From NOT-NS-10-017:

The NINDS will continue to accept applications for investigator-initiated exploratory/developmental projects (R21s) for all program areas supported by the Institute. Previous NINDS language stated that R21 proposals were “limited to those with the potential for truly ground-breaking impact”. We would like to emphasize that such impact, as described in the trans-NIH parent R21 announcement (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-10-069.html), can be achieved in many different ways. For example, projects can assess the feasibility of a novel area of investigation, develop new techniques or models, apply existing methodologies to a new scientific area, etc. (see parent announcement for additional examples).

Umm, what? Is what they are trying to say here is that they are no longer insisting on R21′s meeting the criteria of “truly ground-breaking”? Couldn’t they just say that?
Or are they saying that their scare language has dissuaded anyone from bothering to submit an R21 when they could just write a small R01? Or go to some other IC for funding?
Or perhaps their applicants are getting so beat up in study sections which are trying to apply their previous language that they never get anything with a fundable score?
To me this move points the finger square at the problem with the R21 reviews, regardless of the qualifying language used in a Program Announcement. There are multiple explicit and implicit goals for the R21. They are poorly specified, and some are in conflict with each other. Therefore the criteria become a point of much contention in review discussions.
Apparently NINDS attempted to cut through that fog with additional specification about “ground-breaking” impact. A decent idea. Too bad it didn’t work out for them.
There was also this bit at the end which was interesting, and pertinent for many of our readers:

It is important to note that analyses of new investigator applications to NINDS indicate that the success rate for R21 applicants is lower than for R01 applicants (FY 2009 success rates for NINDS R21 New Investigators: 11% vs. NINDS R01 New Investigators: 19%). Given the current policy of the NIH to support New Investigator R01s at success rates equivalent to those of established investigators submitting new (Type 1) applications (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/not-od-09-013.html), the NINDS encourages New Investigators, and in particular Early Stage Investigators (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-08-121.html), to apply for R01 grants when seeking first-time funding from the NIH.

Great first step. I’d like to see an argument that advances the cause with study section members who are still operating on the “starter grant” mentality. I’d like to see some NINDS data on productivity of R01 awards to n00bs vs. experienced investigators with 0, 1, 2… other awards.

…over at Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde’s blog.

When Google can predict, before I finish typing, the rest of the last name of the ex-boyfriend I’m thinking about? When we can crowd-source an encyclopedia with useful entries on “Factors affecting the crack spread”? [I clicked on the "random" button, I swear.] Does it honest to God still take six months to sort 20,000 abstracts with preselected keywords into one of 8 themes and some number of subthemes/sessions?

some idiot:

but for anyone in between it is a complete waste of time and money, and it’s not even fun.

some genius / KoolAide drinker:

SFN is glorious.

Discuss. Over there.

The R15 / AREA is one of my favorite NIH grant mechanisms, even though I’ve never been in a place that is eligible to apply for them. The whole idea is just so….positive and uplifting. In theory, these R15 awards are all about getting undergraduates involved in research science. From the professor’s perspective, this mechanism gives a chance at a set-aside pool of money for those investigators who operate under heavier teaching loads or with lesser institutional infrastructure. I was just discussing this mechanism with someone and decided it was worth revisiting this topic to see if anyone in the commentariat had any additional advice or insight to landing an R15 / AREA award (PA-10-070). This post originally appeared December 4, 2008.


The Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA / R15) mechanism of the NIH is designed to:

support small research projects in the biomedical and behavioral sciences conducted by faculty and students in health professional schools, and other academic components that have not been major recipients of NIH research grant funds

Selectivity of eligibility is always a good thing for those that happen to qualify. Knowledge of such opportunities is a very good thing for those on the job market for a variety of reasons including your own comfort in moving to a less research-focused department/institute and your ability to wow the hiring department with your awareness. So the first thing to do is to check the list of eligible schools/components carefully. It can be the case that the University School of Medicine is ineligible whereas the normal undergraduate departments in the School of Arts and Sciences or whatever are eligible. Or, surprisingly perhaps to some, vice versa. In case you were wondering, the Program Announcement indicates that the criteria exclude academic components

that have received research grants and/or cooperative agreements from the NIH totaling more than $3 million per year (in both direct and indirect costs) in each of four (4) or more of the last seven (7) years.

Read the rest of this entry »

The R15 / AREA is one of my favorite NIH grant mechanisms, even though I’ve never been in a place that is eligible to apply for them. The whole idea is just so….positive and uplifting. In theory, these R15 awards are all about getting undergraduates involved in research science. From the professor’s perspective, this mechanism gives a chance at a set-aside pool of money for those investigators who operate under heavier teaching loads or with lesser institutional infrastructure. I was just discussing this mechanism with someone and decided it was worth revisiting this topic to see if anyone in the commentariat had any additional advice or insight to landing an R15 / AREA award (PA-10-070). This post originally appeared December 4, 2008.


The Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA / R15) mechanism of the NIH is designed to:

support small research projects in the biomedical and behavioral sciences conducted by faculty and students in health professional schools, and other academic components that have not been major recipients of NIH research grant funds

Selectivity of eligibility is always a good thing for those that happen to qualify. Knowledge of such opportunities is a very good thing for those on the job market for a variety of reasons including your own comfort in moving to a less research-focused department/institute and your ability to wow the hiring department with your awareness. So the first thing to do is to check the list of eligible schools/components carefully. It can be the case that the University School of Medicine is ineligible whereas the normal undergraduate departments in the School of Arts and Sciences or whatever are eligible. Or, surprisingly perhaps to some, vice versa. In case you were wondering, the Program Announcement indicates that the criteria exclude academic components

that have received research grants and/or cooperative agreements from the NIH totaling more than $3 million per year (in both direct and indirect costs) in each of four (4) or more of the last seven (7) years.

Read the rest of this entry »

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