Summary Statement Paranoia

Mar 19 2012 Published by under NIH Careerism, NIH funding

An interesting viewpoint popped up on writedit's blog over the past couple of days. A commenter who is apparently not yet in an Assistant Professor position has managed to get a nice little grant score:

My RO1 is scored 23 with a percentile is 10. I am now applying for an AP position.

Sweet. Nice accomplishment. Where's the problem?

An University that I just visited aksed me to email them the summary statement. I was wondering if this is appropriated?

Ummmm, well, sure. I mean, particularly if this applicant has informed the search committee / Chair / Dean that s/he has this particular score in hand. Let us be clear. Many, many hiring departments are trying to game out the potential each new hire has for funding. Funding in the short term and funding in the long term. Funding is tight all over, including internal pilot funds, and all things equal the Department wants to hire someone who can get and sustain major funding. Rapidly.

Because that is the lynchpin to scholarly research (again, for many research-oriented job categories), to productivity, to tenure and ultimately to burnishing the Department's reputation.

In some places we are even hearing rumour that search committees are not really considering anyone who doesn't already come with some sort of research funding. This can be via informal or formal (Dean diktat) rules...or merely via competition within the applicant pool.

Consequently, any evidence of a fundable score on a NIH grant is pretty meaningful. Meaningful to your chances before you make the short list and even more meaningful once they've brought you out to interview.

Correspondingly I think the applicant would be EAGER to show off a score like this and send off the summary statement post haste.

Apparently opinions vary:

My RO1 is currently pending and the council meeting will be in May. If another university, not my current institution, contacts my program officer, it will mean that I am leaving from my current institution. The score of a RO1 is based on the environment of applicant’s current institution. Will leaving this environment be considered a negative factor by the council meeting and the program officer, and thus influence their decision on whether they would like to fund my RO1 or not?

additional crosstalk went off the rails. writedit: They should only need the first page in that case.
more writedit: The request for the summary statement is not appropriate, especially so early in the application/interview stage.
the original commenter ate this up:

I probably will send them the first page of the SS, but will mask the confidential information, such as the PO contact information and my application ID. This might offend the prospective univeristy, to avoid this, I may call them first to let them know my concern.

and some other commenter did as well:

The bigger concern is perhaps that there may specific criticisms regarding you, your team, and the institution. There may be comments in SS that highlight any weaknesses that are really not the business of the perspective institution.

This is nuts. Absolute nuts. First, the PO is going to be happy that the applicant has secured a tenure track appointment. This is a good thing. It is doubtful this is going to put the PO off funding the application. Unless there is something in the way of highly unusual circumstances like a unique resource or some spendy equipment that cannot be duplicated at the new place.

Second, the prospective University is not going to contact the PO....what would they be asking anyway? Whether some other University's grant application will be funded? The PO will tell them to butt out.

Third, criticisms in a tenth percentile summary statement are going to put the hiring University off? If they are this stupid, this person doesn't want to work there, if you ask me. Seriously though, what are they going to read? "This Investigator is well qualified and promising", that's about it.

Finally, all this "masking" the grant number and "only the first page" stuff is seriously silly. All it is going to do is make the prospective University wonder what sort of paranoid nutjob they have on the line and whether they've made a serious mistake in trying to hire this wackaloon.

12 responses so far

  • whimple says:

    Agree. Totally stupid paranoia. Send them the whole SS, post it to your website. If you need a job (or even if you don't) shout to the world, "I COME WITH CASH".

  • Kartik says:

    Agreed. The school probably just wants the SS as hard evidence.

    Also, regarding the comment below - huh? Not sure why the school would want to contact the PO. I don't get the paranoia either. Are we against tap water fluoridation too ?

    > My RO1 is currently pending and the council meeting will be in May. If another >university, not my current institution, contacts my program officer, it will mean that I am >leaving from my current institution. The score of a RO1 is based on the environment of >applicant’s current institution. Will leaving this environment be considered a negative >factor by the council meeting and the program officer, and thus influence their decision >on whether they would like to fund my RO1 or not?

  • Kartik says:

    I do understand the nervousness about having a fundable score but not an NGA, though. Even though I've been through this several times without a hitch, I can't shake the feeling that some NIH bureaucrat is gonna take the money away. Silly -- not like I'm proposing dual-use experiments with bird flu or anything 🙂

  • This is a good thing. It is doubtful this is going to put the PO off funding the application. Unless there is something in the way of highly unusual circumstances like a unique resource or some spendy equipment that cannot be duplicated at the new place.

    I think the location matters more than you think. Say someone gets a grant while at a major research institution as a postdoc or similar and then goes off to Podunk State as an assistant professor. It's not just about the lack of equipment in the new location -- it's whether the PI could really pull off the scale of research by themselves in the boonies without the kind of support staff, computing expertise, etc. that they were assumed to have when the grant was funded. Institutions have successfully challenged PIs trying to take awards with them on the argument that they really were to the institution and the PI was just the manager of it.

  • Experienced PI says:

    Why are such good scores being awarded prior to faculty appointment? This affirmative action for New Investigators is getting ridiculous!

  • Physician Scientist says:

    Experienced PI-
    Maybe (s)he just wrote a really good grant. Clearly every new investigator NEEDS a bump. It can't ever be that they did a really good job.

  • physioprof says:

    Why are these idiots so fucken paranoid? Who gives a fucke what it says in the summary statement?

    I don't get what all this secrecy about grants and summary statements is all about. I would happily give my summary statements to anyone who asks. Only a fucken nutter would be all like, "Well, this summary statement says that Aim#2, subaim A(b)(i)(3), will NEVER WORK, so we shouldn't trust anything this PI says and renege our offer of a faculty position."

  • physioprof says:

    Oh, and BTW, I should say that from the standpoint of hiring committees, in my experience we have *always* believed any applicant's assertion that they received a particular score, and never asked to see a summary statement. But we have the luxury of never basing our hiring decisions on whether an applicant already has funding (or a fundable score). In just this last cycle of hiring, we are making offers to people who have no K awards or R awards or anything, and have passed on people with K99s.

  • kevin. says:

    So I am not eligible for a K99 anymore, although I am on a postdoctoral fellowship. Should I be applying for an R01/R22 before applying for my TT jobs this fall?

  • Drugmonkey says:

    kevin-

    If you can secure the permission from your current U, and it doesn't unduly interfere w/ getting some key paper accepted...sure.

  • zb says:

    Another guess could be that someone on the search committee/other interested party would like to use positive statements from the summary statement to sell the faculty candidate to others. (i.e. in faculty meeting vote, pull out the line "this investigator is proposing innovative experiments that will answer a long standing question in the field . . . ." (though hopefully, more specific than that).

    (this is assuming they know that the potential fundee got a high sore.)

  • Eli Rabett says:

    Institutions have successfully challenged PIs trying to take awards with them on the argument that they really were to the institution and the PI was just the manager of it.
    -------------------

    True enough, but in this case no grant has been awarded.

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