12 h per RC1 Review???

What is Toni Scarpa smoking? He recently told The Chronicle of Higher Education that

The numbers [of RC1s] are causing concern for the present, as each application requires an average of three reviewers working 12 hours apiece, Dr. Scarpa told agency representatives.

Everyone out there who is spending 12 hours reviewing their Challenge Grants, raise your hand. Based on conversations I’ve had with investigators here at BICO (& warmer environs elsewhere) in a wide range of disciplines, they uniformly find these proposals, shall we say, unchallenging, to be kind. I’m sure Comrade PhysioProf can provide the appropriate color commentary. The minimal time needed to assess these is a good thing given that I also know of faculty who just last week unexpectedly found as many as 5 RC1 applications sitting in their eRA Commons account with reviews due June 12. Twelve hours per application? Ooooooh yaaaaaa.

And this apparently is after the NIH removed about 8% of applications that were deemed to be unresponsive/noncompliant … I think noncompliant with the laws of science more than the FOA policies. Many are apparently recycled ideas that weren’t funded the first time as R01s/R21s etc., so novelty will not be a common term used in the truncated summary statements (unless to point out the distinct lack of). It could be that the most novel proposals achieve this distinction due to their basis in woo.

Anyone experiencing review nirvana out there?

But, Toni is most grateful:

“Our scientists and their staff are unsung heroes, managing twice as many applications in a very compressed time with great professionalism and excellence,” said CSR Director Dr. Toni Scarpa. “The response by the scientific community also has been tremendous. The help is particularly gratifying because it shows the value and respect that scientists have for NIH peer review.”

I am glad Toni decided to issue a press release about the number of applications (nearly 21K) and reviewers (18K+) involved. The sheer numbers will hopefully serve as a wake up call that the NIH base appropriation needs to be restored and maintained in a responsible manner – not in irregular spikes guaranteed to stimulate irrational exuberance followed by a musical chairs, survival of the fittest (& richest) scramble for the crumbs that remain after the feast.

Indeed, The Chronicle article concludes:

Mr. Obama’s proposal, if approved by Congress, would set the agency’s baseline budget 4.7% higher than its final budget under President George W. Bush in 2008. But the biology federation said the increase proposed by Mr. Obama for the NIH in fiscal 2010 is only 1.45% higher than the fiscal 2009 level, excluding the stimulus money, raising questions about the federal government’s commitment to sustain biomedical research.


  1. bikemonkey said

    that the press release that tried to cover up the intent to fund only 200 grants by handwaving about maybe the ICs would pick up another 400. 400 / 20,000 still = suxxors

  2. I’m sure Scarpa knows that he’s full of shit, and that there is some bureaucratic/budgetary reason that he has to assert that it takes 12 hours to review one of these things.

  3. D said

    Ha, Ha, Ha, ha…..That Toni is “one wild and crazy guy!” I doubt they get an average of 12 hours/app/reviewer for the regular study sections. At least kicking out 8% will make the success rate a little better. Say 2.17% instead of 2%.

  4. BB said

    If the honorarium for reviewing RC1s is anywhere near as paltry as for RC2s, I’d say 1.2 hr per grant is more likely.

    As for the novelty comment, some of the challenge topics have not been programmatic areas funded by NIH (OK, NCI) in the past decade (cancer cachexia, e.g.). Not due to lack of novelty, but due to a lack of interest in funding some of those areas. So saith program officials.

  5. issmay said

    so how much are they likely to pay for these, anyway? I just did 3, spent about 2h each.

  6. D said

    For mail in reviews I think you get $100. It could be $100/app but they are so rarely used I am not sure. Especially if you review apps for different SEPs. If it is $100 total then you get ~$15/hour. Of course, the main reason to do it is the satisfaction of assisting in the scientific enterprise. Or, to screw your competitors and steal their ideas.

    The last is a joke. I am not that cynical yet.

  7. Luna Halloween said

    You are hilariously funny!.

    Just laughing about “ I’m sure Scarpa knows that he’s full of shit….”

    “that wild and crazy Toni” appears to have big, wide-opened eyes to see what is on him. He, nevertheless, might appreciate some -rewarded and unrewarded- expertise on changing diapers and teach changing them.

    Unless 1) the NIH budget keeps a steady and sensible pace, 2) daycare institutions/leaders find alternatives to subsidize their substantial gains from other sources than their NIH-awarded toddlers, mommies and daddies and 3) train, ensure and oversight that their toddlers, mommies and daddies produce much more than the “material S” (for substance)…..

    I don’t know if that crazy Toni and helpers will even have enough to buy at the diaper’s store.

  8. jim said

    I received a 13% and a impact/priority score of 58 on an RC1. Does this have a chance?

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