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Slide 22: how to obtain funding: an assistant professor’s guide

Robert M. Raphael, Ph.D.

TN Law Assistant Professor

Dept. of Bioengineering

Rice University

Slide 23: spirit of the fighting irish

Lou holtz

“To everyone who has ever faced adversity, whether in business, professional or personal life. I admire the person who says: Every day someone does something great. Today that person will be me.” -- Lou Holtz

Slide 24: writing great grants: a three step recipe

  • Choose a significant problem
    • Bonus points if not much work has been done on the problem
    • More bonus points if you have done the important work
  • Leave no question that you can accomplish your aims
    • Established track record of publications
    • Clear and convincing preliminary data
  • Write a clear, easy to read proposal
    • “Calm down, understand the situation and communicate clearly” – We Were Soldiers

Slide 25: big hurdles and pitfalls

  • Navigating the Scylla of building on your accomplishments and the Charybdis of creating new research problems and attacking new research areas, given your situation:
    • Laboratory techniques not yet working
    • Students not yet trained/busy with classes
    • Teaching and other responsibilities
  • Proposing to do too much
  • Not making clear the points and connections that are obvious to you

Slide 26: final do’s and dont’s

  • Do not necessarily assume the person who reviews your grant will be an expert in your area or know why your research is novel
  • The response to a revised NIH grant is very important
    • Never appear to be angry or emotional. Just stick to the science. If a reviewer got something wrong (which often happens), just lay out the facts.
    • This is hard because you have put so much effort into the grant it’s easy to take comments personally.
    • Criticisms are of the science, not of you!
  • Get grants done in advance and have colleagues read them !
    • Resist the thrill of pulling it off on “third and long”

Slide 27: and remember:

Slide 28: acknowledgements

“my mariners, souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me”

Raphael Lab: Emily, Yong, Ryan, Jeff, Imran, Jenni, Louise (and Robert Raphael, center)
  • Thanks for Believing in Us!
    • NSF CAREER
    • Whitaker Foundation
    • Texas Advanced Technology Program
    • National Organization for Hearing Research
    • NIH NRSA (Greeson, Organ)
    • NSF-IGERT
    • Keck Center for Computational and Structural Biology
    • DOE Computational Science Graduate Fellowship

Slide 29: so you want someone else to pay for your research?

Joan E. Strassmann, Ph.D.

Department Chair

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Rice University

  • So you want someone else to pay for your research?
    • Ask important, big questions.
    • Have several projects at once.
    • Write clear, well-researched proposals.
    • Collaborate.
    • Identify all possible funding sources and learn their cultures.
    • Don’t let funding consume you. Keep publishing!

Slide 30: number 1 - ask important, big questions.

  • Do not redo your Ph.D. or postdoc work.
  • Find a substantially new project if your proposal is rejected twice.
  • Read deeply and broadly (at least 5 articles a day).
  • Be creative.
  • Do not be afraid to do something really different.
  • Talk to lots of people about research.

Slide 31: number 2 - do several projects at once.

  • Keeps you excited.
  • When one project faces problems, another could be blooming.
  • Increases funding opportunities.
  • Synergy in thinking about different things can suggest novel pathways.
  • Increases your visibility.

Slide 32: number 3 - write clear, well-researched proposals.

  • The proposal must be impeccable, no typos, clear headers, clear flow from hypotheses to methods.
  • Follow the format of the agency exactly.
  • Include preliminary data and figures.
  • Get sample funded proposals by asking people for them, preferably those not too close to your research.
  • Have several people read your proposal.
  • Leave enough time, at least 3 months.

Slide 33: number 4 - collaborate.

  • New ideas often come from collaboration.
  • Techniques and approaches can be shared.
  • This is the ONLY way to succeed without turning into a workaholic.
  • Teamwork is fun!
  • Find collaborators from a broader pool than is initially comfortable, and bridge the gaps with frequent meetings.
  • Same-stage collaborators are often best.

Slide 34: number 5 - identify all possible funding sources and learn their cultures.

  • NSF and NIH are not the only sources of funding.
  • Learn about those grants requiring nominations, and get them.
  • Take advantage of your sponsored research office in learning about private funding.

Slide 35: number 6 - keep publishing.

  • The search for funding can be discouraging.
  • Keep trying, but don’t forget to keep publishing anyway.
  • Write up your research quickly.
  • Write a minireview, review, perspective etc. at least every 2 years.

Slide 36: conclusion

Have fun! It’s a great life!

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, 2006 nsf advance workshop: negotiating the ideal faculty position. OpenStax CNX. Jul 31, 2007 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10442/1.7
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