Get to Know the System
Posted on January 27, 2012
David Shurtleff (bio) advises early career researchers and explains the K99-R00 award.
It's important for early career investigators to get to know the system early in their career, and as we mentioned before, to contact the program official. That is really someone they can develop a relationship with that can last many years at times. It's happened in my experience. I've actually followed people going from early career to mid-career in my time at NIDA.
So it's important that you reach out to a program official and get to know them, and if you find the right person, stay with that person. In terms of transitioning, there are many mechanisms, funding opportunities, funding mechanisms at NIH that allow a person, depending on where they are in their career, to go from say post-doc to assistant professor to associate professor type positions, and it really depends on a lot of factors. It's not easy to explain in the short time I have here, but a lot of factors go into what mechanism might be best for someone.
Just to give you an example, say going from a post-doctoral position to an assistant professor position, there's the Pathway to Independence Award, the K99-R00 award. Now that's good for not... it's good for some people but not all post-docs. It's really for those post-docs who are really early in their post-doc training, within the first four to five years, and for whatever reason are really accelerating in their research.
They're publishing in quality journals, they're putting out a lot of papers, they're making a lot of progress, the training is going quite well, they're becoming very proficient in their laboratory. In that case, the K99-R00 would be a perfect award, which allows the person to finish up their training in a year or two's time, and then receive a small independent award, the R00, to take to their first job interview, to actually transfer that to their first tenure-track position as an assistant professor.
But again that's only for specific people that seem to be making relatively rapid progress during their post-doc. If you're not, there are other ways in which you can proceed to get to that next level, and of course that would be a discussion that someone would have with their program official.