I have blogged, now and again, about the ~four-tiered nature of the selection process for NIH grant awards. These consist of initial peer-review, Program Officer expression of programmatic interests, the National Advisory Council (of peer scientists) for each Institute or Center of the NIH and the Director of each IC. We tend to clump the latter three into “Program”, since they really all do express the interests of a particular IC whereas the initial peer review process focuses so strongly on the quality of the science and the strength of the overall proposal.
Unlike the apparent position of many fellow scientists, I have no problem with this multi-tiered selection process nor, more pointedly, do I have a problem when Program interests override or overturn the strict priority order / priority score that comes out of initial peer review.
I have even mentioned now and again that I think a little more transparency from Program on how they select applications outside of the review order would go a long way to damping down the whinging.
A bit of Program Officer transparency has emerged, however, that gives me pause.

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What is the point of NIH having dual assignment of grant applications if it ends up being a huge negotiating hassle to even get the second IC to consider picking up the award if the primary passes on it? And how many successful secondary pickups of applications are there?

I really should apologize to my readers who get their feelings hurt when 1) I bash GlamourMag science and 2) CPP bashes society journal level science. I just couldn’t figure out how to make it something other than a nonpology. So the nonpology version is, sorry dudes, sorry that your feelings are hurt if there is some implication that you are a trivial fame-chasing, probably data faking GlamourHound. also, if the ranting that I trigger from certain commenters has the effect of making you feel as though you are a trivial, meaningless speedbump who is wasting NIH dollars better spent on RealScientists who do RealGrandeWorkEleven. The fact is, CPP and I are in relatively comfortable situations compared with many of our readers. It is no secret that we have jobs and grant funding. Although it is true that both of us are not above making an exaggerated point for dramatic discussion-encouraging purposes, it is probably no surprise that we come from distinctly different points of view ForRealz on this particular issue. Speaking only for myself in this case, I’ve been around long enough and enjoyed enough of what I consider to be success in what I want to do as a scientist that it tends to insulate me against criticism. I get that this is not true for all of you. If my intent in raising these issues (i.e., to show that the dominant meme is not reflective of the only way to have a career) backfires for some of you, I do regret that.

Louis CK is so fucking funny it makes my teeth hurt.

Sen Tom Coburn is a jerk but he comes from a long tradition of right wingers trying to make hay out of ridiculing science. Don’t fall for it. [update: read Namnezia, Neurodojo and Dr.O on this issue]

I still haven’t worked out if the idea that there are a host of “good” postdocs out there if the PI could only get them to come to their lab is a pleasant fantasy, a recipe for mentoring disaster or a truth that is only available to that guy, over there.

What IS it with people who arrive at these unshakable assumptions about others based on only the tiniest sliver of the available evidence, and cling fast to these assumptions no matter the additional evidence?


This kind of dude is a stone cold professorial mensch for doing thankless labor on behalf of very young would-be scientists. Really. I mean that.

Huh, I wonder how the Britlandisher science blog collective has been getting along?

I just don’t get what is in the heads of these journalists. Look at sports journalists. They get the box score right. They pursue the injury story, ask questions, do the follow up. Heck, they even do follow up on contract negotiations FFS. Coverage of a drug story in the press, though? Forget about it. No details, no followup. A million stories in the news these days about “bath salts” or “plant food” and allegations of emergency room visits and overdose deaths. Do you think we EVER see followup stories with definitive identification of the drug content (methylenedioxypyrovalerone and 4-methylmethcathinone, we presume)? Never. Journalism sucks.


Update 2: Oh, man, this Gallup poll on estimating the proportion of Gay-Americans is gonna reverberate. I would’a said 5-10% myself. Srsly though, 43% of Democrats think more than 25% of Americans are gay? Really?