A recent exchange with reader Dave indicates that at least one IC will be putting any grant on the books that is within 10 percentile points of the current funding line will be considered for R56 / Bridge award.
My understanding was that if payline was 10%, everyone between 10 and 20% (who wouldn't normally get funded) gets considered for an R56
The R56 has been around for awhile and frees up Program to do some hard negotiating to pay partial awards out of the PIs proposal that did not make the funding cut. They can cut the years and budget and say "take it or leave it". Well, this concept has been a part of almost any official pronouncement on the NIH response to their dollop of stimulus money so it isn't really a surprise. But for some reason Dave's comment has me thinking.
What can we learn from this?
I've been thinking about how we can use this interval of unusual Program tricks to generate the data to support a permanent change in the way of doing business. A change that might address some of the time wasting. In a prior post I recommended an approach to alleviate revision-churning (this was before the limits were changed to single round of revising):
The ICs should set a "desired" funding target consistent with their historical performance, say 24% of applications, for each Council round. When they do not have enough budget to cover this many applications in a given round, they should roll the applications that missed the cut into the next round. Then starting the next Council round they should apportion some fraction of their grant pickups to the applications from the prior rounds that were sufficiently meritorious from a historical perspective. Perhaps half roll-over and half from the current round of submissions. That way, there would still be some room for really outstanding -01 apps to shoulder their way into funding
The great part is that essentially nothing would change. The A2 app that is funded is not going to result in scientific conduct that differs in any substantial way from the science that would have resulted from the A1/15%ile app being funded. New apps will not be any more disadvantaged by sharing the funding pie with prior rounds than they currently are facing revision-status-bias at the point of study section review.
Yet a great deal of time and effort would be saved.
Okay, so maybe what we can figure out with this massive upsurge in R56 pickups is if a would work. Suppose they turn this R56 thing into a new SOP.
First, drop the R21s altogether. Everybody puts in R01s.
Not enough preliminary data? R56 can help.
Aim 3 depends on the success of Aim 1? R56 just for Aim 1.
Worried about "risking" a 5 yr / full mod on a New Investigator? R56 is their friend.
Now, true, I'm not a big fan of cut budgets and timelines. But this has some real promise to fix some of the things that are really frustrating. It won't work well for everyone's proposal but in some cases this could save everyone a lot of time and effort and the mystery money that is supposed to magically generate strong preliminary data.