By Mark A. Schroeder, MD, Washington University
I have often wondered why I don’t receive e-mails or mailings about funding opportunities for my transition into academic research. Unlike the daily spam from headhunters about great job opportunities in Timbuktu or Kalamazoo, with lucrative signing bonuses and salary figures that would tempt even the Dalai Lama, research funding opportunities, which usually have little or no advertising budget, are hard to find. So where is the money? As a first-year fellow, I had little insight into the "secret" of getting funded and launched into a crash course exploring this perplexing universe. Now, as a second-year hematology/oncology fellow, let me offer some advice based on my interactions with senior fellows and junior faculty.
A good time to start thinking about funding is around the time you start getting those spam e-mails with job offers in your second year of fellowship. If you have already accepted one of those offers, then no need to read further… If not, read on. At this point you probably have selected a research project, and if you are highly productive you might have preliminary data late in your second year. If you are like me and realize three years of fellowship is too short, you will need additional resources to extend your fellowship and offer protected research time, such as the ASH Research Training Award for Fellows, AACR Fellows Grant, or internal funding through your training institution. Mentored transition training grants are available to bridge the transition from the later part of fellowship through the early stages of a junior faculty position. These grants typically require inclusion of preliminary data from your research, a clear indication of your career-development plans, and demonstration that your mentor is engaged in your career development. Of course, having evidence of productivity, such as with peer-reveiwed publications, is also helpful. Such opportunities exist through ASH, ASCO, AACR, and others. These require commitment from your training institution and a mentor to offer continued supervision and guidance to conduct your research as a junior faculty. After you have established your early research career, look to federal funding for further support in the form of training grants (i.e., K08, K30, or K to R01 transition grants [K99/R00]). In addition, private organizations, such as the Burroughs Welcome Fund and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, are the lifeline for many young investigators. Finally, don’t overlook institutional seed money grants. The best way to find out about these opportunities is to check with your mentor or search your institution’s Web site.
Still not sure where to start? May I suggest attending a grants workshop at ASH’s annual meeting this year? And don’t forget about Trainee Day, which will have a session on trainee funding. For a complete listing of funding opportunities available for trainees complete with links and deadlines, check out ASH’s Grants Clearinghouse. Finally, it is important to work closely with your mentor and chat with senior fellows and junior faculty to find out what they have applied for and how it went. Also, be aware of deadlines for grants and give those who are giving you references plenty of time to submit supporting documentation. Read grants and critiques from your colleagues. Start to develop your own career-development plan and keep your biosketch up to date with abstracts of your current research. Finally, if all else fails there is always Timbuktu or Kalamazoo.
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