Sunday, June 04, 2006

When to get out...

I've been thinking a lot these days about career changes. The situation with NIH is bleak. Even the most talented grant writers, of which I am not one, are having trouble getting funded. Star players are getting triaged. I recently had yet another grant declined - the payline was 6.8%!!! It was a small, one year award but I've come to realize that people are searching for whatever grant money they can find - so even the small grants are sought after by the big labs. There were almost 1700 applications for this very specific grant.

This experience makes me wonder if I can survive in the current climate. I was confident in my ability to be funded if the paylines stayed at 18-20% but less than 10%, I don't know. I find this depressing because such low paylines force reviewers to fund "what they know" and many interesting genes, pathways, concepts, etc. will never be investigated. This seems contradictory to what scientific research is all about. So when is it time to get out? And what's out there anyway? Once you get to a certain career point, you are most likely too specialized to move freely between academic, pharmaceutical and/or industry.

It's always seemed pretty clear to me in figure skating when it was the right time for some competitors to get out. Take Michelle Kwan for example. She should have "left" the sport a few years ago. She had not progressed technically for 4 years and she wasn't maintaining her status at the world level. I think much the same for Sasha Cohen. He chance for an Olympic Gold medal came and went. She won her Silver. She had everything to be an Olympic superstar - grace, athletic skill, the look - but lacked that competitive edge that holds you up under the pressure of such World competitions. I think she should join the ranks of the professionals and inspire us all with her spectacular presence on the ice. She's on the USFSA A team envelope for next season's competitions, maybe just to keep her options open to the last minute....but I hope she doesn't make a "Kwan" mistake.

It's so easy to see when others should move on. Why is it so hard to move on ourselves? Maybe if the options were there, it wouldn't be so hard.............

1 comment:

Abel PharmBoy said...

I finally heard one positive comment and interesting take on the tight NIH paylines the other day: new grants are now competing with renewals that got funded five years ago at 25-30 percentile. Hence, those of us who can sometimes break 20 or 25 in a typical round might find ourselves doing better than usual. It ain't over til it's over!