Showing posts from June, 2013

Like Farts in the Wind

I recently heard some interesting 2nd hand advice from Matt Welsh, whose blog has plenty of advice/rants/raves for tenure track junior faculty.   Matt ended up leaving academia for Google but with regards to writing grants and getting funding, he's said "Focus on writing papers, send out proposals like farts in the wind"; basically, spam granting agencies without a lot of thought.

For some reason this really bothers me.  It is effectively concluding that grantsmanship and actual intellectual merit cannot be accurately measure by the review process, that funding is effectively a crapshoot and you just need to play the game lots and lots in order to get funded.   It's succumbing to the view that folks reviewing your proposals are not going to know much about your area or understand the significance. Papers, on the other hand, tend to be reviewed by researchers more close to your area of expertise and this is where you need to spend your time polishing and honing your m…

From the horses mouth to the fly (on the wall)'s ear: phrases overheard at an NIH section meeting and what a beginning investigator can glean from them

This is a continuation of my blog post yesterday concerning a recent NIH section meeting.  I was there as an Early Career Reviewer -- a great opportunity to learn about the process and listen in on the discussions.  While most reviewers get assigned many more, I was assigned only 4 applications to review. This gave me plenty of time to listen to what folks were saying and really pay attention to the conversation going on about applications being discussed.  Each application gets between 30-10 minutes of discussion (depending on time of day, enthusiasm or discordance among reviewers, etc). Not much can be generalized across all applications we reviewed.  However, in the R01 category , I think several general pieces of advice can be gleaned - at least in the GVE context - with regards to what works an what doesn't (FYI, R01's are those large, major awards -- after you get one of these, you are no longer a "new investigator").  
Note: Although the names of panelists ser…

NIH is not spelled "NSF"

I've often wondered what it is like on an NIH study section, and how it differs from an NSF panel, so I happily agreed to serve this past week on my first Genetic Variation and Evolution (GVE) study section.  
What is an NIH study section like? 
Well, on the face of it, much like an NSF panel.  Before you come to the meeting, you are given a set of applications to review.  Like the NSF, your review of each individual application is based on certain criteria and you are asked to comment on these criteria.  In an NSF review you first score the proposal (Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor).  At NSF, criteria you should comment on or focus on in your review are "Intellectual Merit" and "Broader Impacts" (with strengths and weaknesses for each).   You also give a summary statement at the end of your review that should reflect your score.
 For the NIH, the scored criteria are "Significance", "Investigator", "Innovation", "App…