A tale of two grants First, a short review of training grants for trainees, i.e. graduate students. Graduate students are paid by the university their first year in the program, during which time they are busy taking courses. At some point during grad school the goal is to receive a five year grant from the NIH. Because these grants are competitive and require preliminary results, it is very difficult to apply for one during the first few years in grad school, especially since the student often hasn't even chosen a lab until after the first year. As a result, there is a gap in funding of the graduate student between their first year and when they hopefully get one of these prestigious grants. The NIH and university solve this problem by what they call institutional grants. There are several different institutional grants, for example there might be a neuroscience training grant, or a cell and molecular biology training grant. The university puts faculty members in charge of the grant, and the faculty member's job is to make sure the grant gets renewed every five or ten years, and they do this by trying to get the most productive students on their grant and spewing as much bullshit as they can muster to the NIH about how great the training is for students on the grant. When a student gets placed on a training grant they often have to take additional courses and attend specific journal clubs or seminars, and this constitutes the "training". In exchange for this suffering, the training grant supports the student for one to two years. However, if the student doesn't get placed on a grant the mentor would have paid the student's salary anyways, but this money would have come from the university and not the NIH, so really these grants just serve to waste the time of students and save the university money. Ironically, the unproductive students who are unable to get on a training grant are therefore better off than the productive students. I was an extremely productive student and as a result was awarded a five year grant during my first year in grad school, which is unheard of. Since I was expecting to graduate in less than five years, it made sense for me to just activate the grant immediately, especially since I would get a pay raise if I did so. Unfortunately, things were not so simple. The director of the CMB training grant approached me, and asked me if I would do him a favor by being placed on the CMB training grant. He wanted me on the grant since I had a strong publication record, high test scores, A+'s in all my courses from UC Berkeley, and he would be able to claim one of his students received a prestigious F31, and on top of all that I am a minority. It was extra work for me, but I like helping people out so I said sure. The thing is he wanted me on the grant for at least 9 months so that he could say I was officially trained by the CMB grant, and when I got the award notice for my F31 it had a deadline for me to activate the award, and this deadline was before I would complete 9 months on the CMB grant. I told him this, and completely distraught he told me it was impossible for him to replace me on the CMB grant and if I didn't stay on the grant it would screw him over. He proceeded to tell me that I needed to contact the NIH and get my activation date postponed. My lab manager and I then embarked on an odyssey of emailing and calling the NIH and attempting to explain the situation to them. During this time the lab manager would email the CMB director to try to keep him apprised of the situation, and he would never respond to her emails. Eventually we got on the phone with the program officer, told her of the situation, and she was extremely confused as to why the CMB director wouldn't just replace me on the grant, but nonetheless issued a new award notice with a later activation date. Being placed on the CMB grant comes with several requirements, one of which was to take a statistics class. I actually didn't mind this since the class used R, and it was my first formal introduction to the language, albeit the class was too slow paced for my liking. The rest of the requirements were explained to us at the orientation, which I graciously attended. The director gave a short presentation about how selective the training grant is and how we should feel privileged to be on the grant, blah, blah, and what is expected from us. Namely he said we needed to act professionally and make sure to respond to any emails we receive (maybe he should listen to his own presentation). He went on to describe the punishments for absences and failure to meet the requirements, namely being taken off the grant and potentially future students from your lab not being placed on the grant. Needless to say, I did not attend any future activities. What did I care? If I got kicked off the grant I would just activate my F31 and get a pay raise. During my tenure on the CMB grant I ended up deciding to switch labs. I was highly productive in my lab, and was on track to graduate in 2-3 years, but I wasn't being allowed to perform the work I wanted. After switching labs I ran into the CMB director and he asked if there was anything he could do for me and emphasized he just wants the best for me. He then snuck in an inquiry about whether my F31 would be transferred to my new lab. He truly did have my best interests in mind! Anyways I did manage to get the grant transferred, and not surprisingly didn't have any more inquiries from the CMB director about my well being. Now at this time it just so happened that the NIH was performing a site visit of the CMB grant. Basically these site visits happen every ten years or so to make sure that everything that the director of the grant claims is happening is actually happening. I was curious what this would be like so I showed up to the info session about the site visit, which served as a way to coach us on what to say during the visit. In addition to the CMB director, we had another CMB faculty member at the info session. They went over questions we would likely be asked and how we should respond. At some point the directory went out of his way to let us know that this isn't a time for us to air any dirty laundry. The other CMB faculty chimed in to let us know that anything we said would not be confidential since we would have name tags and the reviewers would record our names, and the CMB directors would have access to these notes. I was so close to asking them if they would also be standing behind us with a gun to our heads, but there's a time and place for stirring the pot (now, for example). The highlight of the meeting was when a student asked them if she should mention she had been on another training grant previously. When she said this, the faculty both looked like they had accidentally killed someone and were trying to figure out where to bury the body. The thing is students are not supposed to go from one training grant to another, because that indicates to the NIH that the university has more training grant slots across all grants than they have graduate students, which for UVA is 100% true, but they try to keep that a secret, shhhhhh. They hastily shuffled through the documents in front of them and exclaimed that they did not have this on record (implying the NIH had no way of knowing since they get their information about the students from the CMB directors, what a system!), and they glanced sideways at each other and decided they would discuss the situation more later, and looked like two people about to bury a dead body in the woods. The female student, sensing which direction the wind was blowing, let them know she wouldn't bring it up during the visit and apologized for potentially fucking them over. The site visit came and went without any hiccups that I'm aware of, and I'm not sure if the CMB grant got renewed but I definitely was happy when I finally got to activate my F31.