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I won a grant that I wrote myself, but it was awarded under my PI's name due to the rules that prohibited including my own name. Nevertheless, I was thrilled about it as it is highly beneficial for my future career and aligns with my current and future research goals. I acknowledge that without my PI's CV and expertise, I would not have been able to secure the grant, so I am grateful for their contribution.

Currently, I am working on another topic and we are planning to hire a postdoc to conduct experiments related to the grant idea. I am pleased about this because even though I conceived the idea and won the grant, I would prefer to supervise someone else since I am not an expert in this particular field.

Furthermore, in addition to hiring the postdoc, my PI has also proposed that another potential postdoc write their individual fellowship based on my grant idea. My PI has assured me that I would be fully involved in this process, which could lead to more experiments being conducted and the establishment of a larger research group dedicated to this topic. Consequently, we may have two individuals working on this idea, with both myself and my PI serving as supervisors and co-authors for the potential publications.

Although I understand the benefits of this approach, I can't help but feel disappointed as it seems like I might be losing ownership of my research agenda. If this person were to win the individual fellowship, they would be building upon my idea without my name being associated with it.

Fortunately, my PI has assured me that they will not proceed with this plan if I disagree, which shows their understanding and consideration. I am uncertain about whether my concerns are justified. Should I allow this person to write their individual fellowship based on my idea?

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    So you don't want to personally work on the topic, but are also not happy that other people get funding to do so?
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 20:17
  • I would gladly welcome additional funding and the opportunity to collaborate with others. However, I would like my name to be included in the individual fellowship since I’ll assist with the writing process and it is my idea. My PI’s plan means that the postdoc could win a prestigious individual fellowship without me to be acknowledged because the rules don’t allow it.
    – enne
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 21:07
  • Nasty question: why did you collaborate on a proposal that was not brinigng you funds? Do you have a permanent position?
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 22:57
  • I decided to write a grant because it's my first postdoc and I have no prior experience with grant writing. I wanted to gain experience in this area and learn more about the topic. Plus, it will be good my CV when I apply for a permanent job in academia later on.
    – enne
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 8:23

2 Answers 2

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To offer a different perspective -- that of the person who manages the money of PIs -- from our perspective, the entire point of the postdoc position is to help the PI write grants. We encourage faculty to require postdocs to help write their grants. It is also the postdoc's job to help mentor the junior lab members. This helps free up time for the PI to do other things, like grant-writing.

As you can imagine, grant-writing is very time consuming, and some have to have a large number of applications per year (~20) in order to fund their lab. Others who do fewer submissions per year (1-2) stake their entire lab's funding on an annual review process. If you are interested in becoming a PI yourself, this is a basic, essential skill that most junior faculty struggle with for years. Getting practice now is the smartest route you can take without the full burden of the administrative pieces -- which by the way, are heavier than folks realize. Try reading through 300 pages of rules for a federal application and another set of rules for the administration of the award, and you will understand that it's a lot more responsibility than just writing the science portion. Sponsors turn down great science over dirty administrative components all the time. We call this a "return without review." If your PI is giving you this experience now, take the experience and be grateful. Some PIs are principled about not involving their postdocs in the process, and they show up as junior faculty completely clueless on how to run a lab.

If you want to be successful in academia and the grant-writing process overall, contribute without thought of getting credit. My most successful PIs are the ones who collaborate with everyone and do not worry about getting credit. They are the most sought after in grant-applications and often have to turn away potential collaborators. Learn to be a good academic citizen first, and the opportunities will come. Single-PI grant submissions are mostly a thing of the past. Few areas still support this, and usually the funding is very small (~$100k total costs/year at NSF).

For what it's worth, I learned this lesson from the CS community--unlike other science communities that care deeply about earning royalties, the CS community believes in open source and sharing freely. One cannot deny the surprising power of giving things away.

If you are interested in getting your own grant, check your institution's rules on PI rights. Some offer them to postdocs depending on the conditions. E.g., there is an entire series of early career awards from NIH (K awards) and formal postdoc fellowships from NSF and NIH. Show your prowess by funding yourself.

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I would prefer to supervise someone else since I am not an expert in this particular field.

in combination with:

the establishment of a larger research group dedicated to this topic. Consequently, we may have two individuals working on this idea, with both myself and my PI serving as supervisors and co-authors for the potential publications.

Makes your plan (becoming a co-supervisor in a larger research group dedicated to this topic) pure wishful thinking. Co-authots, maybe, but you admit you are not an expert in the field, so how could you contribute? The possibility/opportunity for non-expert to contribute in a certain publication are very scarce, and generally this possibility/opportunity is reserved for PhD students, because they are becoming the expert in that field.

You PI will probably just have you as long as your contract lasts, they will be thankful for your contributionx, they will provide reference letters and hopefully back your cliam that you won a certain grant ... and that's it. Pragmatically, it is extremely unlikely you will be considered for any role in a new research group, unless you won a big grant (for example the European ERC) that provides directly to you the funds to start the new group...

Hurry up with publishing "something" related to this idea, so the future grant winner can give you the best and the most appropriate acknowledgement: citing you with reference to a peer reviewed paper.

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