Just one more? It's wafer thin.

Feb 06 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

Lately I've really been wondering whether I'm taking a good approach to getting grant funding. The big question for me right now is how many projects is too many? It's one thing to be submitting a lot of grants and something entirely different to be submitting a lot of grants for different projects.

I have somewhat unusual training which has put me in a position to propose some work that others might not have the expertise or colleagues to make work. Now, obviously, I have yet to convince funding agencies that I can pull any of this off either, so there's a bit of a caveat here. But, the work I do and have done, combined with a reputation for being easy to work with, has turned into a lot of different projects.

I have one project that is entirely mine and I am the solo PI on the proposal. In addition to that, I have two other projects that I am the lead investigator on, but each has a co-PI. On top of that, on a recent trip abroad, a dinner conversation has developed into yet another proposal. It is in the works, but I will again be taking the lead on the project because I pulled together the people to make it feasible. That's four projects and I have another colleague trying to convince me to join another one that would be submitted in July.

Let's assume for a second that I can produce enough preliminary data to support all of these different projects, I'm starting to feel really stretched both mentally and from a resource standpoint. Granted, I am not doing all of the heavy lifting on all of the projects, but each one is different, with it's own issues and advantages.

The advantage to this approach is that inevitably there will be ones that won't get funded and I can cover my bases by having lots of irons in the fire. At the same time, how much is too much? Advancing several projects slowly is probably worse for me in the short term than advancing one or two more rapidly, but of course the situation is more complicated than that and certain lab resources are only available to me because I have my hands in a couple different things.

I don't know where the line is or how gray that line is and I'm sure there are no hard and fast rules here. I also know that if all of these projects were, by some miracle, to be funded this year (I can wait while you stop laughing) I might actually be more screwed than I am now. I won't worry too much about that last issue, but it bears keeping in mind. In any case, it's possible I'm stunting my own growth here by growing horizontally when I should be growing vertically. Hopefully I realize whether that is true before too long.

2 responses so far

  • Professor in Training says:

    My PhD advisor was a newbie PI when I joined his lab and every single student was working on a completely different project with only tenuous links to one another. While he got a lot of publications from us, he didn't manage to establish himself in one particular area and continues to have difficulty securing grant funding ... he's now focusing all of his projects along two distinct lines.I have 3 projects I've been pitching in grant proposals - all 3 are centered around a common theme that is consistent with my interests and expertise, but each project has different experimental approaches. Two projects have been tweaked slightly to create smaller sub-studies for smaller foundation-type grant proposals.

  • Hermitage says:

    One of my former PIs is well respected in the field, certainly, but his projects are so spread out that it's common for me to discuss my work there and people to go 'huh, he does that too?'. I imagine that mindset could cut both ways when it comes to grant reviews and the like.

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