UCSF Department of Psychiatry
Guidelines for Mentored Career Development Applications 

Kristine Yaffe and Lowell Tong 2/9/12

A. Overview of Mentored Career Development Goals

The purpose of the Mentored Career Development Award (NIH K01, K08 or K23 or VA Career Development Award or CDA) is to provide support and "protected time" (typically 3-5 years) for an intensive, supervised career development experience in the biomedical, behavioral, or clinical sciences leading to research independence. The longer term goal is to launch promising young investigators to become nationally recognized experts in a focused scientific area and embark upon an independent career path. In this endeavor, the Department of Psychiatry would like to be as supportive as possible in promoting this pathway while at the same time being mindful of resources and fiscal realities.

B. Principles for Scholars, Mentors and the Department

1. Protected Time for Research and Career Development

Unless an exception has been negotiated, scholars must devote at least 75% of full-time effort (i.e., of the entire amount of time worked in a typical week) to research and research training and career development activities. The remaining 25% can be allocated to clinical/teaching/administrative pursuits consistent with an academic career (see below). NIH policy requires that salary not paid by the K award come from non-PHS sources.

2. Didactic Experiences

Scholars are encouraged to enroll in courses and workshops in disciplines relevant to their career development plans, at UCSF and at other institutions; these should be planned in discussions with mentors. Costs for these courses should be budgeted as part of the award or by the mentor(s) if previously agreed upon.

3. Mentors

Developing a successful research career requires strong relationships with mentors and a research team. The mentor should have a track record for NIH or VA (or equivalent) funded research. In addition, the mentor should have experience mentoring other trainees. If the primary mentor is outside of the Department of Psychiatry, the scholar needs to identify a secondary mentor in the Department.

Scholars should meet regularly (e.g., at least twice a month) with their primary mentor and at least once a month with each co-mentor, and at least twice a year with all mentors together.

4. Office Space and Resources

In collaboration with their primary mentor and Department Chair or Service Chief, the scholar will be provided office space and basic resources to conduct the proposed research and career development activities.

5. Issues Related to Salary

Salary support from NIH K grants is typically at $75,000-$90,000 per year (depending on Institute) with the rest of the scholar’s salary and benefits (the “gap”) covered by institutional and other non-federal sources. The source for this gap funding should be guided by the following principles:

  1. The source of this gap funding must be planned in advance of the K application with the primary mentor, Service Chief and Department Chair. The basic principle is that there will be a “safety net” comprising a co-investment by the scholar, primary mentor/section, and the Department.
  2. Expectation is that the scholar, with help from the Department and mentor, identify roles that fill the non-mentored award portion of a full-time faculty position, and cover the gap. Examples of these roles are serving as a clinician attending in a faculty practice, or research that is funded by an allowable source to scholar or mentor (e.g., non-federal research grant) or a part-time paid Department position (e.g., educational leadership). The sources for this “gap” funding will be reviewed on an annual basis including scholar’s productivity, mentor’s funding, departmental resources and other circumstances.

The NIH also provides K scholars with $25,000-$50,000 per year to cover research, travel and tuition expenses. VA Career Development Awards provide 100% salary support and require a VA position. Research funds depend on type of award.

6. Other

All publications that benefited from the K award or CDA support or infrastructure must be submitted to PubMedCentral upon acceptance for publication. Please review the information about the NIH Public Access Law at http://publicaccess.nih.gov/

Scholars are required to submit an annual progress report to NIH or VA.

C. Scholar Milestones

Since the shared goal is for scholars to become leading independently funded academics by the end of their career development award period, there are some general benchmarks for scholars:

By the end of the 2nd year, and each year thereafter:

  1. 3 peer-reviewed publications submitted, of which two should be as first or senior author and 2 should represent original research aiming for highest impact journals or venues
  2. a grant application submitted, typically an R21, R03, or other federal, state, foundation, industry, or intramural grant

By the end of the 3rd year, an R01 grant application (or equivalent) submitted.

D. Process of Application and Annual Review

1. For the initial application, the scholar should initiate, at least a month before submission deadline, a discussion with the primary mentor, Service Chief, and Department Chair. This discussion should include overall career goals, scientific and training aims for career development application, and suggested sources to cover “gap” funding. At this meeting, it is strongly suggested that the scholar present a Career Development Plan (CDP) (see http://accelerate.ucsf.edu/training/mdp-materials).

2. In the last quarter of each year of funding, the scholar should update their CDP and arrange for an annual review of their CDP, progress and “gap” funding with primary mentor, Service Chief, and Department Chair. These reviews are the main opportunities to discuss ways to enhance the scholar’s infrastructure support, and to identify actions the scholar needs to take to optimize career development and research success.

3. By end of penultimate year of career development award, it is critical to have a discussion with the mentee, mentor, Service Chief, and Department Chair about career opportunities, progress in obtaining independent funding, overall goals, and aspirations. This is very important in order to have aligned expectations and adequate time for planning and career guidance.


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