More thoughts on getting funded - Nature article

Dec 29 2017 Published by under Uncategorized

Ok, Ok, I am letting go of what pissed me off from this article.

Here is another thing about which I have written before.

Talk to the Program Officer: Programme officers, also called programme directors, are NIH employees who shepherd grant applications through the system, from submission to award. Their role includes advising investigators by e-mail and on the phone — but not every scientist takes full advantage of this opportunity.

When I wrote about this in the past, or when DM wrote about this or datahound wrote about this (here and here and here and lots of other places, too), we got comments back that said: well, yes, but they never answered my phone call or email.

So firstly, the ways to do this. No one likes cold calls, ie, out of the blue from people they don't know. PO's are no exception. They usually have an admin person screening for them. A better strategy (and I have asked PO's about this) is to send an email. Yes, you are the generation that doesn't do email. But the PO is. Send a polite email. Use an appropriate subject line that includes the 5 word version of your proposal. "Discuss potential proposal on Bunny Hopping". Keep the email short:

I would like to discuss a proposal I am developing on Bunny Hopping. [insert one sentence summary of the proposal here]. I believe that it might fall within your portfolio. Is there a good time when we could discuss this on the phone?

If you have an abstract or SA developed, or even a para summary, you can attach it or paste it below. But if you make the PO wade through the whole summary before getting to "can we talk?", they may never make it there.

This of course assumes that you have bothered to read what is in the PO's portfolio. You can find this on the web. The NIH website has lots. Go to the IC you think is relevant. Go to the "extramural page". or just search on "program officers". It is absolutely fine to contact multiple PO's. They will not perceive you as cheating on them.

Now, if that doesn't get a response, try again in a couple of days to a week. Remember these guys are human beings. They have families and get to take vacations, and may even have more work than you do. Sometimes it takes a while.

If after multiple tries, they don't get back. Try another PO. Try the head of the PO's. They may have 40 of these emails, and it could be that yours is the least interesting to them. PO's also run the range of human beings: some are helpful, some take an interest and some are jerks. I've met all kinds in my life.

Finally, don't ever text a PO. Mostly their contacts are land lines, so it most likely won't work. But, texting is how their kids talk to them, not their PI's.

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