Grant in Review LOLzies

Oct 06 2015 Published by under Peer Review

Probably one of the most hilarious comments I've ever received in review of one of my grants boiled down to this.

"Your colleagues have boatloads of grant money to work on Topic X. Why have you not produced more publications on Topic X with their resources? .....anyway, so therefore your new application on Topic Y sucks. "

[My recollection is that my productivity on Topic Y was mentioned by other reviewers as a strength if anything. If not on that particular proposal, than on other ones around the same time.]

22 responses so far

  • AcademicLurker says:

    All the cool kids are working on topic Z these days anyway.

  • baltogirl says:

    Since this is a matter of opinion (topic X papers rock, topic Y papers are unimportant), you would not be able to appeal.
    I once had a grant slip below payline because one of the reviewers did not subscribe to the world view of 99% of the field. Could not appeal- matter of opinion.

  • Is appealing an NIH grant review ever a good idea, anyway?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Not in my opinion.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Baltogirl- to be clear it wasn't about topic importance. It was about productivity of the PI in respective topic domains.

  • Philapodia says:

    Why HAVEN'T you produced more publications on Topic X with other people's resources? Your colleagues have gotten tons of money, so no money for you Scrooge McDuck!

  • drugmonkey says:

    So it was you.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    I reviewed your colleagues' grant, and gave it a good score on the expectation that you would be taking the money and spending it on Topic X. I am deeply disappointed. I have notified their PO, and she is thinking of denying their next noncompeting renewal.

  • potnia theron says:

    what is the most important criteria for getting money? already having money. If you can produce with what you have, you obviously don't need more. If you can't produce with what you have, then you are obviously a second-rater and don't deserve money.

  • Philapodia says:

    You should have cited me more, holmes. I wasn't feeling the love so I had a moral imperative to torpedo you...

  • drugmonkey says:

    Way to get my back, N-c.

  • Philapodia says:

    There is another thinly veiled "riff-raff" article by McKnight in the wind...

  • Juan Lopez says:

    Thanks for the link Philapodia. You have to love a statement like this: "If institute directors and their leadership staff noted anything less than outstanding performance by a study section reviewer, much less the person chairing a study section, they would be expected to relieve that person and replace him or her with a competent one".

    Everybody must be way above average or will be deemed incompetent. Vertically ascending science must be based on statistics orthogonal to what we, riff-raff, have to live with.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Why do you hate my blood pressure Philapodia?

  • Philapodia says:

    In the study sections I've sat on I've never seen an example of either a poor or stellar review, so what would constitute either is unclear. It's not as if the Riff-raff are all taking Jell-O shots off each other while giving their reviews as the vertically ascending greybeards are looking on in disapproval. So how does the poor overworked IC director decide who is doing a bad job and who is outstanding when everyone is doing good? And shouldn't that be the SRO's job anyway? The directors hire SROs to do this already, which is called delegation.

    The whole thing is a red herring to blame reviewers who are donating their valuable time for dropping success rates within the BSD population. Like blaming immigrants for all of the problems in the US.

  • Comradde PhysioProffe says:

    "for all I know"

    As if it isn't this motherfucker's job as president of a major biomedical scientific society to actually familiarize himself with the laws that govern the disbursement of billions of dollars to the biomedical research enterprise?

  • Khat says:

    This guy is clueless. Quickly reading his editorial: Does he realize that CSR oversees most review groups, and IC directors have zero influence in the process? Does he realize that for an IC like NIMH or NINDS there are at least two dozen relevant IRG's, most meeting three times/year, often simultaneously? (I'm sure Tom Insel would be surprised to learn the entire NIMH portfolio is reviewed by a "handful" of study sections.) Does he realize that the size of the median HHMI grant is much larger than that for NIH grants, resulting in many, many more NIH grants to be reviewed? Does he realize HHMI funded $714M, and not $1000M in 2014 for research? Does he not know that many PO's listen in on study section meetings and that there can be pretty good feedback to Program and IC staff on the process. Does he have an understanding of the professional life of an NIH IC Director and the BS they need to put up with where he thinks a director can spend 25% of their time monitoring study section performance?

    Maybe if McKnight spent more time fulfilling his obligation as president to effectively represent ASBMB's interests in supporting increased NIH funding his BSD friends' funding wouldn't be decreasing.

    Sure, NIH peer review is not perfect, but it's a lot better than the alternative proposed my McKnight.

    Glad I let my membership in ASBMB lapse.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Minor correction: McKnight is not entirely clueless....he has an agenda. Which is why it isn't just point-and-laugh territory. He has a lot of fellow-travelers high-fiving his columns behind the scenes.

  • Grumble says:

    point and say, "you fucken dumbass!" territory?

  • jmz4gtu says:

    I did hear that the POs and directors used to sit in on the study sections occasionally. It's a fine idea, in a perfect world. And if the NIH only had this issue to worry about it, then this odd little tirade might belong on the ASBMB website. Otherwise I'm just underwhelmed.
    If McKnight wants to improve the quality of study sections, why doesn't he go sit on them?

    And since this dude clearly loves HHMI so much, here's another suggestion. HHMI requires that any of their investigators be available to review proposals and appointments, at any moment, any number of times, at HHMI's discretion. Let's have the NIH enact a similar policy. If the IC's "directors and their leadership staffers" decide that a particular NIH funded researcher has the most appropriate expertise to review a set of grants, that researcher *must* do so, and make themselves available to go to study section and present as deemed necessary by the IC director.

    Would McKnight agree to that arrangement?
    Or should we just acknowledge that the NIH is not HHMI, it shouldn't be, and it's going to have different operating procedures.

    Also, seconding PP's comment that he should know the laws governing NIH activity.

    Also, who keeps electing these assehattes?

    Also, if you look at his funding history, you can tell he only started carrying about all this shittio right around 2012 when his Pioneer awards ran out and he realized how tight funding had become. Poor baby is down to only two R equivalents after having two million in directs for so long. Dollars to donuts that's when he suddenly took an interest in all this riff-raff lying about.

  • Philapodia says:

    "Also, who keeps electing these assehattes?"

    We do when we don't take the time to understand who we are voting for. Sometimes we get lucky with leaders like Berg who do their very best for ALL the members of society, but we often get mediocrity because we equate scientific acumen with political aptitude when electing leadership of scientific societies. I don't think anyone disagrees that McKnight is a good scientist (although not a genius like Jim Watson), but he's shown over and over that he's a political nightmare and has little in the way of real leadership skills. As much as I hate to say it, but there should be some small level of campaigning for electing scientific society leadership to get some idea of what their views are and how they would lead. Maybe we can set up a SuperPac to get Datahound re-elected. We can then funnel the extra money into R equivalents for all of us!

  • dsks says:

    "As such, I offer that it is only reasonable to ask that NIH institute directors pay as much attention to the research review process as does the president of the HHMI."

    Yeah. I'm sure the Prez totally has their finger on the pulse of ~5000 applications/internal reviews in re HHMI status every year. Keeping tabs on the performance of 2000 reviewers is a Sunday walk in the park. Might require a few hundred million in admin costs for the NIH to implement such a policy, but it's not like the whole issue here is a shortage of fu... oh, wait... it is isn't it?

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