Sometimes your very best just isn’t good enough (and not just for Shalanie, for normal people too)

On the heals of a disappointing Monday for one of my favorite distance runners, I had the pleasure of downloading quite the colorful set of reviews of my F32 application. And if the title of this post wasn’t a total spoiler, the reviews were collectively NOT in favor of funding my most novel and impactful research projects. (I’m not biased or anything…)

If you remember my previous discussion about this horse shit F32 fellowship application process, I was waiting for my impact score, the result of a panel discussion of the research I had proposed and the training plan that would be in place for me as a post-doc. Well, apparently with this line of thought I was being more than a bit presumptuous as my application never even made it to the panel discussion!! x-(

So to get to the discussion panel stage each proposal has to make it through a first round of screening, During this first round 3 reviewers assess the proposal and applicant for scientific merit and potential. Two of my reviewers saw the world in a way similar to myself and although they raised a number of very valid criticisms, they both gave me very constructive feedback and scores sufficient to pass me onto the panel discussion.

Enter Reviewer #3.

To his (I’m assuming here) credit, he also raised a number of constructive and valid objections to my merit and the potential of my proposal. HOWEVER, I have a hard time keeping this in the front of my mind as he also had a field day with my proposed research at the expense of maintaining his own scientific integrity. Let me summarize my most frustrating grievances in a few bullet points and then leave it at that:

1. Works that are published AFTER my proposal’s submission are NOT something I should have been familiar with at the time of submisison.
2. It is prudent to at least skim the paper that you’re referencing (read: using as a basis for trashing my fellowship application) to confirm that the title (as you are interpreting it) accurately describes the research project.
3. It is even more prudent to read said paper well enough to asses if the data collected do in fact support the claims being made.

Now I do get that everyone is busy, very busy. The task of carefully reviewing lowly post-doc fellowship proposals is a thankless chore and I would most certainly struggle to do what I consider an acceptable job. Being still many steps below this point in my career I really can only complain so much. I simly need to be grateful for the constructive comments I received and make my best case possible for round two in August.

HOWEVER (there is always a “howerver”), regardless of the point of your career that you’re currently in, of how very junior or senior you may be, you still need to do a good job. You need to do your best job. Like what little Miss Shalanie did on Monday. This is what will ultimately make or brake your end result of course, but your efforts also (and maybe more importantly) impact other people. Sometimes a lot.

Some Most days people will be better than you and off you’ll fall to 7th place, or worse…maybe much worse. Truth be told, this is very very very likely where I would have ended up had I made it thought to the discussion panel…if I were so lucky.

But, one day you/me/SF won’t fall off. One day it will be our day too. It will be. And while we patiently wait for that day to come, please please please don’t be the a$$ hole that takes everyone else down with you!!!

(And now I can go draft my polite yet very concerned email to my program officer inquiring about WTF happened?!?! scientific inconsistencies in the review that may have impeded a just assessment… )

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