A recent check of lab finances brought home an important point. At the pace we are going, the lab has about a year left of operating funds. This comes on the heels of getting another proposal declined this week. I have two others pending, but her are the facts:
1) There are two more NSF deadlines before we run out of gas.
2) Counting an additional opportunity I will apply for, that means I can realistically submit 7 more federal proposals on projects we have on-going that will catch us before we hit the ground.
3) Based on a conversation with Major Data Producing Center, recent problems may mean they can't deliver critical data before the July deadline, which would effectively sink one proposal and severely wound another.
Seven proposals sounds like a lot until you realize that I have already put in more than twice that number with nothing to show for it. If I don't have new data for two in the July round, I'm down to 5. One can argue that the later proposals are, by definition, better and more likely to be funded than the earlier ones and, while true, is hardly assurance of actually getting funding in this climate. I had a very productive talk with my PO after getting the results back, but he also let me know that NSf's Bio directorate is funding in the single digits across the board. Although the numbers they release look better, they also count each PI on a collaborative proposal as "successful", inflating those figures.
When I was negotiating the terms of my position I figured that planning for three years of lab support and equipment was sufficient buffer to get things going and bring in funding, but if I knew someone negotiating a job right now I would tell them to ask for 5 and settle for 4 if they have to. As has been repeatedly brought up by others, it is critical to have the resources to get enough data to get funded and it may take longer than you think.
We have until the January deadline to collect enough data to move our proposals into the "high priority" category. That's the moral of the story.