Purpose To understand the factors that facilitate career success for career development awardees in clinical and translational science and reconceptualize understand ing of career success for this population. Method In 2013-2014, the authors conducted semistructured interviews with former NIH KL2 or K12 scholars from nine Clinical and Translational Science Award-funded institutions. Participants either had or had not secured independent funding at least two years after the end of their last K award. Questions covered the factors that facilitate or hinder junior investigators' transition to independent funding. Interviews were recorded and transcribed, and the transcripts were analyzed thematically. Results Forty individuals participated, with equal representation by men and women and by independently and not independently funded investigators. Personal factors that facilitated success included networks, persistence and resilience, initiative, autonomy, and personal and professional balance. Organizational factors included appropriate mentorship, protected research time, and institutional resources and support. Even independently funded participants described challenges regarding career direction. Five participants without independent funding modeled a broad spectrum of successful career paths, having assumed leadership positions not reliant on grant funding. Alternative definitions of career success included improving public health, enjoying work, seeing mentees succeed, and receiving external acknowledgment of successes. Conclusions Awareness of the factors that facilitate or hinder career success can help junior faculty, mentors, and institutional leaders support career development in clinical and translational science. New definitions of career success are needed, as are career paths for faculty who want to engage in research in roles other than principal investigator.
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