Dr. Roltech began by offering some distinctions amongst some of the K mechanisms:
- K01 - Mentored Research Scientist Award
- K08 - Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (These are for M.D.'s who want to become bench scientists)
- K23 - Mentored Patient Oriented Research Career Development Award
- K25 - Mentored Quantitative Research Career Development Award (These are for Ph.D.'s in Engineering who want to transition toward Bio)
- K01-RFA - Mentored Faculty Diversity Award/Minority Serving Institution
- K99 - Pathway to Independence Award (These are good for postdocs looking to move to a new university / become independent)
Dr. Roltech also discussed what he saw as an ideal K proposal development process, along with tips and pitfalls. He began by highlighting the importance of starting to work on the K proposal early (4-6 months before the due date) to ensure you can develop a quality proposal. Below is his suggested process.
6 months before: Determine if a K award is appropriate for you, and identify which award is right for you. Review the program announcement. Develop a plan for developing your proposal, and begin meeting with potential mentors/co-mentors to see who might be the best fit for you.
4-6 months before: Create a hypothesis-driven project and identify specific aims. Create an advisory committee and get feedback on your specific aims. Begin to draft your research strategy.
3-4 months before: Draft the career development and mentoring plan. Seek feedback; schedule weekly meetings to review revised documents. Submit sections to your mentor for review and work on other sections in the meantime.
<3 months: Complete the other sections, including institutional commitment letter, advisory committee letters, mentor's statement, etc.
It is essential throughout this process to be communicating with your program officer to ask any questions and also to vet your ideas to make sure that your project is in line with the mission.
Dr. Roltech highlighted common problems in K applications that he had seen as a Program Officer. They include:
- Lack of a well thought out research training plan
- Weak/absent hypothesis
- Poor presentation (e.g., figures too small or writing errors)
- Weak publications record/inexperienced PI (for instance, you should have 3-5 pubs for a K23)
- Mentors are off-site or unengaged
- An unrealistically large amount of work in your proposal
- Uncertainty concerning future career direction