Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not Funded....Again

I got word recently that my CAREER proposal was rejected again (2nd time, only 1 more try allowed). It was disappointing because last year I had made the recommended category, but was not funded (need to be highly recommended), but this year, despite 3 very good ratings (only thing higher is excellent), I did not even make the recommended category. (Huh?)

The way I see it, the only way to get funded is to have all excellents, and in fact, the other grant that I did get funded had just that. My concern, apart from the fact that I will have difficulty funding my lab, is that if colleges don't adjust their tenure expectations given the current funding situation a whole generation (~ 5 years worth) of assistant professors may be lost.

Even the senior scientists are suffering, so one would hope that leniency is out there, but many times tenure decisions get rejected by administration (i.e., Deans) which may be slow to respond or slow to recognize changes (speaking generally, not sure about the situation here). I certainly hope that there is a level of understanding or I will probably be in trouble.

So right now, I am taking control of what I can, which is papers, and I am trying to publish as much as I can to show that I am at least productive, even if funding isn't forthcoming. Any other advice?

8 Comments:

At 11:18 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hang in there! As an assistant professor in science/engineering myself, I know the frustration of getting declined again and again. (How can the success rate really be <10%?) I think the strategy of publishing as much as possible is a good one. In the end, if you can publish a lot with limited funding, you're demonstrating a great deal of success.

 
At 11:29 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again, keep applying all this year. If you already have one funded grant you are not in such a bad position. What are the standards at your school? We need to have one federal grant and something else. So two grants basically. You'll get the second one by your fourth year if you keep applying. Get to know the program managers. It is not always true that you only need excellents to get funded. None of my funded NSF grants had only excellents. It's difficult, but persistence pays off. Never give up! Papers only will not get you tenure.

 
At 4:30 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you served on any NSF panels? They can be very instructive. You don't need to have NSF funding to serve on a panel.

 
At 6:45 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take a year off from the CAREER grant and try again the following year.

 
At 11:02 AM , Anonymous Art said...

The advice about panel managers and serving on panels is good.

You probably already know this, but ...:

If your proposal did not make the "recommended" cut with 3 VGs, I would presume that there were some Gs (maybe even a F or two) in the reviews. Pay close attention to these and take care to address the criticisms in a resubmission. Either one or more of these came from a panelist, or the panel was persuaded by the more critical review(s). If you take care of this (to the point of treating the poorer reviews as if you are talking directly to a panelist), you will improve your chances greatly.

(Needless to say, snark and insults will do no good whatsoever - a panelist will not give much to a proposal that is littered with overt or covert implications that reviewers are inept. This is especially true if these references are to a panelist.)

Remember, your proposal needs a champion on the panel, someone who will fight with the rest of the panel on your behalf. You can see from the list of recently funded proposals what excites the panel, and you can see from the reviews of your proposal what concerned them. The best way to improve your resubmission is to put these two pieces of information together.

 
At 2:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is sad that this day and age it's all such a big game of exciting three random reviewers on some random panel. I've been to NSF panels...they can be really disturbing. Good science isn't funded...it's who/what plays the game the best. Honestly, the reviewers hardly look at the proposal in depth.

 
At 2:38 PM , Blogger PhD Mom said...

In response to Art, actually, there were only three reviewers. So apparently three VGs is not enough to even get your foot in the door these days.

And, yes I have served on panels, actually 4 last year, 2 of which were with this program manager.

 
At 2:54 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing is, in the NSF fastlane, they have something like a disclaimer, stating that the opinions of the reviewers are addressed to NSF and are only their opinions. NSF reserves the right to take into consideration other aspects when making the funding decision. So in the end, program managers have more power than they let you think they have. These being said, the NSF reviews seem to be mostly randmom. It is often that you address the "concerns" and improve the proposal only to have completely different "concerns" raised next time and actually get a lower rating. Look at it as gambling. That's why the more proposals you submit, the more chances you have to be funded. Just forget about CAREER, they usually fund just one proposal per panel (maybe two; and they look at pedigree and things like this, not only at the science), try regular grants. You'll get there, I am quite sure.

 

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