Thursday, April 30, 2015

The end of the R01 twin strategy: what I learned

Despite the absolute madness of the past two months, I was still holding on to the hope I would be able to submit two R01s for the June deadline as detailed in a post earlier this year. People had conflicting advice about the effectiveness of submitting two big grants at once to increase probability of funding, but many were intrigued. I hung on to it as long as I could for psychological reasons that is not advisable discussing here, but instrument access to obtain critical preliminary data for one of the grants just fell through, so it is not happening despite the fact that half of it is already written.

I did learn some things in the process. Mainly that you really don't know what you have until you seriously start writing. I have a white board in my office where I outlined multiple versions of the specific aims, then I wrote both sets of specific aims out by the end of February, with three months to spare. One grant was clearly the top contender to make it to the deadline with flying colors...until it wasn't. I started writing it first because it was the easiest to write (I've been writing some version of it for almost 10 years now). It's very exciting, it has 10 years worth of preliminary work and solid preliminary data, but it requires a lot of moving parts. Multiple collaborators who are not getting back to me with what I need, other collaborators to help me move into new directions with limited instrument access. As I was writing, I became very hopeful that this project will be really cool and significant, but to be that, all the parts need to work together and right now they are not gelling. I need more time, not to write, but actually to coordinate everything and put the moving parts together. In addition, I don't know why, but I had no response from any of the program officers I contacted with the specific aim page despite the fact that this was tailored to fit nicely into their programs. We were just awarded a small pilot grant just with the purpose to move this research further and the larger project behind this is funded until 2017, so there is absolutely no reason for me to submit this before October.

So I'm left with the other one, which is my R00 conversion. I was very worried about it because I felt unsure of what to do with the preliminary data, but as I was putting everything together and deciding how to structure it and going to meetings to figure out how it would fit in the field. It just came together in my head as I was writing it. I think I have preliminary data for every single aim and subaim, I think it's feasible and cool and I've managed to squeeze in some fancy new techniques just for safe measure. Because it doesn't require anyone but us, and uses the people I already have, it's pretty straightforward to put together, so I am aiming to finish writing the 12 pages of the research proposal by the end of this week, which will give me 4 weeks to work with the scientific writer the university has given me as support and to circulate with my mentoring committee for their feedback. As a back-up one of the aims will be sent as an internal pilot grant which would support the establishment of the fancy new techniques in case the reviews come back asking for more preliminary data. Plus a DoD call just came out asking for pre-applications on this same topic, and the NIH grant can be adapted for that. The twins are splitting in multiple grants and now my deadlines are:
June 1st - pilot grant on R01 #1
June 5th - R01 #1
June 10th  - DoD letter of intent for R01 #1 back-up
October 1st - DoD grant, if selected
October 5th - R01 #2
November  5th - R01 #1 resubmission?

So I will eventually have two R01s in the same cycle by the end of this year and they have spawned two more proposals which now may turn into twin Irish twins...

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