Planning in research: from long-term strategy to a single experiment. Part 1: Strategy

Good planning is absolutely essential in research. It is what makes a difference between a competent scientist who does decent work, and an excellent one who really pushes the envelope. People with poor planning skills will waste tons of time on futile projects and so will not be able to focus on what really matters. While good planning is something that comes naturally with experience, I think it’s useful to have a framework you can refer to at any career stage. The framework I use can be divided into three levels: Strategic planning, tactical planning, and planning of single experiments. Single experiment planning was roughly summed up in my post about “the gory details“, and I will talk about tactical planning in my next post, so let’s get right into strategic planning. Continue reading

Polish funding agency gets its own public grant database

Those of you familiar with the US National Institutes of Health are probably aware of the NIH RePORTER – a public database of grants funded by the NIH with an advanced search system. I was really impressed that the Polish national funding agency (NCN – Narodowe Centrum Nauki – National Science Centre) set up its own equivalent – the “projekty” database. Continue reading

FUGA is dead, long live SONATINA

The report of the most recent National Science Centre council meeting is up on the NCN website. The most interesting piece of info for me was some new details of the upcoming SONATINA call for proposals. The SONATINA grant replaces the now officially burried FUGA grant, which used to be addressed exclusively to “mobile” postdoctoral fellows, who changed institutions and voivodships and wanted to seek better career prospects away from the institution where they did their PhDs. This worked out great for my new postdoc Łukasz, who got one of the FUGA grants and was able to move from Łódź to Warsaw. The SONATINA is different in many ways, but in some ways also resembles the FUGA grant. Continue reading

The geography of NCN grants

The principal Polish agency that funds basic research – the National Science Centre (Narodowe Centrum Nauki – NCN) recently published data on grant success rates and total awarded amounts divided by institutions and departments. I decided to play around with the data a little bit to see the geographical distribution of NCN largesse. The results are pretty striking: Continue reading

Fund the person or the project?

If you are following science-related topics on twitter, you are probably aware of the recent proposal by Ron Germain to reform the NIH funding system so that the evaluation focus is on the person getting the funds rather than the project getting funded (also see his op-ed in Cell). For new investigators, he proposes to give every institution funds commensurate with what they are getting right now from the NIH and let them distribute the funds to their new hires at their discretion. Renewals would be based on performance, but again there would be no precise “projects” being evaluated. Ron’s proposed solution to the woes of biomedical research have created quite a stir on the Interwebs. Drugmonkey has a huge discussion on his blog (here and here), with most voices strongly opposed to Ron’s ideas. Putting ad hominem’s aside I think the argument really boils down to a rather simple cost-benefit calculation. Continue reading

Can new significant discoveries be made in Poland?

Today I went to a talk by a well known Polish physicist Prof. Tomasz Dietl on whether the scientific environment in Poland is conducive to the making of important discoveries. Prof. Dietl argued that it is, but also discussed a number of obstacles that hinder scientific progress. First, he pointed out that the most common metrics currently used in evaluations of research in Poland, i.e. the total number of papers and citations, does not reflect the potential to make significant progress in science. Instead, he proposed an alternative metric – the ability of an institution or a country to attract funding from the European Research Council (ERC). Continue reading

Success rate for the major Polish biomed grant dips below 15%

Funding decisions for the 7th edition of the major Polish research grant, the OPUS, have recently been announced. For those of you who are more familiar with the American system, the OPUS is sort of like the R01, except it’s for 3 years rather than 5. I had submitted a proposal and was fortunate enough to  secure funding, but many others, including some excellent research groups, did not. I was curious as to how the statistics for this funding mechanism had changed over the years, and the results don’t look pretty (source the Statistics page of the National Science Centre and, for Opus 7, preliminary statistics on the NCN website). Since I am most interested in the NZ section (Biomedical sciences), I will focus on this one. Here’s a breakdown of the success rates by call for proposal:Funding_rates_Opus Continue reading

Grant writing in Poland

It’s been an insanely busy couple months for me. I have just gone back to Poland to pursue my research career here. Not only did I have to finish up all my experiments at Stanford, but I also wanted to apply for a Polish grant for young investigators who want to start their own research group. It has been a great learning experience and also an opportunity to compare the grant proposal submission process in Poland and in the US. There are marked similarities, but also significant differences. Just to be clear, I will be comparing the NIH R01 type submissions, which are the most common ‘big’ grants for biomedical research in the States with the Opus or Sonata Bis grants from the National Science Center (Narodowe Centrum Nauki; NCN) in Poland, again a typical ‘big’ grant, but one not limited to biomedical research.
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