Reviewing SABV grant applications for the NIH

May 09 2016 Published by under NIH, NIH funding, Sex Differences

The first study section rounds that are obliged to grapple with the new SABV policy are upon us.
SROs are instructing panels and issuing grant assignments to reviewers.

If you are reviewing, what are your thoughts?

Me, I see more of the entirely predictable ahead- people ignoring it (or accepting thin excuses for not studying both sexes, in reality) or brandishing it as a cudgel in highly variable fashion. I'm cynical, perhaps unduly so, eh?

The opportunity to beat a panel into better agreement will come far too late for most applications. There is no way that guilt over consistency will drag the triaged apps up for discussion. 

I still seek consistency. In my own reviewing and in any panels I serve. I think this a virtue to strive for.

And I think that consideration and discussion of the approach to tricky review issues is the way to advance toward that goal. 

I also think that when you accept a reviewer position, you are agreeing to give the NIH what it is requesting, to the best of your ability. If you fight against the SABV push, you are doing it very wrong, IMO.

So....what do you think? How are you approaching the SABV mandate? Now that you have a few examples of how applicants have dealt with it, have you learned anything useful for us to consider?

--
Open Mike blog on SABV mandate

11 responses so far

  • AcademicLurker says:

    As a molecular biophysicist/structural biologist, my hope is that all of the animal model people nuke each others proposals over SABV issues, thus leaving more $$ for everyone else...

  • drugmonkey says:

    TBH, I think this is going to happen. See prior post.

  • Dave says:

    Why not just say you'll study both sexes and be done with it. Fudge the budget to make it work. No?

  • potnia theron says:

    I lucked out this round: only animals are human. And these PI's all know better than to screw around with the subject tables.

    I suspect that within a few years that SABV will reach the same point of "of-coarseness" that now surrounds gender/race/age balancing in studies with humans.

    It is instructive to note that my mother was part of a large epidemiological study of heart disease, specifically looking to determine risk factors for women that differed from men. The proposal was soundly rejected (in the 80s 90s?) because "we know this for men, we do not need an additional study for women". She kept the pink sheet (which was pink) on her wall.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Why not just say you'll study both sexes and be done with it. Fudge the budget to make it work. No?

    What does "study" mean? Therein lies the rub.

    Is it enough to simply compare male and female animals on your main variables and say "and if anything comes up, we'll maybe get to that for the renewal of this project"?

    I agree that this should be sufficient to address the mandate. I suspect that it will not be in the eyes of the reviewers.

    Related issue- if your application says the above and another application takes the barest stab at sex-differences ("we'll monitor estrous cycle and if anything comes up in sex or cycle differences, we'll maybe get to that for the renewal") does this make it better than yours? Or does it make it worse because they have let the camel's nose under the tent and are now rightfully slammed for insufficient detail on design and analysis and interpretation and blahdeblah.

  • Grumble says:

    "I suspect that it will not be in the eyes of the reviewers."

    It always depends on who the reviewers are. In this case, in depends on how strictly they interpret the NIH's SABV mandate. If they think it means "all grants henceforth must carefully compare M and F and pilot data must be shown in the grant comparing them and any tiny difference must be explored fully with careful experiments", then you and me and a lot of people are fucked. (Who knows, I might even move to North Carolina and apply for funding exclusively from the state's Men Are Men and Women Are Women Institute of Health.)

    If they think it means "yet another bullshit directive from the NIH that makes my life difficult, and gee, I really like DM and this grant in all other respects," then you will get a good score.

  • Joni says:

    Just apply for $500k p.a. rather than $250k p.a. and say you're going to replicate everything in both sexes. I don't see how you could have "budgetary concerns" when its mandated.

  • dr24 says:

    I would wield it like a cudgel, while honestly convincing myself I was rewarding the best science.

  • Grumble says:

    "Just apply for $500k p.a. rather than $250k p.a. and say you're going to replicate everything in both sexes. I don't see how you could have "budgetary concerns" when its mandated."

    What about the reviewer who considers it boring and a waste of the public's money to replicate every last experiment you do with one sex in the other?

  • MoBio says:

    Just sat on review panel and don't recall it being brought up and this was not a structural biology review group...

  • drugmonkey says:

    SABV wasn't even discussed????? Was this current round 2016 submissions? Or you mean last round?

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