Resources for new and aspiring principal investigators (PIs)

Posted by on May 30, 2013 in Academic, Career | No Comments

This blog post contains the resources and links that I most commonly send on to academics and senior researchers who attend a training day I run on developing successful academic careers. The collection of links might seem a little eclectic as they stem from the discussions we have at these workshops, but I refer people to them so often that I thought a blog post was warranted.


I’ll try to update this page as I find new resources – it also takes a little pressure off the plans to write some more detailed guides to social media and collaboration to add to the existing guides to time management and building a research profile.


Most of my workshops raise awareness about the opportunities you need to create and take advantage of in order to progress your career. I am very conscious that most academics don’t sit around all day wishing they had more to do, so the first step we discuss is to reduce existing commitments.

These two blog posts explore strategies for saying no: (thanks to Dr Josie McLellan for this)

Not everyone on these workshops has secured a permanent academic position, so this is a good place to give a plug to the GLASGOW Fellowship guide which offers advice on preparing an application and the interview process.

Delegation is another key skill – workshop participants will get a guide to delegation, but in a rare example of not haemorrhaging intellectual property, I’m not going to post that here. Instead here are a range of links:

The rather terrifyingly named Asian Efficiency site has a very nice step-by-step guide to delegation for freelancers which translate well for academics

Libcom ( a site with infinite potential for distraction for any sandal wearing liberals) also has a gentle guide to delegation

Social media is a really hot topic in workshops now and it’s been interesting to see the gradual shift from dismissing it as the natural home of freaks and time wasters… to being curious and open-minded about the potential… to finding at least 30% of any workshop group actively engaged.

The following blog posts from academics might give additional insights into the value of social media to academics and researchers:

This isn’t the only list of such articles – here is another list of science/social media related articles and resources,  from the Social Networking for Scientists Wiki (more US based).


If you know of any others PLEASE let me know – I’ll try to keep updating this list.


If these convince you, the introductory guides I tend to suggest are: (very basic) (still the best I’ve found although any publishes guide to social media will gradually become outdated – I see signs that ResearchGate is proving more popular than at present)


Most of our leadership programmes include MBTI – I know some people dislike this as a tool but I still find it very useful for demonstrating that differences between people are positive if you understand them. As a summary, I like the new MBTI heads which celebrate the 70th anniversary of the tool – rather fetching silhouettes with summaries of key words for each type (I know one academic who has hung his on his door as a warning…) (either click on “don’t leave without your free gift” or scroll way down until you get to the Party Favors (sic) section)  – enter your type and choose PDF or image. If you don’t like MBTI you will hate this page, so probably best not to go there…


Another challenge for new PIs is the process of growing a research group. For this I still recommend the HHMI online guide – Making the Right Moves – it’s aimed at bioscientists, but the advice is largely generic and although there are now some omissions (it’s over ten years old), it still contains great advice.


Although I don’t cover funding on any of my research leadership courses (I’d rather encourage people to make contact with their own research funing support offices as these are full of excellent helpful people), I’ve recently come across a couple of resources that are frankly too good not to include here.

I was pointed to the first of these during a discussion with the director of a research support office, giving it a real seal of approval.

The Research Funding Toolkit was developed by research funding experts and academics (arguably these are also research funding experts, but hopefully you’ll understand the distinction) and includes a series of excellent presentations,  checklists and a great blog.

The next resource came indirectly through twitter. One of the most generous and honest academics that I follow is Dr Nadine Muller of Liverpool John Moores University. She writes regularly about the highs and challenges of academic life and her “The New Academic” blog is packed with advice and insights from Nadine and guest writers.

The post on writing grant applications gives a fantastic starting point for any first time applicant and in the comments stream is a link from Neon Anonymous to their post entitled “All-the-things-ive-learned-while-i-should-have-been-working-on-my-thesis

In this post is a link to  “The Professor Is In” Blog and Dr Karen’s Foolproof Grant Template. Although written by an American academic for her funding opportunities, to me it appears to travel across the Atlantic very well.

I’ve also recently found rather old but still very effective guide to funding:

The Art of Grantsmanship

The final links are to help people reflect their research culture online – the website of Prof Roberto Cipolla at Cambridge is a good example of explaining a model of supervision. As far as I can see he hasn’t updated this page for about 18 years (I’ve been linking to it since 1999)– but there’s no evidence he needs to!

The second has been updated recently – the Barton Group at Dundee University. I think that the embedding of Geoff Barton’s twitter feed is really effective here as it ensures that the site looks current with minimal effort. The feed conveys his enthusiasm and humour. Also worth noting is the excellent guide to the UK academic system which demonstrates his commitment to supporting international students. Photos of the group and their successes complete a picture of a strong group, where successes are celebrated, international researchers are welcomed and where a comprehensive picture of the work in the group can be seen. (Having met Geoff and some of his group recently, I felt the page reflected the positive group culture really well.)

Here endeth the brain dump, but please let me know which sites and resources I could add.

Leave a Reply

Anti-Spam Quiz: