The R56/Bridge mechanism of the NIH is called the High Priority, Short-Term award
will fund, for one or two years, high-priority new or competing renewal R01 applications with priority scores or percentiles that fall just outside the funding limits of participating NIH Institutes and Centers (IC). Investigators may not apply for R56 grants.
Sounds good right? It gets better:
The R56 award will help early career stage scientists trying to establish research careers as well as experienced scientists who can benefit from interim funding while they revise their applications.
Woo-hoo! Sign me UPPE!!!!
Except, sigh, they don't fund very many of these. Or at least my ICs of interest never seem to be that interested in giving me a hand while I revise my awesome applications. And in fact I seem to see these things quite often awarded to year -2xA1 projects and fairly infrequently awarded to noobs. But that's kind of subjective....
I took a search REPORTER for R56 awards since July 1. And sorted by the IC.
WOWSA. First thing I noticed is that my ICs of closest interest aren't handing (m)any of these out right now. So, sucks for me. But at least I don't have to whinge about fairness.
NIAID and NIDDK however clearly LOVE these things. Just LOVE the R56. I count 88 of the 1R56 awards out of 136 from NIAID and an additional 30 from NIDDK. The next biggest players are NIDCR with 5 and NIMH with 4, not even close.
I noticed something else interesting. 72 of 136 are for A1 versions of the proposal.
NIAID seems to be the ONLY IC to fund R56s for competing continuations, picking up 17 of them. Some for original submissions sure, but some for A1 revision.
I emphasize. The A1 version of applications are being awarded R56s. Which can't be revised. And can't be resubmitted except in clearly-different guise. Yet the announcement clearly says the R56 is for preparing a revision of a just-miss, meritorious proposal.
So what in the hell are these being awarded for? One might ask.
Now I didn't delve down into trying to determine who was a new investigator versus and established investigator. Mostly I was hoping to complain about my favorite ICs where I could sort based on name recognition with this little exercise. But perhaps some NIAID mavens could review the list for us.
Here's what I want to know. To what extent are these being used to give a break to genuine noobs and to what extent are they being extracted out of POs by long term investigators who haven't managed to get a fundable score. To what extent are they letting Professor Bluehair keep her extra postdoc or technician around but completely missing the point that Assistant Professor Noob would like to get her first one of those, thanks.
To what extent are they propping up labs of PIs nearing the common (nonscience) retirement age and to what extent are they failing to sustain momentum for people more in my age bracket who have a fair bit of productive science ahead?