The clash of summary statements and egos has hit a feverish pitch, it seems. First, please realize that summary statement critiques are not written for you, the applicant, but for the sponsoring IC. Good reviewers weave in comments designed to encourage or instruct the applicant appropriately, and if you’ve hooked your primary reviewer into being a passionate advocate for your proposal, that will likely come through as well. If the summary statement lacks any sign of someone going to bat for your work, then you did not make your case even to the reviewer who should have been most excited about your project. More on that in another commentary.
For anyone convinced they’ve been wronged by a study section, my advice is to set aside any possible thoughts of an appeal, even if there are clear, objective factual errors in any portion of the summary statement (appeals can also be made if a review procedural mistep is made). Differences of opinion or interpretation cannot be appealed (at least not successfully). There is no good outcome even for a potentially legitimate appeal:
– Council can deny the appeal (you’ve missed the most timely resubmission cycle due to delays)
– Council accepts the appeal & sends the application AND THE LETTER OF APPEAL to the SAME study section for re-evaluation (you lose a funding cycle & piss the hell out of a study section who may be your only gateway to NIH funding for years to come)
– Council accepts the appeal & sends the application to a new study section WITHOUT the letter of appeal (a study section that probably wonders, but not for long, why they are being asked by Council to review this application not quite in their jurisdiction that clearly belongs in another review group)
Instead, just smile (grimace) and say (in your responding introduction), Please sir, may I have some more.