In your field, does it come with any particular value? Good or bad?

Is there something about the “NIH name on the CV” that advantages a trainee?

Are there critical connections of lasting worth? Or perhaps critical career opportunities- the K22 or the chance to stay intramural for ever?

Are there other Universities or research institutes that are more valuable?

Or are you best off just going lab by lab, with no particular concern for the host institution?

A letter to the blog wanted to know and I can’t offer more than anecdotes and a dose of “it depends”, both of which are not helpful. Any thoughts, Dear Reader?

In case you absolutely must continue the 300 comment thread which developed under

Alternate careers” is just the next exploitation strategy?

you can have at it here.

One of the categories of people that crack me up, just like they did Vonnegut, are those that have an unhealthy obsession with the coincidence of where they live. Or were born.

You know the type….they are endlessly fascinated with being from New York, Chi-town, LA or The Bay Area. I imagine you non-USians have your London, Sydney, Toronto, Stockholm and whatnot snobbery. Don’t even get me started about Paris. You wouldn’t think so, the weather being so shitty and all, but people in the US cities of Seattle and Portland are some of the worst.

They really seem to think it makes them better, smarter, hipper, cooler and just plain more important than other folks. Like we’d be just endlessly fascinated by those daredevils who *wash their windows*! Amazing!

Dudea, get real.

The captions practically write themselves, don’t they?

(AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM) from here.

How any person in the US who makes under a MILLION DOLLARS PER YEAR can even remotely contemplate voting for this clown is a mystery to me. Complete and utter mystery.

Rafalca, the Romney’s Olympics-bound dressage horse, nets the family a $77,000 tax credit, $2,000 of which, according to Current’s calculations, is for what they spent on health care for the horse. The average American family only spends $1,557 a year on health care.

It is really a credit to our citizenry that we have not broken out the guillotine for the 1 percenters yet.

More Rafalca v. Regular Americans.

UPDATE: Phew, appears to be a standard business thing where the $77K is a “loss”, not a tax credit. At least, by reading a bit of the commentary around the webs. They can subtract this loss from any future earnings they may get from this money-sink, fun-toy but they aren’t getting a tax credit. That makes me a little less grumpy about it. But still. They can sink a cool $77K into this and not even blink….the comparison to the yearly expenditures of a family of four at the median in the US is still apt.

You are probably aware, DearReader, of the concept of inflation. This means that the amount of money that you pay today for a good or service is higher than the amount of money that you paid yesterday.

On average.

So for example, this US inflation calculator tells me that the purchasing power of $12,000 in 1972 has the purchasing power of $65,975.60 in 2012. This is a convenient set of figures if, for example, you are shooting the breeze with a senior faculty member* who started his or her Assistant Professor appointment in the early 70s. You may want to grapple with pay on even terms. Naturally, not every good or service has the same inflation rate and this is just one model/estimator. Jeans may cost less and houses may cost more. etc.

Moving along, we come to the discussion of NIH Grants. In the past I’ve posted the analysis that shows that the doubling of the NIH budget was rapidly un-doubled and fell back on the historical trend line. That analysis depended on the Biomedical Research and Development Price Index or BRDPI. This brings us to an interest in the purchasing power of the full modular R01. “Modular” refers to the specification of the budget for most NIH grant types in units of $25,000 in direct costs. These are the “modules”.

There has been a cap of $250,000 per year in direct costs since the 6/1/1999 initiation of this structure, if I have that right. You can ask for more money per year but then you revert to a line-item type budget (called “traditional budgeting”). The modular cap has not changed and, I assert, this limit affects the vast majority of NIH R01 proposals since there is high motivation (or has been, I may have touched on reasons for future changes before) to adhere to the modular grant structure. Overall, I do like the notion of the modular budgeting procedures because it keeps reviewers from ticky-tacking a bunch of irrelevancies about grants when they should focus on the science.

However, the use of a limit like this brings up the unpleasant inevitability of inflation.

Comrade PhysioProf has been noting that the real purchasing power of the R01 has been dropping due to inflation in the context of postdoctoral fellow demands for ever increasing salaries. He’s not alone in noticing. I offer today, a graphical depiction pulled from data provided by the NIH Office of Budget on the BRDPI.
I”ve taken their table of yearly adjustments and used those to calculate the increase necessary to keep pace with inflation (black bars) and the decrement in purchasing power (red bars). The starting point was the 2001 fiscal year (and the BRDPI spreadsheet is older so the 2011 BRDPI adjustment is predicted, rather than actual). As you can see, a full modular $250,000 year in 2011 has 69% of the purchasing power of that same award in 2001.

For those looking at the increasing numbers of applications being submitted presented in the prior post, you must include some understanding of this inflationary pressure in your thinking.

The second thing we’ve found here is the target number to restore spending parity.

In simple terms, we should now be advocating for an increase to $350,000 as the new modular cap.

*Particularly handy when said senior (or emeritized, retired) faculty members are members of one’s own family. just sayin.


I am addicted to comment threads for just this reason. Someone comes up with an offhand remark…and I’ve never thought about this before now.

Have you surpassed any of your mentors as a scientist?

I think my answers are hell yes, apples-to-oranges, yes (in some ways), yes (in many ways), not yet and meh. Then there are the variety of quasi-mentors….not sure these are fair to discuss.