Friday, July 31, 2015

Doing more for the K to R01 transition: the NHLBI way

This week I was honored and excited to be cited, together with none other than DrugMonkey, as someone who provides good advice for new investigators, but what really caught my eye in the tweet was "NHLBI K-to-R01 Meeting". What was that, pray tell?
Luckily, one of my friends and colleagues is an NHLBI (Heart, Lung and Blood) K99/R00 grantee and was attending the meeting, so I got to snoop around.

The transition from K08/K01/R00 to R01 has been notoriously difficult. Both Data Hound and DrugMonkey have discussed this, here and here. Data Hound's analysis of the data of R00 to R01 transition showed that after 6 years from the start of the K99, half or less awardees have transitioned to an R01. Some people are told to transition early so that the study section will not require independent publications, some others (like myself) are told that an R01-like productivity is required. The NHLBI noticed the difficulties its trainees were experiencing and decided to do something about it, and it's awesome.

K-award recipients attend a 2 day meeting focused on helping them for the R01 transition. Talks from former trainees who have successfully transitioned and the usual discussion on how to apply for an R01 and what happens on a study section, are accompanied by panel discussion on the different NHLBI divisions and introduction to all the program officers who discuss their interests and lead break-out sections. In my opinion, this is truly invaluable. In talking to colleagues, I realized I had a very pro-active program officer, whom I met in person during the very first year of my K99 as she was roaming the halls of the Society for Neuroscience meeting in DC to come to meet her grantees, but she is not necessarily the norm. My colleague with the NHLBI K99 met his program officer for the first time at this K-to-R01 meeting. Having the chance to pick the brain of division chiefs and program officers, to discuss different study sections and to present your plans for your own lab could improve your chances of success in this horrible funding climate. Plus, such a meeting allows all the promising young investigators in similar fields to get together and network.

I was really impressed. I wonder if there is a way to get other institutes to do this. Are you aware of any other institute with similar programs?

Note from the Twittersphere:

Thanks to @TheSpenceLab we found out that the NIDDK (Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease) also has a similar workshop (invitation only) for its trainees. Link here. They have also developed a special R03 ($50,000/year for 2 years) just for their K01/K08/K23 grantees (PAR-12-285). Apparently they tend to prefer K01s to K99s and push people towards smaller mentored grants.

Interestingly, @jmcin9 points out that the NIDCD (Deafness and Other Communication Disorders) also uses R03s as tool to help trainees toward independence and has a separate PAR from the standard one (PAR-13-057).


  1. hey... i was super excited to meet you in the meeting... i am also excited that my talk was mentioned in the twitter-sphere... keep up the awesome work!!!! hope i will meet you again. henrique

    1. It was great to meet you too, Henrique! The hope for this blog is that it will be helpful and it was so awesome to be cited. Hoping soon to be like you and make my R01 transition. :)