Why R21s Stink A Lot

September 23, 2009

A colleague of mine just sent me the following e-mail:

Dear Comrade PhysioProf:
I am reviewing an R21 A1 application that I did not review the original submission.
The stupid fuckers who reviewed the original submission dinged the only cool exploratory/developmental part of the whole fucking thing because it was a “fishing expedition” and “not well-supported by prelliminary data”, so the poor applicant cut that out in the resub. The only shit left is boring-ass crap that could just as easily be Specific Aim #2.A.1.c.ii of a boring-ass fucking R01.
Now I have to ding the poor fuck for not being “Developmental/Exploratory”.
Your Colleague

An article in the NYT [h/t: @salsb] is breathlessly aghast.

Managers at the National Institutes of Health are increasingly ignoring the advice of scientific review panels and giving hundreds of millions of dollars a year to scientists whose projects are deemed less scientifically worthy than those denied money.

The article gets a little better. It goes on to detail the NIH’s defense against the charge (see writedit link below) which boils down to “we’re saving the new investigators”. But it also continues with the skeptical tone that something is…wrong about Program re-shuffling the order of initial review when funding grants.
There is nothing wrong with this per se and in fact it is a good thing to have a multi-layered decision process.

Read the rest of this entry »