Posts Tagged ‘grants’

Complaints about the NIH grant review process

2 Oct 2013

Earlier this week, I met with a collaborator to discuss what to do with our NIH grant proposal, whose “A1” was “unscored” (ie, the revised version, and you don’t get a third try, received a “preliminary score” in the lower half and so was not discussed by the review panel and couldn’t be funded).

NIH proposals are typically reviewed by three people and given preliminary scores on five aspects (significance, approach, investigators, environment, innovation) and overall, and the top proposals based on those scores are discussed and scored by the larger panel.

One of the reviewers gave our proposal an 8 for “approach” (on a scale of 1-9, with 1 being good and 9 being terrible) with the following review comments:

4. Approach:

  • Well described details for mining of [data] and genotyping of [subjects].


  • There is no power analysis for Aim 2. Without knowing which and how many [phenotypes] will be evaluated it is not possible to estimate the statistical power.

Valid comments, but is that really all the reviewer had to say? What about Aims 1 and 3, or the other aspects of Aim 2? That is totally fucking inadequate.

Looking at this review again, I was reminded of how much I despise many aspects of the NIH review process. So it’s led me, finally, to write down some of the things that annoy me.

What, no coffee?

28 Sep 2012

I was at a CIDR Access Committee meeting in DC a few weeks ago. We review proposals for genotyping or sequencing by the Center for Inherited Disease Research, a service funded by several of the NIH institutes.

We had to buy our own coffee.

It’s silly to complain. There was a coffee shop across the hall from the meeting room, and the coffee there was suitable.

But isn’t it silly to pay airfare for a dozen people for a 3 hr meeting and then chintz on the snacks? Apparently it’s a new government rule. (I’d thought the rule was maybe instituted following the GSA’s Las Vegas party, but it predates that.)

Without coffee, grant reviewing does not seem to go as well.

Tips on grant writing

21 Oct 2011

While some may feel that grant proposals should be perfect, I think they should be good enough to be funded and no better. Only three or so people will read the thing, and they’re not allowed to talk about it; you should be devoting yourself as much as possible to the actual work rather than the grant writing.

Having read many grants (some good, many bad), I’ve formed quite strong opinions about what constitutes a good grant.


Fund people not projects?

19 Oct 2011

John Ioannidis, known for his comments on medical research (see also the Atlantic article), has an interesting opinion piece in Nature on saving researchers’ time writing and reviewing grants: fund people not projects. As he concludes, “Requiring [scientists] to spend most of their time writing grants is irrational. It’s time to seriously consider another approach.”

It was thought provoking, but I don’t think any of his ideas will really work. Lots of people complain about peer review, but I think it largely works well and none of the proposed alternatives would actually be better. Here are my thoughts.