Monday, June 30, 2008

How to put together (your life and) a K99/R00 proposal

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UPDATE: New forum for comments/discussion/etc. started Feb. 2010:
http://k99r00-land.motionforum.net/forum.htm

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UPDATE FOR NEW, SHORTER APPLICATIONS starting Jan/Feb 2010:


Everything below still applies, and here is an additional piece of advice to you all for where/how to focus in these shorter apps:

#1 priority: "The Candidate" and career plan section.

#2 priority: Your independent research aims and plans.

I know some folks on the study section reviewing these applications, and the most common pitfall applicants create for themselves is to not have well-developed career plans with OUTSIDE, INDEPENDENT collaborators and FOCUSED, well-developed R00-phase research plans.

Take the rough % page breakdown from before (~6 pages The Candidate, ~5-8 pages intro, ~3-4 pages mentored phase research, ~8-10 pages independent phase research) and apply it to a total of 12 pages, and work on making your narrative extremely tight, focused and direct.

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So you need to get any combination of the following:
  • Your %@#& together
  • Some research funding
  • A more independent job
If you are like most people, you probably do not work in So-and-so Famous Lab and have So-and-so Famous graciously handing off fully-formed R01 proposals and setting up lunch meetings for you with collections of other Famous Faculty who can think of nothing better to do with their time than help you out with your life, who pick out just the right faculty position (or other job) for you, make a few phone calls and BINGO you’re in the club. YOU TOO can take matters into your own hands: even just the process of applying, revising and resubmitting for a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence award from the NIH will help you get that shit together, whether you get it funded or not.

I am going to try to create an informal guide, based on my own experience as an A2 awardee, on how best to approach this award and revise for success if you don’t make it on your first time around. The most important thing that I cannot stress enough is DON’T TAKE REJECTION PERSONALLY. Don’t let a bad score permanently destroy your motivation—read the critique, do everything in your power to address it and TRY AGAIN.

This award is still in the wild-west phase—its first cycle was early 2006, and it has been feeling itself out over the past few years while the first couple sets of awardees made it through their mentored K99 phases and transitioned into their R00 segments. Its advantages are many: up to 2 years of post-doc funding, 3 years of funding to start your own lab, the cache on your CV, the focus of direction that it forces upon you, etc. A few kinks are still being worked out—given the painful slowness of the turning of the NIH gears, it’s relatively common for the awardees to already have a tenure-track faculty position offer, or at least some other kind of job offer that involves them moving on. It is just not practical or possible for senior post-docs (towards whom the award is aimed) to sit around by the phone waiting to hear the good news for 6-9 months (for a first submission, which can stretch to 2 years over the revision period) rather than moving on with their lives. What this means for you: APPLY EARLY! Don’t wait until you are in your 3rd-4th year to get started if you can possibly help it. BUT if you do for whatever reason wait that long, APPLY ANYWAY.

Like all NIH funding these days, K99/R00 awards are extremely competitive. Apparently they took away the K01 option and rolled it into this, so this really is one of the only transitional funding opportunities around right now. Even the Burroughs-Wellcome Biomedical grant seems to have been cut out because they said “Hey, now there is an option for you guys so we’re stepping out." It is not easy to get a K99/R00 funded, even if your research is really freaking cool and you have a great mentor. Here, however, are some key details to how to get as close to funded as you possibly can.

General notes

  1. Don’t be as ambitious as you think you need to be. Take the system (i.e. which cancer, which other disease, which organism) your lab works with and keep the fundamentals the same. Change the technology or angle to make it your own, rather than going out on a limb and starting with something totally different than what your mentor(s) have published experience in.
  2. If you do need/want to move to a new disease or organism or what have you, keep the technologies/angle the same as your mentor(s). The key is to take a relatively straightforward next step, make it your own, and find some innovative (but conservative) thing to do with it.
  3. Find an off-campus collaborator of your own. Someone who is well-known in the area but has little to no official affiliation with your mentor(s), and who has experience in whatever NEW feature of the work you are trying to make your own. Best thing is to meet them at a Gordon or similar research conference/retreat, where there is time to have a nice chat. Contact them politely and ask if they would be willing to collaborate with you on your exciting project. Ask if you can spend at least a month in their lab learning something they do (at your expense). The worst they can do is say no or not reply, so have a few lined up to try contacting.
  4. Assemble an “informal mentorship committee” that consists of the off-campus collaborator, a junior faculty member on campus, a senior faculty member on campus, and your official advisor. Ask them to act as assessors on your progress. Offer to write drafts of support letters for these people, and make those drafts address the context of their involvement (e.g. “I am delighted to offer my support and advice to X as they prepare their transition towards independence… Based on my expertise in area blank, I am happy to work with X to assess their progress on topic-blah-blah both at the time of transition and as they begin their independent position…” etc.)

The proposal

The proposal for this award requires two major sections: The Candidate and the Research Plan. Both of these need to fit into 25 pages total, and the split should be somewhere between 5-6 pp The Candidate and 19-20 pp Research Plan. I am not going to spend much time on the strategic formatting of the research plan itself. There is an excellent series on R01 proposal strategies here, for which all the same principles and most of the details apply to writing your K99/R00 research plan. However, I will give some tips that address some issues that are more specific to the K99/R00.

1. The Candidate
  • “Summary of research experience to date:” Be succinct. Do not tell your life story in flowery language, keep it straightforward but highlight any significant research experience or awards you have gotten along the way. Provide a short (2-3 sentences) description of each project’s goals and accomplishments.

  • “Graduate project description:” Write up a sub-one-page description of your Ph.D. project, addressing the three main things (in this order for maximum clarity) that anybody cares about any given research project:
    • What was the big picture point?
    • What systems/technologies did you use (specific aim-style) to address that big picture point?
    • How did your contribution turn out (advances you made, papers you got published, funding you won along the way)?

      Any more than that and the snooze factor kicks in. If you think you can’t describe the big picture about your project because it was so complex or obscure or specific, then you just need to learn how to communicate better. Everything can be described in this simple of a format, and if you can’t do it, that illustrates that the problem lies with your ability to describe your work, not the work or the readers.

  • “Current research training project:” 1-2 sentences outlining the purpose of your current (i.e. last couple of years of post-doc) work (if you are currently funded for it, make sure you stick to describing the work you have money for and not whatever other random stuff you’ve been doing instead!)

  • “Current project description:” Similar to graduate description, sub-1 page explaining the big picture, and specific aims of your current project.

  • “Discussion of current research and training program:” This is not redundant with current project description, it expands on it. This is a more thorough characterization of the type of “training” you have been getting from your environment, e.g. new techniques, new biological systems, new analytical or statistical methods; and why they are important to your development as a scientist. You also get to walk through what advances you have made towards those specific aims you listed in d. and any papers that have come out of it.

  • “Career goals and objectives, a.k.a. Scientific biography:” This is a weird one. This part is like that college entrance essay you have to write to make yourself try to stand out. You want to avoid sounding too forced or too boring, and don’t write too much. Generally keep it less than 4 paragraphs, don’t be too reflective just try to give your “mission statement” in a digestible chunk.

  • “Career development/Training activities during the award period:” DO NOT BLOW THIS PART OFF. Don’t just give some stock language about the courses your university offers in finding faculty positions or some crap. Here is where you have the opportunity to stand out, since most people just use boilerplate language. A few suggestions for looking more creative:
    • Describe your informal committee. Use bullet points to list them, and give a short paragraph about how you will meet with them once every six months or something (you don’t actually have to do the meetings, but try).
    • Describe a visit to your outside collaborator’s lab, what aspects of your mentored phase specific aim(s) you will address with their help.
    • Suggest a specific small research meeting or outside course you will attend to learn more about some aspect of your mentored phase specific aim(s). Example: plan to attend a Cold Spring Harbor course, or if you are proposing proteomics, suggest attending the Seattle Proteome Center’s informatics course, provide a link to the course.

  • “Training in the responsible conduct of research:” This can just be boilerplate.

2. Statements by the Sponsor, Co-Sponsor, Consultant(s) and Contributor(s)
  • DO NOT BLOW THIS OFF EITHER! The mentor/sponsor statement is extremely important. If you don’t trust your mentor to write a good one, you need to write it for them and get them to sign off on it. The focus needs to be about what they believe your potential to be based on your previous work/behavior in the lab, and a big part of it needs to be spent on what opportunities they will provide you to learn new things, what their expertise offers you for training, how you get to take whatever you do with you, corroborations of support for outside activities like the ones you described in your career development/training activities section, etc.
  • Who supports you is a bigger deal than you think. If you work for a younger, less-well-known PI, you will need a heavier hitter on your sponsorship committee. Find someone (preferably at your institution) who works in the area you are proposing who can serve as official “co-mentor” to you on this proposal. Do the same thing as for other support letters: offer to write a draft for their approval. Having an established vs. non-established name on here will make a difference between whether you get triaged or scored first time around, and you are not trapped if your PI is new—you just need to also get somebody more settled to sign on.
  • These one or two statements should be included in the text, but you can attach other support statements (e.g. from your informal committee members) in the appendix or whatever.
3. Environmental blah blah: Boilerplate

4. Research Plan

Like I said, not going to spend much time here, just outline a few points specific to laying out the mentored vs. independent phases.
  • Specific aims: Separate into mentored and independent phases. Do not try to have more than 1-2 aims for the mentored phase. Make the mentored phase aim(s) involve any characterization of new parts of your idea, system or techniques. Use the independent phase aims to expand on what you can establish in the mentored phase aim(s), but don’t be too ambitious even in that independent phase—stick to things that logically follow on from what you can do in 1-2 years of the mentored part.
  • Background and significance should apply to the whole project, not to one phase or the other.
  • MAKE SURE YOU HAVE SOME RELEVANT PRELIMINARY DATA. This requires having a mentor who lets you generate some probably on their dollar and time, so straighten that out with them beforehand.
  • Give a timeline for the mentored phase. Suggest chunks of time that it should take you to address various parts of the mentored phase aim(s), and where you will do them (which mentor’s lab, on or off campus, etc.).
  • Make sure you split mentored and independent phases fairly equally page-wise. It is easy to spend too much space on the mentored phase section, since that is the part you know exactly what you will do for the next year or so. But flesh out the independent phase fully and thoroughly—you can’t leave it hanging as if you’ll figure it all out when you get there, you have to have a plan for how you will set it up, what the pitfalls are, and what alternatives you have in mind for when things need to be adjusted.

Revisions

Revisions are almost surely going to happen to you. Use them as an opportunity to look flexible and ready to learn, and also to genuinely improve this package you have begun to put together. I learned more about my project, my ideas, myself, and how to write a grant from going through two rounds of revisions than I would have from getting it the first time around. These pointers here apply to any revisions, not just for this grant, but I figured I would give you details of what worked for me.

In order to make your revision as successful as possible, always always make changes from the last version very clear. Underline or what have you, don’t worry about it looking messy because at least they will be able to find it if it stands out. Write your Introduction to revised/resubmission (which goes at the beginning of any resubmission) with your reviewers’ energy and attention levels in mind:
  • Start with an intro “Resume and response to summary statements” describing what good and bad things they had to say last time (quoting from the summary statement in italics or something like that), briefly outlining what you changed and what is new since last time
  • Define what you have used in the main proposal text to highlight changes (did you underline, or italicize, or what?)
  • Have sections with headings like “Specific response to Critique #1”
    • In these, go through point by point the criticisms (quoting the reviewer) and how you address them (new data? New aim? Took out an aim? New description of pitfall and alternative?). Give page numbers in the new revised proposal for them to refer to.
    • Keep it short and to the facts, no excuses or emotional descriptions of how important you thought something was, just DO WHAT THEY SAY.
  • The less work they have to do to see that you clearly addressed all the critiques and fixed the issues the last reviewers had with your proposal, the better off you are. Use paragraph, heading, and font style changes to delineate each thing you want to draw their attention to, and they will have no choice but to admit you did everything that was asked of you and improved the proposal.

Wrap up

This probably isn’t a comprehensive document (even though it is this long), and it won’t guarantee you the funding or a job. BUT just the process of bringing something like this all the way through the system will get you ready to go on the job market, even if you don’t get the money. A well-scored (albeit unfunded) K99/R00 proposal (or even one that got any critiques at all) can serve as the foundation for your chalk talk, helping you get all those little ducks in a row that you never realized you needed to deal with to explain to other people why they should invest in your opportunity to run the project. You have to have your shit together to deserve an independent position, and the very application for this award is a training experience in and of itself that will prepare you for what lies ahead. It's scary how you don't realize this until you are through the grinder of having tried it.

287 comments:

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Arlenna said...

You can call your PO anytime to get a better idea of where you stand. The NCI PO is very, very nice and helpful so you should definitely call or email her. She has always been very responsive to me (my K99 is through NCI).

Anonymous said...

Oh, Yeah, welcome to the endless waiting club!
--Reviewed Last June and still no news...NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS..(^_^)

Man said...

did you submit a revision even though nothing was decided yet? so, what is the norm when nothing gets decided before the next revision date--submit a revision anyway or just wait?

Anonymous said...

Oh, Man, Revision? Absolutely no in my case! I am not mad at my review and quite honestly,I would say that the study section in overall did a wonderful job.
For K99 there are things that cannot be improved no matter how many times you submit or how hard you work on your proposal. The revisions will most likely not affect their scoring on the mentor and the institute. What I learned from the SS is that my research was highly recommended. If not funded I'll locate a job and resubmit as an R01 or otherwise just quit.

Man said...

that is great to hear! just curious about the score and the institute, would be nice to know.

you are right, at the end of the day (after some waiting and calming down), the fact of the matter is this is not the end of the world. will have to use this k99 to leverage the job search. after all, this provided an opportunity to carve a 5 year research plan that could help with the job talks.

Allen said...

anybody know what the payline cut off is for NCI for FY10? I've been checking my eRA commons regulatly and don't see anything useful......council met last week I think....got a 28 from the June 09 cycle.

Anonymous said...

I am new to K99/r00. From the NIH website, it seems to me that each of the following, Feb12(New)/March12(rev), June12(new)/July12(rev), Oct12(new)/Nov12(rev) will be reviewed together, and given a priority score. Am I right?
What if, let's say, the Feb12/March12 has much higher qualify applications than the June12/July12? Are they considering all three cycles' applications together? I am confused.
Thanks!

Man said...

Anonym @Feb 9: That seems to be a very relevant and important point for smaller institutes. For institutes like NCI that gives out plenty of K99s, that may not matter.

At least one institute seem to wait all 3 cycles to not to miss out a good application coming in later in the year; but however, if they think it is a good grant, probably that will carry over and get funded in the next fiscal year; you don't have to worry about this.

At this point (when ICs are just gaining an understanding of the new scoring trend), it will be hard to say if the long waiting is due to the intention of the ICs to not miss good applications or simply because they want to see how the new scoring system works or due to budget related delays.

If you are in the initial stages of preparation and submission, probably you shouldn't worry too much about this, I guess.

Tman.

Arlenna said...

I don't think they review all the cycles together. I am pretty sure there is a separate review meeting for each cycle. I've not heard anywhere about them waiting to see them all together to award either--it's not how IRG review works (since the study section ranks only with respect to the grants in their pile). Unless someone has heard about some specific change for the future, this is not how they have been reviewed and I do not believe this is the way these are going to be reviewed.

Man said...

I was talking about funding, not IRG reviews.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Man and Arlenna.
You are right. I just want to understand the mechanism of it.

Luisito said...

My proposal will be submitted tomorrow at 11 am under the new format guidelines. Wish me luck and THANK YOU Arlenna for this incredibly helpful resource you have put together with this blog. I must have read every single post! Wish me luck!! I'll keep you posted on the (hopefully positive) outcome.

Anonymous said...

At NIAID, they will wait for all three cycles before makinfg funding decisions. That is why you have to wait till April/May of next year (even if you have submitted the grant in Feb/March). They rank all scores and award top five or six depending on the funds available.

Anonymous said...

Isn't that the funding decision has to be made before the end of each fiscal year (every aug/sep)?
Anony at February 4, 2010 5:41 AM, if yours is reviewed last June, have you ever contacted your PO? I heard from the guy next door that the PO will contact personally to award the application.

Man said...

Looks like the institute is collecting scores from from all 3 cycles. The last cycle reviews should be completed anytime now.

For e.g., if you check awards in 2009 and 2010 from NIAID, you will see that the most recent awards are from 2009; and all start dates are clustered in May, July, August or September 2009 (ideally I would expect to see a spread through the whole year). This somewhat supports the conjecture that they are pulling top scores from each cycle after seeing all scores. So, NIAID might start giving indications which scores are fundable after the 3rd cycle review this month or next month.

However, this is just my reading into the situation, not facts.

-Tman.

Anonymous said...

Hi Arlenna,
Do you know if NCI treats the score from A1 equally as that from A0? For example, A0(29) will be funded but A1 has to be 25 to be funded?
Thanks

Allen said...

Does anybody know when we should be expect funding decision to be made for the June 09 cycle for NCI? I haven't been able to get in touch with my PO.....

Man said...

Allen: I guess the NCI council was held today (caught a glimpse of the council meeting podcast). You can give a few days (at least 2 working days) and try to contact your PO.

-Tman.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info Tman...I thought the council meeting was at the end of January....I guess I had the dates wrong.....definitely getting nervous about finding out.

Allen

Man said...

Allen, if definite decisions were made at the council your eRA status will likely reflect "council completed" or something like that sometime after Tuesday. Probably that is when your PO will likely have some answers or suggestions. (again, not facts, but just my understanding--this grants business is imprecise anyways).

It must be nerve wrecking constantly think this. Hopefully you will hear good things from your PO soon. Good luck.

-Tman.

Anonymous said...

Allen,
just out of curiosity. Is your PO NL? Since I,as well, couldn't get in touch with my PO, for a while.

Anonymous said...

Hi Arleena
This is shashi from university of pittsburgh working on liver regeneration. I am applying for the K99 june deadline. Would it be possible for you to share your application eventhough it was a 25 page proposa. I want to get an idea as to how to write the whole grant and connect the K99 and R00 phase. My email address is shd27@pitt.edu
Thanks
shashi

Arlenna said...

Anon about the A1 vs. A0 status: yes, they still treat each one relatively equally as far as I know. If anything, if you had a very good score on the A0 but didn't quite make it past the payline, they sometimes score you a little better to try to help make sure you will get funded the 2nd time around. However, this is just me interpreting their behavior in the past, each study section and PO will be different. Make friends with the PO: that is what can really help you in A1 if you were close at A0.

Shashi: sure, no problem! It's "in the mail." :)

Allen said...

Hi Tman, my eRA Commons status has been "council review completed" since 2/1. My primary is with NIGMS, but the PO there didn't think my grant will make it through. The PO at NCI though thought that there is some chance for mine to be funded there.....

And to anonymous: my PO is NL. I haven't been able to get in touch with her this month. I guess one way or the other, I will find out soon.

Arlenna said...

I bet NL is still being adversely affected by SNOWMAGGEDON in the DC area. Probably all POs are. That was why I didn't hear back about my NSF CAREER application for so long. She's usually pretty good unless she's out of the office or especially swamped.

Anonymous said...

Hi Allen,
Why your application's been assigned to two institutes, NIGMS And NCI? (Mine Only with NHLBI). Does the application with the score of 28 (NCI as the primary) have priority over yours, which is also 28 (primary NIGMS)?
Thanks

Anonymous said...

I think they will be considered differently. Otherwise, what's the point of putting them into different institutes (centers). But who knows. Just my 2cents.

Anonymous said...

Hi Allen,
I have a similar question as the above anon. Can we switch the application between different institutes? I also don't think I will be funded within my primary institute, but may have a chance somewhere else.
Thanks for your help.

Anonymous said...

I think you can ask for dual assignment in your cover letter when you first submit your application.

On my eRA commons, it lists two institutes, NIGMS being primary, and NCI being secondary. This is my first NIH grant, so I am new to this as well.

Since each institute has a different payline, it is certainly possible that my score is not good enough for the primary, but good enough for the secondary. However, I can't really say whether the same score in GMS and NCI are equivalent....my guess is that they are considered differently.

I don't think you can just switch institute as you wish. Does yours have secondary institute assigned (in your eRA Commons)? I basically contacted both POs when I first found out the score to get a sense of where my application stood in these two institutes.

-Allen

Anonymous said...

Allen,
I only have NHLBI as my primary, no secondary choice listed in my eRA account.
Good luck on your application.
Thanks

Man said...

good luck anonym and Allen, looks like you guys are closer toward a decision.

Allen that 'council completed' status from 2/1 is based on NIGMS council (which was on Jan 21-22). Since you have secondary assignment to NCI, if NIGMS decided not to fund your application likely might have been through the NCI council on 2/18. It may be a bit complex going between institutes, but if you have been in touch with both the POs, probably you are alright (meaning you don't have to wait a whole cycle to try your chance with NCI--sy. institute).

Anonym, I think multiple institute assignment won't hurt, but not sure how much can be helped because each institute has only few k99 grants (NCI has more) and they might want to consider their own first before grabbing good related applications from another institute. Further, it may not be easy to interpret scores from another institute because typically applications are scored against each other (remember the new scoring intentions to use full range?) during IRG review to assign ranking.

Having said that, one should try whatever they can in their power to leverage their applications.. no stones unturned.

-Tman.

Sally said...

Hi all,

I just got word that my K99 will be funded through the NIBIB! Thanks for all the support from the people posting on this site, it is awesome!

:)
Sally

Man said...

Congratulations Sally! Amazing, great achievement given that NIBIB awards only 5 per year. What a way to start the week!

Did you learn about your ranking in your cycle? Logically you must be at the top to get funded with NIBIB's limited grants (probably that doesn't matter, but might be useful to others).

-Tman.

Sally said...

Thanks :) I got a 22, but I don't know about my ranking. Good luck to everyone else out there!

Man said...

Amazing, good luck with your actual research now!

-Tman.

Arlenna said...

Yay!!! Congrats Sally!!! This is awesome. Hopefully others who have been successful will share their good news here, too!

GSK said...

Hi Arlenna,
Thank you very much for the useful info. I just heard from my PO that my K99 has been awarded.

Thanks to you, I got a score of 13 (see my earlier postings) for my A2 submission at NIAID. It was ranked first among all three cycles. I had to wait this long (reviewed in June 2009)since NIAD collects info on all three cycle before awarding any.

Unfortunatley, K99 phase is only for one year and R00 phase is for two years at NIAID. I don't care that much about K99 phase but a 3 year award would have been nice during R00 phase!

Time to finish up, find a job and concentrate on R01 and R21!!!! In fact, efforts to address one of the reviewer's comments led to a R21 idea. Thanks, the third reviewer!!

I hope you don't mind if I ask you a whole set of new questions regarding setting up lab, hiring etc. It appears that posdoc-ing was really the easy part!

Man said...

Congratulations GSK! In other institutes, at least the first cycle submissions know before others (but typically wait for budget to pass, etc.). But it must feel sweet to have waited so long and come at top!

Probably, Arlenna should open a new thread for K99-postdoc'ing for specific discussions. May be a forum style blog where we can see follow-up to each questions, answers, etc.

-Tman.

Arlenna said...

Congrats GSK!!

That's a great idea T-man, I know of some free forum homes where we could do this.

I'll look into it when I'm back from study section (or maybe tonight after our meeting is done...)

Man said...

That will be great Arlenna. Your blog is grower much faster and the forum style blogging you are planning will help for easy navigation and accommodate the growth!

-Tman.

Arlenna said...

Forum is created! Here is a link: http://k99r00-land.motionforum.net/forum.htm

chserez said...

Hi Arlenna
I just look at my score and I got a 40 on my first submission.... How bad is is? I am not sure, but it does not seem so bad... I just want to thank you for your help and for the tips on the new format, which I will have to start working on soon...

Man said...

chserez,

which institute?

in some less competitive institutes, there may be a chance, but very likely you will have to revise.

(I guess you haven't switched to using the forum yet; its amazing the forum already has 35 registered users).

-Tman.

Man said...

chserez,

which institute?

in some less competitive institutes, there may be a chance, but very likely you will have to revise.

(I guess you haven't switched to using the forum yet; its amazing the forum already has 35 registered users).

-Tman.

chserez said...

Hey Tman
I applied to the NHLBI. I don't think it will make it... I guess, i have to put my shit together again and start reformatting for 12 pages...hehe
by the way, I am part of the forum... but i could not open a new topic... so, i decided to write on the blog
cheers

Arlenna said...

Huh, that's weird--I made it so everyone should be able to create new topics... Did you activate your account through an email that should have been sent? I'll go in and see if I can fix it, but also maybe go and try again to make a topic.

Send me a private message on the forum if you still can't get it sorted out and hopefully we'll fix it.

Man said...

I guess he was trying to create a thread in the forum home; cherez will have to choose a topic (e.g. "Proposal writing questions and discussion") and create a new thread within ("New Topic").

-Tman.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard anything from NCI about the K99 payline? I still haven't got the SS yet (submitted last Nov).

Anonymous said...

How long after study section is the score posted?

Arlenna said...

Scores are usually posted about a week or two after the meeting. I'm not sure if paylines will be able to be reported, since the scoring system changed so recently and payline is a relative term (relative to grants from the past). The PO is the only one who might be able to give you a rough indication of where your score falls. I think you can estimate that the payline will fall somewhere between 20 and 30 for NCI... and that's about as close as you can get.

Anonymous said...

Hey,
I just applied to NCI for the first time. My application is assigned to review group NCI-F, Manpower and training etc. Does this sound right? I would expect it to be assigned to Career Development (NCI-I). Does it matter? Should I ask the PO whats going on?
Thanks in advance!

Arlenna said...

yup, that's right! don't worry, for special awards the CSR always puts them in the particular study sections where they are supposed to go--I have never heard of a fellowship or training grant ending up in the wrong place, and even if it did, the scientific review officer would figure it out before their meeting and send it back to the right place.

AB said...

My Feb submission is assigned to NCI-F as well. I'm sure we're fine!

Anonymous said...

give us the pep talk that we don't need a K99 in order to be successful (me = rejected)

Man said...

Sorry to hear that. Hopefully you can resubmit if there is time left.

It is true that for the moment (I mean the duration you worked on the k99 grant), we totally trust and believe that is our pathway. It is one of the pathways. The ultimate goal is to get a long term position and when the time is right secure an R01. Those are stepdy steps. Those are huge goals and we need small success in between to stay motivated. I think K99 is one such mechanism to keep you motivated with the main goal of early entry into the NIH system.

There are many other ways people contribute to research. Private industries is one such example where we can also make more money.

And more importantly there is family.

K99 is one little thing, if it works ---GREAT! If not, we learned great things and that experience will come in handy another time. At the least, this gave an opportunity to critically evaluate your plan for the next 5 years and probably develop a long term goal.

It will take some time to pull our head out and get a grip to realize this is one of many things we will do in our research career.

Easier said than done. Keep motivated in any ways you can.

It may help to remind ourselves of this little (!) human flaw: if things work, we tend to think we did all by ourselves and forget to acknowledge that we stand on the shoulders of others; when things don't work, we tend to forget that this experience will server as a shoulder for someone else to stand on (though the latter won't acknowledge that). But that is how evolution seems to work, no one succeeds or fails, but the system progresses. We should be happy for the opportunities to do this kind of things for living.

best wishes.
Tman.

Anonymous said...

Pep talk, part II: There are also other ways to get funding that supports your transition to independence. Check out private foundations.

Arlenna said...

Tman, you should have a blog!! :)

Man said...

Arlenna, it is easier to follow yours and participate in the discussions in your valuable blogs/forums.

-Tman.

Arlenna said...

I just like the advice you give, especially your peptalk--you would make a good blogger. :)

Ray said...

Hello, Arlenna,
This is Ray working on bioinformatics. Thank you very much for sharing us with these very useful information. I am plannibng to apply for the K99/R00 June deadline. Even I have some experience with NSF proposal writing, I was not sure what to start in the first place, with the different requirements and formats. Would it be possible for you to send me a copy of your previous application? A good template would be very useful in helping me put everything together. My email address is rxu128@gmail.com
Thanks!

Man said...

Ray, seems most switched to using the forum, why don't you post your question there?

Tman

Anonymous said...

can any one of you give me a sample application?

Arlenna said...

You'll need to give us your information, etc. Come over and join the forum and you can ask there, a more protected space for leaving your contact information.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know what scores have chances for funding at the National Eye Institute? I have a score of 32 for my application submitted in June 2009. I do not know what is going on.

Jessica.

Arlenna said...

I have no "eye"dea about the Eye Institute (hyuck, hyuck, hyuck--I'll be here all week!). But please let us know if you find any information! It's a smaller institute than the big old NIGMS and NCI, so there doesn't seem to be as much information out about it.

Man said...

Jessica, did you try contacting your PO or speak with someone who received a k99 grant from the eye institute?

Tman

Bya said...

Hi Arlenna and others,

i found your posts most helpful and informative. I am applying for a K99/R00 this june 2010. i started writing since a couple months ago. i am the first to apply from my institution and still uncertain of what a competitive application looks like. do you mind sharing with me your application? if you can't share the whole application, i would really appreciate it if you can share me the candidate's section especially the career development section as it's the part that's getting me stuck. thanks, and i really appreciate your help! my email: nc99163@yahoo.com

Wanbu said...

What a helpful blog! Thank you, Dr. Arlenna.
Currently, I am ready to submit K99this June but I think I need some corrections after reading all these helpful comments.
If you are Okay, would you please send your proposal
at ds5rut@hotmail.com ?
It will be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Does a "not discussed" (during committee review) necessarily mean that an application is dead in its tracks? My K99 was up for evaluation at NCI-F (Manpower & training) this week and this is the "score" that I received. I'm quite disappointed naturally if this means that I didn't even get an impact score and hence am no longer in a realistic contention for the award. A summary statement is on its way, a month from now, and I'll be able to understand the critiques. But at this stage, what is the overall significance of "not discussed" and what can be implied?

Man said...

Hey Anonym,

"Not discussed" means they had too many applications that would prevent them from going through every applications in that cycle. Typically, K99s are reviewed at the home institute and not at the CSR. Also typically number of k99 applications received are manageable and they try to discuss all applications. I am not sure if your NCI-F is reviewed at the institute or at CSR. If they decided to discuss only the top applications with chances of funding, then typically they pick top 50 percent of applications or so.

Don't be disheartened. You will have an idea when you get your summary. You have one more chance and you could significantly improve the application.

Remind yourself that this score doesn't reflect the quality of your research. Just getting in front of the funding line.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the very informative and helpful blog! I am wondering how junior the junior faculty member should be. Should they already have an R01, or at least some sort of NIH funding? Also, does anyone have an example of a 12-page application (preferably a successful one!) that they would be willing to share? Thanks in advance!

Arlenna said...

Do you mean if they are a PI mentor to you? Or do you mean the candidate for the K99/R00? You can't get a K99 if you've previously gotten an R01. It's intended for postdocs or VERY new faculty. If your mentor is an assistant professor (whether almost tenured or not) you're going to have a hard time getting a good score unless you have a senior co-mentor.

Anonymous said...

Arlenna, by this:

It's intended for postdocs or VERY new faculty.

Do you mean that Assistant Professors without R01 funding and within the 5 year time limit can apply for the K99?

Anonymous said...

From NIH websit:


Individuals are NOT eligible if they:

* have currently or previously held an independent research faculty or tenure-track faculty position, or its equivalent, in academia, industry or elsewhere; or
* have more than 5 years of related postdoctoral research training at the time of initial application or resubmission(s); or
* have been an independent principal investigator on NIH research grants, NIH career development awards, or other peer reviewed NIH or non-NIH research grants over $100,000 direct costs per year intended for faculty members. See further details under 3. Other Special Eligibility Requirements.

Arlenna said...

I think they added that note abuot "mentored new faculty" so that postdocs who apply for K99s and get awarded right before getting job offers don't necessarily have to decline the award. It gives them a workaround for the inevitable issues that some % of the strong applicants are going to come up against (e.g. myself: if you read the comments way upthread you'll find that I am one of those "mentored junior faculty").

So, if you already hold an assistant prof position, you probably can't apply fresh for a K99. But if you apply and have a good score and then start a TT job, they might be able to work with you to let you keep the grant.

Anonymous said...

What about submitting a revised application while transitioning to (or just before) a TT position?

Arlenna said...

That's kind of thing that would be between you and the program officer. It's worth talking to them about!

HeropsysH said...

Hi Arlenna,
I am in the process of preparing my K99 application (Oct '10 deadline) and came across your blog by chance. It is a wonderful source of information!! Thanks so much for putting all this together and for all the conversations.

Would you (or anyone with a successful grant) be willing to share a copy (heropsysh@gmail.com)?

Many Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have a question about "less than 5 yr postdoc experience". Does it have to be at the time of initial application or final resubmission or at the start of the K phase?

Arlenna said...

Hi anonymous, the 5-year window applies to the application portions of the grant--in other words, initial submission and resubmission need to fall within that time. You can be beyond it once the grant starts as long as your application was submitted before it was up.

moe said...

anom w/29: I don't want to be a downer but I know how it is to be desperate for information. I scored a 28 in the cycle before you (June 2010) with NCI and did talk to the PO. She said I was fundable last year but wasn't too optimistic this year. There are more applications and the budget will likely be decreased. She said that prior to your cycle they had 20 applications with scores of 28 or better submitted in 2010. If you include your cycle, even more. Last year they funded 24 K99s. Lets hope Obama can convince congress to give NIH a budget increase. He is submitting his proposed budget on Monday. We will both just have to wait and see.

fingers and toes crossed

moe said...

Opps. I just responded to a year old post. Well maybe someone will find the info useful anyhow...

Arlenna said...

Hey moe, don't worry--a lot of people still read this post, I still see more than 30 hits a day for this from people searching for K99 info on Google. Thanks for your info, and come join the forum to share there, too!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the great info. For those reading this who are still writing their proposals, I found another blog that had some helpful tips. http://k99advice.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Hi Arlenna,
Thank you for your helpful tips. I'm planning to submit the K99 application in coming June. I would really appreciate if it is possible for anyone out there to provide me a funded application. Please send it at atiqueuahmed@hotmail.com. Thank you very much for your help!
AA

Anonymous said...

I am planning to submit a K99/R00 application this June, and I found this post, it is really an awesome one. I am wondering if anyone who has been funded for his/her K99 can forward me a copy? I really appreciate it. Email: kexin_grants@yahoo.com.

Thanks a lot!!

Sandy said...

Hi Arlenna,
Thank you for posting these wonderful tips. I am planning to submit a K99 application this summer. I would greatly appreciate if you can share your funded grant with me, so that I can write mine efficiently. If you could, please send it sandg79@gmail.com. Thank you for your help and consideration.

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