Repost: Study Section, Act II

Feb 10 2010 Published by under Grant Review, Humor, NIH

This post went up Oct 8, 2008.


Time: One to six weeks prior to February, June or October, two rounds after Act I.
Setting: Assorted messy professorial offices, planes, hotels

    Dramatis Personæ:

  • Assistant Professor Yun Gun (ad hoc)
  • Associate Professor Rap I.D. Squirrel (standing member)
  • Professor H. Ed Badger (standing member, second term)
  • Dr. Cat Herder (Scientific Review Officer)
  • Badger's Highly Accomplished Administrative Assistant, Eunice


Six weeks before the study section meeting:
Yun Gun: [Logs into Commons, downloads each assigned grant, starts reading each one cover-to-cover]
Rap I.D. Squirrel: [Glances at email from SRO Cat Herder announcing the opening of the Submit Phase on Commons, deletes, goes back to work]
H. Ed. Badger: [Flying back from three weeks "collaborating" with his buddy in Bordeaux]
Two weeks before the study section meeting:
YG: [Exhausted] OMG! I can't believe these people can do this every round! I've been reading proposals and writing my four page critiques for weeks in every spare moment!
RS: hmm, wonder what I did with that study section CD....[hunts around on desk] aha! Password? wtf? for each damn proposal and summary statement? This blows...better log into Commons where I can at least save them after three clicks each...can the CSR do anything more to dissuade us from actually reading these things? [starts reviewing] I swear... one of these days I'm going to just use a template like I suspect ol' Badgie does....
HB: [shuttling to three invited talks spread out around the world]
One week before the study section meeting, two days prior to Commons posting deadline:
YG: oh, I'm nervous to see what the other reviewers thought on my assigned grants...when did Cat Herder say the Read Phase opened?
RS: dangit! I forgot to finish up those three grant reviews I had left...wonder if I can get to them by the deadline...oh well, we only get 60% by the deadline anyway, I can finish up on the weekend.
HB: hmm, don't I have some grants to review around here somewhere? [pokes through desk for 20 min, finally calls TurboAdmin Eunice who deftly extracts the ten R01 pdfs she's printed out for HB to read]
Eunice: "And don't forget you have a seminar speaker showing up in three hours...."
HB: okay, better get rocking. File:Open ....where is it, where is it....ahh 'RmechStockCritiqueTemplate.dot'. SaveAs, SaveAs, SaveAs........alright, sortin' time
[glances through PI and title for all ten applications, scans five Abstracts, checks two Biosketches]
Let's edit!
[cut, insert, cut, brief interlude of mad typing, paste, cut, recheck application, mad typing, cut, cut] ...lemme see here....[reads critique, re-skims part of proposal]....ok, good enough for gover'mint work!
[Repeat X 9] Done!
Eunice, knocking: "Professor Badger, the seminar speaker Professor GrossKopf is here to see you..."
HB: "Hey Grossie! Let's hit the coffeeshop.....Eunice, would you please upload those critiques to Commons by 9pm Eastern? Thanks!"
Read Phase:
RS: [already in Bethesda, meeting with some intramural collaborators] whoops, still have two left to review, don't I?
HB: "Eunice? Can you print out the critiques for my assigned grants? I'll take those on the plane to DC..."
YG: I'm on three with Professor Badger this time, let's see what he has to say.....hmm, kinda familiar...wtf!!??? Does he just lightly edit the same damn critique every time!???!!!

11 responses so far

  • Dood, gummibear is gonna be pissed off when he reads this!

  • Gummibears says:

    Why should I be? This is not relevant to my reasons for griping about the NIH peer review system. I have seen my share of template-based reviews, but I just treat them as largely neutral and ultimately harmless "packing peanuts". What really pisses me off is the stuff written specifically for the sole purpose of rejection, and supported by garbage instead of scientifically sound argumentation (I ONCE - only once - got a review written with malicious intent, but beautifully argued by someone clearly familiar with the subject; It was a pleasure to respond to it).

  • Horseman says:

    I wonder how many times that Stock Critique file has been edited and actually used by someone on study section.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    What do you mean, Horseman? That thing is totes for realz. I found out about it by plying the more senior appointed members with wine after about 3 rounds iirc. Best $$$ wine I've ever bought, ROI-wise...
    🙂

  • concerned reviewer says:

    Can anyone offer advice on a hypothetical situation? Let's say that you are reviewing a grant that you really like (innovate, significant, etc.) for a study section that you will be attending in a few days. However, in looking over some background material you discover that large portions of the text are plagiarized. Not one or two sentences, but paragraph after paragraph of text that has been copied and pasted from the primary literature. The preliminary data section does not appear to plagiarized (as far as you can tell) but almost the entire background and many of the descriptions of techniques in the Research Design section. What would you do?

  • Is it copy/pasted from published papers that the PI was an author on? If so, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. If not, then there is an issue of possible plaigiarism.
    According to NIH proceudre, as an allegation of possible scientific misconduct, this is something that should be brought up privately with the SRO, and not brought up in the written review of the grant or in open study section.

  • concerned reviewer says:

    Is it copy/pasted from published papers that the PI was an author on?
    No. The text was lifted from publications in which the author had no affiliation. The main concern is not with the plagiarized text but how it damages the credibility of the author of the grant(preliminary results, etc.).

  • DrugMonkey says:

    PP is right. Even if you only think there *might* be some sort of ethical implication/complication the proper response is to bring it to the attention of the SRO and get a ruling. This is far superior to getting advice from random peers or, worse, random klowns on the internet.
    It is the simplest thing in the world to drop this same comment in an email to the SRO and get her opinion.

  • Plaigiarism is a form of scientific misconduct that should be reported to the SRO, but not mentioned in your written critique or in open study section. The reason this is the policy of NIH is that accusations of scientific misconduct are obviously very damaging to the accused, and they want to make sure that such accusations are not made public unless there is something behind them.
    The most likely outcome if the SRO thinks the accusation is credible would be to administratively withdraw the application from consideration and to initiate a formal investigation of the potential misconduct.

  • Is it copy/pasted from published papers that the PI was an author on? If so, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

    Incidentally, when I have done this, for example using text from a review article in the Background & Significance section, I have asked my co-author(s) for permission as a matter of courtesy.

  • concerned reviewer says:

    I'll send the SRO an e-mail and let them decide what to do with this information. Thanks for the advice.

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