ASHA's ninth annual "Lessons for Success: Developing the Emerging Scientist" brought together 32 junior and 15 senior scientists in the field of communication sciences and disorders (CSD) to enhance knowledge and skills in grant preparation, development and management of competitive research programs, and professional research competencies. The conference is supported by a grant awarded to ASHA from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
The intensive three-day meeting was held at ASHA's national office in Rockville, Md., on April 27–30. The participants included PhD students, post-doctoral fellows, and junior-level faculty, all of whom have shown promise for a productive research career. (Conference presentations and the list of participants and mentors are available on ASHA's website.)
Participants gained valuable lessons from conference mentors on topics such as managing the challenges of balancing research, teaching, and service in an academic setting; managing a lab; forging successful research collaborations; and publishing their research. In didactic sessions, mentors discussed the major sections of a grant—such as specific aims, abstract, significance, innovation, and approach—to help the participants understand how to communicate clearly and concisely the most important information for each section of a grant.
In addition to presenting on a variety of grant-writing topics, the mentors conducted several mock reviews of the participants' grant proposals. The participants also had the opportunity to serve as reviewers in a mock review session after they had observed the mentors' review. The ability to think about a grant from a reviewer's perspective is critical, as this perspective helps grant writers to organize and clarify key elements of a proposal more effectively.
Every year, two participants from previous conferences are invited to return and share their perspectives and experiences leveraging the conference into funding success. This year, Mary Alt, a speech-language pathologist and assistant professor at the University of Arizona, and Matthew Fitzgerald, an audiologist and assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at New York University School of Medicine, gave inspiring accounts about how the conference had helped them to focus their research, communicate its significance more clearly, and guide their collaborative efforts more effectively.
Fitzgerald said that the conference was a welcome and informative opportunity to learn more about the grant-writing process, from basic grantsmanship tips to how the review process actually works. "I particularly enjoyed the mock review sessions, in which faculty and participants had the opportunity to review different grant proposals," he said. "This is one facet of the grant submission process that often seems opaque to new investigators, and it was helpful to the participants to understand this part of the process better."
Presenters Judith Cooper, Daniel Sklare, Peggy McCardle, and Christine Livingston gave an overview of the funding mechanisms and the application and review processes at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Patricia Dorn, from the Veterans Health Administration Rehabilitation Research and Development Service, and Ken Wood, from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, also presented information about funding mechanisms offered through their respective agencies. Nancy Minghetti, executive director of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation, provided an overview of ASHFoundation funding opportunities. Participants also had an opportunity to meet individually with representatives from these funding agencies during a two-hour roundtable session.
The conference was planned and coordinated by the Research and Scientific Affairs Committee, the Lessons for Success Planning Committee, and ASHA's Academic Affairs and Research Education unit, and was co-sponsored by NIDCD, ASHA, and the ASHFoundation. Lessons for Success is one of five ASHA programs designed to provide educational and mentoring opportunities for emerging researchers. The Research and Scientific Affairs Committee, chaired by Holly Storkel, associate professor at the University of Kansas, also supports several ASHA convention sessions—such as roundtable discussions for new investigators and sessions on getting a PhD and grant writing—designed specifically for investigators in the early stages of their academic-research careers.