Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What makes your grant fundable - Part 1

I had a grant submission deadline today which I successfully submitted.

But after the submission my caffeine induced brain kept on working and I have been thinking: What makes a grant successful? I am sure this question has been asked many times and would have been answered many times but I would try to give it a shot from my eyes. To be fair, I am no expert in grantsmanship what so ever. The grant applications that I think would have kicked ass failed miserable at NSF. And the applications that I thought have no chance of getting funding got funded !

Factors that makes an application from being mediocre to top of the stack.

1) Innovative: May be who knows. Very innovative gets shot down because the reviewer can say: "We don't know if this will work". Not very innovative and the reviewer might say "Well, we already know that and this is common knowledge/tool and is doable by an undergrad (and hence no funding).

2) Good Idea: Here by good I mean an idea that the reviewer is interested in and/or is excited about. Provided that there are at least 3 reviewers for the NSF/NIH grants. The probablity of having an idea that is exciting to all 3 at the same degree is rather pretty slim ( there is a sentense I though I will never use)

3) Good writing: Good writing is good as long as the reviewer is excited about the idea (see part 2 above). Good writing (Shakespeare style) and luke warm reception of the idea is not going to land you on the federal monies.

4) Connections: Well we all know people and we all know people who know people who are going to be on a panel. But we also know that people are self-serving. I personally know panelist who have shot down the application just because they were in competition with the proposer.

5) Relationship with the PO: Good relations with the PO is a pre-requistie. But this will NOT land you monies. PO generally dont do anything unless the reviewers dont give a nod. But a good relation with the PO can land your "grey area" grant into the funded one (if the stars and all the gods are on your side and you have a pony that can be classified as a unicorn and a flying saucer).

So here I have listed all the things that you THINK would land you into the funded pool of applicants. But you would be wrong !

Next time I will list the things that you have not even thought about these are factors that will get you in the funded list of super stars (may be you did think about those stuff and I didn't and now I am so I am going to assume that you didn't either; who can you go and complain to; It is my blog I can write whatever the hell I want ha ha)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Competitive and insecure

I was very recently told by a colleague that there are some students and even faculty who have talked about me and have told them that I am very competitive and insecure. I am going to eloborate a bit on both of these characteritsitcs. I am not sure how I feel about them and hence the blog post.

1) Competitive: I am very competitve and strive to the best in what ever circumstance. Be it edcuation, research or sports. I am like this because I came from a third world country and from a middle class family (not US kind of middle class but 3rd world kind of middle class). I learnt early in life that in order to excel I need to be super eaons ahead of my peers (who may have a social and/or resource advantage over me). My rationlae was that if I am the best in what I do then there is little else that would matter.

Although world is unfair the gamble worked. There wasn't much could be done and I did excel. I did come to US and had the same odds in terms of being an immigrant and a student. The gamble again paid off. Now I am a faculty in a research university in the US. I am in the world of cut throat research, grants, publications and politics. So hell yes ! I am very competitive and I think I would like to remain this way if I am to keep my edge.

I understand that this may rub off some students as well and they may not take this lightly. But I am not competing against these students. I am competing against the research giants and federal agencies and I cannot switch myself off when talking and/or training these students. I want them to be competitive as well.

2) Insecure: When you are constantly running to get ahead; and there are always people who are going to be smarter/with more federal monies/more and better publications etc. than I am; you are going to be a bit insecure as well. May be this is where my imposter syndrome comes as well. I am not sure how I feel about this but time will tell.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What makes you "known" in your field

A conversation with a colleague got me thinking. What makes a person "known" in their respective fields?

1) You have a solid publication record and your people see your work with consistency over the years. This is solid research and you get good results which results in high impact publications. Over the years of hard work this will make you known in the field.

2) You have just 1 or 2 "awesome/earth-shattering/" results that made you "known" in the field and you are cashing on this ever since. Even though you may not have produced anything worth while in the last 10 years.

I like to think that I belong to the first kind. I do not have any earth shattering results that will instantly put me in the lime light in my sub-fields. But I have solid research and papers are regular intervals that get published in high impact journals.

I believe that my consistent work over the years will make me "known" but I wont be a lime light star. But I think it will keep me motivated and hard working for years to come; instead of just cashing in on one result for decades.