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I have a good research idea and practical plan how to do it. I don't want to stay in my PhD lab and have found a group where I can do this but I prefer to be on my own grant/fellowship (and they also do as they are short of funds) of which they are supportive and would write with me. My question is how realistic is it to get a post- PhD grant and if successful do grants usually take a long time to be finalised? I've never written one before this is life sciences field .

it's a new group in a great environment so I feel it would be a good career move and give me autonomy with my research. I prefer it to doing an advertised post-doc but I want to know how feasible and if this is actually a good idea ****In the UK. thanks

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  • What is your position. It doesn't sound like you have a post-doc or a permanent position. You say you don't really want a post doc. Are you still a student?
    – Buffy
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 19:35
  • I can give a lot of specific advice, but knowing the exact position you are talking about (e.g., a staff member, like a research tech, vs. a postdoc) will require very different advice. There is also the matter of what country and what type of institution are we talking about. Are you at a state university, small college, etc.? The policies vary greatly, and I will just say from the get-go, you are unlikely to be eligible for much funding if not in the right position. You need to research PI rights to know if you are even allowed to receive a grant with the job title you seek. Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 21:15
  • thanks all.I'm in the UK. I guess the job title would be post doc or staff research scientist withing a hospital research team. I am still a student. I am wondering even if the title and job are more post-doc, if it's my idea and funding I will have more autonomy to guide the project. I've seen some first stage grants which include even hiring staff ..
    – genebean
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 6:38

3 Answers 3

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Hi there are a number of ways of doing this. For the most independence apply for a research fellowship. There are quite a few research fellowship available in the UK from the different research councils or from universities (if the university you want to be based at has that). The only thing is that you often need to be awarded your PhD degree already and have a solid track record of publications. If you don't have that it would be best to talk to the PI you want to work with and discuss regular research grants. You will help the them write the grant, they will be the PI on the grant and you will be the named investigator. This will be your proven contribution as most research grants you can't apply for without being a permanently employed academic. This option tends to take a bit of time so it's good to plan in advance. Depending on the university, the university might also award smaller, short term grants that will be quicker and easier to get (they might e.g. have a commercial focus). Depending on the requirements you will probably have to be a named investigator on this too.

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Presuming that you are in a US university and are administratively allowed to submit (which you will have to find out), I will give you some rough estimates:

  1. Internal grant (within university)will take 3-4 months to be reviewed and approved. If you are in the right cycle you can probably get the money flowing as soon as 4 months. The probability of success is typically higher (30-50%) and some preference is given to new PI
  2. Regional Grants: 3-4 months proposal submission to decision. If you are in the right cycle,these might be quick as well but the chances of success do drop to 25-30%. In some cases they give preference to young and new PI.
  3. Federal grants- usually these are toughest to crack. 10-20% success rate. Very few of them give preference to new PI. The proposal submission to money flowing can easily take 6-9 months.
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    Federal grants can take a full year to be awarded, particularly with NSF. DOD can be as short as a couple of months. NIH Is the only one with a regularly published schedule. Published funding rates are also closer to 15-30%. Overall, I would say 25% is a good estimate without knowing sponsor or program/directorate/IC. But in general, this assumes the person knows how long it takes to prepare a grant. Having trained dozens of PIs on their first submission, I can tell you "how long it takes" is much longer than everyone imagines. The administrative portion tends to come as quite a surprise. Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 3:28
  • thanks this is helpful! so realistically I should get a different job straight out of phd while working on this grant otherwise will have a large gap of unemployed time..
    – genebean
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 6:42
  • I don't know about UK submissions. I would edit your question to focus on the UK and your specific position. In general though, writing grants is not easy or quick. It's a very long-term and sometimes draining investment. Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 12:31
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Fairly unrealistic I'm afraid, unless you published very well in your PhD (i.e. 3+ papers including 1 C/N/S). I've just got my first fellowship off the back of 7 years of post-doc with 10 publications, and was turned down for another as not competitive enough just 1 year ago.

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