A measured response to a “Bring back the A2” email that is circulating

February 14, 2011

I haven’t had time to work on a response to yet more “Fix the NIH!” nuttiness but there’s been an email proposal for a petition circulating. It’s kind of like a “pass to 10 friends” kinda thing which gives it a fresh new flavor of wackaloonery.
At any rate, you might as well go read Physioprof’s take on this.

Delusional Biomedical Researchers Seek Repeal Of Arithmetic

The letter authors seem to have forgotten that-while they may feel put upon that they only get a single resubmission-all their competition also only get a single resubmission. The playing field is still even, but in a context that should make peer review more efficient by substantially reducing “holding pattern” study section behavior. It will also reduce the PI behavior in response to “holding pattern” of submitting half-baked proposals they *know* aren’t fundable in order to “get in line” in the “holding pattern”.

double doc seems to like the letter.

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6 Responses to “A measured response to a “Bring back the A2” email that is circulating”

  1. Birger Johansson Says:

    (OT)
    “Swedish alcoholism drug awaits human study” http://www.thelocal.se/32032/20110214/
    “The preclinical findings were remarkable, incomparable to other substances screened for alcoholic intake reducing agents and superior to anything else I’ve ever seen. It has great potential in humans”

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  2. becca Says:

    I’d love to see the data from NIGMS, but I believe that the notion that n00bs benefit more from more revisions is plausible. I know people who have gotten key preliminary data during the revision process (obviously, study sections are harder on n00bs when it comes to feasibility, and the best answer for that is usually preliminary data).

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  3. DrugMonkey Says:

    I believe that the notion that n00bs benefit more from more revisions is plausible.
    Depends on what you mean by “benefit”. If you mean that they can squeak into funding they would have otherwise not obtained, yes. If you realize that this throws a 9-mo delay into receipt of funding they would have obtained anyway..not so much. The key question is whether revising the (eventually fundable) proposal actually improves the eventual conduct of science or whether it is a grantsmithing exercise that has no real impact on the objective worth of the plan or the eventual conduct of the science. Care to guess which way I lean?
    I know people who have gotten key preliminary data during the revision process
    What does “key” mean? Data that beats the study section into submission as being similar to that that can be generated by an established lab in the last year of their prior award? Or “key” in the sense that a massive error in the research plan was headed off in a way that wouldn’t just as easily have been found if the poor PI had the grant already and was off to the races? If the former, you are just restating the bias against newbs. If the latter, well I’d like to see the evidence for this.

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  4. becca Says:

    The question is not does it affect the conduct of science of the grants that get funded. The question is: does it affect the specific individuals who are funded? If there is any change in the population of funded investigators as a result of the elimination of the A2, I would not anticipate it to work for people attempting their first R01.
    “key data” in the former sense- data that better demonstrates feasibility. My point is, given the bias against n00bs, which the amount of payline adjustment is unlikely to completely compensate for, the extra time can be advantageous.

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  5. DrugMonkey Says:

    I think you are assuming, becca, that limitation to a single revision will have no effect on the culture of review. So it will be same-old, same-old only with one less round.
    I disagree. I think there is the chance that this will have the desirable effect of pushing more reviewers toward the fish-or-cut-bait that I would prefer. To look past minor issues that amount to grantsmithing and to focus on the bones of the proposal. It also gives discussion point “hand” to those who are already disposed in this direction to beat up those reviewers who want to hold to the old ways. The new review criteria and shorter apps also provide this *chance*.
    As I always advocate, however, if this does not actually work, then the solution must be to fix study section behavior. NOT to go back to the old way which also doesn’t work.

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  6. BugDoc Says:

    [As I always advocate, however, if this does not actually work, then the solution must be to fix study section behavior. NOT to go back to the old way which also doesn’t work.]
    I agree that going back to the old way may not be the BEST way, but it is achievable. I would like to hear your specific thoughts on how to fix study section behavior as a alternative proposal. There are a lot of issues that have come up on the boards about undesirable aspects of study section that diverge from the general agreement on how constructive peer review should performed. Some examples from various threads: pushing off seriously considering a grant until the A1 (or A2), bias against new investigators, lazy or destructive reviewing. How should reviewers be made more accountable for all of these things? If a system could be devised for that purpose, I would be all in favor of it rather than bringing back the A2.

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