Closeout funding

February 5, 2015

Within the past thre years or so I had a Program Officer mention the idea of “closeout funding” to me.

One of my top few flabbergasting moments as an extramural scientist.

It referred, of course, to them using program discretion to give a softer landing to one of their favored long-time PIs who had failed to get a fundable score on a competing renewal. It was said in a context that made it clear it was a regular thing in their decision space.

This explains an awful lot of strange R56 BRIDGE (to nowhere) awards, I thought to myself.

I bring this up because I think it relates to this week’s discussion of the proposed “emeritus award” concept.

13 Responses to “Closeout funding”

  1. SidVic Says:

    wha what? they easing you out?


  2. BPG Says:

    How about a counter-proposal for the NIH if they really want to facilitate transfer of science to the next generation while weaning old-timers off the NIH payroll. Open up seniors’ grants to competitors – if another lab can do the same project and write a more compelling grant about it, they should be getting that money. Of course, the senior people who have the expertise, collaborators, track record, funding, and resources to do their projects should be way better than any wannabes. Right? So they have nothing to fear if they are still active and productive. And you could ease the transfer – maybe a few years where the labs split the budget for the project before the switch is complete?


  3. Kevin. Says:

    That’s what I thought. “Hey Drugmonkey, would you be interested in one last grant before you retire?” They probably just want to pay certain PI’s to go away and stop submitting proposals at every deadline.


  4. lurker Says:

    In the spirit of DataHounding, I found on NIH Reporter 515 active R56’s, mean and median total costs of $421K and $392K, respectively. That is $217M of awards that PO’s are making the call instead of study section scores. All the NIH has to do is rename the R56 to the R65 (need to be 65 Y or older), and the Emeritus award is Done and Done!

    To be evenhanded, there are also 624 active R00’s, with mean and median total costs of $237K and $242K, respectively. That is $147M of awards that PO’s are giving us whippersnappers a discount.

    So when talking about grant discounts right now, the “old fogies” still have a 1.48X advantage over the “young” (which for us is our late 30’s and 40’s when being young for them was the 20’s).

    How can we Not feel more gracious to our elders who won’t retire….
    “I’ll give you my GRANT when you pry it from my cold, dead hands”!


  5. qaz Says:

    Lurker – not all R56s are given to old grayhairs. The original idea of the R56 was a plan for bridge funding for mid-term scientists whose grant had run out and needed bridge funding to keep a lab going (say to not lose technicians). Generally, my understanding is that it is usually given to renewals when they are close but not funded on the A0 round. (Kind of tossing a lifepreserver below the payline, even if it’s not pulling someone out of the water. Some institutes are giving the first couple of years of the renewed R01, with the understanding that the investigator will provide an improved renewal before the R56 runs out.)

    In the right places, R56 is the kind of lifesaver that the commentariat has argued for here and elsewhere. Before trashing the R56, you would have to see how many of those R56s are actually being given as bridges to nowhere to retiring old grayhairs.


  6. drugmonkey Says:

    The plan was also (supposedly) to use the R56 for n00b investigators who just-missed paylines.

    with respect to “bridge to nowhere” it was really, really obvious back when one was not supposed to resubmit anything similar to a failed A1 app. So when you saw a R56…..-A1 you knew what you were seeing wasn’t a “bridge” to anything at all.


  7. qaz Says:

    “The plan was also (supposedly) to use the R56 for n00b investigators who just-missed paylines.”

    Right. That too. Although all of the just-below-the-payline noob cases that I’ve seen they gave them short (4-year) R01s. The just-below-the-payline R56 mid-career cases are usually 1 or 2 year funding.


  8. All you health scientists don’t know how good you have it. There is no such thing as bridge funding at NSF for anyone. I have 3 years to solve a problem and move on. Didn’t accomplish or finish what I promised, sorry that problem is never getting solved unless I come up with a completely new way to do it. Want to move to a related problem, sorry that’s not transformative, and NSF doesn’t fund incremental research. Fingers crossed that I can get on the NIH teet this round and start living the high life.


  9. poke Says:

    lol. grass. greener.


  10. K99er Says:

    Lurker – K99/R00 proposals are scored by a study section. The proposal covers both portions of the award. The R00 activation/approval by program officials is just a formality as far as I can tell.


  11. tom Says:

    R00 activation is not a rubber stamp. they can choose not to do it.


  12. K99er Says:

    My point was that R00s are not given out based on the personal scientific preferences of program officials. If they decide not to approve an R00, it is NOT because of the science. It’s because the grantee didn’t get an appropriate faculty position or startup package or laboratory space.


  13. qaz Says:

    @K99er: Your statements are not correct. Program can decide that the faculty position does not meet their criteria or progress has been insufficient or that the scientific goals of the institute have changed.

    Note – technically, no grant is guaranteed for more than the one year that they have actually given to your university for you. This is why you have to submit your progress reports annually.


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