Every year we get an annual safety meeting from our EH&S department and they show us a bunch of instructional slides on how to handle various laboratory hazards around the campus. They always include a few chuckles, like the guy operating plugged-in powertools standing on a ladder immersed in a pool, the guy Lincoln welding the gas tank of a truck propped up on a couple of bricks..that sort of thing.

And of course we go down the list of hazards from the chemical to the radiological to the microbiological. My department is usually in full eyeroll mode most of the time because of a simple fact. You know what never happens on our campus (touch wood)? We never have a Ebola infected African green monkey head for the hills. Nary a hantavirus rodent plague. Maybe someone gets a little sloppy with some low grade radioactive material now and again but that’s rare. We don’t have people getting infected with various nasty viruses and virulent (hmm) strains of bacteria they work with.

But you know what does happen on our campus? Regularly? Like 2-3 times a year?

Some chemist blows up a hood, erupts a waste bottle, causes a fire in the lab bays or otherwise renders a building uninhabitable. In dramatic fashion.

Causing the Fire Department to have to respond and anyone working in the building to lose at least a day.

It is always the chemists.

I have never really understood why.

Life in No-A2ville

March 1, 2013

The good Comradde PhysioProffe has launched a new discussion on grant strategy, informed by the past few years’ worth of experience with the new reality at the NIH. Specifically, the reality that prohibits more than one resubmission (amendment) of an unfunded grant proposal. As you know, a whole lot of people weren’t fond of the new policy.

At any rate, PP has three bits of advice, I’ll paraphrase:

3) get your advice from people dealing with this, not GeezerProffes who keep renewing the same award like clockwork– totally agreed. always sound advice.

1) if Significance scores were good and the Approach dragged you down, worth revising. If the Significance scores were in the tanker, don’t bother revising because you need wholesale reconstruction. Including New Aims. (which brings PP to his third point.) This is sad and I really don’t want it to be true. Obviously we propose stuff that we think has Significance and if those reviewers don’t get it, then we can explain it to ’em. And probably they were just the wrong reviewers anyway. Grrrr. Sure…but even so, you still want to seek a new study section perhaps. And this goes straight into PP’s main point.

2) regardless of specific cause, if you are substantially changing 2 or more Aims it is better to take a fresh shot at the NewSubmission/OneResubmission deal. – I know what he’s saying here and I partially agree. But only partially. Because I still think you are going to need to take a specific line of research through multiple rounds of review to get it funded. Based on the rather steep odds. So the odds are very good that you are going to be slicing and dicing Aims anyway. Some of those mashups are going to be stronger, some weaker….but what ultimately matters is that you get a good shake of the reviewer dice. Because, as always, I assume that you all are smart enough to make every one of your applications at least credible. Past that, I still think it matters tremendously that you simply get the right reviewer mix where at least one person really gets it and two are at least willing to waffle on the usual quibbling. The usual quibbling being stuff that could very well be applied to any application…I’ve yet to see a perfect one. I’d argue that any applications that have been universally applauded in any study section round* as awesome could be taken to the StockCritique woodshed. Slightly different emphasis of factors and I could write a credible and entirely defensible review that justifies triage. Not kidding.

An additional consideration for me is purely tactical and related to standard receipt dates. I’m deadline driven. This is suboptimal, I admit this. But it is my reality. So having two deadlines a month apart for new and A1 submissions lets me put in more grants. And if I’m sitting there after the new proposal deadline expires with nothing do to but either resubmit or wait until the next round…..I’m going for it.

I will be further considering PP’s position, however, and seeing if I am just wasting my time revising and resubmitting.

*ETA “that I’ve been present for”, this is a personal experience claim. might be some sections where good is good and chaff is chaff. maybe. might be so. I guess.