The R56/Bridge mechanism of the NIH is called the High Priority, Short-Term award

will fund, for one or two years, high-priority new or competing renewal R01 applications with priority scores or percentiles that fall just outside the funding limits of participating NIH Institutes and Centers (IC). Investigators may not apply for R56 grants.

Sounds good right? It gets better:

The R56 award will help early career stage scientists trying to establish research careers as well as experienced scientists who can benefit from interim funding while they revise their applications.

Woo-hoo! Sign me UPPE!!!!

Except, sigh, they don’t fund very many of these. Or at least my ICs of interest never seem to be that interested in giving me a hand while I revise my awesome applications. And in fact I seem to see these things quite often awarded to year -2xA1 projects and fairly infrequently awarded to noobs. But that’s kind of subjective….

I took a search REPORTER for R56 awards since July 1. And sorted by the IC.

WOWSA. First thing I noticed is that my ICs of closest interest aren’t handing (m)any of these out right now. So, sucks for me. But at least I don’t have to whinge about fairness.

NIAID and NIDDK however clearly LOVE these things. Just LOVE the R56. I count 88 of the 1R56 awards out of 136 from NIAID and an additional 30 from NIDDK. The next biggest players are NIDCR with 5 and NIMH with 4, not even close.

I noticed something else interesting. 72 of 136 are for A1 versions of the proposal.

NIAID seems to be the ONLY IC to fund R56s for competing continuations, picking up 17 of them. Some for original submissions sure, but some for A1 revision.

I emphasize. The A1 version of applications are being awarded R56s. Which can’t be revised. And can’t be resubmitted except in clearly-different guise. Yet the announcement clearly says the R56 is for preparing a revision of a just-miss, meritorious proposal.

So what in the hell are these being awarded for? One might ask.

Now I didn’t delve down into trying to determine who was a new investigator versus and established investigator. Mostly I was hoping to complain about my favorite ICs where I could sort based on name recognition with this little exercise. But perhaps some NIAID mavens could review the list for us.

Here’s what I want to know. To what extent are these being used to give a break to genuine noobs and to what extent are they being extracted out of POs by long term investigators who haven’t managed to get a fundable score. To what extent are they letting Professor Bluehair keep her extra postdoc or technician around but completely missing the point that Assistant Professor Noob would like to get her first one of those, thanks.

To what extent are they propping up labs of PIs nearing the common (nonscience) retirement age and to what extent are they failing to sustain momentum for people more in my age bracket who have a fair bit of productive science ahead?

Teacher Ms. S. has requested support for her science class to learn basic vertebrate biology with the time honored dissection lab.

This grant will provide our science classroom with the equipment necessary to complete two laboratory dissections with 100 students. After an in depth study of the circulatory system and the chambers and structures of the heart, we will dissect a sheep heart. I selected a sheep heart since they are almost identical in size and structure as a human heart. We will continue with our anatomical studies of the other human organ systems, including the respiratory, digestive, excretory, reproductive, muscular, and skeletal systems. As a final culminating project, we will dissect a large bullfrog to develop a much deeper understanding of how the organs work together in the human body.

The REALM Charter school in Oakland California has an admirable goal

The mission of Realm Charter School is to cultivate resiliency, develop critical thinking skills, advance knowledge through rigorous studies, and equip students to serve our communities and the world in the 21st century. Realm Charter School will serve diverse urban students in grades 6-12 using a student-centered model that features project-based learning, an emphasis on technology, research and action on concerns in the community and activities that develop emotional resiliency.

and is described further by Ms. S.:

The REALM Charter School student body consists of 80% students of color living in Richmond, Berkeley, and Oakland. Approximately 60% of our students are Latino, and the remaining 40% are African American, Asian and White. We are a project based design school. We teach students to tackle problems and seek solutions through creative ingenuity.

As my longer term readers know, I’ve had my eye out for the dissection projects for a few years now because I think they are some of the most memorable primary and secondary school experiences when it comes to scientific education. This has been recently reinforced because one of my children was afforded the ability to do several dissections in a summer program that my spouse and I could happen to afford. Not every child in America is so lucky, as you well know, and this is a High Poverty school.

This is not a cheap project, the remaining balance sits at $1,089 as of this writing. This makes it a steep hill to climb, but I think we have a shot at making it a reality. So please, if you can, donate. Even just a little bit, $5 or $10, chips away at the total and creates momentum.

If you cannot, please consider forwarding the link on your Twitter, on your Facebook and even by email to your friends and families.

I am already humbled by the generosity of the Readers of the DM blog and of the Scientopia Collective. Thanks to everyone who has already pitched in.

Via brain wrap at DailyKos


Obama has a better approach