I am an ambitious person but I have never found the need to push my way to the front, throwing elbows along the way. I value the opinions of others and I listen to those who are more senior than I. When I first got here, much of my time was spent concentrating on my lab, my research and getting my work life together and I left politics and higher-level infrastructure-type grant writing to those with more experience. My feeling has been that until I secure my own funding, what would I have to offer in putting together something much larger?
For that reason, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into when I got sucked into helping to write a massive multi-institutional grant. I could add a bit about what we do in my lab, because it is relevant, but without federal support for those activities, they don't have much teeth in the granting sense. The way things broke down in the initial meetings, I was relegated to writing support for a two page section, which was fine with me. When the person in charge of assembling the section never asked me to write anything, I was also fine with it. I've been here a year, why should I be shaping something as massive as this grant?
On Wednesday many of the pieces were in place to put a decent 1st draft together to be circulated today and as I read through the draft I noticed some major disconnects between what had been discussed in out meetings and what each section writer had put to paper. On top of that, the introduction was still a place-holder and the text was never meant as an introduction to the whole grant. I figured I had two options; I could either let the issues ride through the first draft circulation and they would clearly be pointed out for revision in the second round, or, I could jump in and take the lead with writing the intro.
Even 2 months ago I would have chosen the former. It's easier, allows me to focus on my own work and means I don't have to be the junior guy muscling in to the party. But this grant would substantially increase the infrastructure and capabilities of research in my area. It would open some new avenues for my lab and provide new
toys tools. So, I jumped in and took over the introduction. In so doing, I am shifting the focus of the grant in a somewhat significant way from the direction it had been heading. While it is more toward my own work, it is also more in keeping with the stated mission of the program, which makes me feel justified in doing it. I am taking input from others, but by reworking the introduction, it will nudge the other section writers to incorporate the elements I am laying out at the start. I will be curious to see how this all plays out and how my input is valued among this group of more senior scientists. At the same time, the funding of this grant will have far more impact on the trajectory of my career than theirs at this point, so why shouldn't I have the opportunity to shape the direction?