Thoughts on Section A of Biosketch (study section musings)

Do not write a full page for section A. No one will read it. And reviewers will shake their head about using the wrong space to get around page limits. In fact do not use Human Subjects, Vertebrate Animals or Resources to get around page limits. Reviewers can tell.

Do use Section A to give some narrative to the rest of your biosketch. Why do you need more time in your postdoc? Why do you need a second postdoc? How is this time going to change your career trajectory? 

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9 thoughts on “Thoughts on Section A of Biosketch (study section musings)

  1. Why did I need more time in my PhD and Postdoc? 3 kids! Is this appropriate to mention? For both parents? Of course I always worked through my leave (that K99 timer certainly isn’t getting any later) but there’s only so much one can do.
    However, I never used Section A for this. Is it appropriate to do so?

    • yes it is. Thats part of what they wanted this to do. It needs to be worded in a “professional way” referring to “family commitments and obligations”.

      Further !!!! the timelines for submission are also negotiable based on having time off. So if its 4 years post terminal degree, but you spent time off with family, then it is possible to get some leeway on the deadline (I saw multiple of those at SS).

  2. On the subject of the personal blurb, one thing I like to see as a reviewer is that the co-investigators and people other than the PI, have actually gotten off their asses and written something (anything) to indicate they’re interested in the project. A half-assed statement from a co-investigator rambling on about their own lab with no indication about their role in this specific project is a real turn-off, regardless what their support letter says. A personal statement that refers to another project, indicating the PI didn’t even notice the biosketch was recycled, is the death knell.

    • this is so true! One thing a young PI can do is offer to either write part of it, or send a set / list of important things (“why I want you on my grant”). Also, letters that are boilerplate are assessed as not being from “good or committed collaborators”. Again, young PI can send text or points for help with letter of collaboration.

  3. Yep, the tl;dr rule applies for the Personal Statement. However, there was one from a Very Big Deal in his field, and he basically wrote two or three sentences that came down to, “Yeah, I’m *that* guy.” Reviewers hated that, too.

    I usually recommend that you get the editable version of collaborator bios, because they may not list the papers that best support their role on your application; the Personal Statement may be from their last application, etc. However, if you alter someone’s biosketch, do not submit it without their approval. (Yes, ugly story behind that one.)

    • yes… I would ask permission to add/subtract papers before doing it. This is not something to ask forgiveness for (as opposed to permission). You can lose the support of someone that way.

  4. Wow, thank you for feedback on both. I had no idea that Part A could be used this way. I’m not sure if it will help (K99 deadline was moved up after I already got pregnant during PD) but it’s good to know. Also, my supporting PIs never reworded their Biosketches (though I did tweak their papers with permission).

  5. Pingback: Random Thoughts of the Impact of the Shutdown on Reviewing | Mistress of the Animals

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