Status of PIs Who Score $ with NIGMS …

Jeremy Berg has posted another great display of application outcome data for the 655 NIGMS R01 applications reviewed during the January 2010 Council. This time, he shows application outcome (awarded, not awarded) by overall impact score and percentile and PI status (ESI, new, established).

Separately, he adds a line graph of the cumulative fraction of applications by percentile in four classes: ESI, new, established Type 1 (new application), and established Type 2 (competing renewal). The latter two symbols are a bit tricky to discern on the graph, but the Type 2s are the clear winners, as expected.

And as PP points out in his comment, how did a new investigator with a 3rd percentile/impact score 11 application not get funded? Or the ESI at the 20th percentile with a 19? Hopefully neither of these symbols actually represent more than one unfunded applicant in that status with that score.



  1. It is not appropriate to comment in detail about specific applications but two factors should be kept in mind. First, new investigators are defined as those who have not previously received substantial NIH funding. This is a diverse group of investigators in terms of career stage and level of funding from other agencies. Second, the new investigator and early stage investigator status parameters used on the plot presented were defined at the time the applications were received. By the time funding decisions are to be made, other applications have sometimes been funded and, hence, the new investigator or early stage investigator status has changed.

    • writedit said

      Aha. Interesting. Thanks for the perspective. Baby It’s Cold Outside certainly has more than its fair share of NIH and European recruits (i.e., established “new” investigators) who should probably have their “new” status scrutinized. Still, a 3rd percentile for even a recently de-newed PI should be fundable unless he or she really hit the jackpot with $750K+ in one or two cycles.

  2. whimple said

    It is not appropriate to comment in detail about specific applications…

    You are distributing the public’s money. It is absolutely appropriate that reasons behind funding decisions applied to specific applications be a matter of public record.

  3. BikeMonkey said

    Interesting Whimple. Because we are talking about *not* spending the public’s money for the more interesting questions on the thread….

    • whimple said

      Right. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason, but I don’t have any trouble coming up with lots of potentially nefarious reasons for this obviously aberrant behavior on the part of NIGMS in not funding this specific scientifically meritorious proposal.

      • bikemonkey said

        I am likewise curious but your argument for transparency in the expenditure of public money is weaker when you are discussing the fate of applications on which the public’s money will not be spent, no?

      • whimple said

        Not really. The public has an interest that the competition is fair and that both positive and negative unjustifiable biases are equivalently absent.

      • Read Berg’s reply again. It seems likely that the work (or very closely related work) by this PI is already funded – but not by NIH.

      • whimple said

        Sure, that would be an excellent reason. Just go ahead and say so if that’s the case. Why the convoluted secrecy?

  4. igrrrl said

    I’m being a bit contrarian, bikemonkey, but one could argue that the public’s money was spent for the process of reviewing the application, and thus it would be reasonable for the funding decision to be held up to public scrutiny.

    Whimple, someone said to me just yesterday that NIGMS is “…notorious for funding outside the lines,” meaning not funding applications that scored well, and so-called pulling up of applications that scored below the line.

  5. drugmonkey said

    fortunately igrrrl, since NIGMS actually publishes their data on this you can check for yourself.

    click back through the FYs on the sidebar…

    Given that other ICs do not make such information readily available I wonder on what basis any supposed scientist is talking about “notorious for…” any particular type of behavior…..

  6. Late to this party, but the federal statutes that govern NIH specifically prohibit making public the two-stage peer-review process underlying the funding or not funding of specific grant applications. This is why study sections are confidential and why when institute councils meet, there is a public portion of the meeting in which general institute business, plans, trends, etc are discussed, and then a private portion at which council decides on the fate of specific applications. Because the decision to not fund the 3%ile grant was made by council, Jeremy would be violating federal law to say anything about that specific decision.

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