My feed for writedit’s comments keeps being populated with impatient applicants who have managed to land a decent-looking score on a NIH grant proposal. See this one.

The September council met on the 21st, and I have heard nothing. My R01 was scored at the 12th percentile and I am an ESI. I haven’t heard a thing yet, and my Commons status is “Council Review Completed.”

or this one:

The council meeting was over on September 1, and 3rd, mt erA commons sais `council review completed’. It still says the same. My PO is unreachable (has gone back to India until October 1st week). Does this mean I did not get the grant?

for the type.
This is understandable, given the importance of each grant award to the PI in question. But still, this is not mysterious stuff here folks. The timeline for getting a grant awarded is pretty clear.
Let’s take the current Fall Council rounds as an example. The applicants submitted their proposals back in Feb-Mar in most cases- with continuing submission, HIV-related grants and the odd RFA-related study sections, anywhere from January to mid April. These proposals were reviewed for the most part in Jun-Jul with the applicants receiving their scores about a week after the meeting and the summary statements several weeks later.
So they’ve been waiting a long time already. A borderline score makes things extra important when it comes to information about likely funding. Will the proposal sneak under the wire after all funds are accounted for in the IC? Will it really have zero chance, no matter the theoretical nonzero chance? Should, in point of fact, the applicant busy herself with revising the proposal for November or working on a new one for October? Or start planning preliminary studies for a Feb/Mar submission?
But folks, this part of the process is readily understandable.
Even if you have a 1%ile grant, NIH is not going to tell you it is funded until the Notice of Award is actually prepared. And that takes place in the week or two just before the first possible funding date. In this scenario, December 1. So no, you will not hear anything definitive until late November at the very earliest. Stop driving yourself crazy asking over at writedit’s place if the Commons status line will tell you anything. It won’t.
Now the bad news is that this particular round for funding has an extra-special annoying caveat. It is the first one of the new US federal fiscal year. That means that the ICs can’t commit to new awards until Congress passes the appropriations bill funding the NIH for the next year.
They never seem to get that passed on time and it often waits until Congress returns from vacation in late Jan/early Feb.
Sorry about that but you just have to chill.

As my disclaimer, I am one of those that reminds new (and not so new) applicants to the NIH for research funding to talk to the Program Officer. Early and often, just like voting. In the pre-submission phase you want to identify the line POs down in the Division and Branch structure of one of the funding Institutes or Centers of NIH who might be interested in your work. After review, the PO who was actually assigned to your application can give you invaluable feedback about how the review of your application went down. So I recommend calling this person.

Take their comments, however, in context. They don’t know everything. Even if they are sitting in the room, paying attention to the discussion of grants, this does not always mean they truly understand what is going down.

One of the times I get really frustrated with POs is when they are so fixated on the objective truth of peer review. They often act as though they believe that the review process really does work nearly perfectly. Most often when it comes to newbies. Consequently if you are coming up short on your proposals, in their worldview they think you are “not writing well enough”. Or need to (somehow without funding) provide more/better preliminary data.

So this advice gets reflected back on the poor applicant who 1) drives herself crazy trying to “improve” her writing (which is just fine already) or 2) goes back to the lab to find that perfect figure which which will guarantee this grant gets funded (no such thing).

Disastrously, this prevents said newbie from doing what she really needs to be doing which is to submit multiple good-enough grants. In the face of budgets which allow the funding of only a subset (a third? quarter?) of the grants which are excellent and interesting and impactful and all that jazz, review becomes variable. Meaning the difference between making it into a fundable score and just missing a fundable score takes on the appearance of chance. The only way to beat such odds is to give yourself more chances at the game. This means writing and submitting multiple applications (on different topics, of course).

Don’t mistake me. There IS a learning process for grant writing and it remains good advice for the new (and not so new) investigator to seek feedback from peers prior to submitting a grant and when doing the post-mortem after receiving the summary statement. But this can’t be taken too far. At some point, you are just driving yourself crazy with conflicting (good) advice from people who are in different situations from yourself or each other. And anyway, you can apply the stylistic and structural advice you have received to new application just as well as to the revision of your existing application, right?