Repost: IFCN Clustering; A CRISP analysis

Dec 24 2009 Published by under Careerism, Grant Review, NIH

It has been a couple of years since I wrote this one and I was wondering to myself if study sections have been de-clustered. If you have an odd moment (and really, what else would you be doing the next couple of days) scan through your favorite study sections' funded grant output and see how clustered those sections are at present. This post went up Dec 7, 2007 on the old blog.


We've been discussing the degree to which insular sub-groupings of scientists protect and maintain themselves and their peers through the grant review process. We're using "bunny hopping" thanks to whimple and the NIH CSR calls this "clustering". Note upfront that this analysis and discussion does not necessarily require overt malicious intent on anyone's part. The presentation at the recent PRAC meeting from Don Schneider identified the IFCN (Integrative, Functional and Cognitive Neuroscience) group of study sections as top suspects in the "clustering" phenomenon. Can we derive a little more information one wonders?


The IFCN sections are:

If we ignore the last three special-mechanism sections we have 11 general R-mech sections, some of which are intimately familiar to the DM, BM, apparently the PP and possibly you, DearReader.
Let's go to the CRISP, shall we? I'll search on 1R% and 2R% for each, note that the former will include some non-renewable mechs like R21, R03 and double up on R15s, each year of which is a "1" award type. Also, this is just the ones that start in FY2007, noncompeting Type5s not included.
NMB: 28 Type 1, 15 from DA, 5 MH, 4 DK, a DC and an NS. 13 Type 2, 8 DA, 2 MH, 1 each DK, NS, HD.
NNB: 19 Type 1, 5 MH, 5 DK, 3 NS, 2 DA, 2 HD. 15 Type 2, 7 MH, 3 NS, 2 HD, 1each DK, DA, HL
BRS: 998 Type 1 and 283 Type 2 returned, more investigation needed. Is this the "standing SEP"? With multiple actual sections perhaps? [Update 12/10/07: My browser and CRISP were apparently not getting along. 11 Type 1, 5 MH, 4 NS, 1 DA, 1 HL. 7 Type 2, 3 each MH, NS, 1 HD.
SCS: 46 Type 1, 22 NS, 16 DC, 4 DA, 2 AR, 1 DE, 1 NR. 20 Type 2, 12 DC (inc 1 in yr 40!), 3 DE, 3 NS, 1 CA, 1 DA
SMI: 19 Type 1, 13 NS, 4 DC, 1 MH, 1 EY. 12 Type 2, 7 NS, 3 MH, 1 HL, 1 DC
AUD: 31 Type 1, 31 DC. 40 Type 2, 39 DC, 1 HD
LAM: 16 Type 1, 9 MH, 2 each RR, AG, 1 each DA, EY, NS. 22 Type 2, 15 MH, 4 NS, 2 AG, 1 DA
COG: 20 Type 1, 6 NS, 4 EY, 3 AG, 2 MH, 1 DC. 12 Type 2, 4 DC, 3 EY, 3 MH, 2 NS
NAL: 33 Type 1, 18 from AA, 14 ES, 1 NS. 17 Type 2, 14 AA, 2 ES, 1 DA.
CVP: 17 Type 1, 17 EY. 26 Type 2, 26 EY.
Anyone spot the bunny hoppers yet? 🙂

6 responses so far

  • MGS says:

    How often does the NIH review/revise the categories for Initial Review Groups (IRGs) and their associated study sections?
    I'm trying to get my head around the dizzying array of funding types and systems. I have finally figured out to what study sections I will likely submit applications, but I am still at a loss on the award groups/types. What are type 1 and 2 awards, or where can I go to read an understandable description of the award types?

  • microfool says:

    CSR discussed their review of IRGs at their November 2008 PRAC meeting , specifically in slides 7-9 of the presentation on review of IRGs.

  • neurolover says:

    DM--you are talking in code. I have no idea what we're supposed to deduce. Is clustering bad? I know bunny hopping is bad. What are t1 t2 applications? Perplexed, but interested in insularity in science, which is inevitable, and, so
    etimes bad.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Type 1 are new submissions. Type 2 are competing continuations- the project has received a prior interval of support (5 yrs is general NIH max) and is back for competitive review to continue.
    Whether clustering OR bunnyhopping is bad is a question for discussion. The upside is the way it heads off the tyranny of the majority / GlamourMag / whathaveyou. The downside is the potential for less worthy science to persist. This is a balance that operates within and between study sections..and ICs for that matter

  • microfool says:

    Hypothesis: Bunny hopper sections are those sections in which Type 2s dominate, especially when those type 2s are funded primarily by one institute.

  • for the sake of clarity, here's the list of study sections, rank-ordered by the ratio of new grants (type 1) to renewed grants (type 2) approved.
    SCS: 46/20 = 2.3
    NMB: 28/13 = 2.2
    NAL: 33/17 = 1.9
    COG: 20/12 = 1.7
    BRS: 11/7 = 1.6
    SMI: 19/12 = 1.6
    NNB: 19/15 = 1.3
    AUD: 31/40 = 0.8
    LAM: 16/22 = 0.7
    CVP: 17/26 = 0.7
    it would also be interesting to take the ratio after normalizing each submission type by the number submitted. that is, in a hot field like bunny-hopping, there may be 100 groups with repeat grants, and only 20 groups submitting new ones. if the ratio is .7 (say 10/14 new/renewed), then it looks like the study section is favoring the old guard, when in fact it approved 50% of the new grants, and only 14% of the renewals. the accusation of insularity might still hold, though: how could bunny-hopping be hot if only 1/6 of its grants are from new groups?

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