Respectful Insolence

And now for some NIH science wonkiness

If you’re not into the ins and outs of applying for NIH funding, this one may be a bit too wonky for you. I’m linking, however, to a rather interesting discussion of how to go about getting funding from the NIH in this presently hostile funding climate. One spot-on point is this in reference to letters of support from mentors:

A senior study section member in the audience confirmed this – but added that the letters must clearly demonstrate that the mentor (or whoever) has read the R01 and helped refine the narrative … a glowing letter of support appended to an unfundable narrative backfires for both the new investigator and the mentor. [As a reviewer of internal pilot funding applications, I can attest to the frustration of a ridiculously immature proposal paired with a bubbling mentor letter - makes everyone look bad.]

I can see how that would be an embarrassment…

In the meantime, my R01 doesn’t expire until 2010, but I’m already starting to sweat it, worrying that I haven’t made enough progress and especially that I haven’t published enough. Fortunately, I still have a little under two years before I have to submit my competitive renewal. In the meantime, I’m certainly looking to get a project going that could attract another R01, just in case my present project stalls.

Comments

  1. #1 sailor
    June 26, 2007

    You need to find some angle so it is relevant to “homeland security” That should bring in funds.

  2. #2 Bob O'H
    June 26, 2007

    By 2010 homeland security will be passé. Global warming will be a better bet then (your next president will have made it a part of their election platform).

    How you relate that to surgery is your problem.

    Bob

  3. #3 Jesse
    June 26, 2007

    Interesting. My PI just sat on a study section where they funded a whopping 8% of the grants. As someone who’d really like to go into academics, I really hope things improve. More immediately, I worry that people I might be interested in Post-Docing with may be unable to fund a spot for a nascent Postdoc fellow or be forced to fold up their lab. Eep.

  4. #4 PhysioProf
    June 26, 2007

    I found the suggestion to solicit letters in support of an R01 quite surprising. I am a relatively young investigator–received my first R01 about one year ago and just had another one scored (as an A2) well inside the single digit percentile–and no one ever suggested to me that it would be worthwhile to include letters of support that do nothing other than attest to my capacity to function as a PI.

    And I have served on study sections and reviewed applications from new investigators and never seen such a letter. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that any review panel would take such a letter seriously, given that it comes from a senior faculty mentor, presumably in the department (or at least the institution) of the applicant. What could be a more biased source of commentary on the applicant?

  5. #5 josh
    June 27, 2007

    mmm, try “Improved homeland security via global warming influenced cancer” Someone has to fund that!

  6. #6 Vlad
    June 27, 2007

    I heard that automated/remote surgical technology is becoming bigger and bigger.

  7. #7 Drugmonkey
    June 27, 2007

    agree with physioprof, i don’t see this sort of support letter much…at least not this baldly stated. this is the sort of supportive comment that needs to be slipped into the “collaboration” letter from said senior colleague.

    Jesse: this is cyclical. every 10 years or so we go through this. do some creative searching for letters to the editor and policy forums in Science on the topic of NIH funding. i found a letter from the late sixties that could have been written today almost word for word. the question for everyone, at every level is, are you going to be still standing when the money returns or not? grad school is not a bad place to be during the downturns.

  8. #8 PhysioProf
    June 29, 2007

    “[T]he question for everyone, at every level is, are you going to be still standing when the money returns or not?”

    Well-administered (and well-endowed) institutions understand this very well, and will devote internal funds to keep people alive–and even expand their number of PIs–while external funds are tight. This represents the capture of “market share”, at the expense of less-well-endowed institutions that have no choice but to allow people to die. Then, when the external funding situation loosens, those left standing just gobble up grant money in a less competitive environment.

    One well-endowed Ivy League university just spent what is likely to be about $1 billion to buy an existing > 100 acre biomedical research facility with 500,000 square feet of wet lab.

  9. #9 PhysioProf
    June 29, 2007

    “One well-endowed Ivy League university just spent what is likely to be about $1 billion to buy an existing > 100 acre biomedical research facility with 500,000 square feet of wet lab.”

    Actually, I just looked at some news reports on this deal, and the purchase price is predicted to be closer to $100 million.

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