In a recent discussion over at Medical Writing, Editing & Grantsmanship, Comrade PhysioProf observed:

Much more important than the change in application format-and implemented with absolutely no community input that I am aware of-is the new study section policy that applications are discussed in the order of the preliminary scores, starting with the best and stopping when about 40% of the apps have been discussed or time runs out. This gives even more power to the assigned reviewers, as there is no longer even lip service given to the decision to triage, and no opportunity for a non-assigned reviewer to rescue an application from triage.

Prior to this new initiative, applications were reviewed by the study section in an order that did not depend on the initial priority score. This always seemed to be a good thing to me. My thinking was based on generic ideas that randomization of conditions would prevent any consistent biases related to review order. The underlying hypothesis being, on reflection, that the discussion of a given application would be influenced by the discussion of the prior application(s) and the timing within the two days allocated for discussion (Would you request that your application be reviewed at the end of the first long day?)
The new procedure is to review grants (grouped by mechanism or type) in the order of the initial priority score. CPP apparently thinks this is a bad thing.

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Dear Chairman

September 10, 2009

An Open Letter

Dear Chairman,
I was intrigued by your recent comments to the effect that you are frustrated by the level of involvement and interaction that you observe from junior faculty. I agree that we might expect greater things to result when members of the department collaborate scientifically. I appreciate that a Department is not a Department if the professorial rank staff do not interact with each other on common goals. As the leader, I understand that it is your job to try to elicit more than the minimum effort on so-called service work from your Department members.
I have a suggestion, which I believe is basic Management 101 stuff although it is possible that it comes from my roots in behavioral psychology. Have you ever thought about the needs of your Assistant Professors (and Assistant Adjunct Research Project Science Instructor Professors-in-Residence of Department)? Have you thought clearly about the contingencies that are in place which either encourage or discourage particular types of activity? Have you identified the roles played by the senior faculty and the University in providing the reinforcers and punishers?
The ranks of the more-junior independent scientists are facing a career environment that is entirely different from the one you faced at a similar stage. You would do best to realize this and interpret their actions accordingly…instead of wondering out loud why your Assistant Professors are not acting as you wish.
If I can leave you with two generalities, they are these. First you must listen to what your Assistant Professors (all of them) are saying to you. Don’t modify every comment by thinking the individual is “lazy” or “arrogant” or “selfish” or “narrowly focused” or “insufficiently committed to the career” or any such thing. Listen to what his or her specific needs are. Second, all of them need the support to get their research programs launched, productive and funded. In a way that makes their output look as independent as possible. They need research and supply money. They need real dollars to support trainees or they will never get off the ground. Try directing the slush funds their way, unasked for once. If you free up their time spent working on survival you may be surprised how enthusiastically they respond.