Should I include a pending divorce on NIH biosketch personal statement?
May 15, 2018 3:14 PM   Subscribe

The NIH biosketch includes a 'personal statement' where you can explain slowdowns or gaps in your career, due to childbearing, for instance. I'm preparing a renewal application, and I'm sure it's not as good as it would be if I wasn't also working through a divorce. Deadlines are deadlines, however and my divorce won't be resolved prior to the renewal deadline. I'm torn as to whether to include this information. Help me, hive mind!
posted by u2604ab to Work & Money (8 answers total)
How well do you know your program officer? This seems like a program officer question. Is there any way you can have a sort of feeling-out conversation with them?
posted by Frowner at 3:21 PM on May 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Yeah, that's totally a question for your PO. They're at NIH to help you answer questions, even slightly personal ones that intersect with your work as a NIH-funded researcher.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 4:32 PM on May 15, 2018

Assuming program officer is unablvailable for comment I would lean toward disclosure, with an angle of taking unplanned personal leave.

Yes, this risks backlash, but I think I’d rather have that kind of backlash than ‘Is mysteriously non-productive’ backlash, because the latter is a justifiable and ethical reason to place hurdles on future funding, while the former is not, imo.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:19 PM on May 15, 2018

I would not.

There are really only a couple of officially-sanctioned reasons for career delay, and ... I'd be very concerned that the SS would look poorly upon this one. Further, most of the accepted reasons are ones that are by definition time-limited, as in, you expect to be 100% able to carry out the grant by the time the new award is made. I would worry that the SS would discuss whether your divorce would impact your ability to make progress, and ..... yeah, that would be a nightmare for everyone concerned.

And as you probably know, they're not going to give you credit for an app that could have, should have, would have been better. The slowdown/gap stuff is purely to address productivity, not quality of the current app.

I got an ESI extension for a year of medical saga, but I never mentioned it in my biosketch.

I'd strongly lean no. But, discuss with your PO as always.
posted by Dashy at 5:53 PM on May 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

And if it does turn out that the divorce caused a slowdown, you can write about it after the fact that, as you took time to address mental health issues that are now resolved.
posted by Dashy at 5:56 PM on May 15, 2018

There are members of your study section who will see this as an admission of weakness and use it to justify not funding your grant. I would not do this unless your program officer has some very, very good reasons why it is a good idea.
posted by medusa at 7:44 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’m sorry about your difficult situation.

I would lean toward not including this information. Yes, you can use the personal statement to explain slowdowns, but that’s not really what the personal statement is for, as you know. You might find some sympathy, but you also risk some reviewers thinking you’re oversharing, or that their own divorces didn’t slow them down, etc.

Dashy makes a good point that you can explain low productivity and possibly get a pass with a good reason, but you can’t get a bump on an application that is otherwise scored below funding level.

Best wishes and I hope your proposal is well-received!
posted by Knowyournuts at 8:53 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't really have a productivity slowdown to explain here, just a sense that the proposal is not as tight as it would be if I wasn't distracted by divorce BS. I don't think I'll include any mention of the divorce in the personal statement, mainly because there is no productivity slow down to explain. Thanks for the guidance, MeFi friends.
posted by u2604ab at 8:31 AM on May 16, 2018

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