The first thing I did when I started my TT job - before the floor was even laid in my shiny new lab, before I bought anything or hired anyone - was apply for an R21 from NIMH. And I got it, first try.
Well this is great! I thought. I clearly have a natural gift for grantsmanship, and my lab will assuredly remain funded for the rest of my days. Basically,
Fast forward 3 years from the NOA, and...uh...yeah, it's hard. The R21 has come and gone (not to mention most of my startup), and despite a LOT of trying, I've yet to secure any more external funding. It sucks. I am about 15 months out from submitting my tenure packet - do I even have a chance at convincing T&P that I'm worth keeping around? I have no idea, but I'm going to give it my best shot. Since I got bad score news in November and then February, I've been working my ass off to figure out a survival strategy. It comes down to two things:
1. Find money
2. Publish as much as possible
Hmm...those kind of sound like the things I already needed to do for tenure. So how will I do them on a very, very tight budget?
1. Write, write, write. At least two NIH grants per cycle - one new, one revision. A foundation here or there.
2. Write, write, write. Publish all possible existing data, no matter how incremental.
3. Beg the dean for bridge funding (where the other side of the bridge is...TBD)
4. Collaborate. We have a couple of good ones going now that are saving us tons of money in animal costs.
5. Piece a little chunk of change together with small internal grants for undergrad projects.
6. Network like a mofo. You never know where the next lifeline will come from.
So here we are. I have half as many full-time personnel as I did a year ago, and our animal rooms are eerily quiet. But my lab folks are excellent and are working hard, and I'm doing my best to keep morale up (chocolate. Lots of chocolate). We got a really nice paper in a really nice journal out of that R21 (and another on its way), and a beautiful image from that work will be on the journal cover this summer. Everything is amazing, except we are broke.
Hopefully not for too much longer.