WTF!?!?!?

Dec 12 2008 Published by under Grantsmanship

Didn't we just discuss some directive from NIH that is supposed to discourage newly independent investigators from applying for R03 and R21 awards, and to focus on R01s? Well, check this motherfucking shit out:
http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-DA-09-021.html
NIDA's got a special R03 program solely for newly independent investigators with a max of $25,000 directs per motherfucking YEAR! And the application's 10 motherfucking pages. Are these NIDA motherfuckers smoking the government ditchweed!?!?!?

55 responses so far

  • becca says:

    Maybe that's the "I wanna fund an extra grad student and let them work on some kinda risky stuff seperate from my first R01 which got an awesome score but is in the holding pattern of resubmissions" grant.
    Otherwise, WTF?

  • Beaker says:

    Go ahead CPP--scare away the competition and then that $25K will be MINE! ALL MINE! I'm already shopping for the new set of pipets and tissue culture supplies: they'll last a long time since I won't have enough to pay anybody to use them and I myself will be in the office writing more 10-pagers.

  • microfool says:

    NIH-wide data aside, perhaps some ICs think/have evidence that THEIR R03 programs are different, and better at establishing NI/ESI. But really, this seems like a ton of work (PI and NIH) for peanuts.
    Is writing an R03 useful for developing grantsmanship? Why not just play the R01 game?

  • true says:

    As long as these types of mechanisms exist, someone will apply, and someone will get the money.

  • As long as these types of mechanisms exist, someone will apply, and someone will get the money.

    And those someones will have devoted a ten-page effort for a total of $50,000 direct costs, when they could have devoted a twelve-page effort for a total of $1,250,000 direct costs.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    This smells like a way to essentially hand out administrative supplements to PIs who Program hearts but can't actually supplement (read friendly handout) without existing award.

  • Dave says:

    It's true what CPP says, but some new investigators might not have the experience or data to compete for a full-fledged R01, particularly in this funding climate. Let's say you're a new junior faculty member who can potentially contribute to drug research, but you don't have a published history with the model organism or particular class of drugs or techniques or something. There's no way you'll get an R01. But you might be worth a small investment so that you can get the stuff going in your new lab. Or let's say you're a junior faculty member with all the experience and training you need, but not the critical preliminary data that will make your R01 application competitive. This program gives you a chance. It's basically an explicit 'bridge' program, just like the secret 'bridge' programs NIH you can only learn about by talking to a sympathetic program director.
    I'm not saying I agree with it. I'm just saying that I can see the rationale.

  • Only "Early Stage Investigators" are eligible. This means people who have never had an R01. If Program "hearts" some of these people, why don't they help get them R01s?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    The R56 Bridge is not secret, it has an announcement. You cannot directly apply for it though.

  • whimple says:

    If Program "hearts" some of these people, why don't they help get them R01s?
    Because they can't. Say you're a PO and ESI is entering a new area with some promising ideas, and maybe even some good preliminary data. ESI sends in an R01 and of course it comes back triaged, because nobody on the study section knows who they are. The ESI hasn't established him/herself as a member of the tribe, and the tribe takes care of its own. Now what?

  • I am rally embarrassed to confess this, but I don't think I know the meaning of "ditchweed."

  • microfool says:

    Re:@DM #6: Have you heard of R56s going to previously un-awarded investigators?
    I have heard of at least one institute that uses a R56 bridge from nowhere to provide funding to high-priority projects by new investigators.
    Gotta love those R56 awards; 100% success rate!
    http://report.nih.gov/award/success/Success_ByActivity.cfm
    Anyways, I hope it does some good in getting money out to ESI with limited adminstrative burden to tide investigators over until they can successfully compete for substantial funding.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    If I'm not wrong the complaint was about discouraging R03 and R21 applications, while issuing a new R03 program for newly independent investigators.
    It is not surprising that in a governmental agency one hand does not know what the other does. The question is what the complainer is whining about? The fact that the one hand is not aware of the other? The fact that R03 and R21 should be phazed out? That he is ineligible for such grants? That 10 pages are too many for piddling money? Or simply because he is looking for a reason to gripe?

  • Anyways, I hope it does some good in getting money out to ESI with limited adminstrative burden to tide investigators over until they can successfully compete for substantial funding.

    If this is the goal, then MASSIVE FAIL!! If the application page limit is ten pages, then applicants will fill those pages, or doom themselves to faring poorly against applicants who do fill the ten pages. That is way too much administrative burden for 50,000 fucking simoleons. In comparison, e.g., the Whitehall Foundation, which funds new investigator grants in the basic neurosciences, has a seven page limit on its applications for $225,000 grants.
    A reasonable length application for 50,000 fucking bucks is three pages, max.

  • Dr. Feelgood says:

    Dude,
    I would TOTALLY write one if it was 3 fucking pages!
    CPP for NIH Director!
    Dr. F

  • whimple says:

    $5000 per page isn't worth it?

  • $5000 per page isn't worth it?

    Not in comparison to other ESI opportunities. A full modular R01--with the new 12-page limit--is over $100,000 per page! The Whitehall I described is over $32,000 per page!
    BTW, when is the 12-page R01 limit kicking in?

  • Dave says:

    What the hell? It's too much to write 10 freaking pages for $50K? You guys are nuts. How hard is it to write 10 pages?
    $50K is a grad student and loads of supplies for a year. Two thirds of a patch-clamp rig. A new microscope. A couple years of housing for a decent-sized mouse colony. Salary but not quite benefits for a year of postdoc until they get a fellowship. A tech for a year. 100 microarray experiments. 180 proteomic analyses of bands on a western or dots on a 2D gel. Craploads of antibody or restriction enzymes or...
    $50K could buy the experiment that changes the freaking WORLD!
    I can't believe BLOGGERS are saying it's too much work to write for $5,000 per page.

  • Dave says:

    I think the 12 page limit starts in a year. This year they start the 2 submissions only rule.

  • pinus says:

    Opportunity cost is the issue here...not whether it makes sense to write for X dollars per page.
    This is the same reason that CPP (and many other senior PIs that I have spoken with) have shit on the R21.
    For the record, the restrictions on the R03 program above are kind of severe..no K awards. I guess this reinforces the population that they are targeting? I am unsure.

  • whimple says:

    It's also worth considering, after you put all your eggs in the $32k/page and $100k+/page basket and wind up with nothing, how you're going to explain to your chair why you didn't bother to also apply for this $50k NIH grant that was perfectly matched to your ESI status.

  • OK. Whimple wins. You should copy paste some motherfucking shit from your R01 app into one of these things, devoting minimal effort to it.

  • Meur says:

    mothafuckaaaaaaaaaaah
    BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM
    screeeee

  • widget says:

    what is that basketball quote- you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. If you're already swimming in money and don't need anymore then I can see passing up an opportunity. Otherwise, you have no one to blame but yourself if you continue to be underfunded yet are passing over opportunities.

  • cookingwithsolvents says:

    I'd advise applying for it, if one is eligible. It seems like this is a bridge program for people that are ALMOST to R01-level preliminary data level. Also, writing this grant first in, say, your first or second year will give you something to base your R01 ON. Remember CPP, new investigators, by definition, have not written R01's before (ghostwriting experience aside).

  • S. Rivlin says:

    The tale of the rich and the poor scientists. The rich is too rich to bother doing the manial work yet, he's advising the poor not to bother trying to get rich himself. Even more outrageous yet, ironic, is the fact they call this endeavor 'SCIENCE'.

  • I think what our dear comrade is saying is that if you are going to bother to write 10 pages, why not write 12 and try to obtain RO1 funding? The difference is 2 pages and 100K per year. That's advocating aspiring high (as he's done with journal publications, telling us that if you've never been rejected from a high impact pub then you're not trying hard enough), not turning down funding for the hell of it.
    On the other hand, I think whimple's idea of restructuring one's work to try and obtain any funding for which one is eligible, in the same way PP encourages his trainees to apply for any fellowship they are eligible for. I think the major point, though, is that if you've got enough material for an RO1, one should not necessarily limit themself to an RO3 simply because they are a new investigator.
    And are one of you jokesters going to explain the gov't ditchweed reference to the domestic and laboratory goddess?

  • I think what our dear comrade is saying is that if you are going to bother to write 10 pages, why not write 12 and try to obtain RO1 funding? The difference is 2 pages and 100K per year.

    The difference is much greater than "100k per year". This R03 program is a maximum of 25k per year for two years. A modular R01 is a maximum of 250k per year for five years.

  • You're right. There is a difference in total years funded that results in an even larger monetary difference. The point I was trying to make was that my interpretation of your argument was that the additional work of transforming an RO3 to a RO1 was trivial compared to the much larger payout potential of an RO1.

  • The point I was trying to make was that my interpretation of your argument was that the additional work of transforming an RO3 to a RO1 was trivial compared to the much larger payout potential of an RO1.

    Yes, that is part of the point. The other part of the point is that NIH's explicit policy is that new early-stage investigators should not be shuttled off into an R03/R21 ghetto, because the NIH's own statistics suggest that R01 applicants who have had R03/R21 funding before applying for their first R01 do not fare any better than those who just jump right in and start competing for an R01 right out of the gate.

  • Beaker says:

    Ditchweed is literally cannabis that grows by the side of the road. Most of it is a consequence of America's agricultural history of making hemp. Kentucky, for example, produced the most hemp--and today that's where you are most likely to find feral ditchweed. The ditchweed genome was selected for producing strong fibers rather than big buzzes. Today's word for ditchweed is schwag.

  • Dave says:

    Isis: 'Ditchweed' is low-grade marijuana. I assume that's what PP means; the code words and slang on this board also often have me baffled.

  • Dr. Isis says:

    Thanks for the explanation, PP.

  • Beaker says:

    Sol, dare I say that you have misrepresented CPP's point? CPP's suggestions about the R21/R03 have been outlined clearly in previous posts. As I young investigator I wish I'd heard them sooner.
    During my startup period, I got swept up in the sort of R21/R03 mentality that I am reading in this discussion: "not enough yet for R01, so I'll just go for the R21/RO3 first." Once those data are in hand, I'll shoot for the RO1 upgrade. Can't win if you don't play. Somebody will get that money. Money is green and good and mo money is, well, mo money.
    I even got a 2-year R21. By the time that money was loaded, a person was hired, etc., the grant was almost halfway over. The project wasn't complete, there were progress reports to be sent, and I was back in the office writing the R01 that I should have written earlier. Now the startup is ending, and the "sweet period" early after startup when one has the "reserved time" for writing the RO1 has evaporated. In the long run, I expect I will get that RO1 funded. But I blew my chance to hit the ground running.
    With the hindsight of experience here is my advice for young investigators soon to be or just beginning startup packages. First, apply for all of the foundation and charity money that fits what you do. Don't lollygag on this and be done with it. Then, jump straight into the RO1--preliminary data be damned.
    Face it: as a young investigator, you probably only have one area of research from you postdoc years that is RO1-ready. Figure out what that is, and go for it. Take whatever you did as a postdoc, find a novel niche in the same area (that is not a conflict with former advisors)--and focus on that alone until that sucker gets sent off. If you think you need more preliminary data, collect that during the months between first submission and first scoring. Maybe you won't manage to gather it all as you planned. Maybe you get triaged. Believe me, if "not enough preliminary data" is the only problem identified by the reviewers, you are doing fine.
    Whatever happens, you will end up in a much stronger position for your next RO1 attempt.
    How many institutions award tenure for investigators who got the R21/RO3 but never got the RO1? I suggest not even trying that experiment

  • Beaker, that is excellent advice.
    And in relation to Sol Rivlin, he is an obsessive bitter delusional washed-up asshole, with absolutely nothing useful to add to anything we discuss here. He is nothing more than a petty vandal.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    CPP, you're a ditchweed 😉

  • drdrA says:

    Beaker- Your comments are RIGHT on target (as usual). You've got to figure out your best shot early, then just jump off the cliff and submit that sucker as an R01. Period. Any R21 thoughts should be put off until that is accomplished, for exactly the reasons you cite.
    Coicidentally, and fortunately, I got the same 'hindsight of experience' advice when I started from someone further down the path whom I trust very much. Helped me avoid the mistake of putting off the R01 in favor of smaller and shorter awards.

  • Alex says:

    A reasonable length application for 50,000 fucking bucks is three pages, max.
    For physical scientists at undergraduate institutions, the Research Corporation and Petroleum Research Fund offer $50k awards for new investigators. A Research Corp proposal is 3 pages, and a Petroleum Research Fund proposal is approximately 4 pages (they specify a word count, big font, double space, etc., but it formatted like a Research Corp proposal it would come to about 4 pages). And while I haven't seen the stats, people who review in physical sciences for NSF tell me that they have more confidence in new investigators who have a Research Corp or PRF award on the CV.

  • Dave says:

    To hell with this proposal crap. A lottery ticket has NO written component and can pay in excess of 100 million!

  • Kris says:

    what if you are a soft-money non tenure track research faculty and your entire salary has to be raised from external grants that you bring in? It seems to me that you need to either have many many grants or else really big ones, just to cover your own salary (plus overhead) let alone the cost of supplies or paying students???
    How many here are soft money faculty? How much funding in grants do you have to bring in per year just to cover your own salary as well as students?? millions?

  • Beaker says:

    Kris, 100% soft money ain't fun, but I think the same rules apply. Only If the RO1 is pending do you go for the smaller grants. Easier said than done when you are just trying to keep your head above water. I know this because Mrs. Beaker is 100% soft money. She spent a lot of time earning a small foundation grant, but her situation didn't change much now that she got it. Your chances of going from soft to hard will be greatly enhanced if you can get that RO1

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Isis, according to a report I noted earlier, ditchweed averages less than 1% Δ9THC, mostly below 0.5% from what I can tell. In contrast the actual marijuana grade is 2-4% at a minimum (over time and depending on what part of the plant). However, CPP is also alluding to another issue which is that a NIDA contract (held by the author of that above referenced report) supplies marijuana for research and approved therapy purposes. It is generally held in low regard with respect to quality- hence "government ditchweed". Nevertheless research studies seem to indicate that the highest content in the official supply is about 3.5% or so.
    On topic, CPP is a bit absolutist when it comes to the weenie mechanisms. I agree in broad outline but mostly am with the sentiments of pinus when s/he talks opportunity cost. Do not fail to write an R01 for a given round in order to write an R03/R21 sized mech.
    OTOH, there is something to be said for spreading your chances around. Since it is absolutely the case that there are some reviewers out there thinking that ESI's and NI's have to get "starter" grants first, well, maybe you can improve the odds. With respect to the announcement motivating the OP, this points out that when the announcement is highly selective and you happen to qualify, well, this improves your odds.
    In addition, sometimes you have ideas that are genuinely R21 or even (I guess) R03 projects. Trying to fake them into R01 size may just not come across well.
    Kris...um, this is not rocket brain surgery. You have to pull in enough to cover your salary plus benefits. Since NIH cap is about $180K or so, this is the maximum salary any senior investigator can charge the NIH. The low end varies tremendously but in the $70K range is a good enough rough estimate. Low end techs and grad students are going to run $40-$50K with benefits, experienced post docs and long term techs run up through the lower few ranks of faculty salaries. You can limp along on one full modular ($250K / yr) if you have to. But I think just about any soft-money person has to target 2 concurrent $250K R01s as a minimum. If your work is more expensive than average you might need a bit more...

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Much of the discussion that has developed here could be better focused if the ditchweed, who wrote the original post, had explained the issue and elaborate on it a bit. Instead, he wrote a short, sensless opinion, concentrating on the WTFs and the MFs that he cherishes, completely ignoring the reasons for posting his post. His summary, if appeared in a Discussion section of a submitted manuscript for publication would guaratnteed rejection of said manuscript.
    One of the reviewers (Isis 'not-so-hot') of the ditchweed's manuscript had attempted to explain his points, which he partially accepted, but it took another 'hot' reviewer (Beaker) to come up with the correct revison, to which the ditchweed gave his approval.

  • Beaker says:

    Sol, CPP has written more elegantly than I on this topic in numerous earlier posts. Indeed, most of the "wisdom" I posted on this matter comes from reading what he wrote. I am grateful for his advice, and therefore he is The Kind.
    Seeing as it goes to seed in Kentucky and doesn't produce much of a buzz, "ditchweed" fits you better.
    BTW, if I am hot it is only because Dr. Bunsen Honeydew keeps setting me on fire.

  • More of the same, tired, counter-productive whining from Sol Rivlin.
    Dr. Isis attempts to "explain" nothing for PP. Like many others who come here, I consider PP to be more much more insightful in discussing these topics than I and I have no problem coming here to try to learn something.
    I'm really excited at the news that Sol is going to get his own blog where he can write about the things he thinks are important using a style he finds acceptable. It's nice that he's finally realized how rude it is to keep griping in someone else's comments when you're not willing to play the game yourself.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    I'm really excited at the news that Sol is going to get his own blog where he can write about the things he thinks are important using a style he finds acceptable. It's nice that he's finally realized how rude it is to keep griping in someone else's comments when you're not willing to play the game yourself.
    WTF????

  • Stephanie Z says:

    In theater, someone on stage must occasionally tell a member of the audience, "The cost of admission does not buy you a speaking role." Of course, with a blog, this is not true. However, a director's chair and megaphone are much more expensive.

  • Rivlin's sole purpose for commenting here is to disrupt positive discourse that is of value to others. He is nothing more than a petty vandal. It is sad to see a grown man at the tail end of what was allegedly a productive scientific career reduced to this.

  • Becca says:

    "I consider PP to be more much more insightful in discussing these topics than I and I have no problem coming here to try to learn something."
    Can I call a bullshit on that?
    (the first part- I think Dr. Isis is more insightful than PP most of the time... though I'm definitely not saying that PP doesn't have important stuff to teach)

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Much more money per proposal page!!!
    http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55282/

  • Can I call a bullshit on that?

    No, Becca. No bullshit on this one. I may have more to add to the discourse when it comes to be a sleep-deprived woman in science and which shoes are adorable, but PP's experience in playing the funding game far surpasses my own. You better take advice from him on this particular issue.

  • Chris says:

    To give a bit more info on Ditchweed, while often used to mean "schwag" or just low-quality pot, it may also refer to Cannabis Ruderalis, which I can't say that i know much about. I do know that it has a 'natural' flowering cycle, making it well-suited to grow in ditches by the side of the road.

  • Kris says:

    thanks Beaker and DrugMonkey for answering my questions. I ask because in my experience (I'm a physical scientist by the way, I just happened to see this blog and not realized til now that it is focused on life sciences and NIH funding) more and more funding agencies or program managers do not want to fund an investigator's entire salary. So that means you can only ask for say half or three quarters of your salary to be covered by any one grant or contract therefore you need to bring in multiple grants/contracts in order to piece together your salary (+benefits+overhead) even though any given one could cover you entirely if the rules allowed the money to be used that way. The current funding climate being what it is, this is a grim proposition to always have multiple contracts coming in at the same time just to be paid a full-time wage, let alone do good science.
    Since I'm not in the life sciences and I don't apply for NIH funding, how much money is an R01? (just so I can follow your discussion).. Are you actually allowed to use it to cover 100% of your salary and benefits?? I've been co-writing some joint proposals for DOD contracts where we bid $1.5M - $2M per year, to be shared by 2-3 institutions. I'm pretty new to this (I was partially supported by my institution up until last year, until funding shortfalls made that go away too) so if I can't get my salary covered then I'm out of the game as many of my colleagues are already.

  • DM says:

    The R01 is limited to 5yrs per competitive review cycle. Per year direct costs have no obligatory limit however over $500K requires advance permission even to apply. So this forms a fairly hard ceiling. Any amount up to $250K in direct costs is budgeted in blocks of $25K- since a closely itemized budget is not required to this limit it forms another common breakpoont. I would be surprised if the modal size was not $250k at present. Overhead rates vary from University to University but 55% or so is very common.

Leave a Reply