The end of two NIH annoyances

May 23, 2008

Perusing the list of NIH Funding Opportunities and Notices for this week I find two notices of great interest.
PureEdge and CCR registration are dead!

First, the much hated Pure Edge system for assembling a grant application will be replaced with an Adobe PDF based system starting December 2008. About time. Pure Edge was an absolute nightmare from most PI’s perspective and it was unbelievable to me that the first electronic submission solution wasn’t PDF based. I did hear rumor in the early part of this year that there were some bugs in the new PDF-based system from an institutional representative to some roll-out meeting. Apparently the issue was that one could not open the files with Adobe Acrobat, which was perplexing at the time. The fact that this notice specifies Adobe Reader is a bit worrying that perhaps there is still an issue. I haven’t used Adobe Reader based fillable forms but surely they corrected the most annoying flaw with Pure Edge? Namely the nightmarish inability to re-use previous grants as the template for the next one?
Second, grant reviewers will no longer have to sign up with the CCR system. This thing is a government-wide registration for contractors and was previously required in order to receive one’s honorarium for grant review service. Registration for it was annoyingly complex and one was required to update one’s registration each year. Worse, this put one on the junk mail list and I keep getting useless solicitations. Apparently they will now just send you a check (imagine!) while they look for a better solution to automatic deposit.
All PI geekery aside, a little tidbit for the trainees. You did sign yourself up to receive the weekly NIH guide table of contents via listserv or for the RSS feed, right?
“But DM”, you say “I’m just a postdoc, why do I need to read about RFAs that I can’t possibly apply for?”
Well, first of all, plenty of the Notices are just NIH bid’ness of one type or another. It is just good practice to be aware of what is going on in the larger world in which your career exists. You’ll start gradually absorbing all sorts of tidbits that will be useful to you later as a PI. And trust me, the more you can learn before week 1 of your new appointment, the better.
Second, many of the items are Program Announcements rather than Requests for Applications. PAs run for three years and are frequently renewed. These give you a broad look at the sorts of things ICs that are most relevant to your work and therefore most likely to fund your future work concentrate on. Who knows? You may even find that they trigger some ideas that lead to little side projects which you can take with you after leaving your current lab.
Third, your PI may be overworked and just not notice a perfectly targeted RFA that says “This is for YOUR lab” in big blinking lights. Maybe this will turn into your opportunity for practicing writing a grant. Maybe it will turn into funding for the lab that gives you a chance to do something cool? Maybe you can put together the cool multi-lab collaboration from the ideas triggered.
Fourth, I’ve just recently noticed that even RFAs can be re-issued, sometimes for several years running. I mentioned one example here. So even these can get you on a long term plan for work that you might be considering.

15 Responses to “The end of two NIH annoyances”

  1. Mary Says:

    Oh, man, Pure Edge! We wrestled with that when it first arrived. Someone at the NIH actually said they felt bad for us because we were among the first submission rounds when they rolled it out.
    Not sorry to hear of that going away. Thanks for that day-brightener!


  2. VWXYNot? Says:

    The switch isn’t coming quite early enough for my liking, but at least this next application should be the last time we go through the PureEdge nightmare.


  3. juniorprof Says:

    PureEdge was the worst excuse for a program I have ever seen. Mac people are rejoicing everywhere!


  4. PhysioProf Says:

    PureEdge and CCR both suck ass!! Good riddance!!


  5. Maybe because I use a PC, I didn’t find Pure Edge to be nightmarish — don’t get me wrong, it is still a pretty fucking bad program.
    Also, last time I submitted a proposal (over a year ago now) wouldn’t let me operate through Firefox—I had to go through Explorer. Has that changed yet?
    Also, DM and PP, I know you get this a lot but man I wish I’d had such advice a decade ago—“It is just good practice to be aware of what is going on in the larger world in which your career exists”—
    Fortunately, I did eventually learn, and “You may even find that they trigger some ideas that lead to little side projects which you can take with you after leaving your current lab” pretty much sums up how I got to the branch of my career that I am currently on.


  6. NeuroStudent Says:

    Along the lines of Anonymoustache…I love the advice that I get from reading the blogs (DM & PP, drdrA, juniorprof, etc.)…it’s like having multiple mentors who will actually teach you the stuff that no one ever teaches you…keep up the great work!!
    I’m only a soon to be defending grad student, but I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to go ahead and sign up for the NIH-TOC, especially since I’d like to stay in academic science for my career. My real-life mentor, who is great with mentoring about the bench-science stuff, tends to like to protect his students from any sort of political-science stuff (funding, etc.)–I think it’s slightly silly, but have just learned to go elsewhere (blogs) for advice on these things. Some of it may be that he never got advice on any of this and therefore doesn’t realize that he should be giving advice about these things to his trainees…
    anyway, I’m really glad that you exist out here in the blogosphere, please keep the advice coming–I’m sure that many readers appreciate it.


  7. juniorprof Says:

    Neurostudent, Thanks! Another thing is that those NIH-TOCs contain info on fellowships on occasion. Once that defense is done its time to start writing that NRSA (or other fellowship/transitional application).


  8. DaleP Says:

    Check out the pdf forms. The pdf fillable forms we have used can NOT be saved from Reader. If you look at literature, this is a feature, not a bug. However, we have been able to use Acrobat Standard to fill out and save the filled forms. If this doesn’t work for you, you still have your problem. As I remember, there is another version of Acrobat Reader for large institutions that lets you save forms, but if I remember right, it doesn’t make sense unless you are buying hundreds fo site licenses.


  9. drdrA Says:

    uuuuugh. Electronic submission. We have a grants office that does all the filling of forms and submitting so I don’t actually have to deal with PureEdge myself…but they always want the finished text at least 7 days before the actual deadline so they can make absolutely sure it gets uploaded correctly. Perhaps now they will be able to ease up on that a little…
    Also, Neurostudent- thanks for the kind words!! You will have mentors from many walks of science that all have talents in different areas… you will learn little bits from each of them!


  10. BiophysicsMonkey Says:

    What was especially strange about the decision to use PureEdge is that NSF’s pdf-based Fastlane system had been running relatively smoothly for years by the time NIH finally got around to setting up an electronic submission system. Why didn’t NIH just copy that?
    I’m led to wonder which senator’s son/daughter owns the company that makes PureEdge.


  11. Damn CCR! I still can’t figure how to get off the e-mail lists for all of these fedmarket solicitations. Good riddance.
    Now we can look forward to the day when new asst profs are complaining about the Adobe-based system where we can say, “Ah, you young whippersnappers, why I remember when we had to use PureEdge. . .and we liked it!”
    /old-man voice


  12. Thanks DM–I’m signing up now. Had no idea this kind of thing even existed. You and PhysioProf are so educational.
    In such different ways.


  13. Becca Says:

    Useful advice, now with links!
    I just signed up for the listserv. RSS feeds still confuse me a bit, to be honest.


  14. AP: “Damn CCR! I still can’t figure how to get off the e-mail lists…”
    CCR: “I put a spell on you…..”
    It should have been called CSR for Central Spam Registry. That way you could’ve cussed out them as well as the review system with “Damn CSR!”….Ah well.


  15. Let me just pile on, and add that Pure Edge sucks.


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