Tenure criteria during a downturn in the NIH budget

Feb 06 2010 Published by under Careerism, Mentoring, NIH, NIH Budgets and Economics

Professor in Training has raised an absolutely fascinating issue.

The topics that were touched on during the discussion included whether the bar should be set a tad lower for my peers and I than it was for recently-tenured or soon-to-be tenured colleagues. And the very real prospect of myself and most of my newbie peers being denied tenure due to frighteningly low paylines and essentially wiping out a whole generation of promising faculty members.

I'm sure my readers will want to go over there and play. One thing I'd like to see addressed is if anyone else's institutions are even discussing this? I haven't heard anything like this being discussed, personally.

77 responses so far

  • At my institution, the talk these days has to do with laying off "regular faculty" (tenured and tenure track), which, given our contract, pretty much requires eliminating or combining departments (rendering the faculty to be laid off "redundant" in the process).
    Not that we're a research-focused system, but even if we were, I don't see the powers that be moving in a direction that would be more humane if there's a way to eliminate a regular faculty salary by standing pat.

  • Pamiam says:

    Ha ha good one! I am at Arizona State University and we were on furlough days in spring 2009. NO one has talked about lowering the bar for the loss of that time either.

  • whimple says:

    We had some noises here about extending the tenure clock from 7 years to 10 years, but there wasn't much enthusiasm for it. A research lab that is out of cash is out of business and that cash has to come from the feds. It's a tough problem and I think the generational wipeout is inevitable.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    DM,
    What is about to happen at scores of universities around the country is what I have warned about already last year. You all got excited about the stimulus money that kept many PIs afloat, while others were given a second chance. Nevertheless, this whole celebration was about delaying the inviteable, i.e., unemplyoment! There is no reason why the economy as a whole suffers 16-17% unemployment, while employees of the higher eduction system, have 0% unemplyment. Of course, this is artificial and some call it hidden unemployment. Now that state budgets everywhere are declining significantly, so do the budgets of universities. As Dr. Free-ride indicated, the only way to eliminate tenured and tenure track positions is to eliminate departments. If it doesn't happen already, it will happen soon. This is a direct outcome of so many universities relying heavily on the NIH budget to creat a glut of salaried positions that the state budget cannot pay for. Universities will have to find other ways to finance their activities and rely less on the federal government, where each university determine its own priorities, not depending on the politic de'jure of the federal administration.

  • Joe says:

    I think the decision whether to 'lower the bar' for tenure depends on what you think the purpose of pre-tenure probationary periods are for.
    If the point of the tenure process is to ensure that only faculty who meet a certain standard get tenure, and part of that standard is the ability to get funding, then obviously the bar should not be lowered. You can't fill the tenured ranks with people who have a knack for getting funding if you give tenure to people who can't get funding.
    But this cut-throat approach needs to take into account the institution's ability to replace an ejected candidate with someone better. If the institution easily attracts top-notch candidates, and routinely gets back more in overhead than it spends in startup, then it makes sense to be a meat grinder. Prestigious medical schools and research institutes are like this, for good reason.
    But if the institute can attract only second-tier candidates in a world where second-tier is no longer good enough for NIH funding, then replacing people willy-nilly based on lack of NIH funding is pointless and wasteful.

  • cmt says:

    So, the answer to this question really depends on whether everyone suffers equally in terms of getting funding. If everyone gets fewer grants, then it makes sense for institutions to discuss lowering the bar. If it just becomes harder for new folks, or folks not at the most prestigious institutions, then I would have to agree with Joe.
    For the record, I suspect the situation is that the haves will still have and the have nots will have less. I guess we'll see.

  • Anonymous says:

    replacing people willy-nilly based on lack of NIH funding is pointless and wasteful
    That's why the fired assistant professors will not be replaced.

  • whimple says:

    Silly really, when you think about it. Usually corporations prefer attrition of retiree-age people with their big salaries and low productivity, preferably with a buy-out so everyone's happy. Tenure forces the U's to kill their young to survive, rather than sending the lame and old out to die.

  • Alex says:

    I guess it depends on what sort of work the school can expect the person to do without funding. If you're talking about science faculty who teach in a College of Arts and Sciences (or whatever they call the part of the University that includes undergraduate science programs), or in a health professions department that has significant teaching components, maybe there's something for those faculty to do without grants. If there are big multi-investigator centers that the candidate has been contributing to in a productive manner even without a single-investigator grant, maybe there's something for those faculty to do without grants. However, if they are in a med school department that doesn't have enough classroom teaching to keep all those tenure-track folks busy, and if they aren't really equipped to contribute to the campus's research activity (and the task of training grad students, which is a teaching activity in its own manner) then I don't know what you do with them. Keep them around to, um, what, exactly?
    It isn't very nice, but if the campus has nothing for them to do then what is the point of tenuring them? That's what it comes down to. If there's nothing to do without a grant, what will they do with tenure?

  • If there's nothing to do without a grant, what will they do with tenure?

    Engage in endless Shitlinesque blithering at faculty meetings?

  • Alex says:

    Certain aspects of my job would be much, much easier if our college of agriculture started making soylent green (out of deadwood). The culinary school could help.

  • gnuma says:

    I have heard mention of this from tenured faculty at my non-medical post-doc MRU. It's an issue that will affect me, and like PiT I am trying to develop a strategy for dealing. As yet there is no written or voted upon policy at old MRU, and I have yet to broach this topic at new MRU.

  • Physician Scientist says:

    As an Asst prof 3.5 years into my faculty position at a top 25 med school, my interpretation is that tenure is getting tougher to achieve. We are hearing 2 R01s with one having been renewed. This is, of course, a department with 55 year old tenured faculty who haven't had a grant in 10 years, are not writing anymore, have shut down their labs but who are planning on never retiring.

  • anonymous says:

    Physician Scientist,
    Do you mean that they have completed their 55 years of tenure?. Could they not be promoted to Emeritus Professor and, if they are fond on continuing teaching or doing clinical service, allow them to do so as voluntary work?

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    There's a clear bias here against tenured faculty, especially if they are older than the average assistent professor age (35-40 years old). It is amazing how a tilted system that measures scientific prowess based on money awards could become the standard by which most scientists today measure their scientific success. This is exactly how Wall Street awards bonuses and how our economy went down the drain. When greed replaces wisdom and logic, the day is not far when Sarah Palin will head the NIH and Goerge W. Bush is offered the presidency at one of the Ivy League universities.

  • Smeglin, you're a fucking broken record. If this is how you act with your friends, family, and colleagues, it's a fucking miracle none of them long ago strangled your incessant whiny motherfucking ass. How about you save yourself the energy of typing the same blithering drivel thirty times a day and just write "{sniv}", and we'll know exactly what you're saying?
    Better still, why don't you shut the fuck up completely and go listen to that French opera garbage you keep blathering about?

  • anon says:

    I got laid off because I did not get funded as asst prof. I did manage a few publications, but shut down the lab except for one student who is trying to graduate. Since I cannot find another job, the dept has allowed me to hang on, and still try to get funding to keep things going.
    Is anyone else in this situation? Some people think I'm crazy, but what else can I do? I am not paid. The student & I will try to publish the last dregs of what we've accomplished and likely disappear. It's depressing.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    CPP, I cannot deny that, at least in part, I'm coming to DM's blog to watch you losing your junk everytime I comment here. Now, do not misunderstand me, I do believe in what I preach, but surely, you must be realizing that I'm not the only one that repeat his mantra here. More than anyone else, it is you who repeats himself endlessly.
    So, put Mozart's music in the CD drive of your computer and enjoy the day. I'll hate to know that due to a single commenter on DM's blog you, poor soul, suffered a cardiovascular event.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    anon,
    I really feel for you. You are a victim of a crooked system. Of course, if you were a tenured faculty member, you would be paid your salary, but would you be at peace with yourself collecting your monthly check, while doing nothing?

  • physician scientist says:

    Rivlin-
    Here's the scenario. There is about a 20:1 faculty:student ratio at our university. Senior faculty with tenure and full salary but without grants are teaching grad school classes for about 4 hours a week. The university charges MY grants the tuition money to support the senior faculty who can do nothing but teach. So my scenario is that I must support 70% of my salary with grants, pay tuition for my students to the university, give the university 57% indirects - all the while we have 55 yo tenured faculty with no prospects of ever getting grants again who will not retire or take a buyout in the near future. Once again, this is a massive transfer of wealth from the younger generation to the most selfish older generation in the history of the US.

  • A-confused-father says:

    A 20:1 Faculty:student ratio is extraordinary. As a father, with three children very close to graduating from College (two of them) and the youngest from high school, I would be very interested to know where these universities are, what are the tuition costs, how many graduate courses students can take and so on.
    After reading your post, I went to google and found that, in most cases, the ratio is 20:1 but the ratio is for student: Faculty.

  • antipodean says:

    If the shit actually hits the fan in the US then they will kill tenure. Departmental mergers and close-downs will start in the particularly deadwood humanities departments first.
    Tenure is great for the people who have it. But GenX is now up for tenure so the baby boomers must kill it off now they've bled it dry.

  • whimple says:

    Tenure is great for the people who have it. But GenX is now up for tenure so the baby boomers must kill it off now they've bled it dry.
    To be fair, this is also the fault of the NIH by failing to maintain a diversity of research directions by reducing award sizes correspondingly as paylines dropped, but I agree however that tenure is on the way out.

  • anonymous says:

    In view of the situation, I hope that the NIH sets up the standards for helping correct the problem by starting "to maintain a diversity of research directions by reducing awards sizes" and whichever rational measures are needed.

  • Physician Scientist says:

    A 20:1 ratio is typical of a medical school (150 or so med students and 150 or so grad students). Maybe 10:1 now that I think about it, but at most med schools/hospitals, the faculty greatly outnumber the students and the student tuition does not begin to offset the cost of the faculty. This is why indirect costs are so important to the school.

  • Physician Scientist says:

    I am correcting my previous post on the 20:1 faculty student ratio. In 2007, there were 119018 faculty at medical schools nationwide. There were a combined 53000 students (15750 med students). This is a roughly 2.5:1 faculty to student ration. Please forgive my overstatement.
    However, because grad students don't pay tuition, they don't count in this calculation. If one assumes an average salary of $100K and a tuition bill of $40K/student, then the faculty salary aggregate is $11,901,800,000 and the student tuition aggregate is $630,000,000 leaving a roughly 11.2 billion dollar deficit. Tuition does not even begin to cover the costs, hence the drive away from tenure and toward mercenary grant-getters.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    Physician Scientist,
    Tuition is not the main line of income for most universities. Faculty are not the only people being salaried by universities. I won't be surprised if you'll find out that there are similar number of adminstrative people to faculty in many universities. There are also staff people. It is a bit hypocritical to blame faculty for the broken system and it is surely hypocritical to blame the tenured faculty for being tenured when every PI does his/her best to become tenured him/herself. wimple is correct with his assertion that the NIH is as guilty as anyone for creating the existing crooked system. PI and PI wanabees are helping their universities and the NIH to strengthen it.

  • anon says:

    Just to add to the comment about supporting administrators - I was encouraged to apply for some assistant dean position (a useless office job) after I was laid off (see comment #17). Using more tactful language, I told them to fuck off. Would rather stick needles in my eyes. I couldn't believe that the university would prefer to hire MORE administrators than help their own junior faculty! I don't get it.

  • Eli Rabett says:

    Will medical school departments disappear and be absorbed into COAS/pharm/etc schools. Given the teaching loads, that might be the future.

  • A-confused-father says:

    Interesting discussion but somehow depressing as well. One is left wondering what's going on with the American system in medical schools. Are medical schools in other countries/continents running into similar problems?. In terms of education or training professionals, there seems to be not much of a difference, does it?. How is it that the administrative component, which is the visionary layer of a robust academic system (teaching/research/advancing medical care), is somehow setting a scenario for a stagnant, if not decadent, scholar system ?.

  • Anonymous says:

    they should just abolish tenure altogether. They should un-tenure the currently tenured profs so now it's everyone for themselves and let the layoffs begin. In other words, just like what the rest of the non-academic world has already been going through.

  • whimple says:

    I'm not sure what is still propping up the tenure system, particularly with the huge glut of obviously qualified postdoctoral faculty candidates. The first university that openly breaks the tenure system by hiring assistant professors with renewable long-term contracts instead of the possibility of future tenure is not going to have any shortage of applicants for the positions.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    wimple,
    Breaking the tenure system is one thing, breaking a contract with tenured faculty is something else. The tenure system is not the problem. The number of research positions, the space they required and the reliability of the research university on NIH funding as the main source of money to pay for these positions and space is the problem. Too many universities have betted on the NIH lottery, have built research palaces that require both continuous funding, expensive equipment and a stream of PIs. As strange as it may sound, there are more empty research spaces in too many universities and too small cadre of funded PIs to fill them. Breaking the tenure system won't produce the real money needed to sustain all these empty spaces.

  • Joe2 says:

    I've seen the bar lowered some places, though not at my MRU. I've written letters for the tenure of some guys who haven't gotten an R01, but only managed an R21. They still got tenured, though it took longer.
    Sometimes I think about the strengths of the NIH system for honing proposals and wish it could be applied to more things. What if politicians had to put their policies in the form of a grant application and got hammered for not thinking through their ideas or being overly ambitious in their proposals or saying stuff that is not supported by the data?
    But the NIH system is not working well for determining who should be tenured, for rewarding deserving faculty and keeping around all the people that we need for successful research and teaching. There needs to be more state funds or funds from tuition that pay faculty to do research and train students. There's also the problem of inefficiency in the whole system. We spend way too much time applying for grants instead of doing research, publishing results, and training scientists and physicians.

  • Breaking the tenure system is one thing, breaking a contract with tenured faculty is something else. The tenure system is not the problem.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!! Shitlin, you're a ridiculous self-serving buffoon. Have you really convinced yourself that you make any sense at all?

  • whimple says:

    Joe2, what is your institution's business model for these underfunded newly tenured faculty?

  • AcademicLurker says:

    "As strange as it may sound, there are more empty research spaces in too many universities and too small cadre of funded PIs to fill them."
    At least at my institution, this is quite true. The built a massive (and massively expensive) new research building ~6 years ago.
    During a renovation my lab was temporarily moved to another research building (it was the most recent building before they built the new one), and the place was a ghost town. What on Earth does the university need with a new building when the existing ones are half empty?

  • Joe2 says:

    whimple,
    At my MRU, the underfunded do not get tenured. I was mentioning writing letters for faculty going up for tenure at other universities, and I do not know their business models. However, here at my MRU, there are schools where salaries are not paid from grants but completely from the state. (Alas, my school is not one). If those underfunded professors teach some, do research they can fund, and trains students to do and understand research, are they not earning that salary and doing a service to the state?

  • Gummibears says:

    We just have been training too many scientists and the available funds are spread too thin. There has to be some factor limiting the growth, and if it happens to be the NIH budget (translated into no tenures for people without funding), then so be it.
    But I also have to add that the quality of the NIH peer review system needs an external audit. Things that are going on there are quite unimaginable in journal peer review.

  • anonymous says:

    "Things that are going on there are quite unimaginable in journal peer review".
    Like what ?. Because there were quite unimaginable things going on some few years ago. Some of the people responsible for that are not there any longer; so hopefully certain practices are gone, unless there is still hidden invasion.
    It does not make it easier to request/have an external audit if the problems or unimaginable things are not spelled out.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    "Have you really convinced yourself that you make any sense at all?"
    Of course, CPP! You can break the tenure system by deciding to end it starting at a specific date in the future. However, you cannot simply end the tenure of faculty who are already tenured, unless you decide to close the entire department they work in. Otherwise, be prepared for a huge lawsuit by every fired tenured faculty.
    BTW, thank you for your input to the discussion, asshole 😉

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Things that are going on there are quite unimaginable in journal peer review.
    Well, since the job is a little different it is not surprising that the processes have some areas of distinct practice. Also not surprising that their respective Achille's heels may differ.
    Agree with anonymous that it would be helpful to give some hint of what areas of review you mean with this statement.

  • Lake City says:

    You are now talking health reform will be changed soon; we trust that Obama and his staff do what is necessary for the welfare of families. This reform must be appropriate because many families depend on it, the health system a long time that is weak and patients suffering from cancer, chronic fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson's, diabetes, chronic pain, chronic anxiety among many other diseases, Need proper medical attention, according to the measure should be findrxonline for 80% of patients with these diseases.

  • Gummibears says:

    Like what ?
    Like regularly writing utter nonsense in summary statements, with complete impunity. An example from my recent experience: a reviewer was unfamiliar with the field and wrote a whole critique full of rubbish. He/she 'luckily' went too far and devoted a paragraph to certain methodology, expressly describing my use of it as 'strange'. It was then easy for me to provide a list of literature references to identical approaches and prove that the 'strangeness' resulted solely from the reviewer's state of mind and education. So I did in an appeal. Want to know how the appeal was handled by the NIH? Here is a message, that was cc'ed to me, probably by accident:
    "C. - will you prepare a post-council letter for M.'s signature...and run through grant ops? I believe a template is on the intranet. Thanks."
    You think they added to this template letter any discussion addressing the subject of the reviewer's incompetence? Not a word, and of course "the results of the review stand". Audit, that's what this old boy's club needs...

  • Reviewer says:

    DM,
    One of the features that peer review at NIH shares with journal peer review is the absence of public records for reviews (summary statement for awarded, non-awarded, triaged proposals -as in the NIH review- and critiques in the case of journal peer review).
    Those public records would have been essential ( and still are) to determine whether confirmation of wrongdoing/malpractice require and external audit. It might also be therapeutic for restraining "psychosomatic fabrication" when things do not turn out the way they used to be.

  • Appeal? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • experienced appealer says:

    Gummibears,
    I had the same experience four years ago and also a colleague of mine. I heard that 1 out 1,000 appeals are successful.

  • And even if you win your appeal, all you get is the opportunity to have the grant re-reviewed, without revising it or submitting a rebuttal.

  • Gummibears says:

    Precisely, PhysioProf this is laughable. And that's why these f...ers sorely need an external audit.

  • Precisely, PhysioProf this is laughable.

    What's laughable is that you didn't do your homework before wasting your time on an appeal. The appeal system was never designed to address the kind of problem you had with the peer review of your application. Addressing differences of scientific opinion with reviewers--such as "that fucking reviewer totally misunderstood my grant and is a fucking ignorant douchebag and smells like clam farts"--is what resubmission is for.

  • Gummibears says:

    Well, having the grant re-reviewed is still better than having the whole round of reviews wasted, then the second and last one (where another reviewer bases his critique on demanding an explanation why I haven't "exhaustively" addressed all that garbage written previously by his colleague), and then thinking what to do next with stuff that ACTUALLY HAS NOT BEEN REVIEWED AT ALL.

  • Gummibears says:

    PhysioProf: I am not referring to any scientific differences. I am talking about the reviewer's lack of familiarity with certain scientific approach. We can differ when we both more or less know what we are talking about. It's not a "difference of scientific opinions" if someone HAVEN'T EVEN HEARD about a particular way a Monte Carlo algorithm can be applied (and was applied, as it can be proven by publications and reviews on the subject). I don't want to be too specific, because I want to remain anonymous.

  • anon says:

    Gummibears,
    I agree with CPP. Appeal is a waste of time. I heard from someone who works in the NIH that these are NEVER successful. never. She only heard of one case which was allowed re-review because of blatant racism in the summary statement. It's incomprehensible how something like that was even permitted in a study section meeting (I've never been on one of these, so I don't know whether written comments are shared with all of the members).
    Don't listen to people who encourage you to appeal.

  • Gummibears says:

    Anon: Yes and no. Yes, appeals are useless from the point of view of immediate redress. No, because not appealing helps them blatantly pretend that the system that has been screwed up for decades is OK. ("Peerless science: peer review and U.S. science policy" by Daryl E. Chubin, Edward J. Hackett; State University of New York Press, Albany NY, 1990)

  • I am not referring to any scientific differences. I am talking about the reviewer's lack of familiarity with certain scientific approach. We can differ when we both more or less know what we are talking about. It's not a "difference of scientific opinions" if someone HAVEN'T EVEN HEARD about a particular way a Monte Carlo algorithm can be applied (and was applied, as it can be proven by publications and reviews on the subject).

    Sorry, holmes, but "I'm right, and the reviewer is an ignorant douchebag who doesn't know what they're talking about" is *exactly* what NIH refers to as "scientific differences" that are not addressable in an appeal. Whoever told/allowed/encouraged you to appeal with this concern was a fucking idiot.
    For fuck's sake, half the shit on the NIH Web site concerning appeal of peer review is exhortations not to fucking do it.

  • Gummibears says:

    Leave, Watson, these "scientific differences" alone, unless you want to argue that NOT KNOWING something amounts to expressing a valid scientific point of view. Well, this would be something indeed revolutionary if we agree that obvious ignorance=legitimate scientific position.
    Screw the anonymity, here are the specifics:
    Critique:
    (…) a strange use of the Metropolis criterion [emphasis added] for acceptance of added amino acid. The Monte Carlo approaches use randomly generated numbers to drive a change in variables or parameters. The PI uses a randomly generated number to decide about the acceptance of an additional amino acid. [Summary Statement (...), Critique #1]
    My response (the gentle part):
    Schneider et al., Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 4, 649-663 (Aug. 2005)
    Page 658: “Random sampling can also be combined with a Metropolis criterion. In this case, after each structure-modification step, the change is evaluated to decide whether it is accepted or rejected. If the modification results in a fitter candidate compound, it is immediately accepted. If, on the other hand, the modification yields a less fit candidate compound, it can still be accepted with a probability that is based on the scoring function difference between the modified and unmodified structure and a random.”

  • Gummibears says:

    "With regard to the initial review, after examining the summary statement containing the results of that review for the grant application, an investigator may have concerns about, and wish to contest a procedural aspect of the process (e.g., that the review was biased, that conflict of interest existed, that the review group lacked appropriate expertise (hear! hear!), that factual errors entered into the review). Because NIH is dedicated to maintaining the overall high quality of its peer review system (HAHAHAHAHAHA) and of the review of individual applications, it has established appeal procedures (Appeal? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!) for investigators to address such concerns."
    http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/not97-232.html

  • Holmes, I feel your pain, but what you are talking about is a "scientific difference" that NIH intends to be addressed via the ordinary peer review process.
    If your problem with the instance of peer review you are appealing could be addressed by explaining scientific shit to the reviewer and inducing a realization that you were, indeed, correct in the first place, then it is not appropriate for appeal. Period. The NIH Web site explains all of this very clearly, and *they* get to define their terms, not you.
    Your dissatisfaction with the NIH peer review appeal process is 100% due to your own delusion about what that process is for.

  • Gummibears. says:

    Oh, I think I know what "the process is for" (or rather what they made it for). And that's precisely why I am suggesting an audit. Since you value explanations so much, I will explain this to you: Addressing such issues as the one I presented in a resubmission amounts to agreeing that reviewers are allowed to freely waste (1) 4 months of my time (2) the whole round of reviews, which are supposed to be meritorious in the first place (and the number of resubmissions is, as you know, limited), and (3) my chances for ultimate success, because in the limited allowable space I would have to address the shit they1st round reviewers wrote, unavoidable at the expense of legitimate issues.
    Now, if this explanation suffices, that's fine. If it doesn't, then perhaps you are among the ones in need of an audit.

  • anon says:

    Gummibears,
    What is it that you hope to accomplish then? We all seem to agree that your reviewer is a douchebag. The NIH isn't going to do anything about it, even if you try to appeal. Douchebag reviewer will not be replaced, and even if they are, the new person will be just be another NIH club dipshit. Some other stupid comment will show up in the next review cycle. Is an appeal something that your program officer is encouraging you to do?
    How did people do research before the NIH existed? Where did the money come from, and does anybody out there know how I can get some? (money, that is)

  • Gummibears says:

    What can I do? Really, just a very small thing: I am not going to be quiet about what is going on at the NIH. Eventually it may (in a small way) contribute to the critical mass and perhaps somebody will do something about this club.
    The Program Officer will NEVER encourage you to appeal, because it disturbs their streamlined way of dealing with the flood of applications, and because it suggests that the assignment of reviewers (for which the NIH staff is responsible) was incorrect. Other reasons may be possible, but I don't want to speculate.

  • whimple says:

    Neither the SRO nor the PO will ever encourage you to appeal because they are both TrueBelievers(tm) in the System just as it is. Anyway, you get three reviewers, so if your grant was otherwise megafab, one of the other two could gently point out that this one minor point against you was otherwise ok and your score would be fine. If all the reviewers hated it, then just pointing out that one of the reasons for hate was erroneous in fact won't do you any good. Best you can do is to resubmit and ask the SRO in writing on the resubmission to leave off reviewer #x since by their ignorant comments they obviously have no clue about the science of what you're proposing (except not using this exact phraseology).
    Sorry your grant got trashed. That is a bummer.

  • Cashmoney says:

    Sorry your grant got trashed. That is a bummer.
    dude. when whimple is talking you down....

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    Not so fast. The appeal process does work for big, fat, rich PIs. When I was serving on a study section, I happned to review a grant proposal of a very famous, fat PIs who had made some predictions about the outcome of his experiments without going far enough in his literature search. I happened to be familiar with that literature. That literature clearly indicate that his predicted outcome is impossible and thus I triaged his proposal. Only one other member triaged the fat PI's proposal, enough for the proposal not to be funded. Two months later I received a letter from the SRO, which included a paragraph from an appeal letter sent to him by the fat PI, who complained that his proposal was not approved and funded. The quotation from his appeal letter did not contain any response to my critique. The SRO asked me to reconsider my review and decision. I responded that there is no reason for me to change them. I spoke by phone with the other reviewer who also triaged the proposal. He received a similar letter. To make the story short, the fat PI's grant was approved and funded and I and the other reviewer were transferred to another study section and later we were both uninvited to continue our service at the NIH.

  • anon says:

    "The quotation from his appeal letter did not contain any response to my critique."
    They did not show you the entire contents of the appeal? NIH club cronyism. What's the point? Why should any of us newbies bother?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    That literature clearly indicate that his predicted outcome is impossible and thus I triaged his proposal.
    Of course I do not know the details. But I do smell a familiar stench of a reviewer confusing evaluation of a research plan with predicting an empirical outcome. The review process cannot make such predictions as some commenter or other was just emphasizing around these parts.
    It is one of the bigger problems with grant review if you ask me.

  • To make the story short, the fat PI's grant was approved and funded and I and the other reviewer were transferred to another study section and later we were both uninvited to continue our service at the NIH.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!! Scumlin, you blithering idiot, you were thrown out of CSR because you are a delusional fuck-up and so fucking annoying that every other reviewer on the study section probably threatened to quit if they didn't boot your whining putrid ass.
    Dude, Occam's Razor: there's not a conspiracy everywhere in science to fuck with you; rather, you are a fucking imbecile, and are so fucking unpleasant to be around, that people would rather stab their ears out with sharpened pencils than have to listen to you.

  • Rob says:

    I once got a critique on a proposal for the synthesis of an interesting natural product. The critique basically stated that my proposed route was not competitive with UNPUBLISHED work by another scientist. WTF? Since when is unpublished work a valid measure for comparison. I complained, to no effect (I was an assistant professor).
    Later I find that the unpublished work was by a member of the study section that reviewed my proposal. I found this out when he published his synthesis. It was a lousy synthesis by a second rate chemist, and he published it in a just OK journal. We turned around and completed the synthesis in half the steps and published it in a high quality journal. Our work has garnered around 60 citations, his, less than 10.
    (Slap forehead, band head on desk, then write another proposal.)

  • Solomn Rivlin says:

    DM,
    The predicted outcome was based on a specific supposed action of a specific ion on a specific protein. If the PI had review the literature he would found out that the supposed action had been tested long before he became a scientist and the results of those tests were the opposite of his supposition. Thus, the prediction I am describing is of a given experiment that the PI never performed, not the outcome of the whole proposal. Actually, in my review I suggested that if the PI had done the experiment he would never predict the outcome he did.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    so was this an experiment? did an entire Aim rest on the prediction? did the whole grant hinge on the prediction?
    Was it an unrecoverable flaw or was the scientist going to find out in short order that s/he was incorrect, modify accordingly and go on to produce interesting science anyway?

  • whimple says:

    Was it an unrecoverable flaw or was the scientist going to find out in short order that s/he was incorrect, modify accordingly and go on to produce interesting science anyway?
    DM, you certainly know better. Fatal flaws are to be addressed in the resubmission of the application. You recall that projects are funded rather than people right?

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    DM,
    You're too close to CPP. The influence is really damaging where objectivity is concerned.
    If said PI would do his job before submission by checking the available literature, he would realized that the experiment, which was a key one in building one of the specific aims, was bound to fail. Sorry I cannot post the original proposal, my review and critique and the letter of the SRO. BTW, we have already discussed about a year ago or even longer, that very case.
    Funny that despite the fact that the PI was awarded the grant, not even one paper was published based on that proposal. The whole topic and the predicted effect of the specific ion, though were brought up in a scientific meeting with very preliminary results prior to the submission of the prpoosal, was never reached publication.

  • surprising? says:

    Maybe that PI is following Snyder's advise. According to his recent opinion in Cell, the Nobel Prize never performed the experiments he proposed in his grants.

  • BTW, we have already discussed about a year ago or even longer, that very case.

    Of course we have. All disgruntled paranoiacs like you ever do is whine and whine and whine about the same shit endlessly. Like I already explained to you, your megalomaniacal theory that the entire scientific enterprise sucks and conspires to fuck with you and deny your brilliance and moral rigor is faulty.
    It is sad that your delusions prevent you from realizing this, like how you have convinced yourself that your sorry ass was kicked out of CSR because you tried to mess with some "fat PI", and not because of your gross incompetence and disruptively annoying behavior.

  • Katharine says:

    Who assigns reviewers at the NIH? Scientific program officers? I have never been totally clear on this.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Katharine, this is the job of the Scientific Review Officer (SRO: previously "Administrator" hence SRA).
    Program Officers are not supposed to have any say in who reviews the grants that have been assigned to them.
    From what I have seen there can sometimes be some jockeying back and forth between POs and SROs with the POs overstepping their bounds and the SROs telling them to keep their noses out of it.
    OTOH, I believe it is appropriate for POs to recommend PIs for grant review service in a general sense. This is what happened to me at one point- my CV was passed along to an SRO by a PO for consideration for future service.

  • rp says:

    I believe the vast majority of clinical faculty at medical schools have voluntary positions (they are not paid by the med school, and totally earn their income off of patient billings). That is why you see such a high ratio of faculty to students at med schools.

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