An opinion piece in The Scientist issues the same old complaints about the NIH grant review system that are familiar to my Readers. In this case, the author Les Costello (website; Research Crossroads Report) takes particular aim at the recent efforts of the NIH to prioritize funding of younger / transitioning investigators.
Moreover, the NIH policy introduces and justifies a form of age discrimination, which guarantees that grant proposals from senior investigators and longtime-funded investigators will be denied based on age, not on scientific merit. This policy will introduce, exacerbate, and even justify covert and overt discriminatory tendencies of reviewers, when it is essential to suppress such influences from a scientifically credible and objective peer review process.
I couldn't be happier.
Have I taken leave of my senses?
As a senior investigator with grant funding for 48 years, and a past reviewer on several NIH and other agencies' grant review panels, I vehemently object to this policy. I do so as an obligation to defend a 60-year history of advancements in science and medicine, which was based exclusively on funding the best science. As young investigators, I and my colleagues successfully competed with established researchers based on merit, without preferential treatment.
HAHAHAHA! w00t! Keep it up dude!
Until this problem is addressed, the number of broadly trained and knowledgeable biomedical scientists will continue to decline, as will the quality of biomedical research. Then there will be no need for NIH to impose special considerations for young investigators--there will be no high-quality science and scientists to compete against.
I'm dying over here!
Look. Here's the thing. Number one, my email box has been filled today with people sending the link to this article to me. Number two, the comments over at The Scientist are just hammering the poor guy. Making all the points I would normally make and more besides. Making it emphatically clear that he is talking out of his behind, has no data, a poorly specified and defended set of rationales and is totally ignorant of the existing data on grant reviews and awards that contradict his opinions.
I am delighted. It gives me hope that the tide is turning. Each time one of these types gets up to spout about how the NIH system is failing and it is all the fault of these new/young investigators (who, btw, are finally catching a break) perhaps someone around them will throw some data and stats and reality back in their faces. Eventually, they will (dare I hope) be shamed out of even saying this incredibly self-serving pap. The NIH will stop being led around by the nose by the circular self-congratulation of aged investigators about the "best science" and will look at the past, present and future with an informed and flexible eye.
The response to this chowderheaded opinion piece gives me hope.