Presentation on theme: "Starting Your Research Program From ‘Soup to Nuts’ The trials, tribulations, and joys of setting up your own program Gregory P. Downey M.D. University."— Presentation transcript:
Starting Your Research Program From ‘Soup to Nuts’ The trials, tribulations, and joys of setting up your own program Gregory P. Downey M.D. University of Toronto
Step 1: Find a Mentor l The mentoring you seek should be framed around your goals for the first 3-5 years l Will vary with style, opportunity, and type of research l BUT, there are some general expectations common to most academic environments l Choose both: l Scientific mentor l Content expert l Non-scientific mentor l Someone who understands your situation (and will listen)
Step 2: Set Your Goals l Establish a functional infrastructure in your lab l Launch an independent, funded research program l Meet requirements at your institution for 3 year and tenure/ promotion reviews (5-7 years) l Emerging national and international presence l Established record of productivity and training l Contributions to the academic mission of your institution (teaching, mentoring) l Presentation of your work at national and international meetings l Recognition of your work by international peers
Getting Advice/Support l Chairperson/Director l Sage advice and $$$ l Senior colleagues l Sage advice and high level support l Your peers l Establish a presence for your research programon campus l Get to know your colleagues and identify potential scientific mentors
Graded Lab Set Up l The Big Question: should you start up a new lab/program or spend the first few years in the lab of a senior faculty member? l Hospital for Sick Children model l Benefits l Critical mass of people l All the equipment you need l Can focus on experiments immediately l Drawbacks l Pride and independence l Your mentor should not be senior author on your initial manuscripts!
Negotiating a Start Up Package l Decide how much you need? l A reasonable request: l $75-$150 K for start up for wet lab l Make certain to include big ticket items that you absolutely need l 3 years operating funds ($30-40K per year) l 3 years of technician salary ($40-45 K per year) l Seed money and staff for clinical trials l Don’t forget secretarial support l Not everyone gets the same l Like professional sports l Less bargaining power if you stay where you trained l Hard to negotiate after you have already signed the deal
Staffing: General Principles l Build a productive and positive lab culture l Be a force/presence in your own lab (lead by example) l allows you to produce publishable data l identify strengths/weaknesses in your trainees l find out what’s frustrating people in the lab l How do I identify people to join my group? l avoid the urge to put ‘warm bodies’ in the lab l beware the dominant negative! l Hire more on ‘character’ as opposed to specific expertise l you can teach people techniques l honesty, good humour, and the ability to get along with difficult people are huge assets
Financial Issues l Create a budget - and stick to it l Track expenses monthly l Use a spreadsheet or accounting software l Set maximum allowable monthly expenditures l Appoint a lab manager l Borrow small amounts of reagents from colleagues for proof of principle experiments l Don’t run out of money with 3 months to go before next installment l PI is legally responsible for appropriate (and inappropriate) use of funds
Protocols and SOPs l Important to set standards for the lab / research program l Key techniques should be written in a detailed protocol and made available to the lab members l But allow flexibility depending based on individual preferences and skills l Record keeping is crucial to document details of experiments and avoid future mistakes
Technicians and Research Associates l Likely your first hire l Advertise early l Consider hiring ‘green’ l a recent graduate l Interview carefully l Work closely with him/her in first few months
Graduate Students l Plan and get advice on an SGS appointment early l Aim to get a good student or two into your program in the first couple of years l Rotation system? – interviews? l Graduate students are trainees and deserve your full attention, guidance, and nurturing l Graduate mentorship is a serious commitment l Avoid taking on too many students in one year l Be a mentor l adjust your supervisory style to the student (weekly meetings?)
Post Doctoral Fellows l Difficult to attract excellent PDFs when you are starting you lab l BUT l Keep your ear to the group for outstanding students ‘in transition’ l Talk to your colleagues at meetings etc. l Interview/recruit l you should have high expectations l You must be prepared to facilitate the career goals of the postdoc
My team is in place. What do I do next? l Get OUT THERE! You are the role model and motivator l Assess individual needs and adjust your supervision accordingly l This is YOUR LAB: l There must be a philosophical and practical framework for the lab to grow into - you must supply this framework l Decide what type of lab culture you want l Format for lab notebooks? Flexible hours? Music? l Communication is key: have group meetings, no matter how painful l Demonstrate by example that honesty, integrity, courtesy and professionalism are part of your lab philosophy l Learn from watching: how do other successful scientists manage their labs, their lives, negotiate the tenure-and- promotion process? l Be a good colleague; cultivate scientific collaborations and relationships
Some Common Mistakes Don’t: Complain/gossip to your lab personnel about other lab personnel l This is a NO WIN situation; your team needs to trust you l Ignore tenure requirements l Keep 5-year plan in mind l Adjust your projects accordingly (maybe you thought they’d all be Science papers…) l Let the lab assume its own shape and style: train your people directly in the first few years l Assume everyone you hire will be as motivated and competent as you l Typically, people will spend more time buying a centrifuge than hiring a technician l Be afraid to intervene in lab conflicts
Adjust Your Approach l Don’t: l Forget to adapt your style as your lab evolves l people with more experience will resent being micromanaged l Do: l Be prepared to change your view of what is satisfying l Celebrate the success of your student’s experiments and manuscripts vs getting a result yourself
Some Common Problems l Simple disagreements/problems about how lab is managed l Don’t accuse/step in/solve the problem l Consider a lab ‘business’ component to your group meetings l Minor or major personality conflicts l The buck stops with you; don’t avoid these issues l Don’t pick sides l Do expect people to behave professionally l Health problems that may impair work performance l Performance issues (lack of motivation; poor work ethic) l Make your expectations clear; treat people decently l Measure outcomes, not inputs l Set an international standard (scientific meetings) l Recognize that people will achieve at different level l KEEP AN OPEN DOOR POLICY!!
How to balance the demands of your position l It is easier to say NO if you have prior commitments l Be selective l Ask yourself if this will help you l Set your limits for non-research related activities and adhere to those limits l Schedule time for research activities into your calendar l Set priorities for your time
Time Management: suggestions l Reduce Stress by starting big tasks (i.e. grant applications) months in advance l Break each task down into smaller, more manageable tasks l Set goals for what you want to get done in the time period allowed and stick to those goals l Don’t waste time complaining about doing the task l Do not let e-mail consume your time l Turn off the alarm and check it when YOU want to (3 times per day) l Turn off your phone ringer when writing l use voice mail effectively
Time Management l Work in a way that is most efficient for you l Do the most demanding tasks when you are most productive l Sequential monotasking vs. multitasking l Be efficient and organized l Never handle a document related to administration more than once. Make the decision of what to do immediately l Sign it, file it, ignore it or discard it l Save small, mindless tasks for when you have a few minutes or when you are too drained to perform more mental functions
Balance work and personal life l Schedule and take vacations l Hire as much help as you can afford l Make use of possibilities for flexible schedules l Reduce commute time l Flex time with children l Set up a home office with high-speed internet l Be organized and plan ahead l Do prep work for meals one day a week (involve the family) l PDAs are good for more than keeping your calendar!
Research l Secure research funding l Apply for everything for which you are eligible l Don’t get discouraged l You may not get a CIHR grant the first time you apply but be persistent l The first renewal is often the most difficult l plan ahead and work towards publishing your studies before the first renewal
Publish ! l Fine to go for the home run BUT you also need to secure a few base hits to be able to stay in the game l If you work in a very competitive area- publish first! l Know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em l Begin to write a manuscript as soon as you have a few pieces of data that fit together l helps to focus your research l plan all experiments to generate data for a figure l write every day for ~ 60 min (no interruptions) l Collaborate, but don’t let collaborations be a distraction from establishing your own research program l Generally not good to collaborate with former supervisors
Research l Peer review l Grants panels l Operating panels: a great experience, but commit to one or two meetings rather than a full three- year term l After you have sat on a panel be selective in your choices l PDF and studentship panels are a great place to get some peer review experience l Manuscript reviews l Good way to keep up with literature in your field, but be selective
Research l Speaking engagements l Accept invitations at meetings and other institutions l If you are receiving large numbers of invitations, be selective l Training l You will be expected to attract trainees to your lab l Be selective in the trainees you recruit l Not everyone who gets into grad school or completes a PhD or MD is capable of doing research
If You Are a Clinician l Know what the expectations are from the beginning l If you want to do research, you need to have protected time l Try to go to a place or service where you are not needed clinically (at least at first) l Align or mesh clinical duties with research interests l Seek advice from a mentor who has successfully balanced both clinical and research commitments
Teaching l Many potential benefits: l Improve communication skills l Exposure to students could mean future recruits l Can be rewarding l Know how many contact hours others in your department / faculty teach l Do not volunteer for hours over what is expected of you l Set limits on amount of prep time you devote to lecture preparation l More time for preparation ≠ better teacher
Teaching l Some Faculties/Departments use teaching evaluations for promotion l Try to teach the same course for a number of years l Try to teach in your specialty l Make effective use of teaching assistants l You do not need to be available 24-7!
Teaching: Student supervisory committees l Great place to impress your colleagues l Be selective: want to learn something of interest to you or have the potential for collaboration l Do not over commit l Should be about a equal number of committees to faculty on your student’s committees l Do not do the supervisor’s job of supervision l Supervisory committees are a considerable time commitment
Administration l Choose to be on committees that interest you and involve issues that you are passionate about l Try to avoid committees with a large time/effort commitment or ones that have the potential to be highly polarized/controversial l If you agree to be on a committee, fulfill the expectations for being on the committee l Do not, as an individual, do all of the work of the entire committee!
Enjoy Your Career! Life is too short to be miserable
Initial Steps in Grant Writing l Choosing the right type of grant l Choosing the right funding agency l Choosing the right review committee
Types of Grants l Start-up l Operating l Small/specialized l Major funding agencies ‘open competitions’ l Salary support l Group grants l Equipment l Infrastructure (e.g. CFI) l Special Requests for Applications (RFAs) l Network grants (e.g. NCE)
The Very Beginning: Start- Up Funds and Grants l Faculty/Department/Division/Research Institute funds l $50-300K l Technician support ($35-40K per year) l Operating funds ($15-30K per year) l Salary support for 3 yrs l Competitive start-up funds l Dean’s fund, Connaught l CFI- up to $125K for equipment for new PIs
Choosing the Right Funding Agency l Federal / provincial peer review agencies l CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC, NIH l Disease or organ-based society / foundation l HSFC, NCIC, PSI, Arthritis Society, Kidney Foundation, Lung Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, LAM Foundation l Premiers Research Award (PREA) l $50K per year l Industry l May have $$$ but do not sell your soul
Choosing the Right Funding Agency: Things to Consider l What kind of $$ do you need? l Is the topic of importance globally or to a niche audience? l How does the mission / vision of the funding agency fit with your research?
Initial Operating Grants l Consider smaller, specialized organizations l NGOs that want to support your research to facilitate their goals (win-win) l Sympathetic reviewers (maybe) l Smaller amounts of money l Can provide funding to generate essential preliminary data for larger grant l Consider not applying for major operating grant immediately upon setting up lab l Problem is first renewal (2-3 yrs)
Major Federal/Provincial Peer- Review Funding Agencies l CIHR, NSRC, SSHRC l Don’t forget the NIH l Substantially more $$ available (90-150K per year) for 3-5 yrs l Stability of funding l Allows development of area of research l Stability of support staff l Shark country- beware l Need a great idea and a track record l Should be in optimal environment l Days of ‘lone rangers’ are over
Some Things to Consider for Initial Grants l Don’t propose experiments / study that will take 3 yrs to complete for your first grant l Short and snappy studies l Issue of feasibility within your proven skill set and within the time frame of the grant l ‘Do the do-able’ l Initially, aim for journals with rapid turn around time and good acceptance rate and citation index l Get your foot in the door and demonstrate your ability to take your ideas to completion
CV Module l Establishes your credibility as a researcher l Never assume this is understood! l Do you / your team have the skills to do the proposed research? l Common c.v. module used for many organizations l Web-based CV modules can be tricky to fill out so don’t leave to last minute to prepare l Difficult for an inexperienced secretary to prepare
CV Module cont’d... l Don’t pad your CV l Public school awards and diplomas nice but not necessary l Publications l Peer-reviewed, first (last) authored carry most weight l Submitted publications must be supported by email/letter from journal l ‘In preparation’ don’t count and may hurt
Internal Approvals l Human subjects l Especially important for clinical studies and may be crucial factor regarding feasibility l Ethics certification (NIH) l Biosafety l Pay attention to containment level and make certain that you have access to the proper level of facility l Radiation safety l You and your technician may have to take course l Animal care protocols l Estimate number of animals carefully l Does your institute have room?
Signatures l Applicant(s) l Division/Department Head l Research Institute Director l University level: Associate Dean of Research l Allow 2-3 working days l Avoid the crunch l Be tolerant and polite
Internal Reviews l Pick internal reviewers well ahead of time to make certain they will be available l Get grant to them 2-3 weeks (or more) ahead of deadline l Pick reviewers who are knowledgeable, experienced, and tough (!) l Face to face group meetings are by far the best l HSC model highly successful l Humbling experience so be prepared
Selecting the Best Committee: Due Diligence l Understand focus of committee l Reputation of committee l Check that committee members have similar background as you l Beware of major competitors on committee l Avoid being blackballed l Major scientific disagreements with committee l Ask committee members or experienced colleagues about the type of grants referred by the committee l Have alternate committees ready
External Reviewers l Remember- these are suggestions that may or may not be used l 1 or 2 additional reviewers will always be selected l Suggest sympathetic experts, not collaborators l Some agencies honor requests for individuals NOT to review your grant l Be careful here l One strategy to avoid a nasty review in to include the individual in your grant as a collaborator or investigator!
Peer Review Committees l Chair, scientific officer, agency representatives l Non-voting l Reviewers l Voting l Primary reviewer l Reviews grant, appendices, literature in detail l Secondary reviewer l Reviews grant in detail with written report l Reader l Reviews grant in detail but no written report l Other committee reviewers l Likely will not have read the grant in detail
What Happens at the Peer- Review Committee Meeting l For each grant, 1° and 2° reviewers announce initial scores l Primary reviewer presents 2-3 min summary and critique l Secondary reviewer presents critique l External reviewers reports reviewed (if any) l Discussion l Consensus score reached l Committee votes ± 0.5 from consensus score l Chair, scientific officer are non-voting l But can set the tone and balance discussion
Major Factors in Decision-Making at the Committee Meeting l Great idea l Burden of disease l Productivity of applicant l Preliminary data- feasibility l Interesting hypothesis l Good writing/presentation l Tight protocol which addresses multiple eventualities and interpretations of results l Interpretation of Scores and Comments
The Typical Grant Reviewer l Overworked and under paid! l Own research career on hold for weeks l Experienced in grant writing and scientific research l Good eye for fuzzy thinking, poor data, pomposity, etc l Smart but may not be expert in your specific area l Assume infinite intelligence but no specific knowledge l Reads 10-15 grants per cycle l On planes, subways, trains, and while on vacation l Impatient and easily exasperated by poor writing and science l Make their job easy!
Time Lines for Grant Completion One Year Before Write up and publish as much as possible on the area (gain scholarly credibility as expert in the area, rather than complete novice) Talk to people about your ideas and listen to what they say Read a successful grant application Target granting agency(ies) for application Collect preliminary data (and funding to collect this data) to show that you can handle the issue 6 months before Read the application guidelines. Consider review panel for grant submission Check if your research institute has a required internal review procedure. If so, add an extra month to rest of timeline. Start writing your grant draft. This allows for lots of time to work out problems, polish presentation, and get input from colleagues. 4 months before Send out your draft to colleagues for comment. Complete your CV module. Web-based CV modules (i.e. Common CV) clog up prior to major granting deadlines. This can be a difficult task to delegate to an assistant! Re-read application guidelines Submit documentation for local committee approval (i.e. biosafety, animal, human subjects, ethics,) 2 months before Check all budgeting figures for salary, equipment, supplies Collect additional documentation as required (letters from collaborators, etc.) 1 month before Complete final draft with all appendices Get colleagues (or internal review committees) to review and provide feedback 2 weeks before Complete final version. Proof it. Turn off spellchecker. 1 week before Get required internal signatures Photocopy 2 days before Courier application
The Application Package l Writing style and appearances matter l Where in life don’t they? l Follow instructions to the letter l Formatting l Font l Margins l Page numbering and length l Instructions confusing? l ask the agency for clarification l take a look at a successful grant
Grant Etiquette and General Rules for Success l Style matters l Use all the space provided l Be considerate of the reviewer l They may have 10-15 grants to read l Spelling, language, minimize abbreviations (and provide table) l Avoid ‘dense’ writing style l Build in “white” space l Psychological advantage l Tables and figures interspersed with words l Follow instructions to the letter
The Application Package l Appendices should be there to assist the reviewer, not just ‘because’ l e.g. questionnaire, a reprint of seminal papers on which the current study is based l DON’T put pieces of your proposal in the appendix because you ran out of room l They may never be read!
Co-Investigators and Collaborators l If this is a new area of research for you, surround yourself with good people! l Choose co-investigators with established credibility in the area l Be clear about their role and provide letters l draft letter well ahead of time and email to collaborators to revise and print on their own letterhead l Especially important for new technology or need for unique resources l e.g. surgical colleagues for human biopsy material or fancy equipment
Budget / Budget Justification l Count on getting less than you ask for l Most funding agencies have an average award l find out what it is and plan accordingly l Appearances are important l $100,000 seems a lot more than $99,000 l DON’T pad your budget l Reviewers will see right through it!
Budget / Budget Justification l Never guess at costs l Wherever possible, provide quotes l Specify how each and all required personnel will contribute to the proposal and how their qualifications merit their categorization and pay l Animal costs can be substantial l Don’t forget publication costs l $2000 or more per article
What If You Don’t get Funded l Don’t: l Panic l Get mad (or at least get over it quickly) l Call or email the committee chair or SO until you have calmed down l Give up l You have an excellent chance of getting funded on the next cycle l cumulative success rate ~50%
What If You Don’t get Funded l Do: l Vent with a close friend/colleague and get it off your chest l Read the SOs report carefully l External reviewers opinions less critical/helpful to committee l Consider each major point/criticism dispassionately l They are often (usually) correct l Carefully draft rebuttal page and have colleague read it l Deal with main points only l Remain unfailingly polite/constructive in responses
Summary l Begin preparations early l Think the major concepts through and seek opinions of colleagues and external experts l Internal reviews are crucial l Aim for polished and flawless final product l If you don’t get funded, learn from the criticisms and respond positively l Your chances of getting funded are good!