The 2018 NFL Combine and Draft are history. Once a year athletes who have trained their whole lives to have a shot at a professional career in the sport they love (and are talented at), turn out to be scrutinized before the NFL draft.

Your first R01 will take inspiration, breakthroughs, and good fortune, but I hypothesize readiness for an R01 actually comes from strategy, drive, grit and determination to make it happen – you are trying out for the pros. It is not a mystery what NFL teams are looking for and it is not a mystery what NIH is looking for-this is it:

  • Relevance to human health = right sport (If you are exploring a novel cell signaling mechanism with unknown implications you may be a soccer player [NSF grants].  This is not bad but it is not football.)
  • Research that will advance the field = they want wins
  • Work that is new and unique = they want excitement
  • Capacity to fill gaps in knowledge = the work will build the team
  • Clear and attractive approach to the science = mad skills (Must be self evident – at the combine you can see and measure performance, in study section they will do the same – what they see is what they score.)
  • Plan for challenges & roadblocks = strategy & endurance  (Watch the game tapes, have realistic assessments of strengths, and know what play you are going to call if you are 4th and 10.)
  • Confidence of reviewers in expertise & resources = coaching staff believes you have potential

How much do the elements of the combine (sprints, vertical jump, broad jump, bench press, etc.) look like actually playing football? It’s widely acknowledged that the combine doesn’t predict performance in the NFL. It is an individual test for something that requires teamwork and the individual components don’t translate to optimal evaluations for all positions – but it is still the gateway to the draft.

A single R01 document likewise doesn’t predict your performance as a scientist or your ability to lead and manage a research group – but it is still the gateway to scientific independence. Study the test and be prepared to perform – remember you need mad skills.Get more of the lowdown on thinking about your R01 try-out in the attached PDF:  NFL Combine and NIH Study Section.pdf . (Speaker’s notes appear when you mouse over the quote bubble in the upper left, or download a copy of the speaker’s notes in another PDF.)

R readiness is about strategy  Deliberate preparation is the key. Have at it!

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