I get comments on them for the next 2 years. I am not trying to brag, just saying that this is not a desperate ploy to con the NIH, this is just a strategy to keep my research program going the way it is....well, maybe a tad bigger. Only one R01 will mean I have to fire people in the long run. I have always felt that it takes 6 months to plan and write a good R01 and I'm not advocating that you do this if you don't have the data.

So, we were talking about ducks...These, in no particular order, are the initial steps I have taken.

- Put together an outline of the data we have and of the most compelling specific aims I can think of for both projects. Define what we need to move forward and define a timeline for obtaining the additional data for the specific aims.

- Peruse NIH Matchmaker (my new favorite website). You can paste you summary or specific aim page and find grants with similar scope to yours (see the description here). This allowed me to figure out how other people framed their questions. Some proposals were from direct competitors, but some were also from good colleagues, whom I immediately emailed them to ask for a copy of their Specific Aims. I also plan to discuss their strategy with them to see how they felt about their study sections.

- Based on the proposed experiments, contact the collaborators and co-PI to meet/Skype to discuss the preliminary experiment or resources needed and develop a timeline to obtain the data.

- Contact the grant writing service at my university to get organizational and editing assistance.

- Block out an afternoon once a week where I leave the lab to read and write in peace, since writing in my office is nearly impossible nowadays.

The next step is actually to sign up for the gym and get a packet of yoga lessons, so that I can keep sane while this is going on, as I'm also doing experiments on both papers (one in the morning and one in the afternoon)...

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
I don't miss Boston much, but I did love these ducklings.

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