NIH Regional Grants Seminar Blow-by-Blow

Well, more details to follow on specific topics, but – whoa. This is by far the largest of these seminars ever held – more than 900 people from all over the US (no-brainer for the folks from Alaska) & the world (including South Africa, UK, Canda, Puerto Rico, etc.). Clearly everyone is desperate for that pearl of wisdom that will nudge their grant score within the payline.

My chats with NIH officials have been pleasant, though no big surprises or hot gossip. Yet. No inside scoop on the CSR open houses (reviewing study section make-up etc.), though I did learn the process will be glacial since the NIH peer review process is written into public law. I also learned that the NIH does not plan to issue any more ranking tables (in terms of where institutions rank with regard to total NIH $ & awards). A relief to some institutions, others will download the data & create their own to show their position in the top 10.

Had a very engaging lunch with Chris Pascal, Director of ORI. Not sure how to interpret the fact that no one else opted to join the table labeled “Research Integrity.” Talking with folks from OER and CSR winds up with the inevitable advice to “talk with the program officer.” My usual rote speech about spending time on the cover letter, the specific aims, the organization, the addressing IC programmatic priorities … yep, all are still very important to success. Asked about data & model organism sharing plans – use the examples given online and “talk with the program officer.” A Deputy Director told me they will go so far as to request feedback on a resubmission (esp the Introduction) from prior reviewers who can’t or are not scheduled to attend the study section meeting that discusses the A1 or A2 in question.

No one here from the magical kingdom of OPASI or even NCRR that I can see. When asked about the post-Zerhouni longevity of Roadmap items, the NIH folks are holding their cards close to the vest. Lots of Bob Dylan lines being tossed around in presentations though.

I look around and see scores (hundreds) of investigators hanging on every word said, feverishly taking notes. My heart goes out to all of them, and I wish I could help each one pull together a competitive submission. They are getting good advice here, which is freely available to everyone through the presentations online at the Seminar Website.

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