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Focus on the Grant Skills

Early-career researchers who were able to secure more grants and remain in academic biomedical research have better grant-writing skills and submission strategies than early-career researchers who were unable to get a second R01, according to a new analysis.

The pair of researchers from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has examined the funding and career paths of nearly 1,500 researchers who received their first NIAID R01 or equivalent between 2003 and 2010, as they report in PLOS One. They noted that the rate at which early-career researchers leave academic biomedical research is the highest within four to five years of receiving their first R01 award.

Of the nearly 1,500 researchers, 43 percent did not receive subsequent R01 funding and had an average dropout time of five years.

Researchers who received subsequent funding were not only more likely to submit more grant applications, they were more likely to have those applications scored, rather than triaged. The NIAID pair suggested that the funded researchers had better grant writing skills from the get-go.

Whether these skills "were the results of better mentorship, institutional training resources, access to institutional core facilities, an innate ability to persevere, or all [of] the above, is something about which we can only speculate," NIAID's Patricia Haggerty and Matthew Fenton write in their paper. "These factors are particularly important because several are obvious points of intervention by institutions and funding agencies."

They also noted differences between the types of institutions at which the funded and unfunded researchers worked and the degrees they held.