A couple of people, including Jen and Leigh, brought up an important point about grant proposal time from a trainee perspective on the post from the other day. Essentially the message was "It's all well and good to depend on data from your trainees as long as those data are not demanded on an impossible time frame".
Agreed. There's nothing worse for morale than feeling like the boss is over demanding or "doesn't get what it takes" anymore. I say that with the caveat that there may be occasions during the life of a lab where everyone has to focus on certain things and burn a little extra midnight oil to get shit done before a deadline. It's part of the funding game and it should not be a regular thing. But, that doesn't mean that a PI should storm into the lab demanding that a ten day experiment produce data in three days because of a deadline.
So what can one do to prep the lab for an upcoming deadline?
Well, I can tell you what I have had some luck with and let others weigh in on their experience. The lab submitted several proposals in June and July and the summer was a bit crazy with travel and such. When September rolled around, I used a lab meeting to talk about each project in the lab and what needed to get done during the semester to make the next round of proposals competitive, should they not be funded. I gave each person in the lab a list of things that they should focus on and we talked about papers that we could / should start writing.
At the end of November I revisited these things and talked with each person about how I was structure the proposal their work was related to and what they could provide. That gave most people a head's up on what was coming and the data I needed. Based on that, there has been very little data that we have been trying to squeak out at the last minute. Sure, there is some, but the amount is relatively low. I also found that this approach helped me to focus the direction of the proposals (because any resubmit needs something a little fresh to spruce it up, no matter how high it was rated in the previous round) and think hard about what papers we can start to get out.
All in all, it was successful this year so far. Part of that is related to the maturity of the lab (much more settled and established than even this time last year) and the fact that we have been producing a lot of data so that we have plenty to analyze and not a lot to produce for these proposals. Nevertheless, I think the people in the lab liked knowing what my more long-term thoughts were for each project and what they could contribute to the whole while advancing their own agendas.