The function of early career awardsPosted: August 7, 2012
The NIH has identified the age at first R01 as a problem stat, and its recent response has been to try to promote early career development. Cue skepticism, but anyway, examples include the K99 “transition” award and some new skip-the-postdoc award, which are supposed to get people into productive PI mode faster. What I’m going to suggest without much evidence is that what these awards do mainly is perpetuate the pedigree/patronage system. Times are tough. Funding and faculty positions are harder to come by, even for the anointed trainees of the alpha dogs. Wouldn’t it be nice if they got money first, thus automatically moving their applications to the top of the short list?
Rather than wade through CRISP – a true testament to government record keeping – I found that some institutes just list K99 awardees on their Web site. For the last 2 years, in fields I am more or less familiar with, I Googled the recipients to see what postdoc labs they came from. Not a lot of surprises. I know a few K99 recipients. All did good postdoc work, and all came from pedigree labs. They will be good PIs, I’m sure.
What I don’t know how to compare these people against everyone who didn’t get a K99. And I’m not saying that anyone on the recipient list didn’t deserve a K99 as much as anyone else. Just sayin’, when times are tight the people at the top take care of their own.