New Investigators: starting up and keeping going


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Talk at Nov 2013 New Principal Investigators meeting discussing startup negotiating, what to ask for, what others ask for, why the first 5 years of an independent position is so important and how to tease seed funding. Canadian context but applicable to many scenarios.

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New Investigators: starting up and keeping going

  1. 1. Start Me Up (a state of mind) **Motherhood alert: much of what I will say may be obvious to a mildly alert 10 year old
  2. 2. 1. Start-up packages & lab essentials 2. How to support your lab (& yourself) 3. Maximizing opportunities & setting expectations
  3. 3. Why is your Start Up phase important? h-index h-index The exception h-index over time year h-index year h-index After first 5 pubs, trajectory relatively consistent year h-index year year h-index h-index First 5 years of independence often most productive h-index year year year
  4. 4. Prof. Salaries 10 8 6 4 2 0 Monthly $1,000s, adjusted for purchasing power parity pre-tax Public Universities • The good news…. “Academics in Canada, where the entry level salaries averaged $5,733, and full professors were paid an average of $9,485, had more cause for celebration than in the United States, where newly hired faculty members averaged $4,950 and full professors $7,358
  5. 5. Twitter Poll on Start Up $ $K @jwoodgett
  6. 6. Twitter Poll on Start Up $ Wet lab 3DSIM Dry Lab $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $
  7. 7. Start Up Packages • Value varies considerably - bigger not necc. better • Sets expectation on new PI • If too low, slows success & fosters resentment • If too high, performance expectation also v. high • Often small print clauses/clawback • Little relationship to date/economy • These are Assist. Profs. Secondary moves usually involve bigger start-ups but also grants often also moved.
  8. 8. Negotiation Tips Split into infrastucture/operating/people Infrastructure: • Be reasonable - build a list of equipment and ask what is accessible/can be shared. Understand the environment you are entering, inc. policies • Be prepared to write grants to support equipment (CFI, etc) - but secure guarantee • Don’t over engineer what you likely won’t use & remember the small stuff & service contracts • Lab size & layout - possibilities for expansion?
  9. 9. Operating • Depends on type of lab but rules of thumb: • Wet lab: ~$15K per person/year • If mouse lab, add $2-3K • Dry lab: ~$5K per person/year • Include software seats
  10. 10. Personnel • 3-4 people: e.g. postdoc, technician, student • Negotiate for 2-3 years but be prepared to cede one to each grant • Can be in form of student stipends/fellowships • Technician is critical hire (3 months probation) • May not be eligible to recruit PhD student initially, dependent on rules of department (may be able to “co-supervise”)
  11. 11. • A start up budget is like an ancient grant budget (when salaries, equipment, consumables, were all eligible expenses) • Consider your start up as grant zero • Build it by thinking about what you need to do in advance of & to enable your first grant • You get one shot. It looks bad to go back & ask for changes. Moving money between the elements is OK but ask permission • A start up budget buys time but it’s value immediately drops (like driving a new car off a lot) • Clawback (on awarded grant) is OK. It will be remembered & helps next recruit
  12. 12. • Departments want/need you to succeed. Build your budget from bottom up. Don’t start with a target number. You’ll lose credibility without justification/priorities • Your departmental assessment at ~5 years (often with intermediate checks) depends on many factors but don’t: • grow too fast OR try to protect start-up for a rainy day • Share and collaborate within and without dept. • Be a good citizen (dept duties) but realize these don’t substitute for your scientific productivity.
  13. 13. Supporting Your Lab • Grants, grants, grants • These show independence, recognition by peers, competitiveness, etc. NO SUBSTITUTIONS • Very difficult to obtain 2nd grant from agency before renewing first • Don’t submit prematurely, have your grants read by peers, read your peers grants, get on panels/review other grants • Plan, plan, plan (deadlines, preliminary data, awareness of opps, etc). • Look for small, targeted grants as well as the bigger ones (RFPs, etc). • Encourage your trainees to write for studentships and fellowships. • Publish……. • 5 years goes by in an instant
  14. 14. Grants • Be aware of pending changes in grant programs • • • especially CIHR (Project & Foundation) but all grants frequently change their eligibility & requirements (LOI, ROI, etc.) Keep CV up to date, build ResearcherID & ORCID files (esp. if have common surname)
  15. 15. Seed Funding • Most departments/institutes have some discretionary reserves. These can be accessed with good ideas but there are ground-rules: • Don’t consider this reliable funding. It’s one-off & opportunistic • It’s also used to bridge grants, deal with unanticipated events • Best pitches involve careful financial plan, advancing of funds (that have likelihood of repayment) & involve other colleagues. Be visionary but realistic. Share risk (by putting own resources into it) • Minimally, garner support of your colleagues. Deans, chairs, etc. rely on others for advice. Differentiate seed funds from bridging funds • Don’t renege on outcomes if wish another kick at the seed can
  16. 16. Summary • Your recruitment is a partly mitigated risk. You are part of the equation. Your success is mutually beneficial to you & your recruiters. • Mistakes are expensive & wasteful for you, your trainees & funding agencies. • There is no perfect plan. You were recruited because you exhibit promise & potential. The department is partly on the hook for you to realize that potential but, ultimately, your fate is in your hands. • Don’t compare yourself to others to set the bar. There are many elements considered & others may have other advantages. • Build your reputation & your publications. These are your currency. • Start-up phase thinking should last for your entire scientific career.
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