NINDS's Building Up the Nerve

S2E7: Building up Resilience

April 02, 2021 NINDS Season 2 Episode 7
NINDS's Building Up the Nerve
S2E7: Building up Resilience
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke’s Building Up the Nerve is a podcast for neuroscience trainees that takes you through the components of a grant application with successful awardees. We know that applying for NIH funding can be daunting, but we’re here to help—it’s our job!

In the season finale, our grantee guests discuss how to handle the application resubmission process. We discuss best practices on how to overcome the initial disappointment of not being funded, how to address reviewer critiques, and how to approach revising your application so that you and the proposal are both stronger in the end.

Featuring
Cory White, Graduate Student, Johns Hopkins University, Catrina Robinson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Medical University of South Carolina, and Alice Lam, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Massachusetts General Hospital.

Transcript available at http://ninds.buzzsprout.com/.

Lauren Ullrich:

Welcome to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke's, Building Up the Nerve, a podcast for neuroscience trainees that takes you through the components of a grant application with successful awardees. We know that applying for NIH funding can be daunting, but we're here to help! It's our job.

Marguerite Matthews:

Hi, I'm Marguerite Matthews , a scientific program manager at NINDS.

Lauren Ullrich:

And I'm Lauren Ullrich, a program director at NINDS. And we're your hosts today!

Marguerite Matthews:

This episode will focus on the resubmission process. We'll talk about the introduction and how to approach revisions of your grant application.

Lauren Ullrich:

And of course, our disclaimer still applies everything we talk about may only be relevant for NINDS. So if you're applying for a different NIH Institute, it's always best to check with them about their policies

Marguerite Matthews:

And our guests today are Cory White, Dr. Katrina Robinson and Dr. Alice Lam. So let's get started with introductions.

Cory White:

So my name is Cory White, and I'm a PhD candidate in the biochemistry cellular and molecular biology graduate program at Johns Hopkins school of medicine. And there are work in the lab of Michael Wolfgang, where I study neuro metabolism specifically on looking at the basic capacity of the brain to use fatty acids. And I'm doing that utilizing as genetically manipulate a mouse model, that's incapable of breaking down fatty acids, which we are comparing to normal mice. From these studies, we found that the brain is actually breaking down more fatty acids than previously thought. Studies have only used exogenous lipids. That's been giving to mice where they've broken it down, but our studies have really shown what is basically happening on a normal condition and a little bit more about myself, I've applied for the FNI NRSA through the NINDS, which I received on a recent mission. I also am an awardee of the FNI and disband the diversity, specialized pre docs world to the postdoctoral advancement and neuroscience award and see a hobby, I'm definitely a music nerd. I make playlist for fun, I DJ for my friends for fun thing. I'll do karaoke everywhere. So definitely music and not having concerts in my life i s hard.

Marguerite Matthews:

Right now you have a favorite genre of music that you like to, I guess, incorporate into your DJ sets for your friends? I do like a lot more experimental types of like rap music. A lot of things that are incorporate more, I would say like a lot of house , some things that cobra like folk, like things that are sort of John Wood mixing is a big thing. Yeah.

Catrina Robinson:

Hello. My name is Catrina Robinson. I am an assistant professor at the medical university of South Carolina. I have applied to several NIH awards throughout my career. I applied for an F 32, twice as a postdoctoral fellow was not successful with either one of those submissions. I was awarded a diversity supplement as a junior faculty, and also I applied for a diversity K 01. My first application was not successful, not discussed. And I was subsequently awarded the resubmitted K 01. I also have a platform R O 1 as a faculty member scored on the initial submission, but it was not funded. Resubmitted the R O 1, and it was funded. My elevator pitch is as follows: fried green tomatoes with white cheddar and caramelized onion, grapes, country, ham, tomato chutney! Or how about buttermilk fried chicken with mashed potatoes? Collard greens sounds good! These are staples of the southern diet. It probably doesn't surprise you that the South not only has the highest rates of disorders such as Obesity and Diabetes, but also the highest rates of Stroke and Alzheimer's disease deaths. You have to wonder whether there is any causality. The research in my laboratory is focused on understanding the links among diet induced , metabolic disorders, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease. One link of interest involves the hormone insulin, which regulates glucose. You may not know that what role insulin plays in the brain. It plays a role in blood flow inflammation and learning and memory. We are interested in developing therapies that target brain insulin to improve stroke, recovery, and delay or prevent Alzheimer's disease. My hobbies and passions outside of work involves traveling and quilting and spending time with my family.

Lauren Ullrich:

Do you have a favorite quilt pattern or a favorite types of fabrics that you like to work with?

Catrina Robinson:

Uh , no . I am still learning. So I'm self taught , so it was very basic for me right now. So to the typical square.

Marguerite Matthews:

Did you start cooking before the pandemic?

Catrina Robinson:

No, I started during the pandemic and I love it!

Lauren Ullrich:

Yeah. I , I started , uh , actually a brain quilt during the pandemic, but I'm not finished it yet. I got about halfway. I need to finish up [laughs].

Marguerite Matthews:

And what about you, Alice?

Alice Lam:

So I'm an assistant professor of neurology at the Massachusetts general hospital and Harvard Medical School. My research focuses on the intersection between epilepsy and the neuro degenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer's disease. And one of the major hypothesis we're exploring is that abnormal brain electrical activity might contribute to cognitive decline and even accelerate disease progression in Alzheimer's disease. And I think this is really interesting because if that's true, it could potentially be a novel therapeutic approach to Alzheimer's disease. So my history with NIH grants goes back a ways ,when I was in graduate school, I had a F 31 grant. And then as a neurology resident, I had an R 25 research education grant. I currently have a K 23 career development grant through a n NINDS and then last year I applied for and got an R 21 g rant through the N IH.

Marguerite Matthews:

So you've been around the block with the NIH. Congratulations! That's fantastic!

Alice Lam:

Uh, still, it just feels like the beginning. Obviously there's, there's, there's always next steps and other grants to go for, so.

Marguerite Matthews:

Oh yeah! We hope you can just [laughing]. keep getting more and more grants!

Alice Lam:

So one of my hobbies outside of work is also music. So I've been learning to play the drum set over the last couple of years. I've played in a little jazz quartet and yeah, I take drum lessons. So it's something that I enjoy and it's not related to work at all. Nice! Do your neighbors hate you Most likely! Yes! I am actually a little too afraid to ask them.

Marguerite Matthews:

Well, if they haven't left a dirty note on your door, then you're probably in good shape! They probably like your , your musical abilities!

Alice Lam:

Very nice! I'm worried that their too afraid to say anything, but I try to practice within fairly normal hours.

Lauren Ullrich:

This episode is about the re submission and if you're resubmitting, it means that your grant wasn't funded on the first try. And so just to start us off, I'd like to talk about how do you deal with that initial disappointment of finding out that your grant wasn't funded?

Cory White:

So, as I mentioned earlier, my first admission to my, F 31 was not successful. And I definitely had a moment and first , uh , as application that I applied for. But I think too , I tried to realistically figure out if my application was fund able way beforehand, I would receive final notice, which definitely prepared me when the moment actually came. So that was a major factor just because I'd already been anticipating to resubmit.

Alice Lam:

I often think that actually one of the few perks of like the turnaround time that it takes from submitting the grant, actually hearing back about the grant is one of the few perks in that you're a little bit removed, at least emotionally from that initial submission and all the frustration and hard work and emotion that , that went into that, to that submission. But that said, my K 23, my first application was, was not funded. Um, in fact, it wasn't even discussed. So it didn't even get discussed that the study section, which was a real disappointment. So I think from that, I would say the first thing is just put it aside for a little time. You got the result, you know, kind of what the outcome is, put it aside. Don't look at it for a week, maybe a few weeks, if you have the time, at least until you can approach the reviews with a little more objectivity and a little more openly, then your initial reaction will be the second thing I'll say is be kind to yourself. I think it's important to remind yourself that there's actually a lot more to life than NIH grants, no offense to the NIH, but like your self-worth shouldn't be based on whether or not you get an NIH grant. And so it's important just to have a little bigger perspective about what this means for you and your career and science in general, and then third, remind yourself that most NIH grants aren't funded on the first round. So you're actually in pretty good company. Um, I think this is one of those times where, you know, people just don't like to advertise what they perceive as their failures. You know, I didn't get my first K 23. It's not like I went around emailing everybody. I know saying, Hey, guess what? I didn't get my first K 23 application. Right? So it's much more often you'll hear about all the amazing grants that people got rather than the ones that they didn't get. And a guarantee that if you actually have like a frank conversation with your peers, or even like people who are a few years ahead of you, they will all say that they've been in your shoes before. And maybe they'll even tell you, like, actually I resubmitted like two or three times and still didn't get it. So, you know, these are the kinds of conversations that we don't often have, but I guarantee you, everyone has been in this spot before. And then last, they'll say, keep in mind that their ears aren't out to get you [laughter].Sometimes it feels like that, especially reviewer number three. But you know, their doing this on their own time, usually on nights or weekends. And their honestly, their comments are to try to help you improve your science or your training plan or your career plan. Right? So even though it can be really hard to read their criticisms. I think that again, once you've put it aside for a few weeks and you can come back to it, really try to find some value in the points that they bring up and see if, you know, you can actually use that to make your next application much better.

Marguerite Matthews:

So for me, the way that I deal with it, and I also teach my students to do the same thing, is you read the critiques, you take a couple of days and then come back and read the critiques again, because I believe the initial impression, usually it's not a great reaction, It's usually you feel a little slighted, things seem a lot worse than what they are, but if you actually take a couple of days is not as bad as it seems. And it gives you the opportunity to regroup and think about how you can push for and do things better.

Cory White:

If I could add some more, that failure of grants is normal. And we see a lot of people's successes, especially with social media and science, Twitter, everywhere we see everyone's wins and these things are happening all the time. People are not getting funded all the time and to really extend yourself, grace.

Marguerite Matthews:

That's one thing that I've been really happy to see on Twitter is the trend of sharing failures. Like my grant didn't even get discussed. And so I'm going to pour this glass of wine and take a couple of days to reflect, be upset, whatever, and then get back on to, you know, improving this grant application. And sometimes I see it tagged with, you know , normalized rejection or whatever, but I think it's so important for folks to share those things because it is you're in the camp of most, you know, a lot of people, the majority of folks have had their grants rejected from any number of funding agencies or organizations . So it's certainly not something to be ashamed of many of the best scientists I'm sure have received multiple failures and that as I love the way you put it, as it's not a value judgment on you or your ability to do good science.

Lauren Ullrich:

Amen.

Marguerite Matthews:

Along those lines, how did you decide to resubmit? And did you actually resubmit your grant or did you submit a new grant for the same application? Because in season one, we do talk about the difference between a true re submission of the grant that you applied for and had reviewed versus submitting a new application, which may be very similar to the grant that you submitted, but you're submitting it sort of a new, hoping to get a different review and you're not responding to reviewer question?

Cory White:

Uh , yeah. So for my F31, submission , uh , I decided to resubmit based on where the payline was for a couple of years prior, which sort of said at the end of the twenties, which my, my percentile for that one was somewhere in the thirties . I figured I would likely have to resubmit, but sort of where my score was. I thought that it could be improved enough to then meet the payline. Definitely going into things early. I talked to my program officer to figure out what things I really need to improve on. Once I decided I was going to resubmit. So figuring out what things about my application needed to be stronger, like what sections I really needed to focus on a lot more for that resubmission.

Alice Lam:

Yeah. I'll say that, I guess it wasn't really a question of how did I decide to resubmit? I knew I was going to resubmit. I think it's important to read the reviews and get a sense of where the reviewers excited about your proposal, you know, were there strengths that they noticed? And what were kind of the kernels of your submission that they really like?And is that sufficient to say, okay, you know, there's enough good stuff here. I should save that. And really just focus on improving some, the criticisms that they made. In some cases, it may be that they're just a lot of holes in your initial proposal and maybe it may not be salvageable, but I definitely agree with Corey talking to your program, officer, I think can give you a pretty good sense of what the discussion was if it was discussed or even if it wasn't discussed, they can look at the reviews and sort of say, yeah, you know, I think this is definitely worth resubmitting, or you may want to kind of pivot and try different approach.

Catrina Robinson:

So I didn't really think I had the option not to resubmit. I knew that research was what I wanted to continue to do. I want it to remain in academia. So ultimately that meant I needed to obtain funding. So quitting was not an option and I've always been motivated by trying to work towards something. So it really honed in on that for me. So it was both motivation to just try to do this better. So I ultimately resubmit it, and when I say that I resubmit it, it was really seemed like a completely new application. Um , I had to take a lot of the critiques and really, I completely changed the focus of my resubmission. So my initial submission was focused really heavily on Alzheimer's disease. But with the resubmission I pulled back and was in, was obesity induced, cognitive impairment,

Marguerite Matthews:

Katrina, was that difficult for you to address the critiques with changing the focus so much? Or did you actually find it easier to address the reviewers because you were taking a much fresher approach to?

Catrina Robinson:

So both it was difficult in the sense that I had to really let go of my previous idea and it was the baby that, you know, I built from the ground up and that I was really passionate about. And then having to really kind of let go a little bit of my Alzheimer's angle, it was a little difficult, but I had to remind myself that it's all baby steps. So let's write a simple application that gets me the skills that I need to push forward. And I have plenty of time in my career to pursue Alzheimer's disease research.

Lauren Ullrich:

Yeah. I think that's a great perspective of, you know, it doesn't mean that you won't ever get funding for this idea, but it might just not be a good fit for this particular award. Yeah. So in that vein, was there a particular critique that you thought was maybe very insightful or very worthwhile that you got in your summary statement? And then how did you address that critique?

Catrina Robinson:

So most of the critiques that I received, I think I received one critique about my progress as a post-doctoral fellow, maybe about my publications, I had several in progress , um, had published maybe a couple of papers thus far, but it was a minor critique. Um, and the way that that was addressed was I had more publications by the time the resubmission went in. Other critiques that stood out was about my environment. So at the time when I applied to the K 01, which I think it probably has changed a little bit now, but I was a junior faculty member, but I was still very much with my postdoctoral mentor at the time. And really trying to pave the path towards my independence and to show that I was not no longer in that post-doctoral phase, but I was really working towards independence and how it is established myself independent from my mentor. Um, having to deal with that critique was a bit hard because I felt like as an applicant, I was kind of in a rock and a hard place. Like I really needed the environment, but I also really need the grant for independence. So I kind of felt like I was being tugged into worlds. Um, but I realized that the end that, you know, it was all for my benefit and I'm grateful to the NINDS for that.

Lauren Ullrich:

And so how did you ultimately end up addressing that in your application? How did you establish enough independence and convince the reviewers you were on the right track?

Catrina Robinson:

So I ultimately go to my department chair and really, you know, show him the critiques and the reviews and he obliged and he gave me what I needed, his commitment for space and yeah , very supportive of trying to make sure that I could achieve independence in my current environment. So it really gave me a voice, I would say, to be willing, to stick up for myself, because usually when you're a postdoctoral fellow, you just go to your mentor and your mentor ask . Um, so it really gave me that push that I needed to learn to speak up for myself.

Cory White:

Uh , so far my application, the major critique was really the structuring of the sponsor statement and the training plan. Just that I think that the sponsor statement read a little bit too much like a recommendation letter, not like a , a very solid like plan, which didn't coincide with like the plan that I wrote, which it was a new experience, both for my advisor and me. Like I was the first student out of the lab, it's actually right at 31 . So that was something that like hit us hard then and figuring out like if we needed a co-sponsor as well was another major thing. That was something that definitely wasn't stifle . Uh , just because it's not something that we anticipate is just going into the process, although it is something that was definitely needed for the application.

Alice Lam:

So one of the tricky things about if your grant isn't actually discussed a t section like mine, is that some of the reviews can seem kind of disparate from one another because there's not really a chance for the reviewers to kind of come to a consensus and discuss what are actually the major problems o f the grant. So in this case, it's kind of important to kind of see what the common themes are, but, you know, it's funny c ause I had like one reviewer say what a wonderful candidate, and then another reviewer say doesn't really have a research track record for productivity. So, you know, it can be very different. One of t he critiques I remember getting is part of my research plan. So there was a , the second aim I had proposed was it was an imaging a im and this was kind of one of the areas I was trying to learn some new techniques, and one of the reviewers basically said, or multiple t he reviewers said, and the a ims not really clear or focused, and it's not really clear what the analysis plan is. And I have to say that was totally on the spot. You know, like sometimes you submit a grant and you're like, yeah , you know , that's probably all I need to say, or you kind of make this assumption that I can gloss over these details, but reviewers are very smart ,turns out. And , um , you know, if you perceive a weakness in your grant, they will probably also perceive it. And in this case, you know, they were absolutely right. I hadn't thought through the science of that aim , like as well as I should have, and so that's an area that I was able to improve upon for my resubmission. And it was something that helped the science because it forced me to think through it and be very concrete about what I was going to do.

Marguerite Matthews:

And for our listeners who may be tuning in for the first time, this season, the thing about not having your grant discussed or your application discussed during the review panel is it's still going to get a review. You're still going to have three to four people looking at your application and providing feedback on each of the scored criteria, but it won't be discussed in the full panel. So you're not going to get any extra insight about what other people thought about it. And sometimes having sort of the discrepancy that Alice was just telling us about in terms of one reviewer thinking one thing about her as a candidate versus someone else, someone in the room might've said, well, you know, looking at this, I think, you know, and may be able to explain it more and give folks an opportunity to perhaps change their mind about what's actually written in the grant. So there's a benefit to having your, your grant reviewed in the review panel, even if you don't get a fundable score. So that's just something to think about. And we do talk in depth about that in one of the episodes in season one

Alice Lam:

And a little more too about, you know, other critiques that I got that are probably common critiques that people get. So my training plan, basically there were reviewers that said that it lacked focus. Maybe it was a little too ambitious and it was unclear how it gained the skills that I said I was, I was trying to gain. And so again, you know, you take that criticism and you say, okay, well, if they thought it was too ambitious, let's make it more focused and less ambitious. So instead of proposing that, I learned like three different imaging techniques, I narrowed that down to one and was very specific about how I was going to learn that skill.

Marguerite Matthews:

And what we like to say about that kind of thing is it doesn't mean you can't learn all three. You know , if you find that you do have the time, you don't have to put every single thing you're going to do in the grant, just the stuff that makes your case stronger, but you have to make the case for doing it or not doing it, or having a consultant or a collaborator who's going to add to that piece of it. And so you have to be willing to either think far enough ahead to see where you will fill in those gaps or accept perhaps someone reviewing your application to say, okay, I do see where there's value and maybe adding another person or adding the skill or taking it out completely because I'm not going to have enough time and the proposed timeline to be able to get all of this done the way I think that I might be able to. And sort of along those lines, Alice or Corey or Katrina, were there critiques that you disagreed with and felt like you had to defend yourself or defend the science? Can you talk about sort of how you approach that?

Catrina Robinson:

That's a good question! There have been times where I disagree, but I have to always question myself, am I disagreeing? Just because I'm very passionate about something or am I disagreeing because it's actually founded upon some type of factual evidence? So this was with my R O 1 submission. And ultimately I was interested in trying to assess the levels of insulin that were in the brain. And so I had tried as part of my K award to isolate brand interstitial fluid and measure insulin levels ultimately was not possible. So for my R O 1, I decided to use tissue and measure tissue levels of insulin. I had a reviewer who felt that I wasn't doing enough to, I guess, think outside of the box and come up with other techniques. But there was actually one recently published paper that said that the tissue levels were a more accurate depiction of insulin levels in the brain. So I actually ended up having to use the literature to, I guess, counteract what the reviewer said. And interestingly enough, I actually had another reviewer who was stating the same thing that I stated. So it made it a little easier to kind of go against the other reviewer by using another reviewers comment as well.

Alice Lam:

So I think that sometimes it may actually be because where you thought you explained something, clearly you didn't explain it that clearly, or you made assumptions about what reviewers would know that they didn't know. And , um , that was the case for my research plan for another aim where some of the comments were pretty clear. Like they didn't quite understand the points that I had wanted to get across the inclination is to say, God, these reviewers, they didn't get it all, but actually that's on you to make sure that the reviewers get it. So if they didn't get it, then that means you have to go back and explain it in a way or make sure you're not excluding any details that are really important for them to understand so that they understand why your sciences as great as you think it is. So I think that's when, you know, when there's a big mismatch like that often, it's, it may be as simple as just, you need to explain it a little more in a little more basic terms and just that appreciate that. Not all the reviewers are in exactly your field of study.

Cory White:

That was the same for me. There was just a couple of things. I thought that they were clear and they were probably clear to my advisor, not just because we're in that field, but they just needed to be clarified better . And I really do that. Like, I force on my friends to read my research that just weren't in my actual field to see if they got it, hen there would be a better chance in a more general review or wicked.

Alice Lam:

I mean, that's a great strategy. And I do the same thing to, try to have as many people as you can read it. And especially people not in your field, because if, as Corey says, if someone outside your field can get it, or if a lot of people outside your field, get it, then you know, you've explained it well.

Marguerite Matthews:

Wow , Lauren, did you bribe our guests with get them to say all these things now that we previously talked about?

Lauren Ullrich:

No, It just means that we give very good advice, Marguerite. Very e xcellent! Congratulations!!

Marguerite Matthews:

[laughter] No, but that's really great to hear that this advice is not just coming from people who think that's how it should work out, but, u m, you're actually on the other end of that and saying, yeah, it does actually help to have other people look at your work, critique it, and maybe even hate it because then you sort of have a better calibrator for how to either clear up your language or really think about the way in which you structure, what you think is going to happen, because everybody may not agree on how you get to, y ou k now, how you interpret your results, but it's nice to have some other c aveats to think about when putting together, especially the research aspect of this. The other advice I would have is to really be cautious of your tone. So write your don't ever write your intro or a response to a comment within the first couple of days of seeing it, but make sure your tone doesn't come across as being agitated with the reviewers.

Lauren Ullrich:

Yeah. The other advice I've heard is write that agitated one, and then delete it. And so one of the things that we have talked about this season, I guess in season one as well, is what a bear , these applications are like, how big they are, how many different pieces they are, It's a lot to keep track of and even more so when you know, you're trying to revise this grant and change it sometimes pretty drastically. So, you have any sort of process or tips and tricks for applicants approaching the revision process for the first time that might help them manage their revision?

Cory White:

I think I learned more from the resubmission process, which I applied later on to my F 99 application, just to really ask questions early, devise, a plan early and ask people that have been successful, questions and figure out what they really did figure out like you can replicate that. And it makes sense for you. So I would advise people that are resubmitting t hough, to really figure out where you s tand, like talk to your program, officer early, try to figure out if you want to resubmit the actual application, or if you want to start from like a new application, u h, just because like knowing where you sit w ill make that an easier process.

Catrina Robinson:

So , um, I think I worked by categorizing things. So is there something that I can change? And is there something that I can address in time for resubmission first? Are there additional experiments that need to be done? So I try to go through each and every weakness that is mentioned, and are there weaknesses that I can group that perhaps, you know, two reviewers, their basically saying the same thing, even though it may be a little bit different , um, but can I somehow group responses together in that way? Um, so it , it really is like a tearing apart of the critiques before I formed my game plan with how to address them. And I think at some point you have to, there are things that you can change, but ultimately they may be things that really you can't change and you have to be okay with it .

Alice Lam:

Yeah. I think one of the surprising things to me is that it sounds like resubmission might be less work [laughter] than the initial application, but it actually turns out to be probably just as much work from the standpoint I'd like to , it's basically still a complete grant application, plus that extra introduction to the resubmission sheet that probably talk about later. So you still have to have that same amount of organization. It may be a little easier from the standpoint of some of the sections are probably already written in terms of describing your institution and a lot of those things. But I think in terms of, you know , what's different from the resubmission compared to the initial application is again, you should really focus on the reviewers critiques and how you plan to address them. And based on that, what are the major sections that you need to update or revise or change from that initial application? And so I'd say, let that kind of be the guide in terms of organizing things. And, you know , I agree with Corey that starting early and planning ahead is always well-advised, but trying to organize it from the standpoint of, okay, what are the major things I really need to address in this resubmission and focus on those things as what you need to change.

Lauren Ullrich:

So in terms of timeline, how long did it take you to do your resubmission? How many cycles, which is usually, you know , what we talk about is there's usually three receipt dates a year. So how long was it between when you submitted your first application and when you put in your revision?

Cory White:

So for my first admission of my F 31, I submitted that and August for August cycle. And actually I waited a cycle before I resubmitted. So I skipped the December cycle and I submitted my resubmission in April of the following year. So I went into cycle in between and asked me that a personal decision, just because I knew I wanted to get a co-sponsor for my resubmission. Um, there were also a couple of things in lab that were picking up. Like I was really validating a mouse model and I wanted that to be a part of the resubmission as well, just to show the progress and show that I had, like all of the tools I really needed for the actual project before the resubmission was submitted. So I think those were key, key decisions for my timeline. I'm not just for feasibility of writing, but for what I thought, like how things should go in

Alice Lam:

I'm pausing because I , uh, I don't exactly remember exactly how long it was between. So the best I can do these together is I think I submitted it's a June for initial applications, is that , uh, some of the deadlines . So, so I submitted my initial one in June and I think it was not until the following July that I actually put in by resubmission. So actually let, I think two cycles go by and I think there was some revamping I felt I needed to do. And I was trying to think through basically how to approach, how to approach the resubmission in a way that I thought would be satisfying to the reviewers. And that would actually address their main criticisms. Part of that for me involved actually getting a different co-mentor on board. So that took a little time as well. And part of it was also similar to Corey trying to get some things into place that I thought would strengthen my resubmission. For example, getting a paper to out, talking with my department chair and with my division chief about how to get more resources and more convincing institutional commitment. So these are things that I thought would really benefit the resubmission and from that standpoint they were worth waiting for. Um, so I think you kind of have to ask yourself how major or minor were the criticisms of the reviewers. And if it's something really that are really easy to address, I think you don't really have much to benefit from waiting a long time to resubmit fact, it might hurt you if you're not that productive in that time, but if you can afford to wait, and if you know that there are going to be a few things that will really substantially affect your resubmission over the next few months or whatever, then it might actually be worthwhile to wait. Two cycles, I think is a longer period of time for people to wait. But in my case, it was well worth it.

Lauren Ullrich:

I think. Yeah, I think you'd be surprised. We see that most people wait at least one cycle just because the timing doesn't work out, but especially for the K awards, cause there's a little bit of a longer time, two or even three cycles. It's not completely unusual.

Alice Lam:

No. See again, if you talk to other people that you might [laughter]you might know that.

Marguerite Matthews:

Was there anything surprising Resubmission or revision process either in putting together your application to submit in or even getting in the reviews back good or bad? Were there things that you just hadn't expected?

Cory White:

I mean, just cause this was like the F 31 was my first NIH grant I wrote ever it was a kick in the chest just to see the reviews, [laughter] which I mean, they're there to help you, but if it's your first time doing it, that that's definitely a surprise. That was the major thing for me. I can't think of anything else that really like either threw me off or be like, definitely surprised me from the re-submission process.

Marguerite Matthews:

I think the most surprising thing for me is, I don't know, at some point in your career, you feel like everyone is out to really critique everything you do and to tear it down, but realizing that the reviewer is ultimately one at what was best for the applicant. So coming away from it and not thinking that, okay, their raising concerns for things that you may face that you haven't thought about because it equates to you being successful. So really I think the one thing I learned is that each reviewer really wanted me ultimately to be successful. So using that attitude going forward was really helpful. It made me more appreciative of the process.

Alice Lam:

I guess all I'll say is it took more time than I thought it would just in terms of getting all the documents together. And again, I started out thinking, ah , you know, it's mostly written, I just have to do some revisions, but you know, you have to get all the documents. You have to get new letters of recommendation from, you know, all the people and, you know, still gather all the bio-sketches It, you know, all that stuff takes a lot of time. And so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to put that together.

Lauren Ullrich:

And you also have to write one new page, which is the introduction to the re-submission. So do you all want to talk about how you approached that document? What were your goals for the introduction? And what were you trying to accomplish or get across in this one page? And for our listeners, if you were going to resubmit an application, you have to include this one page introduction?

Marguerite Matthews:

So the ultimate goal is to think about if, if you have three reviewers and all three of these reviewers will be looking at your application again, you want to make sure that you have really taken time for all three reviewers and address their concerns. So trying to find that perfect balance and being able to cipher through your comments and really pick out those things that were, that the r eview f elt really passionate about and make sure you make it very plain, exactly how you a ddress each of those comments.

Catrina Robinson:

I think that's the most important thing to accomplish. And page one, I had to come out of myself for a little bit because ultimately when you have a summary statement, you will have things that, you know , they say really great about you and about your application. And I think when I wrote my very first introduction, I wanted to reiterate all those great things. And my mentor had some pulled me back and was like, that's not what this page is for. They already know you're great, but now you have to address the things that were problematic. So I think being able to back away from those things and not just say, Oh, these are all the great things you said about me. Let me reiterate those to you. So you remember as you reread this, but really addressing the heart, the comments, the hard things.

Cory White:

So my goals for the one page introduction for the re-submission, was to make sure that my reviewers knew that I addressed all of their major critiques [laughter] within my application. And I made sure that all of them were very apparent within that introduction page. I even think I bolded them and that introduction page. And so they stood out, but that was really the goal was to make sure they understood that I had addressed all those things within my application somewhere.

Catrina Robinson:

The one thing I appreciate as a reviewer is when an applicant actually takes all of the comments and addresses them and not just write off a comment. If there's something that you ultimately cannot address, then at some point it needs to be stated explicitly why you didn't address it, but don't just ignore all the comments because ultimately the reviewers put a lot of time and effort outside of their normal schedule to take the time to review and provide feedback. So it just really shows your appreciation for that by addressing their comments.

Lauren Ullrich:

I think that's great advice because we definitely see that there's just such a temptation to pretend [laughter] they didn't say things that you don't like.

Marguerite Matthews:

Maybe they won't remember!

Lauren Ullrich:

But no, they always remember!

Alice Lam:

So the introduction page, the way I said it, it's like your one page to show, hey guys, you know, this is a much better application than the first one I put in and I've really taken the reviewers comments to heart and I've taken the time to address what they saw as the major problem's and to improve the application significantly. So I think in my introduction to the re-submission, you know, I like to start with kind of just summarizing what the reviewers like their enthusiasm about your initial submission. Say like, listen, the reviewers initially saw there were a lot of strengths. They were excited about the science and that just at least sets the stage of like this application was worth re-submitting. And then from there, you can say, but there were some criticisms and then you go and you try to summarize the major ones. You know, obviously there's always going to be some minor things that are easily fixed, but really the major ones for my K 23 re- submission, I organized that basically using the core criteria. So I organized it by the sections of candidate training plan, research plan, mentors, institutional support. And within each of those, I highlighted what I saw were the major critiques and then a quick sentence or two on how I addressed those things. What was different in the re-submission. So that by the time the reviewers get to the end of the page, you know, they have a sense of, okay, this is a substantially different application and it looks like they've addressed, at least from the superficial one-page read , they've addressed the major issues. It kind of sets the stage for them reading the rest of the application, I think.

Cory White:

Yeah, just to add on that a bit, I also made sure that if there are any major new developments that weren't a part of the initial application were also highlighted within that introductory page as well. So , uh , I had a lot more mouse data than I did from my initial application. So in that re-submission introduction, I made sure that it was known there that like this model was validated. It's pretty much ready to use, how are we going to do things going forward?

Marguerite Matthews:

No, that's a great point. I think this one page, which can seem either too short or too long, what you have to say, but I think that's a really great point, Corey , that Alice might've mentioned this earlier is if you've been really productive and you've made major headway, or you perhaps gained some of these skills and the time that you submitted your application, or you've been able to get more animals into your study, this is a great opportunity to highlight that and show that you've used this time wisely and that you are in a better position to submit the same sort of body of work , um , or the same general research proposal that has been, you know, picked up a little bit and hopefully stronger than what was previously submitted. Thank you all for sharing your wisdom today. And can I ask each of you for one last piece of parting advice for our future applicants?

Cory White:

So I would tell all applicants don't get discouraged. It is normal for any application to not get funded on his first admission, really do plan for your re-submission. So the biggest thing for me was not knowing what I did not know, and to really address that for future applications. I made it a point to talk to people more casually about applications. Cause I'll ask questions beforehand, but I'll only ask specific questions and there'll be things that I will lose through the wire just because I did not know to ask them. So I was just talking, talking to people is very important just to figure out what aspects of applications are important and what things we really need to focus on. Share. You'll have your summary statements and things there too. But I think that's just a good piece of advice going forward just to make sure something that wasn't addressed in the summary statement is not missed within your re-submission.

Alice Lam:

Yeah, I think I'd say that persistence pays off this research career is a really, it's a long term thing. It's much more like running a marathon than running sprints and just be persistent and you'll eventually succeed. I'd also say don't take things personally. It's very easy to, we all work really hard and we put a lot of effort into what we do. And , and obviously we all think that what we do is really important, but you know, don't, don't take things personally and just remember that at the end of the day, the reviews are in a way, an opportunity for you to improve what you do and to make what the science that you do better. And then last also ask for feedback early and often.I have a lot of people read your grants. I have my husband, who's not in science at all. Sometimes read things that I write because I want to make sure it's so clear and so easy to understand that someone who's not even in science could get it, you know, so make things as easy as possible as you can for the reviewers to understand what you're trying to get across.

Catrina Robinson:

So I guess my last piece of advice would be , um, remember this is a journey ultimately for you to achieve your goals and for you to be successful. And it always may feel like that the reviewers are against you or that you are in a very stressful situation because you're thinking about funding. But ultimately if you take the opportunity to really learn from the reviewers and learn from each experience, it actually makes you a better writer pushing forward. And I won't say that it necessarily gets easier, because you're going to go through it every single time you put in an application, but never give up. If you don't do it, y ou'll never be successful. So just keep pushing.

Marguerite Matthews:

Yeah, I will say , um , if you do take it personal, use that as fuel to improve. I think a lot of times we can suffer from this impostor syndrome, but really that's an opportunity to say, you know, maybe I'm not at my best. Maybe there's more room to grow. And the best way to grow is having feedback and critique doesn't always have to be a bad thing, even if they don't feel super positive and like there's rainbows coming out of everything. That's to say about what you've written. That's an opportunity to take a step back and say, how can I do this better either? I didn't write something clearly. Or maybe that was really just a bad aim that maybe the science wasn't really where it needed to be. So even if you do take it personal, use that and flip it and make something greater. And if you're anything like me, a little petty, you want to give your haters a reason to feel the way they feel about you. I did this and boom, I did this even better and you can't deny me because I have come back with something really fantastic. So you're a part of a community of scientists. We don't do science on our own and it's necessary to have your peers evaluate the way in which you're doing things. So this is all part of the process. You will also be eventually one day a reviewer and reviewing other people. It's not about being nice. It's not about being always positive necessarily, but it is about providing feedback on how you can strengthen yourself as a scientist. One can strengthen themselves as a scientist and their science. What about you, Lauren?

Lauren Ullrich:

Hmm . Yeah! This is all really good advice! I think in the vein of getting feedback and getting that outside perspective--you know, that's all that the reviewers are offering, right? And they may be right, they may be wrong. And the only way that you will be able to determine that is if you really concretely engage with them, you assume that they have good faith and really think, yeah, is it that there's something fundamentally that I didn't think about? Is it that I didn't communicate it as well as I could've? And then how am I gonna change this grant product that I'm writing to get my ideas across? Um, and the only way to do that is to get that outside perspective and feedback and then try and try again. So I'm basically just repeating everything that everyone else just said, but I just think it's so important and it's such a fundamental part of the way that we do science and it can be difficult, but we get through it, as Marguerite said, through our community and through our support system. So I think that's probably the most important part of succeeding in science, period. So I'll leave it there. And so, yeah, that's a wrap for season two of building up the nerve! I want to give a huge thank you to our guests this week for sharing their expertise and thank you to NINDS program director, Dr. Bob Riddle, who composed our theme song and music.

Marguerite Matthews:

And you can find past episodes like the review episode from season one and many more grant application resources on the web at NINDS.nih.gov. Follow us on Twitter @NINDSDiversity and @NINDSFunding. And you can send us your ideas and questions about season 3 at [email protected] .gov . Make sure you subscribe to the podcast on Apple podcasts or your podcast app of choice so you don't miss an episode.

Intro
Introductions
Q&A
Advice
Outro