Case study from the writedit files with excerpts from a triaged R21 summary statement, which means the PI would have only one page in which to respond to all 3 reviewers. For those of you out there who have not yet had the pleasure of discerning the true meaning of an unscored summary statement, enjoy this taste of what you might have to look forward to.
Reviewer #1: “The application is not competitive, suffers from a lack of precision, and describes a series of weakly related studies aimed at investigating the …”
Reviewer #2: “This excellent application seeks to delineate the interactions of … and their roles in … . The investigator and environment are outstanding, and the work is highly innovative.” [note: “Excellent” refers to score range of 150-200]
Reviewer #3: “As a proof of concept, this application has great appeal. However, it was not clear to this reviewer that … is a worthy target for all of this effort.”
These would be from the “Overall Evaluation” sections at the end of the first two individual critiques (no summary of study section discussion in this case due to traiged status) and extracted from the last of 3 paragraphs provided by the third reviewer. I’m guessing a lot of NIH applicants out there are smiling (grimacing) & nodding knowingly.
Many clues can be found in the summary statement. The second laudatory reviewer (<1 p review) regurgitates the applicant’s main points but provides no real additional commentary. So, not a lot of weight to this “critique” no matter how attractive it might be to consider this to be the only one worth listening to.
The first (2.75 p review) and third (0.75 p review) reviewers cite specific concerns and their rationale for being concerned, which is what adds weight to their input. If the PI were responding, these would be the points to address in the Intro and to correct in the scientific approach & the application.
In its favor, consider that the significance and innovation of the application were uniformly recognized, the PI thought to be well qualified, and the environment cited as strong … so not total discouragement. And, for those curious about this point in relation to the R21 mechanism, yes, assume preliminary data were presented (& discussed in the first & third critiques).