I first saw the story break in a retraction notice published in PNAS.

The authors wish to note the following: “After a re-examination of key findings underlying the reported conclusions that B7-DCXAb is an immune modulatory reagent, we no longer believe this is the case. Using blinded protocols we re-examined experiments purported to demonstrate the activation of dendritic cells, activation of cytotoxic T cells, induction of tumor immunity, modulation of allergic responses, breaking tolerance in the RIP-OVA diabetes model, and the reprogramming of Th2 and T regulatory cells. Some of these repeated studies were direct attempts to reproduce key findings in the manuscript cited above. In no case did these repeat studies reveal any evidence that the B7-DCXAb reagent had the previously reported activity. In the course of this re-examination, we were able to study all the antibodies used in the various phases of our work spanning the last 10 years. None of these antibodies appears to be active in any of our repeat assays. We do not believe something has happened recently to the reagent changing its potency. Therefore, the authors seek to retract this work.”

Although curious as to who was the bad apple, given that all authors signed the PNAS retraction, I have to admit that “10 years” thing really got my attention. I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop…turns out it was a closet full of shoes.

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There’s really nothing else to say but “Discuss” for this comment.

I think people with a stay at home spouse should have an asterisk next to their name on their CVs and tenure documents, like baseball players who’ve taken steroids.

(You might want to also register a vote in Female Science Professor’s stay-at-home-spouse poll.)

There’s really nothing else to say but “Discuss” for this comment.

I think people with a stay at home spouse should have an asterisk next to their name on their CVs and tenure documents, like baseball players who’ve taken steroids.

(You might want to also register a vote in Female Science Professor’s stay-at-home-spouse poll.)

We have another version of bash-the-R21 brewing, for previous work from PhysioProf on the topic see here, here and here.
The discussion ended up touching on the paralytic meme that it is impossible to get an R01 funded without copious preliminary data testifying specifically and empirically that a large part of the proposal is/will be supported.

It doesn’t help me to say, “You should go for the R01″ when I have what I think are great ideas, prelim data to show the ideas are feasible, but not enough to justify an R01 or defend against “fishing expedition” criticisms. Not to mention a publication track record. I don’t resent this — if I was giving a PI $500K I’d give it to the PI who has years of great publications and boatloads of preliminary data too.
But this is why I (in a basic science dept) am primarily applying for NSF and R21s for now, hopefully in 1-3 years I’ll have the data for the R01. Is this wrong?

See what I mean about “paralytic”?

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We have another version of bash-the-R21 brewing, for previous work from PhysioProf on the topic see here, here and here.
The discussion ended up touching on the paralytic meme that it is impossible to get an R01 funded without copious preliminary data testifying specifically and empirically that a large part of the proposal is/will be supported.

It doesn’t help me to say, “You should go for the R01″ when I have what I think are great ideas, prelim data to show the ideas are feasible, but not enough to justify an R01 or defend against “fishing expedition” criticisms. Not to mention a publication track record. I don’t resent this — if I was giving a PI $500K I’d give it to the PI who has years of great publications and boatloads of preliminary data too.
But this is why I (in a basic science dept) am primarily applying for NSF and R21s for now, hopefully in 1-3 years I’ll have the data for the R01. Is this wrong?

See what I mean about “paralytic”?

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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