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.