An anonymous commenter asked about getting on a panel in this morning's post.
Just curious, how do you get invited to be on a panel? Did you sign up at one point? I am an NSF-funded scientist, but have never been asked to serve on a panel.
It made me realize that this is something I've never really talked about, specifically. The short answer?
When I was a wee lad and new to this whole tenure track thing, I realized that it would make a lot of sense for me to get on an NSF panel and see how the sausage is made. I had grown up in the funding system of another country, and as such, didn't have the feel for NSF that I should have.
I asked the very question that Anon is positing above to several colleagues and they all told me to call up a PO and tell them I was interested. At the time, this was an incredibly terrifying concept, but I did as I was told and in the next round I was asked. Since then, I have put other people's names in the proverbial "hat" and they have also been asked. This includes postdocs, for those of you postdocs out there who want a jump on things.
Is it really that simple? Yes. POs spend a lot of time and energy trying to fill out there panels, finding the right mix of career stages, gender, academic background, ets., etc. More than half of the people they ask ignore them and probably another 60% - 70% of those that respond decline. Being on a panel is a huge amount of work, so it's not exactly something you just jump on. For that reason it is difficult to fill the room with able-bodied panelists who you can count on to do the work. If someone calls you up and says "I would really love to be on a panel." that person is going on the list for the next round.
Unlike NIH, NSF really does try an incorporate early career stage people into the decision making process. For all of you out there wondering about the process and what the life and times of a panelist are, take advantage of this. It was extremely helpful for me and I have received similar feedback from others who have been early-career people on panels.
Pick up the phone.