Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Response to comments from two posts ago (leapfrog blogging)

Dear Noah, Bill and others,

I think I've written about this before, but it was before I started tagging on blogger and I don't have time to search for it. I'll tag this one for future reference.

To make a long story short, again, I applied for the K99. I got a good score. If you check the records, very few are awarded each year, a lot fewer than R01s by ~two orders of magnitude (compare ~35 K99s funded to ~3000 R01s per year).

I was told by several people that I would probably get it if I applied again. But when I spoke to my SRA, the excuse for why I didn't get the funding had nothing to do with the science and everything to do with politics. They don't write that in the reviews. And it's a lot harder to fix with minor revisions.

So yes, I have enough data, I do know how much you need, and no, I can't apply again for a K99. So I will have to wait, whether I want to or not, until I have a faculty position.

Having said that, Amazingly Patient Anonymous makes an interesting point about not applying ahead of time. Why not ride the system a little longer as a postdoc? Isn't that what most people do?

Isn't that one of the things that's wrong with the system? All the rotting postdocs not worth the (measley) salary they're paid to sit on their butts and surf e-bay all day? Some of the shit I see in lab would make you really, really thankful that your grad students are at least futzing with their protocols, because at least they're doing something.

For all your complaining about the idiot asshole female PI who ran your postdoc lab, you still got "three top teir [sic] papers", so she must have been pretty good, eh?

I know what you mean about going out and complaining all the time. I've done that. I'm over it. That's why I have the blog. This is my replacement for going out drinking whenever the urge hits me, whenever I get that feeling that I would rather black out or have a bullet in my head than try to rationalize why I'm still doing this. So, sorry if sometimes it's a giant wash of negativity. That's just how I feel a lot of the time. I try not to, but there's nowhere else I can do my work, so I'm stuck for now, until I finish and get what I want, or give up.

I'm not ready to give up yet. So for now, I blog.

My point is, I'm not that person who complains constantly, I'm really not. I don't have time or energy to sit around recounting the latest "You won't believe what X did this time" stories. I know because I work with people who do, and I nod and laugh and then go hide from them. I don't go for long lunches or coffee breaks because most of my peers are those people.

And I have stories worse than all of them put together, but they don't know that because I don't want to hear myself tell them. There are a LOT worse things than negative labs where people publish a lot of papers and then get jobs after only 3 years of postdoc .

Amazingly Patient Anonymous, don't take this as a bad thing, but I think you're one of the luckier ones, whether you realize it or not. And kudos on your 3 percentile grant. Somebody must have mentored you along the way, because nobody is born knowing how to write grants that get scores like that.

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At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is interesting to note (and I dont mean this as a dig at you) that all the FEMALE scientific blogs do not really cover science at all but are generally full of moaning and bitching about people in the lab colleagues etc. Whereas the majority of male scientific bloggers concentrate on science issues. Strange!

At 2:17 PM, Blogger Brian Haugen said...

On the topic of the netherworld with respect to Post-docs and R01 grants, ScienceCareers has an article about the Catch-22 of the situation:

'"The PI submits an application that describes his/her research plans, but the award is made to an institution," wrote my NIH source, "not to the individual.'

However, they mention a K08 and K22 (Catch-22?, ironic?), which are also transitional awards. I don't know if they are worth your time, but perhaps your SRA might have some more information.

At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shout at the Devil!!

At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shout at the Devil!!

At 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this post seems to be in line with the findings by ben barres (2006 commentary in Nature, i believe) who is transgender. he makes the revelation that he got more opportunities and respect after becoming a man! women still get the short end of the stick, even in science.

At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YFS, If you had to identify reasons for your current predicament, how far back would you go? I guess what I am trying to ask is 1) are there things you wish you had done differently in grad school, or while looking for a post-doc or during your post-doc and 2) are there things beyond your control that you wish were different.

Also, what do you think of advice that is given in a certain popular sci-career forum.

Almost-Done Anon

At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I generally think of myself as having had much good fortune, especially compared with most people in the world. It had not occurred to me to even think there was a bad way to take then, until I realized that you and I might have different definitions of “luck”. Of course we may also have different definitions of success, and that my current professional situation, which suits me just fine, would not be considered successful by more ambitious people.

I have noticed a trend among many scientists to indicate the primary distinguishing feature between the successful and the unsuccessful is “luck”. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not, I don’t know. Often, though, “luck’ is vaguely described as undeserved and unfair advantage.

This is actually something I think about a lot, especially in the last few years, where I increasingly find myself in a position to be able to help people, or spread the luck around. I want to make sure I am doing it fairly and ethically. It’s a very difficult question. I haven’t been hanging around the science blogs long enough to know whether anyone has taken up the issue, but maybe you can get the ball rolling.

What is luck? Discuss.

"Amazingly Patient Anonymous" (I'm going to feign blissful, naive ignorance to any possible personal attack in that moniker)

At 4:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I feel your pain. I submitted a K99 last year, and received an unfundable score (180s). Then, I submitted one this year and received a score between 147-155 (in case my PO is reading this, I'm reluctant to give you the exact score). It was intimated to me that Fall Council is the toughest council for funding, apparently because they are at the beginning of the fiscal year and they will only fund the best K99s (<130 score). What resubmitting does is (1) hopefully reduces your score such that it enters into the definitely paid category; and/or (2) puts your grant into the Winter/Spring council, when most institutes can pay grants that have a score higher than '100.' :|

With all that said, it sounds like you won't resubmit. Is it because you'll have had +5 years experience? Or, is it because there are members on the SEP/Study Section that you perceive to have a conflict of interest (or disinterest)? If it's the former, just saddle your K99 into another K-award mechanism or an R03. If it's the latter, belly up to the ass-kicking bar and resubmit it. Make the re-re-re-re-revision such an outstanding K99 that it'll hit the Study Section like a hurricane and leave only destruction, awe, shreiks of delight and intimidation in its wake. Then, you get paid, get a tenure-track job, research money, tenure, R01s, fame, happiness, retainment packages, awards, and fancy suede shoes.

At 6:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 7:46 AM, Blogger ena7800 said...

This is off topic but I needed some advice from an experienced post-doc. I'm a grad student working on my dissertation and a research scientist in my lab asked me to do run some Westerns for him which I agreed to do before finding out that it was for his own personal grant, and not for publication. I did it begrudgingly but there were no differences between groups which was probably the result of the tissue that he gave me (e.g., degraded protein or nonspecific dissection). Another scientist in my lab who dislikes this guy told me not to tell him what he did wrong but to let him figure it out himself. Should I tell him? Or just let it slide since I won't really benefit from this in any way? Thanks

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am interested in applying for a K99 award, but have a few questions. Is this something best applied before or after starting with the proposed mentor? I am thinking of doing a second postdoc in another field. Would it be OK to start formulating the research plan, in coordination with the proposed mentor, and writing up before starting in their lab? Or is this something that should be worked on during the first year of my second postdoc? Thanks!

At 4:35 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Would it be OK to start formulating the research plan,

At 4:36 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Or just let it slide since I won't really benefit from this in any way? Thanks


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