Top 7 reasons to apply for grant funding for your postdoctoral training
For those in academic research, it may seem like a no-brainer to apply for your first grant as soon as possible. For many reasons however, many PhD students don´t get around to applying for grants, and all too soon graduation is around the corner and you are scrambling to find a postdoc position to continue your training.
Well, I hate to sound like your mother, but I cannot emphasize enough the many benefits of having your own research funding. Let´s look at the top 7 reasons why you should spend time, energy and risk rejection, to apply for your very own postdoctoral fellowship funding.
1. Sharpen your communication skills
When you are a scientist, having brilliant ideas in your head and beautiful results in your lab notebook, is not quite enough. You must tell the world about it. After all, whether you like it or not, your career depends on your ability to tell the story of your research. Not to mention that by putting your thoughts to the proverbial paper, you structure your ideas and through these mental gymnastics, you can examine your ideas from another perspective and evolve as a scientist. Finally, as Einstein said, “if you can´t explain it simply, you don´t understand it well enough”. So, start practicing explaining your science!
2. Funding track record
You probably have experienced it by now, we tend to judge books by the cover. Academically, this means that if you hear someone went to Harvard and received NIH grant funding, you probably think they are pretty smart. When it comes to research careers, many academic supervisors and university employers ask for information on your previous funding record. Whether this is right or wrong is certainly up for debate, but one thing for sure, I doubt they would penalize you for having too much funding.
3. Pick your own lab
Many PIs have research funding that enables them to employ postdocs. Even if a PI wants to work with you, whether she/he is able to do it depends on the availability of funding and when other postdocs in the lab complete their training. If you have your funding however, it makes the situation much more flexible. Not only does this make your application more favorable, you can most likely start when you want, and not when a postdoc slot becomes available. If your funder is flexible, you can literally make the world your oyster and pick where and with whom you would like to work. Doesn´t this sound just fantastic?
4. Academic freedom
When you have your own funding, you have much more room to exercise your intellectual curiosity and address the great mysteries of science that you would like to answer. Of course, keeping in mind that you must meet your grant obligations and you probably should not take a grant from a cancer research funder to pursue your dreams of writing the next great American novel.
5. Independence and mobility
Closely tied to academic freedom are the concepts of independence and mobility. While no one should go into a working relationship preparing for it to fail, it is inevitable that even with the best intentions on both sides, sometimes it is just not the right match. If and when this happens, you can always walk away rather than stay in what may be a toxic environment for you.
6. Failure is the mother of success
Sometimes a reason for us not to do something is our fear of failure. In all walks of life, the people who are most successful, most likely had a few failures along the way, and that failure made them the person they are today. The same applies when it comes to grant funding, failure is quite literally the mother of success. So, if you don´t succeed the first time, take some time to review where things may have gone awry and how you can improve until you are rewarded with your first grant.
7. Become an academic grown up
Having your own funding makes you, quite literally, all grown up. While external validation is not the point of science and research, having a research funder recognize you and your proposal, means a great deal. If others see your potential, why not accept the recognition, and enjoy your success!
I hope these 7 reasons are more than enough to get you excited about applying for your first research grant! You may be wondering whether to find available grants and whether you meet the basic eligibility criteria. Here is the section of scientifyRESEARCH´s GRANTguide, dedicated to postdoctoral funding.