February 2, 2011
A lengthy comment on the new blog of the head of the Office of Extramural Research at the NIH is an absolute goldmine. One of the specific proposals is that the NIH should now have a special initiative to fund grants for investigators who have previously held NIH awards but do not currently hold NIH funding.
Create funding vehicles that emphasize funding of smaller research operations…As done with the New Investigators, create a category of “Unfunded Established Investigators” and fund this category in the 25-30% range.
No offense but this bloody well already exists.
1) When they were using the R56 Bridge mechanism liberally, I seemed to notice that it was going preferentially to established investigators. You know, the long time buddies of Program staff who just happened to be hitting a dry spot.
2) When the squeeze came down around 2006 or so, I had conversations (Hi Ed!) with more than one PO in which they made it overwhelmingly clear they were all about “saving” their established investigators who were (allegedly) “going to have to close their labs”. My point that these folks had hard money jobs with tenure and were not at the same risk as newly minted Assistant Professors fell on deaf ears, I can tell you. As did my points about so what if they can’t compete, what about those of us who ‘should’ be just hitting our stride who fully deserve the multiple awards if we can successfully compete for fundable scores.
3) We’ve talked several times about the psychology of the study section and the way people are biased in ways that do not follow the strictest assessment of the merits of an application. It is a human endeavor and it is simply ignorant to pretend human judges are ‘unbiased’, or ever could be. One of the biases is that experienced investigators are more like the reviewers and therefore the reviewer sympathies are going to be with their generational peers, not the n00bs.
So no, I don’t favor a creation of a special category of help for experienced investigators who run out of funding. Yes, even though that would in theory be to my own benefit some day.