July 11, 2011
GertyZ has a new post up at Balanced Instability which discusses the joys of Indirect Costs in the context of major grant awards, for our purposes we’ll focus on the NIH grant.
This is not a mere inconvenient detail of little direct importance to the PI, nor is it merely a topic for “Do it to Julia!” type solutions to the
A Twitt-scussion blew up [PP, avert your eyes, everyone else: @GertyZ, @profgears, @DoctorZen, @namnezia, @biochemmebelle, @multi_cellular, @salsb] which focused on the disposition of equipment when a PI left one University to take up a job at another. As we’ve discussed on several occasions, the NIH grant is awarded to the University or other Institution, not the PI who is named in (and in most cases wrote) the application. That means the starting position is quite simple:
The. University. Owns. EVERYTHING. Up to them to set policy RT @saban_lab but if you move will they hold on to that “stuff”?
May 20, 2011
I am not whinging.
ok. maybe a little. But not a lot. Because this has been the accepted deal for most of my NIH grant funded career in science. Grant awards get reduced from the amount that you have requested and the study section has approved as being appropriate for the work as described.
Notice OD-11-077 gives us the current version of the bad news.
Non-Competing Research Awards for All NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) Except the National Cancer Institute (NCI): The FY 2011 appropriation level specified in P.L. 112-10 reduces funding from FY 2010 levels and thus warrants reductions in commitment levels for NIH research grants. Non-modular research grants, from all ICs, with the single exception of NCI, will be reduced to 1 percent below the FY 2010 award level. Future year commitments will be adjusted for inflation based on this revised FY 2011 level, taking into account the policy assumption in the FY 2012 President’s Budget. Modular grants will be reduced to 1 percent below the FY 2010 level and may be reduced by an inflationary adjustment level set by each Institute or Center (up to the level set by that Institute or Center for non-modular research grants). The adjusted FY2011 award level will also be the new base for future year commitments.
(NCI is starting with a 3% base hit, btw)
So…what does this mean?
May 4, 2011
It is officially time to get a grip.
Over at writedit’s voluminous comment thread discussing NIH scores and paylines I ran across this gem:
rumor has it that NCI is limiting funding of new projects there, to prevent losing Institute dollars when that part of the portfolio moves to the new addiction institute
So if you’ve been following along, the NIH is planning to disband NIDA and NIAAA and launch a new Institute on Substance Abuse / Substance Use Disorders. Name is yet to be determined.
Also yet to be determined is the portfolio of such a new institute. It did not escape the attention of the sharp-eyed that there are substantial amounts of addictive-disorders related funding being handled by the NCI, a comparatively much larger Institute. So the present state of affairs appears to be an effort to take an accounting of various existing grant portfolios that are related to substance use and therefore might be best placed in the new Institute for all addiction-related science. This taskforce/working group accounting and proposing effort appears to be the latest kicking-the-ball-down-the-road strategy* for Francis Collins, Director of the NIH.
April 10, 2011
The question is posed by a new post from funkdoctorx:
The issue here is that the public does not understand what professors really do and how research works at the University level. Now, if you are a professor or postdoc reading this, think way back to the time when you were a first year graduate student. Remember how much there was to learn about the way the academic world, and academic research worked? Did you have much, if any, idea of this from your time as an undergraduate? I know I certainly didn’t grasp this at all. Even as a young post-doc I’m still working to understand how the system works despite being at it for 5+ years.
I was no different.
March 8, 2011
All the Investigators are strong….and the Environments are above-average.
The “Investigator” and “Environment” criteria have been an explicit part of NIH grant review since forever, and have been given approximately equal weight with Approach, Significance and Innovation.
The blurbs in the official NIH notice on the current scheme read:
Investigator(s). Are the PD/PIs, collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If Early Stage Investigators or New Investigators, do they have appropriate experience and training? If established, have they demonstrated an ongoing record of accomplishments that have advanced their field(s)? If the project is collaborative or multi-PD/PI, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise; are their leadership approach, governance and organizational structure appropriate for the project?
Environment. Will the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Are the institutional support, equipment and other physical resources available to the investigators adequate for the project proposed? Will the project benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, subject populations, or collaborative arrangements?
I always had the distinct impression these were essentially throwaway criteria because they were almost always rated very highly. Sometimes the “Investigator” criterion would be a place to cap on the more-junior career status or lack of productivity but for the most part it was treated very politely.
Sally Rockey has recently posted the verification of this impression on the OER blog.
February 16, 2011
So obviously the ESI/NI pickups and preferential payline strategies enacted around Fiscal Year 2007 or so worked to significantly increase the number of first time awardees. I make this out to be something on the order of 1,000-1,200 newly funded investigators in FY2010 over a ~2,2000-2,500 baseline back in FY2004-6. (Although if you check the last slide on the website, you’ll see that if you limit it to R01 equivalents, the trend is a lot less impressive.)
Most interesting, however, is the uptick in experienced investigators that seems to be associated with the doubling. Since we know that inflation and Bush era flatlined budgets essentially un-doubled the budget, well, we can see the problem here pretty starkly, no?
The number of experienced investigators being supported on NIH dollars has not fallen back anywhere near fast enough.
Some 2,000-2,500 experienced investigators were added to the books during the great doubling. At best this has been pared back to the tune of 800-1,000 investigators. While the first time investigators are up by a good 1,800 since the start of the doubling period.
I’ve been taking the piss out of PhysioProf for his observation that he thinks the NIH is intentionally trying to pare back the number of funded labs. I may have to reconsider my skepticism. Not only that, but reconsider where I stand on the *need* to drop significant numbers of investigators off the books. Five to fifteen percent, maybe even 20 percent…these are the numbers that might be necessary if inflation and flat budgets have really erased the budget doubling.
February 16, 2011
Isis the Scientist recently posted a letter from the FASEB regarding a proposal in the Congress to pass a continuing budget resolution that whacks $1.6 Billion from the NIH budget for the current fiscal year. That’s a whole lot of grants that won’t be funded.
I’ll join many of my blogging colleagues in urging you to click on [ This Link ] to find the phone number of the Washington DC office of your Congressional Rep and for you to make that call.
I’ll also suggest a few things you might want to have at the top of your list for communicating to the office staffer who answers the phone. This originally went up Oct 29, 2008.
Since many of our US readers are feeling jazzed about politics right about now, it is a good time to discuss Talking Points. You, DearReader, whether in the biomedical science biz or merely interested in some aspect of biomedical science, are the first line of attack in advocating for the continued health of our federally funded science enterprises. As we’ve all learned over the past 8 or even 16 years of US politics, crafting and honing messages to convey essential themes is critical to political success. Generating a mantra-chant and drumbeat of lemming feet on a consistent and limited set of bullet point topics is the way to cut through the noise and transmit the message. Call it framing or Talking Points or whatever you like.
I have a suggestion for how scientists may wish to approach their CongressCritters.
February 15, 2011
Ahh, just when the thoughtful, completely self-interest free prescriptions for saving the NIH extramural grant system from D. Noonan and Cedric Wesley were losing steam (see Odyssey for more), we have a new entry. This one is via an email chain letter from one Robert Benezra (PubMed; Institutional website; Research Crossroads). Unfortunately RePORTER doesn’t seem to generate a good link on a PI search but homeboy’s been very successful at the NIH game. He had a one year F32 in 89-90 and then a 7-8 year stretch to his first R01 but he’s been a busy beaver ever since. I note only three -01A1s on his list, one of which is competing renewal for a Program Project for which he’s only a component head. Benezra seems to have had multiple R01-level awards (some are P01 components) continually and he even has a mainline grant that survived a switch from NIGMS to NCI. The website seems to confirm that he runs an ~18-member lab operation.
In short, a guy who is as inside as you could wish (I mean I saw Harold Varmus listed as a component head of one of the Program Projects this guy is on) now has some complaints.
[Before we move on to my ramblings, you may wish to read a bit of pro/con debate from DrDra of BlueLabCoats and Comrade PhysioProf as a warmup. Additional from Prof-like Substance and Genomic Repairman.]
February 14, 2011
I haven’t had time to work on a response to yet more “Fix the NIH!” nuttiness but there’s been an email proposal for a petition circulating. It’s kind of like a “pass to 10 friends” kinda thing which gives it a fresh new flavor of wackaloonery.
At any rate, you might as well go read Physioprof’s take on this.
The letter authors seem to have forgotten that-while they may feel put upon that they only get a single resubmission-all their competition also only get a single resubmission. The playing field is still even, but in a context that should make peer review more efficient by substantially reducing “holding pattern” study section behavior. It will also reduce the PI behavior in response to “holding pattern” of submitting half-baked proposals they *know* aren’t fundable in order to “get in line” in the “holding pattern”.
February 8, 2011
…ASBMB Today, the monthly news magazine for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (www.asbmb.org/asbmbtoday).
Rumor has it that this is being passed around as if it represents the will of the damn people, or some such nonsense. And these diatribes from left field have a way of being used to support existing agendas at the NIH. Your voices of reason need to be heard so make sure to comment over at Rock Talk.
Oh, and go read Odyssey’s comment on mid-late career folks who simply will not listen to anyone about the quality or importance of their research programs.
Meet you back here after the jump…
February 4, 2011
I had no idea.
Many of us PIs in the US are used to trying to suss out, hopefully subtly, whether or not potential postdocs who are approaching us are US citizens.
This is not because we are all jingoistic bigots, it is rather because the NIH NRSA training grant (institutional or individual) requires that supported trainees
must be a citizen or a non-citizen national of the United States or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence
So if a potential postdoc qualified for the NRSA, there is at least the possibility of landing NIH support for the person’s stipend.
Conversely the thinking is that a non-qualifying person would be more limited in the types of additional support that are available.
Well a kind reader has alerted me to the F05 International Neuroscience Fellowship announcement which has been around at least since 2006. The purpose?
The goal of the International Neuroscience Fellowship (INF) is to advance the training of qualified foreign neuroscientists and clinicians at the early or mid-career level, by enhancing their basic, translational or clinical research skills in a research setting in the United States (U.S.). This program aims to strengthen the intellectual capital of neuroscience research in international institutions. Awardees are expected to pursue future independent and productive careers, which stimulate research in the neurosciences on a global scale.
Eligible individual applicants include non-immigrant foreign scientists at the early or mid-career level.
Sweet! NIH fellowships for foreign postdocs. wait, what about that tricky language about the host countries having to be sufficiently disadvantaged?
“All applicants must be from a low- to middle-income country based on Gross National Income per capita classified by the World Bank “
As my correspondent notes: “Scroll down to “lower middle income countries”. Note the presence of both China and India on that list.“.
Well, all good then, amirite?
I mean c’mon, don’t be worried domestic postdocs. After all
All applicants must have a doctoral or equivalent degree, and an endorsement from their home institution, with a guaranteed appointment upon completion of the fellowship.
What could go wrong?
February 4, 2011
For example, Paul would slash funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by 28 percent and for the National Institutes of Health by 37 percent. (An ounce of prevention might be worth a pound of cure but I guess we’re not paying for either one.)
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES…………..$26,510,000,000. (26%)
Notes: FDA is cut by $230,000,000; Indian Health Service is cut by $650 million; CDC is cut by $1.17 billion; NIH by $5.8 billion.
And Sen Paul’s overview [PDF].
January 28, 2011
A new post from Director Jeremy Berg of NIGMS gives an overview of the process by which his Institute makes final funding decisions. The part about the gray zone decisions was particularly interesting:
For each application, the responsible program director presents the scientific topic as well as factors such as whether the applicant is an ESI or new investigator, how much other support the applicant has (particularly if the application represents the only support available to the investigator), whether the Council has given us specific advice on the application, whether the scientific area is perceived to be particularly exciting, and how much other research we already support in the general area of the application. The other members of the unit listen to these presentations, and the group then produces a prioritized list of applications.
Emphasis added. Note that? Program staff have to be strong advocates for your application during the selection process that occurs in the dim twilight of the gray / pickup zone. This means you have to write an application that trips their triggers and that they can understand. This is almost as important as speaking clearly to the people who are reviewing your grant at the study section level. This is also why I point out that schmoozing Program staff at scientific meetings is your opportunity to advocate in a general way for the things that you feel are important in science, not just your specific proposal at the current time. You want to educate them and bring them around to your way of seeing things as a gut-feeling or belief. If they understand the arguments even before they see your specific application, they are going to be more equipped, more interested and therefore a better advocate for your proposal.
January 25, 2011
In a recent comment thread Comrade PhysioProf revisited a claim or insinuation he’s made before.
These changes–like almost all of the enhancing peer review changes–are really designed to hasten attrition of substantial numbers of marginal PIs/insitutions that were attracted into the system during the budget doubling of the late 90s/early 00s. These people/institutions need to be flushed from the system so that success rates can normalize.
Of course, this kind of plan cannot be openly sold to Congress, so it is packaged as “enhancing peer review” and “funding grants sooner”, but it is really all about making it easier for quality investigators to get their grants and more difficult for marginal investigators. If you were the kind of investigator who could never get a grant funded until you had been beaten to an A2 by study section, or who needed 25 full pages of preliminary data to convince a study section to fund your boring/incremental science, now you’re never gonna get a grant and you’re gonna be flushed.
He’s talking about me, so naturally I take umbrage at this assertion.
January 21, 2011
Arlenna’s post today alerted me to a brand new blog from the Office of Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health. The OER is, of course, the office that handles, well, us. The NIH funded extramural research community. Anyone who works in a lab that is funded by the NIH is under the umbrella of the OER in one way or another. The fact that they have taken up blogging is of more than a passing interest to those of us in the extramural research community that read and write blogs.
Rock Talk is authored by Dr. Sally Rockey (pictured), who is:
NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research, serving as the principal scientific leader and advisor to the NIH Director on the NIH extramural research program.
This is fantastic. She’s already jumping in to grapple with topics, such as Family Medical Leave and NIH policies in support thereof, that originally arose in the academic blogosphere.
That’s a win for you, Dear Reader. It means that someone very high up at the NIH is listening to your issues, ideas and complaints that you blurt out in this particular forum. Fantastic.
My advice is to put this on your blogroll, your RSS or whatnot. Stop by and comment. Nothing like traffic and commentary to convince an entity like the NIH that this is a valuable activity in which to engage. And who knows? Maybe some brilliant observation of yours will influence NIH policy.
crossposting from Scientopia