Who or What is The Pub Club?
The Pub Club is a small group of people (2 to 40) within the educational community gathering together to take ownership of their “Academic Careers.” The “objective” of TPC is to tap into and build our own “Community of Minds” in order to best serve both the scientist & the science. The Pub Club agrees with The COM’s position that “our career does not begin after completing Higher Ed. but before we start.” By design, a TPC follows a “Community of Minds” structure and, as with any community, it will function best and produce the most if the individuals of which it is comprised work to learn from and support each other. After some trial and error a successful formula for The Pub Club has been found and is summarized in three posts titled “TPC Structure” 1, 2 and 3. The Pub Club has become a useful resource for all participating members of the 3 labs located in the 4th floor of the Molecular Plant Science (MPS) building at Michigan State University. The Pub Club meets every week to provide both an opportunity and a resource all members can count on. The “task” is to be available to each member when their schedule allows and their needs require. The structure, meetings, and special events are all designed to enable members through active participation to build and hone the “Diverse Skills” necessary to not only be accomplished scientists, but to also turn that into a successful chosen career.
Be sure to take the time to click on the other TPC pages listed under The Pub Club tab!
Last Week at The Pub Club:
08/18/17 – Last Friday we discussed the recent article in Science Careers entitled “Another tenure-track scientist bites the dust” (click here to read). Our conversation focused on the often “not discussed” issue faced by new faculty – learning how to successfully fund their research. Part of our discussion revolved around one of the frequent complaints voiced in academia: lack of funding. “If only there was more money, then all our problems would be solved.” While we all tend to agree that getting funded has become more difficult, the reason for this difficulty is generally assumed to be funding cuts. Is this true? If we look at data available from NSF, the amount of money allocated to research has stayed fairly constant, while the number of applicants has increased. This would support our perception of “funding is harder to obtain” because, while the size of the pie hasn’t changed, the number of us attempting to get a slice has grown!
The quick answer many might have is, “Increase the funding!” However, we also considered that adding more money may only serve to escalate the problem, as this tends to result in increased hiring, and thus creates more mouths to feed, so to speak. Of course, none of us are against more jobs and more funding, but we also need to be realistic and consider what is sustainable. At what point do you draw the line?
What about money for new PIs? Another part of our discussion centered around the main criteria for obtaining funding, one of which is the perception of “how good” a scientist is. This can be a huge hurdle for early career scientists who have not had time to build a proven track record. Data from NSF show that early career researchers have a lower funding success rate relative to late career researchers, and that it takes an average of 2.4 proposals before a new professor will successfully obtain an NSF grant.
How can we use this information to better prepare ourselves? If the funding learning curve is 2.4 proposals, it seems we should be starting now to develop the skills needed for such an essential part of becoming independent. Some tips we shared include:
- Begin to develop your proposal writing skills during the PhD and postdoc phases of your career
- Write for institutional grants, which are less competitive and can help you get preliminary data needed for larger grants
- Talk to program officers to get insight regarding how well your proposal fits what they are looking for
- Read successful grant proposals to learn what works
- Write early to give time for others to read and give you critical feedback prior to submission
While it is easy to blame the system, and the system has flaws to be sure, this ultimately does nothing to improve our situation. Instead, we should focus on what steps we might take, and what skills we can develop prior to becoming faculty (if that is where our career paths lead) to improve our ability to get funded. As for the system being flawed, it is in fact our system! If we see problems, what are we doing to address them? Are we simply complaining, or are we actively looking to identify and implement solutions? As good research scientists, the best approach is to first find the facts – collect the data – to be sure we have correctly identified the problems before attempting to find solutions. We then need to work together, get creative, be willing to “think outside of the box” to find real solutions. Finally, after identifying the problems and potential solutions, we need to use a scholarly approach in implementing change. How will we assess whether the changes we make improve, have no effect or make the situation worse?
While we may not want to bother with this part of doing science, it is a critical element to ensuring our system works effectively. We each have the option of either sitting back and going along with the status quo, or taking ownership of our system and doing what we can to improve it. If you choose the former, you have no right to complain. If the latter, be sure to use the same approach as you use in your work – scholarly research.
Hope to see you next time we meet on the edge of science!
Special thanks to the ASM Grant Writing Course for sharing many of these tips and the link to the NSF data.
Summer at The Pub Club…
We are officially in the summer season of The Pub Club, which means an even more relaxed approach to our weekly Gatherings. While we will not plan topics for every week, we most definitely will plan things at your request! A popular example from previous summers is sharing conference updates when we come back from meetings. This summer, we will also do more hands-on workshops, similar to the abstract workshop we had on May 12, 2017. Please feel free to share ideas as you have them! Also, we will be adding TPC member poster and/or oral presentations at ICAR (International Conference on Arabidopsis Research) to our Event Calendar to make it easier for us to support each other. If you are attending a different conference and would like to share your presentation information, simply log in and submit it as an Event.
Introducing The Pub Club’s Summer Conference Preparation Series!
Why do we go to conferences? To Learn of new breakthroughs and/or methods and Share our recent findings with others in our field? To Network? To Develop Skills by participating in workshops? To get re-motivated by Engaging with the greater science community? These are all good reasons to attend and participate in scientific meetings, but how often do we take time prior to conferences to develop a strategy to maximize our experience once there? Considering the amount of time and money we invest in attending, why not apply our research skills to Developing a Game Plan to maximize our experience once there?
To help with this, The Pub Club is hosting a Summer Conference Prep Series. Discussion topics will include forming a networking strategy and the importance of preparing to make a great first impression. However, we will also dedicate time to polishing our verbal, written and graphical communication skills by practicing our Elevator Pitches and poster presentations as well as giving each other feedback on the content, design and flow of our posters prior to printing them.
Interested? Then set those pipets down for an hour, step away from your computer and join others in your local Community of Minds (COM) to talk strategy, research our opportunities, form a game plan and work together to develop our skills. This year, we will be taking the conferences we are attending by storm!
NOTE: you are very welcome to join us even if you are not attending a conference this year. You will just be that much more prepared when the opportunity comes!
When: Fridays, 4 – 5 PM (see the Event Calendar for dates & details)
Where: MPS (Molecular Plant Sciences) Atrium
Who: All interested post docs, graduate students & undergraduate students
Please RSVP to Bethany Huot at firstname.lastname@example.org to help plan snack & beverage quantities!