Friday, September 17, 2010

How much is too much?

I am in a proposal writing frenzy right now. I have 3 I intend to submit by the end of the month, and another 3 I am working on for October. One is a dramatic revamp of an older proposal, and one is pretty much a revise and resubmit, but that still leaves 4 fresh proposals to do. Granted there is some degree of overlap between them (for the introduction and methods, anyway), but I am feeling overwhelmed. Working on these is consuming a large fraction of my not already spoken for time, so I feel like I am neglecting my students a bit.

And now I have 4 more to integrate! This recruitment season, I added two more grad students (woot!), so now I have 4. I will also have 2 undergrads working in my lab this year for credit instead of cash. My success in recruiting, while exciting, is also stressing me out, since now I have to feed all of these mouths. In a way, I am feeling more freaked out and lost right now than in my first few months here. I feel like I am being drained of my ideas, but maybe that is the recent overwork period talking. I am also trying to find the line between too much overlap to be ethical, and too little overlap to be practical in my proposals. I am finding that making a research plan in theory is very different from the practically of getting it paid for!

After this fall, I do plan to take a proposing break, but I wonder how wise that is given the current funding climate.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I certainly couldn't juggle so many proposals at the same time. I have the limited capacity to focus on only one major proposal at a time (the itty bitty ones - less than 5 pages - don't count). I cannot even fathom working on six! Once I was working on an NSF proposal and an NIH one at the same time, from scratch and they were both total crap. I usually need about 3 weeks to write a major one from scratch and maybe a week or 2 to revise an old one. I'm jealous of your ability to multitask proposals!

Also, there's a couple of senior colleagues that I have who are very good at spotting weaknesses. For new proposals I usually try and give it to one of them to read over, usually a brutal, humbling but ultimately useful experience.

Good luck!

prodigal academic said...

I should say that not all of these are major proposals! Only 2 are more than 10 pages for the application. Even so, I feel like my head is about to explode.

GMP said...

Wow, Prodigal, you are a champion multitasker!

After this fall, I do plan to take a proposing break, but I wonder how wise that is given the current funding climate.

I think you can do this, but don't do it before you have raised enough money to do your work; i.e. decide what you need to get funded and when you do, then you can take a break for a semester or so.

I know some people who keep writing grants even when they have enough money to cover everything they want, just because there are new solicitations remotely related to the work they do. I think this is ridiculous -- grants are not an end unto themselves, but a means to do cool work.

I think feeling overwhelmed is expected, just make sure you take care of yourself and stay healthy.

Pharm Sci Grad said...

Prodigal, I wouldn't worry to much about neglecting your students - it's nice from time to time to have a bit of a "boss-free zone" where some student-student bonding has to occur. Plus, it's good training towards becoming more independent and not relying soley on the boss as a resource when things go wrong/right.

As to taking a break after these six (six!?! wow...) proposals, I'd think you'd have to! I know you say most are less than ten pages, but the new rules limiting proposal length seems to make it more, not less, challenging.

I know I'm a good for nothing writer after X many hours of writing and revising, so I need to call it a day and come back to it fresh the next day (or the one after that). I'd imagine grantwriting is much the same - unless you find a cool and different funding opportunity to write for after all of this, take a couple months off and regroup. My theory is that there's no point in doing subpar work when you're burnt out as it's usually more work to revise than start from scratch later! Although I may not even know of what I speak... ;)

Either way, good luck! :)

prodigal academic said...

Thanks for the comments. I am more or less done with 2/3 for September. My October proposals are all less work--2 white papers and 1 minor revision. Phew.

Thank for your thoughts on neglecting my students. I am feeling a little bad about the 2 new grad students, but they are also busy getting used to grad school, so they are probably better off without me for now.