The maligned R21

It’s not lookin’ all that good for this year’s TT job search, so I’m turning to a short-term back-up plan. Here’s the question for my esteemed academic readers (I’ve got at least one, right?). If I manage to get promoted with the right job title*, should I convert my decently-scored but likely unfunded K grant into an R21, or go for glory with an R01 application. I know what the answer would be if I was tenure-track (I have been listening to you guys). But we’re talking a temporary, non-tenure-track opportunity, which may be my last practical** chance to remain on this career path.

What say you, all-knowing grant sages?

*I’m negotiating this right now, and this grant application is part of my proposal. But I can’t apply for anything unless I convince the powers that be to give me the “right title”.

**There are other options, but my family commitments don’t afford the flexibility to pursue most of these avenues.


12 thoughts on “The maligned R21

  1. I don't know much about R01 verus R21 grants. From my limited experience I would say get some grant even if it is a small one and then turn it into a bigger grant later. GMP and FSP know a lot about grants in the physical sciences. Probably Dr. Isis or CPP will know about this.

  2. Go for the R01! If I recall, your K99 score was very good, so you should be able to revise it into a fundable R01. If you get it, you can shop it around for a TT job, and/or your current institution might bump you up to TT. There are two PIs in my department who did this. Good luck!

  3. Oh and also, I went to a NIH grant workshop at SfN last year, and they discouraged young investigators from applying for the R21 and R03, as they're harder to get and are less money.

  4. Usually a K99/R00 has two components to the Research Plan: the K phase and the R phase. The proposed R phase research often depends on skills the applicant does not yet fully have in hand, but will acquire during the K phase training plan. If your K application follows this model, then this would be a major weakness in an R01 application. By contrast, the K phase research plan might make a very reasonable R21.

  5. It wasn't a K99, but a K22 through my funding agency – only a two year grant after starting a faculty position. So there's only an independent phase with the mechanism. It did earn a good score (just not fundable in this hooorrrrible market).

    I have been told that, even with the *right* non-tenure-track title, I'll have to ask permission to apply for any R grant. So it's going to also depend on what our chair will *let* me apply for. Part of my sales pitch will have to revolve around which one is the best bet for getting funded. Good information about what the grant workshop told you about last year, Dr. Becca. Will factor into my schpill. 😉

  6. I would think that unless you will be 'skimpy'* on preliminary data, it would make more sense to go for the R01. It might depend a smidge on the specific institute and study sections you might end up in- while the R21s *can* be harder to get, I'm not sure that's true everywhere.

    *NB: my understanding is that, in this climate, anything with less than one specific aim practically in the bag and all demonstrated as feasible, can get you dinged for 'skimpy' prelim data. In contrast, in theory the R21 doesn't require it, whereas in practice… it *might* require less, depending on reviewers.

  7. What Becca said first: I applied for and got my first R01 as non t-t and it was (gee, surprise) instrumental in getting me my current t-t position.

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