October 26, 2016


Lorsch says that he knows first-hand that Generation X scientists are not whiners: “I do not hear complaining from the people who are trying to get their first grant or renew their first grant, the people trying to get a lab running,” he says. “It’s the really well-funded people who’ve lost one of their grants — that’s who call me and scream.”

18 Responses to “QFT”

  1. boehninglab Says:

    Only a BSD would have the audacity to call Lorsch.


  2. MoBio Says:

    Wow…cannot imaging calling the Institute Director and screaming at him/her over the phone.


  3. Drugmonkey Says:



  4. Emaderton3 Says:

    The thought never even occurred to me. Might as well give Collins a call too while their at it!


  5. Grumble Says:

    Um, if you know the director, why WOULDN’T you call him up?


  6. XCSR Says:

    Happens ALL the time


  7. drugmonkey Says:

    Yes, of course the willingness to call up various levels of Program Officer to complain depends on status and pedigree and it would not be at all surprising if Lorsch is merely reflecting the effects of career level and not generation. OTOH, one might ask why current GenX scientists (oldest of whom are 51ish right now) are not established to the point of being comfortable calling Lorsch to complain.


  8. The Other Dave Says:

    NIH practices bad parenting skills. When your 4 year old whines, the last thing you want to do is cater to that. It just teaches the kid that whining works. People whine to funding agencies (and journal editors and…) because it works.

    If NIH doesn’t want to hear whining, all it needs to do is tell applicants that they can appeal decisions, but then they’re not eligible to submit anything for 6 months.

    …the phones will grow quiet fast.


  9. Grumble Says:

    My student got a good score on a NRSA (>10, <20) and it didn't get funded. The PO as much as said outright that the institute director was involved in the decision – not just as a rubber stamp of the program staff's decisions, nor as simply setting research areas for the POs to prioritize, but actually looking at applications one by one and saying yea or nay.

    Then, not 2 weeks later, I heard from a colleague at a meeting how important it is to call up the director of this institute if you have a score in the grey zone. (He was talking about R01s.)

    I don't know the director, but I guess I should make an effort. Hmm, I wonder if there's still room on our seminar schedule this academic year…


  10. The Other Dave Says:

    “Hmm, I wonder if there’s still room on our seminar schedule this academic year…”

    Giving a seminar is now considered a conflict of interest.


  11. Grumble Says:

    Huh? So, if I invite, say, Lorsch to give a seminar, he can’t get my NIGMS grant funded after I call him up to whine abut my grey zone score?

    What is the POINT of having a bunch of old boys in one’s network, then?


  12. XCSR Says:

    The top five (Director, Deputy Director and Division Directors, which could be more than 5) are not allowed to give seminars at Universities, unless its in the context of a conference to which people from other Institutions can attend. There are of course loopholes, but one must be careful when visiting any grant receiving institution to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest. That is one of the many NIH rules to avoid COI


  13. Draino Says:

    I think it would be great if journal editors had a similar code about avoiding conflicts of interest. But last year I attended a symposium at a neighboring institution (not invited, I just showed up) where the editor of one of the Cell journals was basically the guest of honor. She judged the poster session, and then announced that one of the symposium organizers had just had his manuscript accepted at her journal! Gee wiz, what if Lorsch went around having fancy dinners with select PIs, attending their events the next day with fanfare, and then announced which grants were going to be funded. Congratulations BSDs, you own the system.


  14. The Other Dave Says:

    Grumble: Yes, that’s what I was told… not by an NIH staffer, but by a BSD during a group conversation about the transparent sucking up that some people do when you’re on study section.

    …followed up by bitter evil stares at meetings when their grant doesn’t get funded.


  15. Yizmo Gizmo Says:

    Yes, I can see bigshots whining, prima donnas who always expect another bump.
    The people that need the money the least always seem to get the breaks.
    BTW Someone should do a piece on NIH patents.
    If you invent something at NIH they will not pursue it if it’s a “research tool”
    even though PCR and GFP were research tools and immensely profitable.
    That’s the only criterion that comes up when you try to work with them.
    Even if it’s a potential worldwide sensation that’s the response.
    But they will help with the patent if it’s a drug. But, wait, NIH doesn’t make new drugs, right?
    Makes no sense but there’s nothing you can do. The lawyer I talked to said it sounded
    like cutting off the nose to spite the face and told me to move on.


  16. I think Lorsch is a little confused about the definitions of the various generations. Plenty of Gen Xers are really well-funded PIs who go ballistic if they lose one of their grants.


  17. SA-Educator Says:

    Lorsch was just at Duke Universty last week for a “special seminar” hosted by the School of Medicine to talk about modernizing graduate education. He also did seperate sessions for faculty and students during the visit, so there are loopholes for getting top NIH directors to your campus to address your “concerns.”


  18. jmz4 Says:

    So how big of a BSD do you have to be to just take your funding gripes directly to the President?


    “Develop NIH-wide mechanisms to consolidate multiple grants
    and to provide long-term support for most-accomplished

    “The NIH Director should create an NIH-wide competitive grant
    mechanism to provide long-term (7-10 year) support for its most highly
    accomplished investigators, analogous to the 10-year Merit Award
    offered by some Institutes to more junior investigators. This investigator-
    based (as opposed to project-based) statement of confidence and
    trust will enable transformative research, while reducing uncertainty
    and administrative burden for the investigator, his/her institution,
    and NIH”

    “To promote inter-IC cooperative and integrative research, as
    well as novel trans-NIH initiatives, 5% of the research budget should
    be allocated to the Common Fund, with the increase over current
    levels dedicated specifically to programs that address common
    research interests of multiple institutes. The Director would be aided
    in developing and adjudicating these programs by an advisory
    committee that includes both intramural and extramural scientists.”

    and more.


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