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Grantwriting Exhaustion.

15 May 2012

I am currently revising the grant that I submitted in the December cycle. We were scored, which is good (Half of all grants to this mechanism, sometimes two-thirds, are triaged, so we were in the top half of the submissions), but our score was pretty bad, which is bad. The revision is due in about two and a half weeks, but because of my co-PI’s vacation (What was he thinking?!) , we have to get it in a few days early. The revision has been substantial. We changed it so much that we actually had to go to the eRA Commons administrator and request a name-change for the revision. Something which is rarely done.

Just last week I submitted my first grant of the spring cycle. It’s a small one and it won’t be funded, but I think it might have a chance to be scored. But I think it was sent to the wrong mechanism, so it’s hard to know if it’s going to have been a useful endeavor when it all plays out. I’m not the PI on that one, and the PI is no more experienced than I am, even though he has a more prestigious post. Which isn’t hard. My post has no prestige at all. But I’m hopeful, because hope is one of those things I can’t help. The PI has a lot of administrative duty, and so I ended up writing about 90% of the grant, and having to badger him constantly for the 3 pages he did write. But it’s his idea, and he’s my boss. Ergo, PI.

I’m having trouble with this resubmission. It’s a large, complex grant with a lot of elements. It’s difficult for me to get my head around all of it, because I’m not trained as an epidemiologist, which is what half of the grant is about. Luckily, I have a fine, experienced epidemiologist as a co-PI. Truth be told, he kind of deserves to be sole PI considering how much work he’s done. He did a good solid 3/4ths of the revision while I was working on the other grant.

Not that this post is about the politics of who gets to be PI, etc.. I know that a lot of people worry, fight, fret, and engage in Machiavellian machinations about that. Not me, not now. I asked my boss to be PI on that grant. He said no. That’s ok. When I’m straightforward, honest and forthright, things will work out. I like the project, and it will lead to ideas of my own.

So I have a methods section to get to a collaborator by mid-day tomorrow. I can do that. In the meantime, I’ve also revised two papers and resubmitted one. These are good things.

I’m pretty exhausted. You’d think that after having a really awesome vacation only 10 weeks ago, I’d be feeling some lingering effects of the rejuvenation. But instead, I’m feeling dead. Fear and anxiety about funding is a dreadful thing. Frustration over not getting my papers into sexy journals like I wanted is piling up. I’m finding myself looking forward to July, a lot. When I’ll be taking an epidemiology class, guest blogging for Scientopia (Go see bug girl there now, she’s writing about bees!), and heading to my 20 year high school reunion. A week and a half away from work. Learning new things.

As a little side note, though, I did just get asked to review a paper in my field for the Canadian Medical Association Journal, which is a truly fine periodical. Which means that people are starting to recognize that I’ve done work in my field worth paying some attention to. And that’s exciting. And scary. And exciting.

Work is work. I love my job, but work is still work. Who ever said “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life!” was a total idiot, a liar, or more likely both. I truly love what I do. And it’s work every day. Except the days I blow it off and get nothing done. Which is too often. I wish I were one of those people for whom work is like play, but frankly, I doubt too many of them exist. Anyone out there able to tell me I’m wrong? I know that a lot of the people who read me do truly love their jobs. But they’re still work, right?

Nevertheless. I was talking to a friend who’s new to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous yesterday, and describing how to progress in the program. How to feel better. How to get to a place of satisfaction and serenity. Places which I am fortunate enough to inhabit a lot of the time. My answer, which isn’t really mine but was told to me first, is that I got to where I am by doing the things that I don’t want to do. I get up in the morning and I go to work when I would rather keep sleeping most days. I write papers and grants and computer programs when I’d rather be sitting on a beach or driving on a country road. I run after work when I’d rather eat french fries. I have a basically clear conscience because I dealt with the difficult and troubling aspects of my past.

So, today, I’m exhausted. And I have a grant to write. And it’ll get done. Even though I’d rather chew off my own foot at the moment. OK. Away I go.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. leslie427 permalink
    15 May 2012 09:50

    Another great post, and a timely one for me. There are many things I would rather do than the things which will help me arrive at serenity. Funny how that works.

    Now, away I go!

  2. 15 May 2012 13:03

    I love my job and I love going in to work. It’s why I take the adjunct pay for now – You start at the bottom and work your way up, and I’m hoping that eventually the pay will get better/more stable and the work will stay equally satisfying. What’s your goal work-wise – how does this particular job get you to your next job/level? For me I’m getting the teaching and service experience I need to make me stand out applying for TTs and/or permanant gigs at other liberal ats colleges, and solid recommendations.

    • 15 May 2012 13:25

      I love my job and love going in to work too, and I’m pretty well paid. But it’s still work, not super-terrific-happy-fun time. Next? I want a position with a real professor title, instead of the Adjunct I have now. But if I stayed where I am for my whole career, I could definitely be happy.

      • 15 May 2012 13:43

        Rather than the title, I mean what do you want to DO. Teach? What types of classes do you want to teach? Do you want a school that emphasizes research over teaching? Do you want to supervise grad students or just work with undergrads?

      • 15 May 2012 13:45

        I would like to teach from time to time, I think, but it’s less important that research. Which is why I’m not looking for TT positions ever. I like mentoring students of any description through research projects.

      • 15 May 2012 14:03

        See, at the R1 where I went to grad school all the TT faculty still had to teach 2 courses a term, + mentor grad students + do their own research, which is why they all work 60-80 hours a week. And the non TT just teach. Some depts have what are called ‘Research Specialists’ that sound more along the lines of what you are interested in doing. I don’t know how other schools do that. I do know that none of my professors get to work on research proper except in the summer.

      • 15 May 2012 14:12

        That’s why I say screw the title. Do what you enjoy and get paid well for, regardless of what they call it.

      • 15 May 2012 14:20

        In the R1 medical schools there are loads of non-TT research faculty with PhDs, and they’re called “professor”. Getting the title I want is not going to conflict with the position. Luckily for me, it’s just about doing the work.

      • 15 May 2012 14:23

        I had wondered if maybe it was different at Med Schools, but when I looked at MSU job openings all the Med School faculty I saw were doing rounds, so that didn’t help me.

  3. 16 May 2012 08:30

    I loved what I did until I became the department chair and then I began to feel trapped. I felt trapped to find funding for staff (constantly), trapped to do time sheets and evaluations and be on all kinds of national committees. It was an evolution that took much of the joy from the career. I wanted to still be in the field all the time, collecting data and analyzing. Yes, I had tenure and job security but something was lost as I was promoted. It no longer was fun. I would purposely go out in the field with my staff to simply get away from the controlling director. I did not like playing by the rules much.

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