Simple, can't-miss strategy to get a grant from the NIH

Aug 08 2014 Published by under Grantsmanship, NIH, NIH Careerism

Work at it.

Chance favors the prepared. You can't win if you don't play the game. Effort matters. Persistence pays off.

AND

The NIH rewards those that work at it.

Sally Rockey finally got around to looking at the per-investigator success rate some time ago. It is higher than the per-application success rates. Jeremy Berg posted some data on the cumulative probability of restoring NIH funding after an interval of no-funding to show that it IS possible to get back in the game.

I've been around the system long enough to see the boom and bust funding cycles from a number of viewpoints. The funding I've managed to acquire for my lab group, of course. But my close colleagues at my own institution, and those in my subfield, are part of the picture. As are the grants and career packets I've reviewed, where the ups and downs of grant funding are in full relief. And, as you know, I have an unhealthy interest in the NIH system as a whole and I snoop around on RePORTER quite a bit*.

As a minor disclaimer, I never know with any certainty how hard any PI other than myself is working at getting and maintaining funding. Sure, I hear the moaning and I participate in it. But I cannot have a full grasp, save for those few cases where someone more-junior wants a serious counseling session from me. And even then, I'm.....gentle**.

What I do know is this. When I am looking at the prospects of a funding gap, I am submitting grant applications. Frequently. At least one per round and often more than that. For many rounds. Yes, I start well in advance of the actual financial cliff for my group because I recognize it can take years of trying to get a grant funded.

This is a very long game.

I have missed one grant deadline in my career. By "missed" I mean that I really should be putting an application in, I planned to do so, was working (ish) on it and then pulled out at the last minute. I have never missed a deadline in the sense of just not getting the grant application finished.

I'm here to tell you, I have been shocked multiple times by my peers who have missed deadlines. I have been shocked multiple times by my peers who put in a single grant application, wait for review, revise it a round later and then complain about the dismal NIH odds. I am bemused by more-senior colleagues who are realizing in the past few years, well past time IMNSHO, that one R01, continually renewed on schedule is not a smart expectation anymore.

Dear Reader, you know my attitudes about steps you should be taking to nudge your grant odds. Researching study sections, trying many of them out with your apps and seeing how to adapt. Getting to know Program Officers and telling them what is important. Bird dogging the NIH guide each week. Spreading your application ideas around in terms of wheel-house studies and exploratory reaches. Going with what you have (preliminary data, pubs) rather than what you expect in a year. Experimenting! Talking to members of study sections. Getting ON study sections. Managing the grant you do have in a way that anticipates the attempt to get more funding in 5 to 8 years.

I'm here to tell you, not everyone sees it my way.

And yes, I recognize that you can't do everything, all at once or all at a time. Particularly when your lab is young. Time is limited and you have other responsibilities. And if you don't leave time to smell the data roses, well, why are you doing this anyway, right?

However.

People who assert with great confidence that the NIH game is ONLY a game of pure chance, leavened by scientific fame and pedigree***, annoy me.

They make me want to ask hard questions about exactly how hard they are trying to get funded.

I know there are people who work as hard as, or even harder than, I do to get funded and may be striking out entirely. I know this. But I also know that many folks looking enviously at the successful and attributing it to back room dealing, connections, fame and "luck" simply aren't working at it as hard as some others.

__
*Like when a scientist on news media complains obliquely about funding being "pulled" from their lab, for example.

**My tactic is usually "here's what I do, here's what works for me". I don't think I have said directly to anyone "Dude, you need to submit a LOT more applications", even when that is my opinion. Maybe this is too hands-off?

***Seriously. Get thee to RePORTER and see just how broad the distribution of NIH grants is. Look at the PIs. Look at the Universities and, gasp, colleges. Give up on this "pedigree-only" whining. Leave off the nonsense that only those who publish in single-name elite journals can get a grant.

79 responses so far

  • boehninglab says:

    My thoughts EXACTLY. I hope the junior people read this and embrace it.

  • Dave says:

    Solid advice that I intend to follow rigorously post K-award. I'm going all in and if I don't make the next step, so be it, but at least I would have put a shift in!!

  • DrIgg says:

    Well said. *sets sights on October*

  • Jim Woodgett says:

    Great advice for everyone. For junior scientists, the biggest mistake is to get a grant and then to focus only on renewing it. Diversify your portfolio. Apply for large and small grants, different types (open and appropriate RFAs). Don't become dependent on the outcome of any one. At the same time, don't force grants. It's obvious to the reviewers when you're winging it and you are wasting your own effort (and the reviewers). So plan ahead (doesn't mean start writing months before, heck, deadlines are deadlines). The easiest grants to write are those that you've gestated. The most difficult are those that you write when you are desperate.

    There's also a knock-on effect. Don't think people in your lab are unaware of your funding situation. They want to contribute new data for a grant. It's their future in your hands and a look of despair in your eyes is not inspiring.

  • Grumble says:

    "People who assert with great confidence that the NIH game is ONLY a game of pure chance, leavened by scientific fame and pedigree***, annoy me."

    Umm, the fact that your strategy for getting funded involves submitting at least one grant per cycle actually supports the hypothesis that the funding decision is essentially random. What you are saying (while arguing that you are not saying it) is that you have to play to win; the more times you play, the greater the overall likelihood that your number will come up at least once - just like the lottery, only with better odds. Notably, you didn't mention skill (e.g., grantsmanship, creativity) as a factor in getting your grants funded -- just hard work, which in this case is equivalent to writing and submitting lots of grants.

    Also, your REPORTER observation of a broad distribution of grants across all kinds of different institutions and PIs is also fully consistent with the random allocation hypothesis.

  • Dave says:

    @Jim: excellent advice, also. An obvious part of diversifying is to try and get money from different sources, and one should not rely on government funding alone.

  • LincolnX says:

    Solid advice. In particular, I am constantly surprised at colleagues who send me their grants with minimal preliminary data and a supporting record of published achievement in the area of the proposal.

    I'm likewise taken aback at all the complaining when a proposal isn't going in every round. Yes, it's tough. Yes, it affects overall productivity. And yes, it would be great and would take the edge off if funding were just a tad more plentiful so that this weren't necessary. But if you want to play the game you need to suit up.

    I've also modified my thinking from "projects" to "platforms" - e.g., exploiting the specific thing I do well to generate multiple proposals to different agencies. I think this spreads the risk a bit and reduces the change of being seen as damaged goods by a specific study section.

    The only thing I've modified lately is my study section service - it was just too much and I got the feeling that I was sacrificing my own chances by spending too much time on it. Doing mostly ad hoc now, which may also be much more manageable for newbies.

  • damit says:

    Wow.

    I am with DM on this one.

    Probably the best commentary from her/him I've ever seen.

  • drugmonkey says:

    JW: The thing is, some of my most well-considered, best-supported and honed proposals have gone nowhere. Some essentially one-off wildhair apps with minimal traditional support have gained funding.

  • drugmonkey says:

    The only thing I've modified lately is my study section service - it was just too much and I got the feeling that I was sacrificing my own chances by spending too much time on it.

    It needs to be approached judiciously for sure. Me, I think one 4 year interval of appointed service is plenty for the education factor. Also for the service-to-the-field factor.

    Dancing across a few semi-related panels as ad hoc is good to appreciate diversity and of course it pays to keep your hand in across time. But there is no reason for continual study section service across several decades of your career.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Notably, you didn't mention skill (e.g., grantsmanship, creativity) as a factor in getting your grants funded

    Because I think this is a trap. Of course I think I am a creative scientist proposing to work on stuff that is important that nobody else is doing properly. Of course I think I write better than average grant applications. Of course I have reviewed many applications that I thought I would like to reach through the Internet and throttle the PI into writing more effectively or taking the obvious-to-me more-creative approach to the topic.

    What I don't have is clear evidence that this is the larger factor, compared with getting credible applications on a diversity of topics in front of different reviewers (and POs for that matter).

    Perfecting that one gold application gets in the way of submitting more of the silver ones. So it is an error.

  • Dr. Noncoding Arenay says:

    "The thing is, some of my most well-considered, best-supported and honed proposals have gone nowhere. Some essentially one-off wildhair apps with minimal traditional support have gained funding."

    DM, in that case would you say it is worthwhile to spend more time writing a greater number of moderately decent proposals rather than spending that time on honing a couple of solid proposals? In your experience what is the approximate ratio of "wildhair" to well-honed apps of yours that were funded?

  • drugmonkey says:

    I can't say there is any answer to that. I work the steps. Sometimes I am focused on a project that I am deep into, have lots of prelim data, pubs and really, really want to get the project funded. Sometimes I just have a cool idea or a wacky result that I think needs some attention. Sometimes the latter evolves into the former. Sometimes the former spawns off a few of the latter type.

    Sometimes the FOA appears and you gotta go with what you have.

  • drugmonkey says:

    oh, and sometimes I never revise a proposal that has gotten decent reviews because I have other irons in the fire or some project has hit the funding in the mean time. How do we score those?

  • Hopefully granstmanship and scientific creativity are skills that can be cultivated through hard work, and more practice helps more. I am counting on it.

  • Noncoding Arenay says:

    I ask because I noticed this trend in some of my grad PI's applications as well. But those were R21s, which are supposed to be high(er) risk anyway and so it might not be that surprising. However, in the case of RO1s it somewhat baffles me that this can happen (of course you did not specify that these were RO1s, but I'm assuming that a few might have been).

  • drugmonkey says:

    Um, yes R01s...

    why 'baffles'?

  • drugmonkey says:

    We're not talking wild-hairs of the "random stuff you came up with in 30 seconds during a seminar", you know. credible proposals. just not as well supported by traditional assumptions of preliminary data and exquisitely crafted hypotheses, experiments and convoluted mechanistic models is all

  • drugmonkey says:

    (maybe I'm just really, really good at making random thoughts into a credible grant application)

  • "I work the steps."

    I admit that I am powerless over my addiction to that filthy NIH lucre!!!!!!

  • Dr. Noncoding Arenay says:

    Yes, of course, I'm talking about well thought out proposals but lacking solid preliminary data or stringent techniques/models/what have you. Baffled because stories about RO1s being funded only on the umpteenth submission are common so what could be going through reviewers' heads when they score such a proposal very well? One reason I can think of is 'fund the investigator, not the proposal'. That goes with the assumption that you experienced this when you were pretty well established in your field and so reviewer confidence in you being able to execute the proposed experiments was high.

  • E-roock says:

    I am working on 2 apps for the same (aids related) deadline. I feel like I am loosing my mind meeting all the internal deadlines in the lead up. Still haven't gotten an R01 but it's my 3rd cycle in a row to the same SS. The senior folks are encouraging but don't envy me.

  • E-roock says:

    How to respond simultaneously to the "over ambitious" and the "a plan for X should also be included".... critiques. Ick.

  • Dr24hours says:

    I don't think that it's *only* luck and fame. But those factor significantly. And you're absolutely right in my case: I'm not trying nearly as hard to get funded. Because o don't have to. Funding is a nice bonus. Not a requirement.

  • Dr24hours says:

    But I do also think yor falling into the "I work very hard and am successful therefore if you work hard you will be successful therefore the unsuccessful aren't working hard." Which is at least 1/3 bullshit, and probably 2/3rds.

  • AcademicLurker says:

    I have to second Dr24hours. "ONLY a game of pure chance" is going too far, but pure chance plays a bigger role than it should in a healthy system, which is why we all have to be constantly cranking out proposals.

  • toto says:

    Altough I'm tempted to agree, this sounds so Graybeardesque that I have to wonder if I'm not being meta-trolled...

  • drugmonkey says:

    because stories about RO1s being funded only on the umpteenth submission are common

    I try very hard on this blog to dismantle the idea that only "perfect" grants get funded, that only flawless Biosketches will allow a good score, that one does not have to be absolutely cutting edge and working on CNS-ready work to get a great score, etc.

    So what you should do is question your assumptions and then verify my assertions by trotting over to RePORTER and seeing what grants are actually funded, right this minute. Yes, including brand new R01s just issued in the past two months.

  • So what you should do is question your assumptions and then verify my assertions by trotting over to RePORTER and seeing what grants are actually funded, right this minute. Yes, including brand new R01s just issued in the past two months.

    Most importantly, look at the R01s being funded in your own field that have been reviewed by study sections that would review your grants.

  • Noncoding Arenay says:

    I'm not doubting your assertions at all. I very well believe you. I'm trying to understand what lies behind such decisions by SS. Heck, if only CNS type work and perfect grants were to be funded then a lot of people I know would be grantless and labless. What I'm saying is that after several submissions one has developed (presumably) additional prelim data, gathered evidence for the model system showing it works for their proposed experiments, chiseled away at other aspects and that makes the grant more mature, hence more fundable. That does not necessarily translate into it being a "perfect" grant with CNS type work, so I'm not sure where you got the idea that that's what I meant.

    What about the ones that did not go through a similar rigorous grind but still got funded? Healthy dose of luck, name and fame that some folks think to be the case, or something else? This points back to my original question, especially from the point of view of New Investigators - should noobs just focus on sending in well-honed proposals (with the possibility that they may miss a deadline or two) rather than budget time for them wildhairs?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    The grant needs to grab the reviewer by the hindbrain. Sometimes it is just a killer idea *for that particular reviewer*. That may be enough to drive it past a more boring, but perfectly honed application.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Oh and I endorse PP's refinement. Always seek the evidence most relevant to your own situation.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    You have a point dr 24 hours but I know a fair number of cases where it turns out the complainers are not submitting at a high rate. And I'm talking 1-2 per round here, not six. Once you've written your first few grants....it isn't THAT hard to do one per round.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    NA- to repeat, no I do not think even noobs should focus on perfecting each grant. Diversify the effort. Take a risk on something risky with only feasibility support and a good idea.

  • Jim Woodgett says:

    DM: "Some essentially one-off wildhair apps with minimal traditional support have gained funding."

    I haven't carefully looked at this, but I think that the open grants that are easiest/fastest for me to write seem to be the most successful (and vice versa). This is not the case with RFAs which I usually struggle to write and have mixed success (success rates on RFAs are also different, as are the judging criteria - responsiveness to call etc - all the crap that I struggle with).

    Some reviewers appreciate and give plaudits to wild ideas. That's where the real variation comes in, though. So much depends on what other applications your particular reviewer bodies are also handling. This randomness is a reflection of hyper competition, reviewer burnout and the phase of the moon.

  • Dr24hours says:

    DM- no doubt that perspiration is associated with success. But I stand by my belief that in a climate like this, fame (often te result of prior excellence) and luck are the biggest factors. There are more hard workers with good ideas than there is money to go around.

    But yes, none of that means that lazy people don't complain a lot. I'm way fortunate that I can apply occasionally for small grants, and not with about my job.

  • Morgan Price says:

    If everyone follows DM's advice then the number of proposals will go way up and the success rate will go way down. Then what? As a taxpayer, I also question the social value of PIs spending so much of their time competing for grant money. I propose that a lottery would be more efficient.

  • Ola says:

    Is this an anti-glam rant dressed up as something else?
    Sure reads that way to me

  • E-roock says:

    Aren't we technically not supposed to use "effort" for grant writing? Isn't that using federal dollars to lobby for more federal dollars?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    MP- my readership is a tiny, tiny fraction of the PI's seeking NIH grants. So...no fears.

    E-roock- yes.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Ola- how is this an "anti-Glam rant" exactly? Applies to those that play at the Glamour level too. If your peers all have Nature papers, yours doesn't give you any benefits.

  • Aren't we technically not supposed to use "effort" for grant writing?

    It's the complete opposite: you are *required* to allocate the time you spend writing grants as a portion of your professional effort. It's just that none of that effort is permitted to be supported by federal funds--except under special circumstances, like fellowships and career development awards that explicitly allow it--and must be supported by non-federal sources.

    This is an ongoing issue for institutions that expect their soft-money faculty to support 100% of their salaries from NIH funds, but also expect those faculty to stay funded by writing grants on an ongoing basis. Some institutions have responded to federal scrutiny of this issue by supporting a low single-digit percent of effort (I have heard as low as 2%) of soft-money faculty with institutional funds. So long as it is non-zero, there is no way for anyone to determine whether that is really enough time to write grants, as we are not required to keep hourly time sheets of our professional effort.

  • Gumble says:

    Morgan Price: "If everyone follows DM's advice then the number of proposals will go way up and the success rate will go way down. Then what? As a taxpayer, I also question the social value of PIs spending so much of their time competing for grant money. I propose that a lottery would be more efficient."

    "Will go up"? Guess what. We're already there.

    DM's advice is essentially the only advice that works nowadays for obtaining consistent funding. (Other than "be a rock star" -- i.e., like Karl Deisseroth, who hasn't had to worry about funding for a few years now -- but that advice is a bit hard to follow.) You are very right to question the social value of the current system. I don't think a lottery would be a better way of making funding decisions, but it's essentially the system we have now - except that the tickets don't cost just $1 each. They cost tens of thousands of dollars worth of PI effort - which, despite the Rules N Regulations, the government pays for. Inefficient, and expensive.

  • Gumble says:

    "So long as it is non-zero, there is no way for anyone to determine whether that is really enough time to write grants, as we are not required to keep hourly time sheets of our professional effort."

    "No way"? What would you say if you were under oath and someone asked you how much time you spend writing grants?

  • "no way" == "no remotely plausible way"

    And BTW, for people with very substantial non-research duties, there is some scrutiny of effort allocations for plausubility. For example, if you are a provost of a university, it would not be considered credible to be allocating 90% of your effort to federally sponsored research.

    Anyway, if through some unimaginable circumstance I were under oath and required to answer "how much time do you spend writing grants?", my truthful answer would be, "I have no way to provide a numerical answer to that question". And equally importantly--since that is only the numerator of percent effort--my truthful answer to the required second question--"how much total time do you spend on your professional effort?"--would also be "I have no way to provide a numerical answer to that question".

    We've been through this before, but if I am daydreaming about experiments while watching a three-hour Yankee game, how on earth could I define an amount of time I spent on professional effort during that three hours? If I am actually putting pen to paper writing a manuscript and go to take a shitte, but while I am shitteing, I'm formulating sentences, how could I possible put a number of minutes on that effort?

    The federal rules for allocation of professional effort take this incommensurability issue into account, and are based on a standard of reasonability. So long as your effort allocation is internally consistent, and allowable on its face, you are fine. If you are allocating greater than 100% total effort, or you are a provost allocating 90% effort to sponsored research, or you are a grant-writing soft-money faculty allocating 100% effort to sponsored research, then there is a prima facie issue. But who is to say whether 1% or 2% or 5% effort is or isn't sufficient effort for writing grants?

  • potnia theron says:

    "Notably, you didn't mention skill (e.g., grantsmanship, creativity) as a factor in getting your grants funded"

    DM: "Because I think this is a trap. "

    It is, however, useful time spent when you are junior. If you didn't have to write grants as a PhD student (most organismic bio types do), you need to learn how. There is an efficiency to taking a good seminar or two on this. NIH runs a bunch, so do most MRU's.

    Creativity is harder. Yes its a trap in the ways DM suggests. However there are ways to tell if the study section doesn't think you are being creative/interesting or more to the point significant & innovative. Right up there with get someone to read your proposal before you submit, get someone to go through your pinksheets/reviews when you get them back. They are clearer, more to the point and less "coded" than in the past.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Grumble- Who is to say that creating figures and data analysis isn't primarily for scientific publication or presentation and only secondarily for the grant? Writing out experiments is a scientific plan of attack first, and a convenient frame for a grant Aim second?

  • crystaldoc says:

    "Perfecting that one gold application gets in the way of submitting more of the silver ones. So it is an error."

    This should be qualified with definitions of "gold" and "silver" and "a turd". As a reviewer, maybe half of the grants I see make a bad first impression due to completely avoidable sloppiness. Guess what-- these never make it into the fundable range, and the PIs that put them in were wasting their time (and mine). It is not just me, the other reviewers will give poor scores too. This mistake is not limited to newbies; I see plenty of thrown-together half-assed apps from BSDs, too, and those don't get funded, either.

    It may be OK that you don't have the *perfect* preliminary data, pedigree, publications, even experimental plan, but it will not be ok if your application is full of internal inconsistencies, is lacking entire required components, has references that do not line up with your citation numbers, is barely written in intelligible English, does a shitty job on the vertebrate animals or human subjects sections, pulls sample sizes out of the air instead of using power calculations, completely fails to address pitfalls or alternatives, uses big font and doesn't come even close to filling up page limits when lots more details are called for, didn't think it worth the trouble to use the modern biosketch format with personal statement, didn't bother collecting biosketches from key personnel, I could go on...

    Yes the app you put in can be one of 3-6 you are putting in this year, maybe, if you are working really hard on it and putting in the time, though I remain a little skeptical. But it should not be obvious to your reviewers that it is one of many (crappy) apps or you are wasting everybody's time.

  • drugmonkey says:

    "Credible". That's my position on this crystaldoc. Personally I'd estimate the flagrant error rate as fewer than half but sure, I assume my readers can put in applications that are mostly free of own-goal type unforced errors. That part is entirely within your own control.

  • WKB says:

    I largely agree with your suggestions and some how it reminds me of this statement by Teddy Roosevelt:

    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

    Teddy Roosevelt 1910

  • Having reviewed countless grants over the years, I would say that roughly 50% aren't even in the game, due to "own goal" type errors.

  • drugmonkey says:

    That's those other doofs, not my amazingly capable Readers 🙂

  • E-roock says:

    "This is an ongoing issue for institutions that expect their soft-money faculty to support 100% of their salaries from NIH funds." -- I think this accounts for more new appointments than many people think. I would be interested to know what it's like elsewhere, but it's roughly 90% of academic faculty in my neck of the Uni-woods. I honestly think institutions should be required to support some minimum (2%?) for a PI to be eligible. Don't know how this would be enforceable for non-university entities like the Salk institute.... but at universities where the job description clearly requires other duties (teaching and service), institutions that hire with those appointments should be required to put some skin in the game. If anything, their work quality might improve. It also creates a class system: the 90% public dole beggars with no security and the 10% living large. I do see below the radar animosity. Re grant writing: I've attended seminars. Waste of time. They are created by people peripheral to the system or otherwise unconscious of it, I have never learned anything new from a seminar at Big Conference or Local Uni. The Grant Writers Seminar Workbook (I have a 2001 copy which is for the 25 page format) and having successful oldies with a red pen rip apart my draft have been the most valuable, in my opinion. That -- and scrutinizing Reporter, and SS rosters. Though I wouldn't dream of sending out something that I didn't think was perfect, I know it'd be a waste of time. I stumbled during transition from post doc and my current appointment with low productivity for 2 years for personal reasons and terribad mentors, it's definitely haunting me now and the grant has to be spot on because those 2 years stick out like a sore thumb.

  • GAATTC says:

    Great post DM. I feel like I just watched the speech scene from Patton. Now I'm ready to work on my aims page.

  • mytchondria says:

    I wrote 5 cycles in a row and was ready to jump in a bell tower and start murdering people. Gertyz reports similar results with having done it 4 times in a row.

  • Pinko Punko says:

    I would say that it really depends on study section that sloppy grants by BSDs will get ripped or not. I've been on panels that I think are very fair, but I've heard from others that there are certainly BSD free passes handed around. I advocate a middle ground. When you are working towards a resubmission, you want to be able to do more than cosmetic changes, therefore you need to have time and energy towards those proposed experiments or thinking about the key experiments that really support the aims/approach. It is tough these days.

  • Dave says:

    due to "own goal" type errors

    Care to give us a brief list of these? I'm guessing you are talking things like lack of preliminary data, descriptive aims, feasibility problems etc etc.

  • drugmonkey says:

    The stuff crystaldoc listed. Clear errors, as opposed to the debatable issues.

  • Grumble says:

    Other "own goal" errors I've seen include failure to spell out exactly what the roles of different key personnel are, failure to get a letter from each collaborator, failure to make sure aims are not linearly connected (i.e., Aim 2 depends on getting a specific result in Aim 1), and including an Aim that doesn't really cohere with everything else in the proposal (usually because it's on a different topic and the specific hypothesis it addresses isn't well connected to the overall hypothesis).

  • drugmonkey says:

    Aim 2 depends on getting a specific result in Aim 1

    See, now I put this in the category of StockCritique bait but not an own-goal like forgetting to do the Vert Animals or leaving a cut/paste from a different grant in there.

    In some cases you cannot avoid this sort of linearity but can work around it with careful alternatives or go/no go decision trees.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Combative response to review is an own-goal IMO.

  • Grumble says:

    From DM: "Writing out experiments is a scientific plan of attack first, and a convenient frame for a grant Aim second?"

    Or, more colorfully from CPP: "If I am actually putting pen to paper writing a manuscript and go to take a shitte, but while I am shitteing, I'm formulating sentences, how could I possible put a number of minutes on that effort?"

    What you're saying is that "percent effort" values are meaningless, or at least can be construed to mean anything you want them to mean. Yet from the grants administration perspective, they are incredibly important values: every few months I have to sign something saying my and my staff's percent effort on each grant was exactly the same as the percent of their salaries that came from the grant. I've been told over and over that the NIH audits all this and gets very upset at the slightest hint of cheatery.

    But you're telling me that no matter what percent of my salary is paid by federal grants, it's not cheating (i.e., the federal government's share of my salary isn't going towards lobbying for more money) as long as at least 1 or 2% of my pay comes from the college.

    Fine. But something tells me that your explanations of Yankee games and long contemplative dumps spent daydreaming about science aren't going to go over well if/when the GAO decides to look into this and puts some PIs on the stand to testify.

  • Grumble says:

    "See, now I put this in the category of StockCritique bait but not an own-goal like forgetting to do the Vert Animals"

    Right, but nowadays setting yourself up for a StockCritique is just as bad as failing to provide an Animals section. It all but guarantees that someone will give it a poor score.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Grumble: I agree entirely that Universities have their asses out in the wind on the %-effort/grant writing issue. My point is that they have defenses that might hold up, might not. What is a jury of working stiffs going to say to a 50-60 hr work week? Interesting question.

    But more relevant is whether it is worth it for the gov to enforce this. Only thing I can see is Grassley type investigations for political gain. Who looks at this as a political winner that they can enrage the public with?

  • Dave says:

    Don't you lot use Cayuse to submit your grants? It's pretty good for reminding you when sections are missing, such as vert animals, biosketches, letters etc.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I use Awesome Admin.

  • dr24hours says:

    Letter from each collaborator? I used to do this, then was told that listing them as key personnel was equivalent, and getting a separate letter would be weird.

  • anonymous postdoc says:

    I was able to successfully google Cayuse (now "Evisions Research Suite") but Awesome Admin did not reveal itself to me. Unless Awesome Admin is actually a cheeky reference to an awesome human administrator, and not a software platform?

    I use an awesome human administrator. Our institution also has software that flags applications if they are missing parts before we submit them to NIH.

    Thanks to this post and others like it, I know that someday, if I am very lucky, I will be a PI and thus able to add "increase my volume of submitted grants" to the list of tasks I am behind on and feel badly about.

  • meshugena313 says:

    Cayuse is surprisingly good for NIH submissions. Of course my institution now uses it for all sorts of other administrative tasks for which it sucks.

  • drugmonkey says:

    then was told that listing them as key personnel was equivalent, and getting a separate letter would be weird.

    For an NIH grant, my take on this is that a "key personnel" becomes one of the people submitting the grant. Why would you put a letter of support in for someone who is submitting it. If it would be weird for the PI to do it, it is weird for the Key Personnel to do it.

  • Dave says:

    Cayuse is surprisingly good for NIH submissions.

    It's incredible IMO. Best thing about it? Don't need admin and can submit grants sans administrative input, save for budgetary checks. KILL THE ADMIN!!!!!!!

  • E-roock says:

    One of my key personnel sent me an unsolicited LoS. It was essentially like a thank you for the invitation to participate, it's been fun putting this together, and I'm looking forward to kicking ass on this project. This was an old school investigator. I thought it was nice. Then to be consisted, I had the other Key Personnel do it. Takes 5 mins. Do you ding for this? Do you get a letter from your Dept Chair explaining how much lab space you have, etc? When I started doing that, certain critiques disappeared (could have been other reasons too). Is this dingable too?

  • Pinko Punko says:

    I've never seen anyone really respond to the extra letters in there. It isn't a ding. Don't sweat it. It just papers over possible Stock Critiques.

  • Gumble says:

    DM: "But more relevant is whether it is worth it for the gov to enforce this. Only thing I can see is Grassley type investigations for political gain. Who looks at this as a political winner that they can enrage the public with?"

    'Cause the current Congress has no interest in fiscal restraint, right?

    It's just a matter of time before a politician decides to make a stink out of it. It may go nowhere, or it might catch the mood of a significant number of congresspeople and they'll push the issue.

  • Gumble says:

    The point of letters from key personnel, especially collaborators, is that they explain what the person is going to contribute to the project in simple, black-and-white terms. That's it. If you've listed your post-doc as key personnel, you don't need a letter because it's obvious what they will contribute. But if you've listed your buddy who is going to run all the proposed bunny hopping experiments, a letter from that person should say "I'm enthusiastic about this project, I have 87 years of experience running bunny hopping assays, and I'm planning to commit my time and my lab resources to do the experiments" - or train your staff or whatever.

    Yes, a lot of that will be in the biosketch personal statement, but I've gotten dinged before for relying on that (probably because the reviewers were confused as to who would be doing what). It gives reviewers warm fuzzies to see that the PI has lined up all the necessary expertise to do the project: it makes success more likely.

    Grantsmanship isn't just avoiding Stock Critiques. It also helps to lard a grant up with bait for Stock Praises.

  • drugmonkey says:

    This goes in the Personnel Justification, Grumble. Don't expect reviewers to read letters to find out what Key Personnel are going to do!

  • Grumble says:

    Letters *support* Personnel Justification. That's all. Warm fuzzies.

  • halcyon says:

    Please just don't forget the coversheet for the TPS report. Yeah, did you get the memo?

  • E-roock says:

    Some of the NIAID sample grants have one or two lines under the experiments explaining whose lab will do what...(and how long it will take)

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