Busy, busy, busy, am I. We’re done moving the lab to the new digs and its looking great. We’re organized and running experiments again. This is a GoodThing.
On the other hand, we got three scores and/or grant reviews back this week. No good news on that front. My first grant submission to come back with a score got funded, 1 for 1. Now we’re down to 1 for 4. Well, what can you expect, funding is tight and we’re still hitting .250. There was one little thing that sort of irked me though
I don’t have a summary statement for one of the NIH grants yet. That one was unscored but it was for one of these new mechanisms so I’m sure they got 1,000 apps and funded 3 (but they say all grants will get a summary statement). What can you do. Another was a summary statement for another NIH grant that I submitted a long time ago. Not much to say about that one. Again, it was for a new mechanism and that got flooded with apps. Apparently they liked the idea but I wasn’t in the fundable range. Fine, we can spin that one into a traditional mechanism and get some more chances. We’ve got more data now too and that project will be just fine.
The one that got to me was from an in-state funding agency. The review was really fantastic. All the words you hope for, interesting, novel, innovative, likely to have clinical impact, etc… There was no score though (something about a quintile) and no hint of how the review panel actually reviewed the peer review comments. I can go back with this app again but I have no idea how to fight to get into the fundable range. Really, not a single sign of criticism in the review. This is frustrating because the apps end up in front of a panel with their reviews attached and some mysterious process ensues that funds a few grants and puts the others into catagories that no one understands. Everyone I know that sent one of these is in the same quintile. How can that be?
Having said all that, I do not envy the jobs of the people on that review panel in the least. A small group of people are tasked with choosing the best grants from fields in which they mostly have no direct experience. On top of that they have to deal with state budgets that fluctuate much more wildly than NIH or any other granting agency I am aware of. Rumor is that they had less than half the money of the previous year. To add to that difficulty, they are supposed to rotate the focus areas in a manner that is somewhat secretive. How that decision is made I have no idea but I can guess it comes from state reps who are beholden to special interests in their constituencies. While I wish I knew something about the decision process, perhaps its better that I don’t.
Oh well, at least the review was good, and this bodes well for another grant that is at NIH on the same topic. Fingers crossed, that one gets reviewed very soon and its a traditional mechanism so I have a shot to go back after getting some more thorough feedback.
Now that I’ve written all this I am wondering, why do I keep going after these new mechanisms that turn into lotteries due to the flood of apps? Maybe I should be concentrating more of my efforts on more traditional mechanisms with set, regular deadlines and definite chances for resubmission.
Well, we got the summary statements back for the other NIH grant today (not sure who’s working at NIH on Sunday but apparently someone is). They didn’t think it was a perfect fit for the specific funding mechanism (which has limited funding and a strict mandate apparently from Congress). This is a tad disappointing because apparently the reviewers were a bit torn on whether it fit or not. On the other hand, the reviews of the science were among the best I have ever gotten. The reviewers clearly got it and thought it was innovative and high impact (scientifically and clinically). This is very exciting for me because this app was a new direction for me and it is one that I am very excited about. They were also not put off by my lack of experience with some of the techniques as they thought it was reasonable and that I had demonstrated sufficient productivity to justify taking such a new direction. Would have loved to get the money but color me excited. This one will be going in via another mechanism soon!!