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Hello in 2017. 2016 went by in a blur without C3 Science sending a single newsletter, mostly because I was so busy! So I decided to start 2017 discussing mentored career awards since it’s always a good time to look for new funding.

Most researchers are familiar with NIH’s K award mechanisms, particularly the K01, but you may not know that there are loads of them. Even senior or mid-career researchers who have already received R01s or other independent sources of funding are eligible for some K awards. Also, check out the VA’s career development awards, as well as NSF’s. Organizations such as the American Cancer Society also give out mentored career awards, so it’s worth looking at associations that fund in your specific field as well for these particular mechanisms.

First thing to know: funding lines are generally way better for K awards then for R01s or R21s or other R mechanisms. Your odds of getting an R01 funded, strictly on a percentage basis, are between 5-10%. But some of the K awards are funding at about 50-65%, and on average funding lines are closer to 30-40% for most K awards. K23s and K01s have some of the highest funding rates. A list of the Ks is at the bottom of this newsletter.
Other important things to know about K awards:

  • Most require 75% FT commitment  for 3-5 years
  • Most allow a previous R03 or R21 award, but not all, so check specifics
  • You cannot pay the remaining 25% of your salary with other federal money
  • Most make a provision for a career interruption (eg having a baby), a disability, or some hiatus in your research path
  • Great place to ask for $ to do something new in your career; doesn’t have to stem directly from your previous research
  • Do not have to be a US citizen for K99

Customize, customize, customize. From a grantspersonship perspective, K awards are a bit different. Unlike other NIH awards, the score given to the candidate him/herself counts very heavily. This is your opportunity to embrace the first person and talk about yourself directly. It’s important for reviewers to get a sense of you as a person. Similarly, your training plan, any courses you outline, and your mentor team must be highly customized for you and your career. The focus of your application should be on convincing the reviewers that at the end of the grant period, you will emerge not just with a strong set of skills but with a unique set of skills that will prepare you to answer research questions in a way no one else can. You can describe your training almost as an entrepreneurial project that will both prepare you to be highly marketable as a researcher, and to tackle the multiple facets (scientific and other) of a research career. Courses that train you to be a better project manager, a better team leader, and a better communicator are all great ways to prepare yourself for your future and can be made integral parts of a K award plan. So dig around in these awards a bit and see if you are a good fit for any of them. As always, I’m happy to help. And please pass this newsletter on to your grad students if they aren’t on my list.

K01: Mentored Research Scientist Development Award
K02: Independent Research Scientist Development Award
K05: Senior Research Scientist Award*
K07: Cancer Prevention, Control, Behavioral Sciences, and Population Sciences Career Development Award
K08: Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award for Laboratory Research
K12: Clinical Scientist Institutional Career Development Program Award
K 18: Research Career Enhancement Award for Established Investigators
K22:  Research Career Award for Transition to Independence
K23:  Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Development Award
K 24: Midcareer Investigator Award in Patient-Oriented Research
K25:  Mentored Quantitative Research Development Award
K 26: Midcareer Investigator Award in Biomedical and Behavioral Research
K76: Emerging Leaders Career Development Award
K99/R00: NIH Pathway to Independence Award

*Bolded awards denote mid-career or established investigator awards

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