NIH Regional Grants Seminar

Writedit is in Portland for the NIH Regional Grants Seminar (& I recommend everyone attend one of these or at least view the online presentations) – limited Web access and will be off the grid for a few days after. Have fun.

But … a few tidbits already. Later this afternoon, I’ll learn about plans to shorten/streamline/”enhance” the writing of FOAs. More on that later.

At one talk, an SRO shared a good rule of thumb for differentiating Impact from Significance: Significance is the hypothetical benefit to science/technology/clinical practice *if* the aims are achieved … Impact is the real-world impact, taking into account why the investigators & environment will really make this cool study work & shift a paradigmm or two.

Also, for resubmissions, SROs really want the reviewers to look at the A1 as a “new” application (reviewers don’t see old application in any case) evaluated based on its own merit – not in relation to how much it improved from the prior submission or whether all the reviewer critiques were met. Not news – but clearly laid out today.

And Sally Rockey (head of OER) confirmed that the NIH is rigorously sniffing out “new” applications that are not new. Rigorously (investing time & personnel needed). Please remember that just changing PAs does not make the application new (changing mechanisms, resubmission after failing at an RFA do qualify as new). She also noted that so far, there has only been a 10% bump in applications submitted. The next big jump will likely be in 2012, when everyone who had ARRA funding and asked for no-cost extensions comes back to the trough for more ….

14 Comments »

  1. A1 said

    Why would they encourage A1 be looked as new applications? What happens to my “within reach 25 score” at A0?

    Not fair they won’t consider the long agony A1s go through.

    • melvin said

      This is not 100% true, otherwise what is the use of the “introduction” page for resubmission.

      • M. S. AtKisson said

        What I keep hearing from reviewers is that during study section meetings they are told to “review the grant in front of them.” That also strongly implies not scoring based on whether this is the “last chance” for a long-running research program if the revised applications isn’t funded.

    • writedit said

      Well, a PO today contradicted the prior advice saying they like to see “this resubmission is highly responsive to the prior review …” However, though not one of the big five, it is still among the “additional” review criteria (along with human subjects/vertebrate animals) and will be taken into account for the score. I think the key is to focus on the application and emphasizing its impact-value to the IC/scientific community versus obsessing over responding to every critique in the SS.

  2. drugmonkey said

    Rigorously

    Ok, so suppose they do it. Next question- what impact on science? This will cut endlessly renewed projects off- at least by half? No more year 26 applications, that’s for sure.

    a good thing ? perhaps.

    one effect will be to hurt newb investigators (as always, what else is new?). they throw all their startup resources into preliminary studies on a topic but can’t manage to get the award in two tries….then what? screwed!

    • whimple said

      It doesn’t matter if people get screwed, as long as the best science goes forward. Remember that the NIH funds projects, not people.🙂

      • drugmonkey said

        is there simply no role for continuity, whimple? because we’ll be losing that too. Cannot assume anything lasting into a second funding interval anymore….

      • whimple said

        Good question. There has always been investigator churn caused by the NIH’s “fund projects not people” philosophy. Decreased paylines will obviously accelerate this investigator churn, probably a lot, starting with new investigators and/or people on their first renewal but felt at other career stages too. I don’t know if this is necessarily bad for the NIH (fresh meat and seasoned pros and the valley of death in the middle), or for science in general, but it is going to be a major disaster for Universities whose business model is dependent on NIH indirects, particularly for the non-elite universities that are going to get stuck with a lot of unfunded tenured faculty and see a lot of their startup-package investments in new faculty come to nothing. Looking into my crystal ball, I see these Universities either a) getting rid of tenure for biomedical faculty so they can offload mid-career people that fall off the NIH gravy train and/or b) going out of the research business altogether (reducing to training med students and patient care). I don’t have an opinion on whether either of these alternatives are net good or bad for science as a whole. I think the prudent thing for investigators to do at this point is to bail out of the system. If enough of them do that, and if Universities slow down on hiring new faculty, paylines will improve. Personally, I don’t think the Universities can pull it off.

  3. BB said

    quote: Significance is the hypothetical benefit to science/technology/clinical practice *if* the aims are achieved … Impact is the real-world impact, taking into account why the investigators & environment will really make this cool study work & shift a paradigmm or two.

    I’m still having a hard time differentiating the 2. Based on this quote, significance is theoretical and impact is how the investigators in their labs can fulfill the aims?

    • writedit said

      Yep.

    • M. S. AtKisson said

      To quote/paraphrase from something I think was linked here: Overall Impact is the Significance coupled with the likelihood that the aims can be achieved.” That last part is a combination of Investigator, Approach, and Environment, IMO.

  4. I think the prudent thing for investigators to do at this point is to bail out of the system. If enough of them do that, and if Universities slow down on hiring new faculty, paylines will improve.

    I’m pretty sure that unofficial program policies at the Institute level over the next few years will be intentionally directed at encouraging this. The goal is going to be a restoration of how it was before the budget doubling began in 1998: the vast majority of NIH funding going to faculty at a relatively small number of elite institutions, and the rest spread around geographically to keep congressional scum from going shitnuts.

  5. Neuro-conservative said

    CPP — Is there any data to suggest that the overall pattern/distribution of funding has changed since 1998? Was it really more concentrated into smaller number of hands prior to that?

    Anecdotally, it seems like the opposite is true, what with more emphasis on Big Science, CTSA’s, and the like.

  6. drugmonkey said

    She also noted that so far, there has only been a 10% bump in applications submitted.

    Relative to what? Is this for the entire FY? I bet the Fall rounds were down and the Winter rounds were way, way up in terms of apps.

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