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.

21 Responses to “Life in No-A2ville”

  1. 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.

    This is absolutely true, and I think is what in large part drives the hysteria over INCOMPETENT AND BIASED REVIEWERS KILLED MY GRANT WITH FACTUAL ERRORS AND PERSONAL ANIMUS. Many people just really, really, really dislike the idea that something so important to the success of their deeply held personal and professional goals can be subject to so much capriciousness with no one to blame.

    Interesting that–on the other side of the coin–loonie toons like Perldouche cling so heavily to the idea that shitte like getting a faculty position is 100% capricious as a different means of ego protection.


  2. drugmonkey Says:

    Leave it to PP….

    I was just writing out some shit in response to a uncomfortable buzz I had about his post…..not even sure I really disagree with it. almost closed the editor without posting.

    …and yup, the only part that was of any value is this passage.


  3. What I quoted is also why the idea that new PIs “submit their R01” and hope for the best is fucken delusional.


  4. drugmonkey Says:

    what? like just send it in without any idea of which study section to request or what not?


  5. drugmonkey Says:

    Or, do you mean that new PIs need to generate a multi-submission, multi-proposal strategy right off the bat?

    because yeah, if they aren’t getting that advice they are screwed.


  6. Or, do you mean that new PIs need to generate a multi-submission, multi-proposal strategy right off the bat?

    This is what I meant. And people are still not getting this advice from the vast majority of their senior faculty mentors, even at elite joints like mine. I feel like a motherfucken broken record with this shitte when I talk to junior faculty about grant strategy, but it always sounds like some kind of crazy loonie talk to them.


  7. drugmonkey Says:

    It will not surprise you I preach the same fucking broken record mantra to our junior faculty. They apparently think I am insane (“oh, yeah, maybe I’ll resubmit that two rounds from now”….”well, maybe I’ll retool it for next year”…).

    The look on their faces is especially hilarious when they’ve actually managed to get an award and I say to them within +/- 2 months of it funding “So, what are you submitting next round?”.


  8. mikka Says:

    So, my tenure mentoring committee told me that I should be submitting one R01, and that my lab should be working on that one R01 and nothing else. Anything else is “losing focus”. Are they full of shitte?


  9. DJMH Says:

    I love Friday afternoons.


  10. iGrrrl Says:

    mikka, I would say that they haven’t adapted to the new reality. Also, there’s a difference between “losing focus” and interrogating the problems you care about from different directions.

    I just did a couple of ‘getting started’ seminars, and there’s one thing I really hope they took home: the process of writing a grant proposal should not be an imposition on your time, but a tool for thinking through what you want to do. And if you know what you want to do–what you’re really interested in–then preparing grant proposals actually improves the focus of the lab. Say you draft a set of specific aims. The next thing you should ask yourself is what preliminary data you would need to convince a reviewer that this aim is feasible and that your hypothesis is probably on the right track. You can also ask yourself, “What would the paper look like? What figures would I need?” Then go and do those things. It won’t stop you or your lab from the occasional rabbit hole, but it sure helps you recognize them sooner. And you’ll publish faster, because you’re wasting less effort, because you’re doing a lot of your thinking in advance.


  11. anonymous postdoc Says:

    I am interested in reading the post you two are referencing above, presumably written by Ethan Perlstein on the topic of grant success (?), but it his blog is a disaster with all those dynamic squares. Ugh. Would you mind linking to the thing you are referencing, so that I might spare myself further exposure to his stupid Ajax? Or is this on the tweeter?

    I am continually impressed with my PI’s ability to slice and dice things – aims, data – to create infinite combinations of grants, preliminary data, and especially manuscripts. I admit I am more comfortable with the slicing and dicing of grants, because I have less experience and therefore perhaps haven’t ingrained the bad habit of “this is the only direction I can visualize”. I do have that bad habit for papers though.

    I did originally have 2 R01 applications written into the R00 timeline of my K99 application, but I was discouraged from including that as “not realistic”. Perhaps the phrase the person was searching for was “overambitious”, but to me it seemed extremely realistic.


  12. Dave Says:

    One thing I’m interested in is this idea of potentially “wasting” an A1 by moving too quickly to resubmit. Say for example, you need to collect additional data, publish a few papers etc. This assumes your chances of getting an A1 are higher of course, but I just went to a grant presentation in my department where a guy had waited a very long time to resubmit. His grant was definitely better, but his original score was decent (34 I think) and it was pointed out to him that the original reviewers are probably long gone so he took quite a risk waiting. His issues were preliminary data related and that was why he chose to wait.

    My question is: how long is too long to wait to resubmit? Is there ever a case to wait two cycles or more to resubmit? Can you resubmit too quickly?


  13. dr_mho Says:

    I get the idea that cpp and dm are pushing. But as one lone counter example, I wrote my first R01 last year (as a 1st year ass prof), put in
    a fuck load of preliminary data (all generated in my own lab), and it was funded first round. So, it is possible…


  14. So, my tenure mentoring committee told me that I should be submitting one R01, and that my lab should be working on that one R01 and nothing else.

    Maybe you are at some kind of idiosyncratic institution, but if it is like most other–and tenure is more about gaining the respect of your field outside your institution than it is about the opinions of the people in your institution–then these people are fucken morons. And they are fucken morons in at least two ways:

    (1) As I have explained in excruciating detail in numerous contexts, you need to submit multiple R01s, “slicing and dicing” the same preliminary data to support a wide array of proposed aims.

    (2) The idea that a laboratory “works on an R01” is one of the most sadly fucked uppe ways of conceiving the process of scientific discovery I have every heard in my life. You don’t “work on an R01”. By the time you get the fucken grant, you have most likely figured out that what you proposed in the grant is much less interesting than some other shitte that you have stumbled on, and that is what you should be working on.


  15. Spiny Norman Says:

    @ dr_mho, I and a friend hired into the department next door did the same. We both got 5th %ile scores on A0 submission in our first year as PIs, in the same funding cycle (but different study sections). It requires both pluck and luck, but it can happen.


  16. mikka Says:

    Thanks comradde and iGrrrl, i’ll start clandestinely putting another one together. It’s true that they are mostly mummified dead wood raised in another time.


  17. One of the best pieces of advice I got, back when you guys were sniffing glue in middle school, was have two sources of funding. Although alternative sources are also harder (MJFF, AHA, etc) and much more clinically oriented (problem for basic sci folks), they are still useful for getting that second set of data for the next R01.


  18. drugmonkey Says:

    “Sniffing glue”? Really?


  19. Dave Says:

    I was always and amyl nitrite man myself. Good shit that.


  20. Jonathan Says:

    Much less chance of sudden-sniffing death, for one.


  21. Google sucks Says:

    Many thanks for penning this wonderful submit..Beloved your article content. Be sure to do sustain writing


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