Truth in wackaloonery: A truly impressive rant about the state of the NIH

February 2, 2011

Found this fascinating suggestion over at the new blog of the head of the NIH Office of Extramural Research:

Place a diminishing formula of indirect costs on multiple grants (e.g. 100% for the first grant, 50% for the 2nd and 25% for the 3rd). This is by far the most abused aspect of NIH/DOD funding. Everyone knows that 99% of the investigators receiving a second and even a 3rd NIH grant receive little to no additional research space or administrative help. Nor is their usage of utilities exceptionally higher.

…ain’t that the truth*.

That is but a snippet so go read the whole exposition typed by one D. Noonan.

__
*of course the local University is going to argue that their IDC calculation is not really a per-grant or per-direct-cost-dollar calculation but that it includes this notion that some of their labs have more than one grant…

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No Responses Yet to “Truth in wackaloonery: A truly impressive rant about the state of the NIH”

  1. Katharine Says:

    Good time to be a grad student I suppose?

    … that is, when I can get into grad school, considering the dearth of undergraduate research opportunities in what I’m doing and the availability of funding out there and the astronomical GPA required to get them (I have a 3.5 cumulative GPA, 4.0 major GPA, fourteen bazillion science-related volunteer activities, and I’m finishing up my second year. Surely this is not something that’s going to make a PI go ‘Yep, that one’s CV goes in the trash’?) stomp stomp grrr argh.

    ‘Bout ready to stand out on the highway with a sign reading ‘Biology Major Needs Lab’.

    Like

  2. Carlos Merengue Says:

    The NIH and the biomedical scientists it funds are completely misaligned with the needs of society. What do they care as long as these “educators” keep getting their grants?

    At the same time, the entire system is rotten to its core. I have yet to meet a scientist that does not manipulate (or massage) data, and all in the name of “clarity.” It’s extremely hypocritical and unethical, considering that all of these people also preach “finding the truth.” Let’s face it, academic scientists will do anything to get their grants, even compromising their own moral values.

    That is why I am encouraged that the NIH budget is about to get an unprecedented cut. What’s more, I am so thrilled about it that I call my congressman every day to explain how cutting the NIH budget is the best way to flush the stinking toilet.

    For all of you that are about to lose your grants, funding, and jobs, I advise to start now looking for alternative career paths immediately, or you could very well end up like Douglas Prasher.

    http://scienceblogs.com/terrasig/2008/10/nobel_prize_heartbreak.php

    I saw that my last post generated some bitter responses. That’s OK, I don’t really care. But it doesn’t change the fact that there is a looming NIH budget cut coming. Sure, the NIH will try to limit grant amount and quantity, or something else. But don’t be in denial, none of that will save your job. The cut will just be too big to absorb. If you are lucky, maybe I won’t see you at my local car dealer driving a van like Douglas Prasher. What a loser!

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  3. How the fucken fucke did you even manage to read that fucken never-ending diatribe? It was like fucken War and Peace. Could you imagine having to be in a faculty meeting with that fucker?

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  4. drugmonkey Says:

    What are you talking about PP? That thing is a goldmine!

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  5. CD0 Says:

    This sounds like a bad case of jealousy, Carlos Merengue. Have you been recently rejected by a PhD program or a medical school, perhaps?
    The problem that I have with people like you is that one day they are diagnosed with advanced cancer or a painful terminal disease and then they demand more research and urgently. If that they arrives for you, I hope that you will beg for (and receive) medical treatment. Remember then that nothing (zero, nada) would have been possible without academic researchers.
    Until then, relax. So much hate is not healthy.

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  6. DM, what do you think of D. Noonan’s suggestion that we should can the triage system and review/score all grants? I feel like this would already tax an overworked review system.

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  7. drugmonkey Says:

    I don’t see the point, GR. It isn’t going to magically make a lower half application more competitive when revised. Especially when only a single revision is available. Noonan wants a return to endless revisions and that is something I don’t like. Not the idea of having a chance to improve but because it gets study sections into a mindset where only the revised versions are seriously considered.

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  8. Apparently they are claiming some sort of triage “bias”. Maybe the bias is that your grant sucks. I agree with scratching endless revisions, fuckwits would be turning in the same piece of crap with a new and improved figure every year.

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  9. drugmonkey Says:

    Noonan appears to think that 75%ile is going to be better than “triaged”. I’m not getting how he thinks this will work.

    Now, one interesting bit of NIH data I’d like to see would be the breakdown of triaged grants by preliminary score and whether they come back in resubmission, whether they make it to funding, etc.

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  10. Somewhere Jeremy Berg is working tirelessly to get you the data you desire.

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  11. drugmonkey Says:

    Well, perhaps his minions.

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  12. Monisha Says:

    Is the idea that if you know where in the triage pile you were, that somehow this could inform your revision decision?

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  13. ResearchPI Says:

    Have any of you applied for and recieved an NIH grant award? Noonan is only asking to go back to the previous method of being able to submit two more times after the first not “endlessly” or “every year”. The application has to be substantially improved or else it is not sent for review.

    In addition, if a grant is triaged, no reviewers’ comments are provided to the applicant. How is an investigator supposed to improve the grant application if no feedback is provided? The level (<10%) of funded applications is pushing more applications into the triage level.

    In my opinion, as a twice funded NIH principal investigator, most of the comments on this NIH site are valid and the United States biomedical research is in dire straits. This is largely due to funding through croney peer review and not fair evaluations of breakthroughs that will lead to the next great therapies.

    The NIH was not initiated to fund basic science but it has taken this on and more. The NSF has the role to fund basic science. But the lobbying by "big research institutions" has allowed unrealistic growth of research and the demise of funding.

    Futher, the obscenities written by PhysioProf shows why this person cannot read all of Noonans suggestions…..

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  14. “How is an investigator supposed to improve the grant application if no feedback is provided?”

    One would assume that the applicant has coworkers who could look at their grant and give feedback could they not? I can also only imagine how much more it would tax the already over-worked review system to review, score, and give summary statements for the other half of grants.

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  15. drdrA Says:

    Research PI-

    Reviews ARE provided on triaged applications. A triaged application is simply not discussed in the panel review session, so there is no discussion summary provided to the applicant. Feedback is not the problem- one problem is that one poor review can put you in the triage pile, even if you have two very positive reviews and neither of the positive reviewers is willing to fight for your application.

    And umm…. NIH does fund basic science in health related areas…. which NSF very specifically does not fund.

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  16. ResearchPI is a dumshitte with numerous gross factual errors in his comment:

    The application has to be substantially improved or else it is not sent for review.

    Wrong. There is no pre-review assessment of whether an application is “subtantially improved” before it is assigned to a study section and sent out for review.

    In addition, if a grant is triaged, no reviewers’ comments are provided to the applicant.

    Wrong. Detailed reviewer comments and criterion scores are provided for *all* grant applications, including those that are triaged.

    The level (<10%) of funded applications is pushing more applications into the triage level.

    Wrong. Paylines have no effect whatsoever on triage rates and do not “push” application into triage. The triage rate for R01s has been approximately 50% of applications for fucken years, and does not fluctuate with paylines or success rates.

    The NIH was not initiated to fund basic science but it has taken this on and more.

    Wrong. NIH was originally consituted to fund basic science *and* clinical research.

    a twice funded NIH principal investigator

    Given your abject fucken ignorance of how NIH and its peer-review system work, I am having a lot of trouble believing this.

    Like

  17. DrugMonkey Says:

    To remind: grants are reviewed by ~3 reviewers prior to the study section meeting. Critiques are written and submitted ~a week prior to the meeting. At te same time they upload their written critique, the assigned reviewers post preliminary scores. The average of these sets the ranking for triage purposes.

    Therefore all applications receive a summary statement w/ detailed critique.

    Also note that if *any* reviewer at the table for the actual meeting wants to discuss, the app is discussed and scored. So triages require the agreement of all three assigned reviewers *and* the rest of the panel that there is no point in discussing it.

    Like

  18. brooksphd Says:

    PhysioProf. I fukken love you dude.

    Like

  19. Singingscientist Says:

    Some of you are short sighted arrogant pricks and the best thing that can hapen to you is that you suddenly…10 or 20 years into your career get repeatedly triaged on grants that are not crap…as gr (may you burn in hell gr) suggests. Sometimes a good grant gets triaged because someone has a bone to pick and is completely uninformed but is so persuasive that everyone else is swayed. I have often seen the most negative reviewer sink a grant and rarely seen the positive reviewer bring one up. Gr and pp don’t point fingers and tell those of us who have suffered the slings and arrows of buffoon reviewing that we are lame. And if you need a recommendation for that head from ass surgery just say the word.

    Like

  20. DrugMonkey Says:

    Singsci, the point is that *everyone* suffers this fate, now and again.

    Like

  21. BenSmith7 Says:

    I have considered commenting on this blog. It is interesting to hear the real voices of scientists, but the problem is that two writers (DrugMonkey and ComradePhysioProf ) dominate and are so unnuanced; they are just such relentless predictable boosters of the status quo and never seem to see or acknowledge the real problems in the current grant review system. It is absolutely true that one or two reviewers with sloppy arrogant reviews, not infrequently flat out misreading, can now and often do sink an outstanding grant. I am seeing careers end from this. Really good scientists leave, even choosing the expatriate route or industry route in their 50s, saying fuck this, I’m not taking it anymore.

    Like

  22. DrugMonkey Says:

    true that one or two reviewers with sloppy arrogant reviews, not infrequently flat out misreading, can now and often do sink an outstanding grant.

    never said this was not the case. what I tend to argue is 1) this has always been true, especially for those of us who are early to late mid career, 2) it happens far less IME on grant review than the peanut gallery would have us believe, 3) trying to come up with a real world system that eliminates this possibility is a fool’s errand and 4) most imp0rtantly, whining about it feels good but doesn’t get the job done….and our primary goal around here is to help people improve their own personal chances

    I am seeing careers end from this. Really good scientists leave,

    I doubt the numbers will turn out to reflect the complaining / dire predictions, personally. But let us grant that this is true. My position is to remind you that it is no less unfair that those who are younger, trained and in a previous environment would have landed a job/grant are also at risk. Careers that never have a chance to start are no less important in this equation than those who are in middle or nearing the end. In fact from a practical investment standpoint, are we better off saving a 60 year old PI’s lab for another 5 years or launching a 35 year old on her 30 year career? (this, of course, depends on you backing the person-based approach to funding over the strict project-based approach)

    choosing the expatriate route or industry route in their 50s, saying fuck this, I’m not taking it anymore.

    I have seen many people who I know well and respect as scientists choose this route (as well as various downgrades of the NIH-heavy game within academia) stretching across from the doubling era into the present day. People who were on the grant skids at the time they jumped, yes. But also several individuals who seemed to be enjoying a decent run of NIH funding and with prospects looked to be excellent moving forward. The vast majority are very happy with their decisions and the directions that their careers moved. So I’m not buying that it is a bad thing in all cases…maybe some of these folks were just looking for an excuse, even if subconsciously. maybe they were never really comfortable with the grant game in the first place and anything other than 75% paylines wouldn’t have made them happy anyway.

    Like

  23. whimple Says:

    The vast majority are very happy with their decisions and the directions that their careers moved… …maybe some of these folks were just looking for an excuse, even if subconsciously. maybe they were never really comfortable with the grant game in the first place…

    Are you talking about all those women leaking out of the pipeline?

    Like

  24. drugmonkey Says:

    A nonzero number of my anecdata are women, yes.

    Like

  25. drugmonkey Says:

    Do note whimple that we’re talking the population which made it to professorial rank in this context.

    Like

  26. whimple Says:

    Sure, I just thought the apologist-sounding language was ironic coming from you.

    Like

  27. Chebag Says:

    “ironic” whimple? IRONIC??? These guys are nothing if not apologists for the status quo at NIH and the whole damn NIH-funded system! They fiddle while Rome burns….

    Like

  28. whimple Says:

    Sure Chebag, but you have to take into account that Rome might actually be happier after being burned, and might even have been subconsciously looking for someone to set it on fire. Really, Rome wasn’t very comfortable in the unburned state anyway.

    Like


  29. […] rant left by D. Noonan about the problems with the NIH grant awarding system has led to a spate of responses in the science bloggysphere. I really don’t agree with Noonan at all, although I […]

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