The K99/R00 came back – I made a very respectable 37 (although I prefer Donna’s ‘outstanding’). Only 50% of applications are scored (the other 50% considered ‘triaged’). The grants are scored from 10-90, with 10 being the very highest. 10-30 is considered ‘high impact’ and the cut-off for funding (the ‘payline’). 40-60 is ‘medium impact’ and 70-90 ‘low impact’. Yes, I am aware of NHLBI’s terrible grasp of maths there 🙂 So, I got a good score, and I am particularly pleased given that

-This was my first ever grant

-I was only a first year postdoc,

-I was entirely new to the scientific area of the grant submission

-I wrote it largely on my own, with very little scientific feedback

So, now I am going to get it ready for a resubmission. Of course, my resubmission changes will depend on the comments, which although they will be painful, I am actually looking forward to receiving. But I already know some areas to improve:

-The writing. I tried to hide behind jargon to make my trait sound more important than it was. So, instead of calling it ‘particle size pattern’, I called it ‘dyslipidemia’. To me that sounded more fancy, to scientists I think it just sounded confused. I am much better at taking the time to write about why particle size patterns are important, and then just calling it that.

-The future directions for my research. I thought that ‘future directions’ meant how will you deepen and further these findings, but actually, they want to know broader future directions. So, as an example, if I found a positive gene association, I said that the future direction was to investigate this gene finding further with more complex data. Actually, a better future direction is to use this gene finding in a predictive algorithm to predict health outcomes. So, not more targeted subsequent research directions for me, but broader implications for aiding future health.

-The power calculations. They were rubbish. I have learned to do them better.

-Candidacy. This was a big one. I had no publications in the area, had only been a postdoc for a year (with a PhD in a different area) and the personal statement of my biosketch was so bad I was told (after) that people didn’t even know where to begin in helping me change it.

So, at the ‘end’ of this round, I am feeling pretty positive. Here are things I wish I had known before writing my K99 / R00 application:

-I stood a chance. This was the biggest thing I wish I had known. I would have pushed for more help with the Science from more experienced people, if I had known this. I would have kept chasing some leads at NIH, except that I felt I was wasting their time as everyone kept telling me I had absolutely no shot. David was the only person who really encouraged me to shoot fully for it. I wish I had listened more.

-How willing some junior people are to help. That is helps them too to get an idea of what other people’s grants look like, what goes into them, so it is OK to ask for help more.

-How time consuming it was. I underestimated how very much it takes to get everything together for the first submission. It will be (and has been) much easier from here on.

-The myriad of benefits that come from putting together a grant. I met people got PIs interested in my project, developed my writing, in fact – got a whole Science project together.

Overall though, this experience has been wonderful. Just one more (less) point in 7 out of 9 categories and it would have met the payline. And I have a whole year and a half left of postdoc to make up for it.