What? No NIH Program Officer Zombie Mantra?

I think I feel weak in the knees.
A Program Official from the NIH actually giving advice other than to "revise and resubmit"?


Over at writedit's epic comment thread on NIH Paylines & Resources I found two comments which violate the rules of the NIH world as I know it.
Rebecca:

I remember someone said that an email from the PO emphasizing if the resubmission got a worse score ( a higher score), that score would override the first one. And it happened on someone, unfortunately.

Oh pshaw. Someone once heard of something that supposedly happened to...wait, what's this?
Elizabeth:

My PO sent us an e-mail saying that until NCI had it's budget for FY2011 we wouldn't know and from FY2005-FY2010 that decision hasn't been made until March/April. She also told us for the K22s 10-29 had a promising chance of funding and 30-40 were in the gray (of course I have a 30). She did caution about resubmitting because if you resubmit and your score gets higher and they decide they can fund at the original level, they have to go with the most recent score.

Ok, now that sounds a bit more first person and solid. I have never, ever heard such a thing and it flies in the face of one of my most fundamental understandings of PO behavior. Any request for speculation about the chances of a borderline score getting funded is met by the PO Zombie Mantra: "I advise you to revise and resubmit to see if you can improve your score".
My understanding has always been that so long as a score is on the books (hasn't been administratively removed or whatever they call it) it is fair game for Program to decide to fund it for whatever reasons. This is not to say it is likely. Not even to say all scores are equally likely to be picked up, even if Program really, really likes the proposal. But it is possible.
It has also been my impression that every so often on study section I would see a situation where a borderline score went backward on the next revision and, lo and behold, the penultimate (better scoring) version of the application was the one funded. This would explain the inevitability of the Zombie Mantra, right? There is no cost (in the eyes of the PO who cares not for your time spent revising the grant) involved so why not prepare a revision?
Am I deluded on this? Does the policy just vary from IC to IC?

8 responses so far

  • I have never, ever heard such a thing and it flies in the face of one of my most fundamental understandings of PO behavior. Any request for speculation about the chances of a borderline score getting funded is met by the PO Zombie Mantra: "I advise you to revise and resubmit to see if you can improve your score".

    This is not quite true. NINDS used to send (I dunno if they still do) e-mails after a grant was scored that contained one of three statements of the form "this application is highly likely to be funded", "this application is not likely to be funded", or "it is not clear at this time whether this application is likely to be funded".

  • Roberta Redford says:

    CPP is right. I am familiar with that "multi-option" letter sent by NINDS. It used to be a letter back then. I loved receiving that announcement from my PO because he/she used to tick all the time the first option: "this application is highly likely to be funded".
    HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA..........

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Form letters are one thing but did you ever get one to say "highly likely" to you in person / on the phone?

  • Roberta Redford says:

    Oh no..... I never talked to POs in person. I knew most of them in photos. They never said 'highly likely" over the phone either. They just encouraged me to follow the reviewers directions and resubmit. And after the second revision........ boom BINGO !!!!

  • Namnezia says:

    I was told by my PO to revise my grant but NOT to resubmit it until a funding decision was made by council because a lower score in the revision might mess things up. I revised the thing and one day before it was due, he called to say it was funded. So I imagine a worse revised score overrides the first one.

  • TeaHag says:

    I've always known that this was true, it makes the situation of going from "scored" to "unscored" even worse. Should Program decide to act boldly (winged porcine)in a very brazen "reach down", they're blocked if there's no score to reach to!

  • DrugMonkey says:

    http://funding.niaid.nih.gov/ncn/qa/unfunded.htm#inactivate

    Does a resubmission remove the original scored application from funding consideration?
    No. The eRA Commons allows investigators to send one resubmission while the earlier application remains active, so NIAID can fund the earlier application if a resubmission receives a worse score.

  • sidereal says:

    A bit like when you were an undergrad and the professor told you that you could have a re-grade of your exam, but your grade could also go down.

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