Tips for the Next Generation of Researchers

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If you are a trainee, graduate student, post-doc, or faculty in the early stages of your career, you might be interested in the recording of a presentation from the 2021 NIH Virtual Seminar on Program Funding and Grants Administration in which prominent NIH leaders offer a variety of tips for junior investigators and discuss funding targets for early state investigators, keeping our attention on at-risk investigators, getting that second R01, and more.

Here are some tips from the discussion to pique your interest!

  • Use your networks as you develop your application
    • “I would say take advantage of all of the resources available to you in terms of mentors and advisers within your own institution and get people who aren’t at your institution to review and get feedback on what it is that you’re preparing to submit to help you in figuring out how to place your emphases. If you weren’t an English major, get your friend who was an English major to take a look at [your application], get your aunt to read it. As I was told early on in my career, If your aunt can read it and understand it, then you have a good clear application.”

      – Dr. Marie A. Bernard, Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity, NIH

    • One of the best pieces of advice I ever got during an early stage of my career was that one of my mentors told me that I needed to serve on a committee for professionals society, and he said you should do this for two reasons.
      One reason is that they need your help and the work may be interesting. But the second reason, which is far more important, is you’ll meet people. This invariably helped with developing research efforts, developing research collaborations, and eventually putting together proposals.”
      – Dr. Michael Lauer, Deputy Director for Extramural Research, NIH

  • Learn how reviewers approach the review of an application
    • “Some institutions, they run […] mock study sections, I was very lucky at my institution. We did that. Here you’ve got the advantage of people who are experienced in the world of getting scientific grants, and […] we would listen to our proposals get torn apart by our colleagues. If your institution [hosts mock study sections], I would strongly encourage you to take advantage of that. If it’s done right, it is a distinctly unpleasant experience, but it is the kind of thing that you do want to do because it makes it more likely that you’re going to turn in a high quality application.”

      – Dr. Michael Lauer, Deputy Director for Extramural Research, NIH

  • Aim high and go for the R01, if possible
    • “The success rates for R21s is actually a bit lower than that for R01s. So, R21 gives you a small amount of money for 2 years and R01 gives you a more substantial amount of money for 4 years or 5 years, I’d say go for the R01.”
      – Dr. Michael Lauer, Deputy Director for Extramural Research, NIH

  • Don’t worry if your institution does not have much NIH funding yet – resources are available
    • There are some programs around NIH in which we try to bring together people who work at less well-resourced institutions with more well-resourced institutions, and so if you’re able to take advantage of that, that’s something I would strongly consider.” (See R15, R16, and R25 programs).
      – Dr. Michael Lauer, Deputy Director for Extramural Research, NIH

  • Keep going!
    • “We were all at that earlier stage in our career at one point, and understanding those underlying things that helped you to keep going, and to persevere, and to pivot in your careers is such an important lesson learned that we need to share more often, because…people looking at us as being a part of NIH [might not] understand, ‘Hey, they’ve been there, they understand, and they actually care too.’
      – Dr. Ericka Boone, Acting Director of Division of Biomedical Research Workforce, NIH

    • Science is fabulous. I can’t imagine anything more exciting, but it’s also, perseverance is also incredibly important, just keep plugging along.”
      – Dr. Michael Lauer, Deputy Director for Extramural Research, NIH

For the full conversation, check out the recording of the NIH Next Generation Research Initiative Training the Future of the Biomedical Research Workforce presentation, slides, & transcript.  To get updates on the next NIH grants seminar, subscribe to our email list.

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