GrantRant

January 3, 2013

If I do not have any idea, within about three sentences into your Specific Aims page, what model systems, subjects and broad experimental approaches are going to be in your proposal you are seriously screwing up your grantsmithing.

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  1. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    I disagree wholeheartedly with this. The first paragraph should implicate the problem you are attacking, why it is important, the current state of understanding, and what key questions are unanswered. Only after that should you explain the model system and experimental approaches you are deploying to shed light on the unanswered questions.

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  2. DrugMonkey Says:

    I disagree wholeheartedly with you. I want the whole enchilada in the first paragraph.

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  3. DJMH Says:

    DM, I think you’re advocating for grants to be more like blogs.

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  4. Neuro-conservative Says:

    CPP is right and DM is wrong. Objectively.

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  5. Grumble Says:

    If you can’t tell, just from knowing who the PI is, what model systems, subjects and broad experimental approaches are going to be proposed, then you really have no business reviewing the grant because you clearly know jack shit about the field.

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  6. DrugMonkey Says:

    You are welcome to bet your personal success rate on a guy who makes kung pao in some frenchified skillet if you want. Your funeral.

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  7. DrugMonkey Says:

    Gotcha Grumble. Only PIs known to me deserve good grant scores. Check.

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  8. Dr Becca Says:

    I’m afraid I’m with PP on this one–that template is pretty much the exact contents of my SA intro paragraph, always.

    And Grumble, really? You’re intimately familiar with the work of every single PI (even shiny new Asst Profs) who might be submitting to your study section?

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  9. DrugMonkey Says:

    Everyone knows Assistant Profs get 5s, Dr B!

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  10. DrugMonkey Says:

    Anyway, does it make you any happier to know I got to the end of the *entire muppethugging Aims page* and still didn’t know wtf experimental models were going to be proposed?

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  11. CE Says:

    You’ve gotta set the table before you serve the chili.

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  12. eeke Says:

    The two grants I had funded on the first round did what DM was looking for. Stated what I was going to do (and in what system) within the first paragraph, and put the fluffy stuff later.

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  13. DrugMonkey Says:

    Word, eeke.

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  14. dsks Says:

    The Spec Aims page should be color coded. Green for “the problem you are attacking, why it is important, the current state of understanding, and what key questions are unanswered”, orange for “what model systems, subjects and broad experimental approaches” and red for all that other “fluffy stuff”.

    Then everyone can tuck into the favourite bit of the enchilada first and the world spins on smoothly.

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  15. anonymous postdoc Says:

    Oh My God color coding. I’m all for it. Everything else I do in lab is color coded if I can possibly help it. Why not this?

    One could argue that color coding would make it all too obvious to the author what pieces are missing or insufficiently well written from their aims page, thereby eliminating a helpful (?) means for the reviewer of quickly eliminating applications by who didn’t include the right stuff in their aims, or who dared to put the orange after the green section.

    Note: I must admit I think these colors are hideous and would be difficult for a red-green colorblind person to boot. Blue and yellow, man. Fluff can remain white.

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  16. DrugMonkey Says:

    I color code my grants. Black for the important stuff and white for the fluff.

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  17. anonymous postdoc Says:

    That is a PI joke if I ever heard one.

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  18. Grumble Says:

    I didn’t say I’m “intimately familar with the work of every single PI” in my study section, Becca. And I certainly didn’t say anything close to “Only PIs known to me deserve good grant scores,” DM.

    But general approaches, model systems and subjects? Just by hearing a PI’s name, I know these things already. If I don’t, it’s probably a grant from someone in a field quite different from mine (or, yes, from a shiny new Asst Prof).

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  19. DrugMonkey Says:

    If you bet your grant smithing on getting reviewers who are intimately familiar with your work you are a fool.

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  20. Grumble Says:

    Who does that?

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  21. Color coding is useless to the colorblind. 9pt font useless to anyone over 50.

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  22. Spiny Norman Says:

    I start with a one sentence summary: “our goal is to….” Then a sentence or two explaining the big-picture reasons why the goal is important. Then the rest of the intro paragraph explaining why our capabilities and experimental approach kick fucken ass. Then the Aims.

    Is that so fucken hard?

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  23. drugmonkey Says:

    no. it is not SN. good approach.

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  24. zb Says:

    I agree with DM, and I think that it’s people who work on mice and salamanders and finches who disagree. Yeah, I’m not unscientific enough to believe that those model systems don’t answer important questions that might indeed pertain to human health (i.e. NIH’s mission). But when you tell me that you’re studying schizphophrenia and only then mention that you’re actually studying some ion channel in a altered gene mouse model, I get frustrated.

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  25. DrugMonkey Says:

    It’s not so much the specific model that concerns me, rather that reviewers don’t want to be wondering what’s going on for long. This is not the place for a big reveal after a long run-up. Confused or perplexed reviewers are not happy reviewers. You want to lead them by the hand every step of the way.

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  26. Dude, even I can wait three or four sentences before they tell me those details.

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