Throwing NI's under the bus

June 23, 2011

Look folks, the NIH made it pretty clear when they created the ESI designation that the NI designation absent ESI qualification was going to disappear. Borrowed time, IMO. So it is a little silly to parse individual IC policy statements and claim that if you weren’t warned specifically that this is some kind of underhanded throwing under the bus or changing rules in midstream.

I mean, if the latter is the principle, I’m sure you were on the barricades when they started extending the extra payline cutoff points to the ESI and/or NI applications, right?


No Responses Yet to “Throwing NI's under the bus”

  1. ScienceGeek Says:

    To clarify, people who took time off to care for kids/parents/self(accident) have no chance of taking advantage of the better NI/ESI paylines?


  2. DrugMonkey Says:

    There is a policy which addresses extensions to ESI status for these reasons, yes.


  3. Genomic Repairman Says:

    Goddamn Eurogeezers forced into EU-mandated retirement washed up on our shores and took advantage of the NI.


  4. slartibartfast Says:

    Has anyone ever quantified the magnitude of this “eurogeezer” effect? Are 50% of NI grants funded to people previously funded in other countries? 25%? 10%? 5%?

    In an era in which fewer academic positions are available, and “CSN” science takes longer and longer postdoc tenures to accomplish, it seems that the blind timeframe for ESI status is also not in the true spirit of the mechansim…


  5. drugmonkey Says:

    I personally don’t think it was all Eurogeezers. It was a combination of factors that included some foreign investigators, recently hired, some folks coming out of industry or government labs, some folks that had traditionally relied on NSF or DOD or other major funding sources, etc. The only consistent factor was that they were folks with an established track record of funding that just didn’t happen to be from the NIH.

    As far as I am aware when the NIH came to this alleged sudden realization they did not ever publish any numbers. They have them internally, one assumes.

    I agree with you that it would have been more consistent with the original intent of the NI checkbox to simply refine the rules based on prior funding history (regardless of whether it was NIH or not) or time since asst prof appointment or something more specific.

    If you take it in context with their motivating figure (i.e., the 43 year old time to average first R01 award) you can see why they chose to focus on timeline since the degree. While it is not helping those caught at the wrong time (past ESI limit, still a New Investigator), the long game here is an attempt to reverse the broader trends. By applying market pressures that will come to bear on individuals and hiring institutions as well. This is a good thing, in my view.


  6. Genomic Repairman Says:

    Was joking about the Eurogeezers, but my old boss was one of these folks that took advantage of the NI designation. He, like DM said, subsisted off of NSF and DoD $ for a while before trying to poke his finger in the NIH pie. Our lab had multiple DoD grants but thanks to the NI rules, we got the newbie bump as well.


  7. whimple Says:

    I think the motivation for ESI (vs NI) was straight-up age discrimination, nothing more.

    The Eurogeezer concept was just pseudo-plausible cover, and not very convincing, since the Institutes always had the power to skip funding grants with NI-range scores from people with an extensive funding history, if that’s the way they wanted to play it.


  8. DrugMonkey Says:

    Always remember whimple that the NIH is highly motivated to make it all look good. So the farther away from the payline, the harder the justification for pickups. Now me, being the cynic that I am, I tend to believe that from an institutional perspective they 1) didn’t really appreciate that the experienced NI was getting the $$ and the genuine NI was still hosed; and 2) they didn’t really care anyway. In that order.


  9. Pinko Punko Says:

    There is no reason for a NI bump of the individual has a track record and is established. They will not have the same issue of scope and preliminary data that an ESI will have- in fact there is every advantage for NI proposals given that the bar for funding is going to the nth tiebreaker now. Everybody has a perfect SAT score, but how many instruments do you play- that sort of thing.


  10. becca Says:

    DM- First, I think it’s a sad commentary on the politics of the people you engage with that you think describing something as “applying market pressures” counts as a *redeeming* characteristic. But secondly, I don’t think you can reasonably say this is simply NIH applying “market pressures” anymore than you can say the fed subsdizing student loans applies market pressures to focus universities to emphasize education.
    NIH is applying regulatory pressure, just in an indirect fashion.
    I don’t see how it is meaningfully different from NIH saying “we won’t fund anyone over 65, for any reason” or “no NIH dollars to support anyone over 40 as a student or postdoc”. Or “all universities that take longer than 3 years to graduate any PhD student loose all NIH $”. There are lots of ways NIH could shorten the path to independence, for realz. Denying the ESI carrot to oldies is not as dramatic as those more drastic threats to the status quo, but the fact the intervention is indirect (ineffective?) doesn’t make it “applying market pressure”.


  11. DrugMonkey Says:

    becca, you seem to forget that I have frequently expressed considerable frustration that the NIH favors these stupid half-way measures instead of telling Universities what to do. I have previously opined that the NIH need only set targets for hard money, Asst Prof jobs at the point of a threat to fund no more awards Uni-wide. That would have an effect, let me tell you.

    I find it as ludicrous as you do that they are willing to make a selected number of things boilerplate dictates and yet pretend they are helpless on other matters


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