The CSR peer review opinion seeking goes local…

October 2, 2007

As I mentioned before the CSR of the NIH issued a Request for Information on several topics of interest to the process of grant review and award over the summer. This is part of a serious effort to generate some changes to the NIH review/award process (NIH Director Zerhouni has convened an Advisory Council co-chaired by Dr. Keith Yamamoto, Executive Vice Dean, School of Medicine, UCSF and Dr. Lawrence Tabak, Director, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH). According to a Nature piece that came out around the (extended) RFI deadline for comments only about 2,000 comments were received. Let’s put this in perspective, shall we?

A small, focused academic research society might run anything from a few hundred members up to a couple of thousand. That is just the dues-paying membership so we might add on at least another 20% of frequent attendees who don’t pay dues for one reason or another and then (at least) double to account for trainees in those members/attendees labs. A single university’s academic division such as a school of medicine or a division of biological sciences might easily run to the same numbers of NIH funded investigators and associated staff. Even the small, independent nonprofit research institutes run to a couple of hundred PIs, again with associated trainees and staff it balloons to at least 1,000 interested parties in a hurry.

2,000 responses to the RFI sucks people. It just sucks. On the other hand it also points out why you, yes you, should bother to get involved with these issues directly. Because most people can’t be bothered. So instead of one scientist – one vote, you get to vote for the lazy hordes and substitute your opinion for theirs. “…but the RFI period closed?” you say.

Closing with the main point, it appears that Drs. Yamamoto and Tabak are now taking the RFI local by leaning on your universities and research institutions to come up with a local point-person to respond to the same issues raised in the RFI. So there is a decent chance somebody at your institution will come calling for your input on the questions, once again. Do it, will ya? It’s your opportunity to make up for being a complete tool and missing the last RFI.

4 Responses to “The CSR peer review opinion seeking goes local…”

  1. PhysioProf Says:

    “2,000 responses to the RFI sucks people. It just sucks.”

    Maybe people realize that fiddling around with the peer review system is a waste of time and effort.


  2. drugmonkey Says:

    Fair enough, could be. If by this you mean, it doesn’t matter how they nudge it here and there, things will still stay essentially the same. Related to this, presumably the informed (ha!) PI thinks that the kinds of changes being bandied about are unconcerning. I disagree, of course.

    I suspect that there is an agenda steaming ahead with two possible alternatives for the direction of change. One, the politicos are going to do what they want anyway and all of this RFI-ing and Advisory Council-ing is just cover. In which case comment and participation is indeed a waste of time. Two, they are serious about seeking ideas. In which case we have the old saw about the squeaky wheel on which to rely. In addition, those of us that have had any sort of brush with retail politics realize that if you do bother to speak up, you get to represent more than just yourself. You get to stand for a fraction of those apathetic types who aren’t participating. The flip side of this is that if you don’t speak up, someone else’s opinion is being substituted for yours. Based on the type of PI whom I see having a disproportional voice already, well, I’m not keen on having them speak for me.


  3. physioprof Says:

    “Based on the type of PI whom I see having a disproportional voice already, well, I’m not keen on having them speak for me.”

    What type of PI is that?


  4. drugmonkey Says:

    I’m sure it will come as no surprise I’m talking about my old friends, Dr. Greybeard and Professor Bluehair.

    In all seriousness though, the point is more general and I’m not really talking about the same person or perspective for every possible scenario or critique I might have of the system.

    Older versus younger is but one issue. Scientific domains are important. The push and pull between basic and more-applied (actually leaning more my way at present). Gender and minority representation. Centers versus R01s.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: