So you have that priority score that is frustratingly close but no cigar. In fact, your program officer may have held out hope for last minute Council support … but no. What to do?
R21 receives a priority score of 138, 11th percentile (think about this a moment folks – 138 … 11th percentile?) … concerns are incredibly minor, including a quibble over word choice (discussed!). Think, use of sex vs gender appropriately. Not relevant to the science at all. However, this A0 is not funded.
The PI takes the Neuro-conservative zen view on resubmission (First, Do No Harm), including a clean, simple apology for the errant word usage. Remember, this is an R21 with only a 1-page introduction.
The A1 receives a priority score of 107, 0.1st percentile, with the following comments in the summary of discussion: “The proposal is significantly bolstered by the thorough responsiveness to minor concerns from the previous review and with the addition of new preliminary data. … the committee was unanimous in their high enthusiasm for this outstanding application.” Obviously.
So, the PI kept collecting data, did not change anything in the Specific Aims or, that I can recall, in the Background & Significance … did streamline one set of experiments thanks to a recent innovation in the lab.
In this case, I don’t think the program officer was a fount of insight, but I would recommend starting there if not enough guidance for the resubmission is communicated in the resume & summary of discussion. Hopefully your program officer heard or heard of the discussion and can offer pointers for what to address. I’ve seen scores of summary statements for just about every grant mechanism and IC, though, and usually the opening discussion paragraph (for scored applications) throws the PI a bone for preparing an amended application.
Certainly a pristine, laser-focused introduction sans color commentary is critical. Citing new reports in the literature as appropriate (especially by study section members) and of course tying in new data (even better, a new manuscript accepted/published) you have will show reviewers you are committed to seeing this work through in a sound, scientific manner. Appropriately integrating new data from the literature and/or your lab in the research design and methods (additional rationale for your approach, consideration as an alternative approach, insight into potential pitfall or divergence in outcome, etc.) will further increase reviewer enthusiasm. If your IC (institute/center) has a new strategic plan or programmatic priority in line with your proposal, point this out as well. The key is not to open yourself up for potential target practice with the insertion of a new theory or premise or methodology. And, of course, not to get in a pissing match with the study section.
I’m sure comments from yuns will add a battery of great suggestions. I find it difficult to offer blanket advice on this sort of situation without knowing the application and its history. Grantsmanship instruction is available freely everywhere … the key is to get good input on your application specifically rather than try to fix it in a vacuum, no matter how many grant-writing workshops you’ve attended or Websites you’ve clicked through. An army of one was never less likely to succeed as in the battle for grant funding.