Good one Francis!!!

January 16, 2013

NIH Director Francis Collins was discussing sequestration and the impact of the past many years of flat budgets with POLITICO:

“For people who are in the early stage of their career to just miss the pay line once, twice, three times is pretty demoralizing,” he said. “And they are getting demoralized.”

Three times? THREE?????????!!!!?????

Your are damn right that is “demoralizing” but people are going to have to miss the paylines upwards of SIX times holmes! You said it yourself.

…only about one in six of those who apply actually receives a grant. The chances used to be one in three, Collins said.

When we are sitting around an 18% success rate, well, three straight misses had better not put you off your effort. Not if you want to get funded. You had better hit 6 applications before you start thinking about another line of work. Because that is what it takes to meet the odds.

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No Responses Yet to “Good one Francis!!!”

  1. Dr Becca Says:

    I think the key word here is “just miss.” A one in six success rate may be the case, but that probably includes a triage or two, which, OK the proposal was significantly flawed in some way. Hitting 20th percentile 3 times in a row, on the other hand…that burns.

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  2. Boehninglab Says:

    Did you see the one and only comment? And I quote:

    “These crybabies are pathetic. They want to put more debt on American Taxpayer’s shoulders so that they can continue to live fat.”

    LOL, we are all livin’ fat! Stop complaining crybabies…….

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  3. bill Says:

    Good to see that NIH leadership is still so closely in touch with the proletariat at the bench.

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  4. Dave Says:

    Did I miss the first 10 pages or something? Because the article starts:

    ““It is a wonderful experience to be a scientist in the middle of this right now because of the ability to ask really fundamental questions and be able to answer them,”

    Middle of what? Face. Palm. Face. Palm.

    The question is: what is HE doing to protect the NIH from drastic cuts and what is the plan if the NIH does experience an 8% cut?

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  5. Hermitage Says:

    @Dave the answer will be the standard NIH mantra: “we can’t lobby for $$$, effect policy, or change distribution mechanisms, so whatever happens, happens.” I swear, when paylines dip below 10% permanently, they will just ship copies of “The Power of Positive Thinking” to all applicants and call it a day.

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  6. Grumble Says:

    “These crybabies are pathetic. …”

    Someone needs to log in and tear this commenter a new asshole. I tried but registration failed. Oh well.

    “Did I miss the first 10 pages or something?”

    You missed the first page.

    Like

  7. An NIH observer Says:

    According to NIH Reporter, Francis Collins has three projects in his intramural lab (diabetes, progeria, asthma). The funding (Total Costs) for these three projects combined was $2.777 million in FY2010, $4.312 million in FY2011, and $4.239 million in FY2012.

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  8. Dave Says:

    You missed the first page.

    Oh yeh, so I did. I missed the best line:

    The NIH’s funding situation, he says, is a “strange paradox”.

    Nothing strange about it.

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  9. drugmonkey Says:

    I wonder how he has any percent effort left to be Director?

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  10. Dave Says:

    That diabetes grant is total bs too. Same old, same old….and in a Finnish cohort!!!!!

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  11. Ola Says:

    “We have seen in the last 10 years basically an erosion of our buying power for medical research by about 20 percent, simply because the budget has been flat and inflation has been chewing away at that,” Collins said.

    10 years’ compound interest at 3% equals ~34%, so the research dollar is worth 74% of its value a decade ago (1/1.34). That’s a 26% cut in real terms, not 20%. Yeah yeah small potatoes, but 26 is a lot more than 20 in absolute dollars! How can we take this guy seriously when he doesn’t even have the basic numbers right?

    This of course assumes the cost of doing research follows inflation. As anyone using cutting edge methods will testify, the cost today is a lot more than a decade ago. Sure, some methods get cheaper with time, but as the technology advances the folks at the cutting edge move on to newer (and more expensive) methods.

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  12. drugmonkey Says:

    look up BRDPI, Ola

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  13. Spiny Norman Says:

    SPIEGEL: So you don’t consider Collins to be a true scientist?

    Venter: Let’s just say he’s a government administrator.

    Like

  14. Crystaldoc Says:

    Took me 7 times, and only 1 was a triage … I think that’s maybe just par for the course at NCI in a sub field that isn’t the hottest, and/or if you don’t have exactly the right pedigree and juicing from within …

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  15. The arrogance of the Collinses of this world is truly breathtaking. He needs to spend a day in someone else’s skin. I was once forced (ethics training ho ho ho) to watch a film where he talked about an incident of dishonesty from his lab. His sanctimony was like eating too much sugar and having an insulin reaction. He didn’t even question what the environment in his group was like (one can only imagine it is filled with Collins wannabes, training for arrogance). Environment doesn’t excuse bad behavior, ever. But if we want to know why people do what they do to keep it from happening, it is worthwhile to understand causal mechanisms (hey, isn’t that what grants are supposed to be about????).

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  16. The arrogance of the Collinses of this world is truly breathtaking.

    When your brain is sicke with “jeeeeeezus loves MEMEMEMEMEMEME”, this is the expected outcome: delusional sanctimonious fuckebaggery.

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  17. drugmonkey Says:

    Took me 7 times, and only 1 was a triage …

    exactly. While I take your point, Dr. Becca, about FC’s use of “just miss” if anything this just points up the ridiculousness of 1-2%ile “just misses” being any more painful than 5-10%ile point “just misses” when only about 8 years ago the latter would have been in the money.

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  18. Jim Says:

    How many misses before you find yourself going up for tenure without having secured a single grant?

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  19. Dave Says:

    I just can’t stand the passive attitude of the NIH to all things budget. The budget has been going down and down, but they don’t seem to have any plans beyond “reduce the paylines” to really do anything about it. There must be some other ways in which the NIH could/can absorb or offset the reduction in their operating budget and still make some attempt to preserve paylines. No?

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  20. drugmonkey Says:

    I take it you are unfamiliar with budget reductions upon funding, shifts in R01/R21/P? balance and the like Dave? CSR push for more elecronic review, upping the reviewer load and decreasin ad hocs?

    They DO chip away at things to make the success rate look as good as possible. Obviously there’s a limit and they’ve been using these tricks for going on 8 yrs now so the noobs may not see it

    Surely you don’t expect that they are going to slash administration and abandon pet programs ? 🙂

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  21. Dave Says:

    I take it you are unfamiliar with budget reductions upon funding, shifts in R01/R21/P? balance and the like Dave? CSR push for more elecronic review, upping the reviewer load and decreasin ad hocs?

    I am familiar, but…

    Surely you don’t expect that they are going to slash administration and abandon pet programs ?

    I was thinking more along these lines, but I don’t know relatively how much they have to save here…?

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  22. Spiny Norman Says:

    “The budget has been going down and down, but they don’t seem to have any plans beyond “reduce the paylines” to really do anything about it.”

    Not true. Collins also demolished NCRR so that he could ram through his pet institute, NCATS.

    I will stand by my prediction that the number of important therapeutics that will emerge from NCATS-sponsored activities in the first 10 years will be none, and in the first twenty years, not many more.

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  23. whimple Says:

    How many misses before you find yourself going up for tenure without having secured a single grant?

    Usually there is something like a 4-year-in comprehensive pre-tenure review, at which time individuals in this situation will be invited to seek career alternatives and to not apply for tenure. That saves everyone the bother of putting together a doomed tenure dossier.

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  24. If you’ve failed 6 times, you should probably *still* keep trying. A 1/6 chance of success x 6 tries = 33% chance of failing all 6 times. If you want to reject the null hypothesis (that you’re failing due to random bad luck) at alpha=.05, you’d have to try 17 times.

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  25. Dave Says:

    Your math, DM, assumes that only 1 of 6 grants *that deserve funding* will get funded. You’ve been on study section, right? You’ve seen trends come and go in science, right? In fact, a lot of crap submitted for funding is a waste of people’s time and if funded would be a colossal waste of taxpayer money.

    NIH is not a welfare program for scientists. It never should be.

    I don’t agree with everything NIH does, but let’s remember what the real problem is: Too many researchers on the government teat.

    And don’t give me crap about how NIH research saves lives etc. If the government really wanted to save lives with that money, it would put it toward universal free health care, obesity alcohol and smoking control programs, and universal vaccination. That would be phenomenal bang for the buck.

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  26. DrugMonkey Says:

    In fact, a lot of crap submitted for funding is a waste of people’s time and if funded would be a colossal waste of taxpayer money.

    We do not agree on this one bit. My experience suggests that it is the very rare proposal indeed that would 1) actively reverse knowledge and/or 2) be a complete and utter waste of time*

    As far a taxpayer money goes, well, that’s entirely subjective. I’ve been known to observe that throwing fewer tomahawk missiles around and using those $$ to fund grants is a better use of the taxpayer funds. ditto subsidies to oil companies…lets throw that into biofuel science ffs. ditto new jet fighters when our existing designs have no plausible rival on this damn planet. and maybe we don’t need, what is it four?, aircraft carrier groups simultaneously “projecting power” around the globe…think of all the good will curing Alzheimer’s would get us. one damn carrier group’s operational cost is a fucktonne of R01s…..

    __
    *predictions that the investigators will not be able to accomplish what they think they can are another matter. but predicting the future outcome (and dismissing it) is wrong.

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  27. Dave Says:

    I’m no warmonger, DM, but those aircraft carriers project power so that we Americans can keep sucking money out of the rest of the world, which allows our federal biomedical research budget to be, although not largest by percentage of GDP, by far the largest in real dollars. You owe your job to the fact that we’re a superpower.

    Do you honestly think another million or two or three spent paying chinese or indian postdocs to dump unlikely stuff on goofily-differentiated cells in culture will make any difference? Your own blog entry about PLoS One suggests that the biomedical science community produces crap faster than it knows what to do with.

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  28. drugmonkey Says:

    Statistically I’ll bet on the funded-R01s over the several-fold-redundant “projection of power” in terms of doing lasting good. hell yes.

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  29. drugmonkey Says:

    and I AM kind of a “warmonger”.

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  30. Dave Says:

    Since, as of this writing, your most recent posts are about how shitty some grant proposal are, I will assume I’ve won the argument: There are a lot of proposals not worth funding.

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  31. DrugMonkey Says:

    “Given current financial constraints” homes. What part of that is complicated?

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  32. Dave Says:

    So… if there were more money, more proposals would be worth funding?

    That doesn’t make sense to me. The way I see it is: A proposal is worthy or not, whether NIH has one dollar or a zillion. The only thing that changes is the number of worthy proposals they have the resources to fund. In my opinion, they have more resources than good proposals. The budget doubled in the late 90’s/early 2000s, but I don’t think the amount of good science did. The amount of good science increased, sure, but not as fast as the number of professional researchers and their salaries.

    Maybe we disagree because you don’t share that opinion.

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  33. DrugMonkey Says:

    There is a grant score category for “unworthy no matter the budget”, it’s called NeRF or “Not Recommended for Further Consideration”. The only category where (supposedly) program cannot pick it up for any reason.

    This is a vanishingly rare outcome. Never seen one myself.

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  34. Grumble Says:

    “In fact, a lot of crap submitted for funding is a waste of people’s time and if funded would be a colossal waste of taxpayer money.”

    “In my opinion, they have more resources than good proposals.”

    Not really. I think we’ve known for a long time that a lot of projects have to be funded (and tried) to get just a handful that lead to a real health benefit (or even just a leaps-and-bounds kind of scientific advance). That’s because every experiment is a risk and many hypotheses are not just wrong, but completely wrong – and there’s no way to find out whether that applies to your hypothesis other than to do the right experiments, which takes resources and money. So if we want rapid advances in science, we MUST fund a lot of crap. If you don’t understand that, you know jack shit about how science works.

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  35. qaz Says:

    Dave, your math assumes that before the doubling we were close to funding the “correct” number of proposals. If, in fact, we had a half dozen viable (meaning likely to produce good science and move the field forward) proposals for each funded one before the doubling, then doubling the budget would mean we would still have three viable proposals for every funded proposal. More importantly, if there were another half dozen scientists who didn’t think they had a chance to get funding before the doubling (even though their science was good) and started applying during the doubling, then we would have even more viable proposals after than before. Both of these situations pertain.

    I’ve been on study sections for almost a decade now, and I can comfortably say that somewhere between half and three-quarters of submitted proposals are likely to produce good science, that, if funded would move the science forward, drive the economic engine of the US through discovery, and make our lives better.

    We aren’t even close to “more resources than good proposals”.

    Remember, the real question is whether this work, if funded, would move us forward. In the current situation, in which we have more good proposals than resources, we make scientists spend effort and time doing grantsmanship to write the better grant. But that’s not the real goal. Grants are only a means to an end, which is to do good science.

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  36. DrugMonkey Says:

    Grumble-
    Then the proposals are not “crap”. The resulting findings may turn out, after the fact, to be crap. But that does not mean that at the point of deciding fund/not fund that the proposals were crap. It is an important distinction.

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  37. Dave – you need to distinguish between what a study section RIGHT NOW thinks is worthwhile science and whether that will ultimately prove to be useful, and what history (5-10 years down the road) will tell us was worthwhile. I am not saying we should fund more crap now on the off chance that it will prove useful. We need to recognize that science goes through fads, and may fund stuff based on those fads. This is akin to what Grumble is saying.

    Finally, RIGHT NOW, there may be lots of junky, bad proposals. And I’ve seen plenty. I’ve also seen lots of very good stuff (that may not be in the current fad, which is roughly translational) that isn’t getting funded because of the amount of money NIH has.

    In particular, it is nearly impossible to get the basic science of systems physiologic neurophysiological processes funded. There is a lot we don’t know about how things work normally that is critical for understanding how they fail in pathology, let alone enough knowledge to design meaningful rehabilitation. But saying that immediately consigns you to the good but not interesting enough to get funded heap of grants.

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