Sweating to the NIH paylines

Like many biomedical investigators, I’ve been sweating it over the resubmission of an R01 grant my collaborator and I worked furiously on and submitted on November 1. He’s the principal investigator, but I’m a coinvestigator with 25% effort; I also wrote one of the three specific aims and most of another, the justification for animal use, and the IACUC (animal use) protocols for the project. Consequently, I have almost as much invested in the success or failure of this grant proposal as its PI does, although he certainly gets props from me for pulling us two co-investigators together with him to do this project. Getting the grant, of course, would be great. True, it wouldn’t be as great as my getting another R01 on which I’m the principal investigator (my surgeon’s ego still makes me want to prove that I can get another one for myself, crappy NIH funding situation or not), but in essence it’s the next best thing and would give a huge boost to my collaborator’s career and a nice smaller boost to mine. Thus, getting this one would make me happy, even aside from the nice, fresh infusion of cash into my tight-budgeted lab it would produce. Our score is excellent, and in years past would have been easily in the fundable range; unfortunately, this year, thanks to the budget woes of the NIH, it’s right on the cusp. We’re riding the knife edge right now, although, given that the PI is a new investigator (the NIH gives new investigators a couple of percentile points’ break on the payline in order to make it a little easier for them to be funded), chances as of today look better than 50-50 that we’ll get the grant, and it’s a nice big one.

Fortunately for our fragile minds, it turns out that the PI’s sources tell him that the paylines for the National Cancer Institute will be set this week; so we shouldn’t have to sweat too much longer. In the meantime, he turned me on to a blog that I had previously been shockingly unaware of: Grant Writing, Editing, and Grantsmanship. Although the blogger is anonymous (like me, even though my anonymity seems to be falling apart faster than Britney Spears’ psyche and career), he or she seems to be hooked into everything an NIH grant applicant wants to hear about, like paylines.

In the meantime, while the PI and I are still sweating it out over our grant, I’m going to sing this Ode to the NIH Payline. Then, in a little more than two years, I can sing it again when I submit the competitive renewal application for my own R01. Well, in reality, I hope I’ve submitted other grants before that; even better would be to get one funded, so that I don’t have all my eggs in one basket, as I do right now. Otherwise I could be in a world of hurt in early 2010 if I fail to renew.

Can someone remind me why I got into this whole surgeon-scientist thing again?


  1. #1 Catherina
    February 28, 2007

    good luck!

  2. #2 RavenT
    February 28, 2007

    hope it succeeds!

  3. #3 LabCat
    February 28, 2007

    Pet grammar peeve: “Principal Investigator” not “principle”. Of course I am sure that you are principled.

    Good luck with the grant.

  4. #4 S. Rivlin
    February 28, 2007


    I have been a longtime critic of the funding system of science in America, and especially in the past 15 years, ever since faculty members’ careers stand or fall on their success or failure, respectivily, to secure NIH funding. Most research universities today expect faculty members to fund at least 50% of their salaries through extramural funding. This trend, I believe, has changed science from an endeavor aimed at increasing our knowledge and understanding of nature into a business, where science is simply a tool to make money for the institiutions and the scientists they employ. The successful scientist of 2007 is the richest one (grant money), not necessarily the most intelligent and bright one. Clearly, there is no incentive anymore to be curious about our world. One is better off simply patent every new idea or observation for its practical use. And if you cannot find a practical use for your idea, you would be better off lock it in your desk drawer.

  5. #5 Orac
    February 28, 2007

    Pet grammar peeve: “Principal Investigator” not “principle”

    Ack. How embarrassing…

    It’s fixed now.

  6. #6 Flex
    March 1, 2007


    Reminds me of that 1985 Peter O’Toole movie, Creator.

    Good luck on your grants!

  7. #7 Writedit
    March 5, 2007

    Woo applicants to NCCAM won’t be sweating to the paylines … http://writedit.wordpress.com/2007/03/05/payline-update-nccam/

    Bet you can’t wait to see what that alt med R01 with a 185 priority score (your tax dollars hard at work) turns out in 4-5 years.

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