Thought of the Day

Jul 24 2014 Published by under Careerism, NIH, NIH Careerism, NIH funding

What fraction of the stuff proposed in funded grants actually gets done after feasibility and field movement come to play?

22 responses so far

  • Dr Becca says:

    I did everything I said I'd do (and more!) for my R21, but I think only 1 Aim of my F32. That thing was absurd.

  • arymofdan says:

    Only what's already been done prior to the application. Once the grant is funded, little to none is done exactly as described.

  • juniorprof says:

    I think its a fairly high percentage, at least in my field, from what I have seen in my limited experience.

  • pyrope says:

    You mean the hypotheses laid out in the proposal actually get tested (as opposed to the proposed methods are used as described)? I have only n=2, but both are 100% on hypotheses tested...methods for the most part were similar, but not the same as proposed.

  • Anka says:

    I completed 2/3 of my F31 aims. Didn't end up doing Aim 3, cuz I found something so cool during Aim 2 that I followed that trail instead and got a large windfall of publications as a result, so I think the NIH Gods were still pleased.

  • Who has the time to even go back and look at old Specific Aims????

  • AsianQB says:

    In my lab, literally 100% of the work was already completed before the grant was submitted. The grant when (not if) approved was used to fund preliminary data for the next one. The advantages of being *inside* the system....

  • Susan says:

    All, because having it all done up front ("preliminary findings") is what it takes to get a grant these days, right?

  • imager says:

    Thats why I think they should change it and pay you for the data you produced (aka "preliminary data") and not for the data you suggest to obtain. With that $$$ you then go and do the next cool stuff. If it doesn't pan out, no money (or less). Real economics. Isn't that what is already happening...?

  • Eskimo says:

    Drug Monkey and friends may be interested in this
    NIH institute considers broad shift to 'people' awards

  • Jessica Tollkuhn says:

    IME, most people aren't particularly concerned with what they said they'd do, they just play up their latest hawt pubs when they renew and things work out just fine. I met someone with multiple NIDA R01s that has never done a single expt with drugs or alcohol (or addiction, or anything with an intact animal, actually). Would love to see the progress reports on those.

  • Grumble says:

    I have multiple R01s from NIDA and none of those grants funded a single experiment with drugs, alcohol or addiction. But the grants didn't propose such experiments, either. It's not that uncommon. IME, NIDA POs understand the need for basic research.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I wager that all health domain ICs have substantial portfolio of basic research you'd not necessarily connect to their apparent health target in any specific way. Save maybe NCCAM.

    That's not the question though.

  • Jessica Tollkuhn says:

    I should clarify that this person was able to take Cool Techniques that had produced many Glam papers and then get grants saying they were now going to use this approach to study effects of drug X. Lab is doing nothing of the sort with the money and had certainly never touched drug X.

    I do think a lot of proposed stuff does get done, maybe not in the way that was originally intended,.

    Does it matter if the actual proposed work occurs as long as the lab is doing *something*?

  • drugmonkey says:

    In a practical sense that is going to vary by study section. Some will kill you for not completing experiment 1.A.iv and some will just look at the pubs and say "looks good". You have to feel your way.

    This is a reason you talk to the people on your target study sections to get a feel for what flies there.

  • MoBio says:


    "In a practical sense that is going to vary by study section. Some will kill you for not completing experiment 1.A.iv and some will just look at the pubs and say "looks good". "

    I can't remember anyone getting 'dinged' for not doing what they proposed to do if they accomplished a lot of cool stuff that was somewhat related to what they proposed to do.
    It may happen...but I've just never seen it (I've sat on study sections regularly for 20 yrs now).

    No progress on the other hand....

  • Joe says:

    I write in my grants the things that we are doing and most of the things I'm planning for us to do. So I'd say 50% of what we propose is what we do. We also do experiments that are too risky to put in a proposal, and of course, we discover during the 5yr period that some things are not going to work or that there are more interesting things to do. I describe our new directions in the non-competitive renewals.

  • E-roock says:

    I participated R03, that proposes two cohorts of an animal model with behavior, drug tx, postmortem analyses with various molecular techniques, you can imagine how much of what was proposed is actually supported by the money. Oh and all the staff are 100% soft money. All of the work will get done ....eventually.

  • Grumble says:

    The answer to your question depends on the definition of "gets done". If you mean "gets done exactly as written", then zero. If you mean "gets done in such a way that I can write the progress report to say that I met the goals of Aim X", then it's somewhere between 25 and 75%. In many cases, we try an experiment that was in the grant and it doesn't work as the preliminary data led us to expect, so we quickly abandon it and move on the something else that wasn't in the Aims at all. But there are other times when it all seems to work out and at least one of the Aims gets done sometime during the life of the grant.

  • E-roock says:

    I thought it was inappropriate to discuss your grant with people on SS ... so many mixed messages. In the other thread, there's discussion of presubmission negotiating with editors about acceptable critiques of peer review for publishing. I'm too idealistic for this business.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Specifics, yes. But you can absolutely have a conversation about general tendencies, hot button issues, styles, expectations....

  • dr24hours says:

    43%. Next Question.

Leave a Reply