ERA Commons Oddity

Apr 25 2009 Published by under Grantsmanship, NIH, NIH Budgets and Economics

I was on the status information pages for several of my NIH grant applications yesterday and I noticed something odd. I have three applications that had been previously reviewed by study sections, scored, reviewed by council, but not funded. Up until recently, the most recent entry in the Status History section for each of these grants had thus been "Council review completed."
As of yesterday, that entry had been removed, so now the most recent entry for each of those three grants is "Scientific Review Group review completed: Council review pending." And I should point out that these grants are not all assigned to the same institute, so this is not something institute specific.
I wonder if this indicates that all scored grants that were already reviewed by council but not funded are now being routed back to council for re-review and consideration for ARRA funding. Is anyone else seeing this?

18 responses so far

  • qaz says:

    I wonder if this indicates that all scored grants that were already reviewed by council but not funded are now being routed back to council for re-review and consideration for ARRA funding. Is anyone else seeing this?

    I suspect that's what's going on. One of my colleagues got called by his program officer a couple of weeks ago and told that they had decided to fund a two-year old proposal that had gotten scored but not funded.
    It's certainly not all scored proposals. Unfortunately, all of my unfunded proposals say "Administratively withdrawn from IC" which I suspect means they're dead. šŸ™
    But maybe you'll get lucky.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    "But maybe you'll get lucky."
    Right! It is like the lottery now. The hell with the scientific quality and feasibility of a proposed project, just roll the dice, maybe you'll get lucky and your shitty science get funded by the American tax payer. I guess shitty funded young scientists are better than brilliant washed-up funded old fucks.

  • Luigi says:

    Maybe. Maybe not. The NIH system is currently in severe distress. The computer systems are overloaded and semi-informed staffers are working feverishly (but not necessarily logically) to cope with the influx of applications and plethora of ad-hoc procedures.
    If they ARE re-considering old proposals, then they are digging pretty deep. I just checked and see that a proposal I submitted in 2006 is now pending again. That was a paper application! The main criticism was 'too ambitious', and that particular project stopped because I didn't have the money to hire people to work on it. But the prelim data was all published in Nature Neuroscience and J. Neuroscience (plus a couple other pubs) and has gotten quite a bit of attention. Still definitely worth doing, and no one else can do it as well as us. Maybe they're reconsidering...
    But I doubt it. I will be sort of glad when this ARRA circus ends.

  • drdrA says:

    Sol-
    Yikes. When the funding line was the 10th percentile there were many excellent proposals that didn't make this cutoff and didn't get funded. Now some folks in the 11, 12, perhaps up to the 20th percentile even- will get a chance at 2 years.... they will get a chance at survival. I fail to see how this translates in to 'shitty' science being funded.
    And furthermore, the ARRA thing hasn't made it a lottery- it was ALWAYS something of a lottery once the funding line sank through the floor.

  • Wiser, Older says:

    Eaaassy drdrA. Solly is just baiting the boys.....

  • qaz says:

    Sol #2 - why do you think this is any different than NIH has been for the last 20 years? For as long as I know of, NIH's funding line has been far below the line of good science. While one may be able to differentiate between the top 30% (*) of grants and the bottom 30% in terms of likelihood to produce good science, at least in my scientific lifetime, anything in that top 30% is (as far as I can tell) equivalent. Given that NIH funding levels have never (in my lifetime) been near 30%, a random lottery of that top 30% seems a lot more fair than actually taking the top 10%.
    I pulled 30% out of my a**. It could be 20%, it could be 50%. YMMV. But the argument still stands.
    I wish they'd do a damn lottery. Give us some easy threshold to cross to prove we're doing real work, then fund by lottery. It'd be more fair and waste less of our time!

  • drdrA says:

    Wiser,Older-
    I like that alias- FYI. Yes- I know- normally I have a high tolerance for Sol, and I'm reasonably good at giving the silent treatment- I don't know what came over me today though. šŸ™‚

  • S. Rivlin says:

    qaz,
    You, of course, are absolutely correct. The NIH funding is, in many ways, a lottery, and I know more than a few lucky shitty scientists who got funded despite their shitty science. On the other hand, I also know many excellent scientists who have been very unlucky with the NIH lottery and, like Luigi, published their excellent unfunded work in high IF journals.
    drdrA, do you belong to the lucky or the unlucky scientists?

  • whimple says:

    The other possibility is that Luigi's work is completely irrelevant to human health, excellent though it may be, and that the NIH correctly does not fund the work on that basis.

  • The other possibility is that Luigi's work is completely irrelevant to human health, excellent though it may be, and that the NIH correctly does not fund the work on that basis.

    If you're doing any sort of functional biological research, this is an exceedingly low barrier.

  • Luigi says:

    whimple,
    Yes, that did come up at NIH. I am not an M.D., and the link to human disease was at first hypothetical. We named the gene, after all, so lots of stuff about it was hypothetical. Still, it surprised me because a private agency with express interest in curing human disease had funded the preliminary work, and even featured our results in their annual newsletter. By the time our work was published, the links were increasingly obvious. Drugs targeting the human ortholog are currently in clinical trials (not run by me), and ultimately, our continuation of the work was funded by a private foundation expressly interested in human disease. You know it's relevant when mothers and patients themselves write and call asking for advice and help. Like I said, I'm not an M.D. Ultimately I do science because it's interesting and honestly am not really in it to cure anything (although that would be sort of cool). I always just end up referring people to clinical trials signup sites and/or M.D.s I know. But I know I'm just passing the buck. I can't help.
    Here's a question for the group:
    Have you ever been contacted by patients hoping your work can help? Assuming you're not a clinical scientist, what do you do?

  • Have you ever been contacted by patients hoping your work can help? Assuming you're not a clinical scientist, what do you do?

    I have. I thank them for their interest in my work, explain that I am a basic scientist and not a physician, and try to point them towards sources of clinical information: usually relevant parts of the NIH Website.

  • msphd says:

    Wow, thanks for getting my hopes up.
    Then I remembered that, even if my scored-but-unfunded K-grant proposal were suddenly back in for reconsideration, I would still have the problem that my university doesn't want to give me a job title that NIH would find suitable enough.
    Fuck. Well anyway. Sigh.

  • Dr. Feelgood says:

    WTF MsPhD!
    They wont give you an acceptable job title? What place wont hand out shitty non-tenure faculty titles to satisfy a career development award request from reviewers???
    That's K-razy!
    Doc F

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Something doesn't add up. Why would msphd's institution submit the proposal on her behalf then refuse the promotion? Now if it was a promotion contingent on the award, that would be familiar...but then this comment wouldn't make any sense.

  • Drugmonkey says:

    And I should point out that the NIH doesn't care a whit what the job title is. Technically speaking anyway.

  • Promises says:

    I'm in the same boat. As a postdoc, one can apply for a K-award through my institution. But they ain't promising a promotion contingent on the award. Not to everyone who applies, anyway.

  • Amanda Lindsay says:

    see the following link for a translation of Commons Statuses between what the PI/SO sees and what NIH sees via IMPAC II)
    it looks to me as though an application moving from Scientific Review to Council Review is going in the right direction!
    http://era.nih.gov/docs/era_status_codes.pdf
    i realize this answer is none too timely but perhaps others will come across this in a search (as I did) and find it useful!

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