Power in the NIH review trenches

Jun 18 2016 Published by under Fixing the NIH, NIH, NIH Careerism

That extensive quote from a black PI who had participated in the ECR program is sticking with me.

Insider status isn't binary, of course. It is very fluid within the grant-funded science game. There are various spectra along multiple dimensions.

But make no mistake it is real. And Insider status is advantageous. It can be make-or-break crucial to a career at many stages.

I'm thinking about the benefits of being a full reviewer with occasional/repeated ad hoc status or full membership.

One of those benefits is that other reviewers in SEPs or closely related panels are less likely to mess with you.

Less likely.

It isn't any sort of quid pro quo guarantee. Of course not. But I guarantee that a reviewer who thinks this PI might be reviewing her own proposal in the near future has a bias. A review cant. An alerting response. Whatever.

It is different. And, I would submit, generally to the favor of the applicant that possesses this Mutually Assured Destruction power.

The Ginther finding arose from a thousand cuts, I argue. This is possibly one of them.

3 responses so far

  • Pinko Punko says:

    Anything that precludes preemptive presumption of denominator status increases probability of engaged rather than generic review- and thus numerator or numerator adjacent status.

  • boehninglab says:

    Insider status within study sections is definitely a thing. Some sections are fiercely insider (from personal experience, an example is some of the neurodegeneration panels), with significant implications for your ability to be funded. You are spot on to identify this as a source of bias.

  • drugmonkey says:

    CSR really should do some sort of network analysis to assign study sections a clubbiness score. Use ranks to plan spend further investigation.

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