Part I: Developing your Team Grant

To provide some tips on preparing a stellar application for the Prostate Cancer Canada Movember Team Grants, we sat down with the PI for the inaugural Team Grant winning submission, Dr. Ralph Buttyan from the Vancouver Prostate Centre.
 

How did you put together your team?

First, I benefited greatly from my experience working within the Vancouver Prostate Centre where the founders envisioned that the Investigators associated with the Centre would already function as a collaborative “team” and this principle is constantly reinforced by the Centre Director. So the mindset encouraging the benefits of team science is already established here.

The PCC-Movember Team challenge called for “highly innovative research”, so I sought to develop a topic that differed significantly from areas of research that are already heavily addressed in established prostate cancer research programs. Since I had some work ongoing that offered an alternative approach to the problem of therapeutic resistance in prostate cancer, I sought others in my regional area who had ongoing compatible projects that were in a preliminary stage and, in joint meetings, we agreed to seed the potential team. With an established topic, I then searched the Canadian prostate cancer research environment for like-minded Investigators from more distant institutions and, in the end, found others with common interests yet differing expertise that overlapped in our focus on therapy resistance. Negotiations, facilitated by the seed team members, then allowed me to assemble our final successful team.

 

How did you select team members and is there an optimal number?

Our “seed” members were experienced prostate cancer Investigators from the immediate region (Vancouver) where we are fortunate to have several different biomedical research institutions within close proximity to prostate and other cancer research programs. Members from outside our region were solicited based upon the seed team’s knowledge of other prostate cancer research programs in Canada. In the end, we sought to have suitable members of a variety of expertise that enabled us to effectively encompass FOUR different projects in our plan along with knowledgeable advisors so our ultimate team consisted of 22 members.
 

What best practices can you provide on incorporating a training program into a Team Grant?

Training support comes from two mechanisms in our team:
  1. Dedicated graduate student/postdoctoral involvement in each of the projects (i.e., pre-assigned individuals)
  2. Annually reviewed training grants consisting of stipend/salary supports to bring new graduate students/postdoctoral fellows into the program. For the latter, our training award program is competitive and our review process gives advantage to those applicants who are co-mentored by members of different projects, of differing institutions or whose project drives synergy between at least two of the projects.  

Do you have any advice can you give for teams applying for a Team Grant?

  • Make sure you incorporate mechanisms to ensure that all team members have a respected voice in the development and operations of the program
  • Spread out responsibilities and compensations so that all feel part of the team and receive distinct benefit from participating in the team
  • Try to structure the projects to allow competing visions and emphasize that all will benefit in the end from the recognition, regardless of which of the visions reaches the goal first

Can you give any tips on developing the team, project, writing the application itself, how to prepare for the interview and when funded, and how to make sure it all happens?

  • Identify one reliable key staffer to manage document procurement (i.e., member bibliographies, contact information and rosters, etc.,) and storage, scheduling and uploading services and ask that person to send out reminders to team members at regular intervals
  • Do your best to choose team members that not only offer outstanding research opportunities but also have reputations for treating peers with respect and honoring collaborations
  • Include Investigators at all levels and consider how the team will promote career development of the more junior investigators
  • Seek the advice and editing services of senior investigators in your team
  • Consider their suggestions as advice; use your own discretion as to the final composition of the key documents
  • Picture yourself as a reviewer; think of the critical aspects that you would demand of a team grant application and ensure that you have addressed them
  • Select core team managers from the members that are suitably dedicated to the success of the venture so they will make the time when needed
  • Use every opportunity available (including the training program) to design mechanisms to promote team/project synergy
  • Consider including a junior team member in the interview to show the team focus on career development
  • Pray that your spouse or significant other will have patience during the run up to submission!
Links:
Part II: Working as a Team
Movember Team Grants
 

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