Monday, April 9, 2012

Alice in NIH-land

As you can read in the “About Me”, I’m from Europe, and the idea is that we’re going to stay here in the US for the duration of our post-doc and then move back to where there are free babysitters in the form of grandparents our families live. And since NIH doesn’t allow people that aren’t citizens to apply for grants like the NRSA and most K awards, I never paid much attention to how applying for grants really works here. When people were talking about their program officer I always thought that was something that other people had, but not me. And even though I’ve been following DrugMonkey blog for a while, I always read his posts about how NIH-things work like you read the news from another part of the world: it’s all very interesting, but it doesn’t concern you directly.

However, it seems like the only way to get a tenure track-like job at a university back home is when I manage to secure a grant from my home country’s scientific council, and those are not that easy to get (~10% funding rate). And on top of that Dr. BrownEyes requires the same grant to get a TT position (yup a two body problem here too ). The alternative when we want to move back is when either or both of us accepts (another) post doc position. 

So even though we’re pretty sure that we will eventually move back, I’ve started to look into applying for grants here, and recently asked the people on twitter advice about applying for a K99, since this is one of the few grants that you can apply for as a non-citizen. And then @Neuropolarbear  suggested that I could call my program officer to figure out when would be a good time to apply. And all of a sudden I realized that I was part of that foreign world of people talking about eRA commons accounts, program officers and study sections. 
So I started to read here and here for good advice about how to put together a K99/R00. My current strategy is to start to write a proposal for my home country grant application and use the same science for a K99 at the end of the year, which is when I’ll be entering my fourth year as a post doc. And I’ll call my program officer, like a grown up US scientist!
Any other advice or suggestions?


  1. Have you been through the NIH gauntlet before? I think it's totally normal to feel like you've gone down the rabbit hole. I have some experience with them and still it feels like a lot. Talking to your PO is highly recommended. I just recently talked with 3, each at a different institute, to make sure I was sending my application to the best place. With the K99 (and everything else) there is just a lot under the surface going on. The best stuff I've read on the subject are narratives of what it's like to be a reviewer. The "minor" details about how study session works actually say a lot about how you want to write your grant.

    1. No this is my first time applying for an NIH grant. As someone who's not a citizen I'm not eligible for a lot of grants. Thanks for the advice!