November 3, 2010

It’s pointless to talk to anyone until you get your summary statement.

You are absolutely forbidden from contacting the study section chair (or any other member of the study section) regarding your application. It is not impermissible to contact the SRO of the study section, but it is pointless, as they are only supposed to engage with you on issues relating to your application that arise prior to review.

Once your application has been reviewed, your PO becomes the point person for discussing the outcome of review. However, since your application was not discussed, the information available to the PO about review of your application is exactly the same as the information available to you: what is in the written critiques. If the PO has extensive experience with reviews by this study section and its members, then she *might* have some insights into how to interpret the reviews, but this is likely to be quite limited.

Your best resource for helping you interpret your written critiques is other PIs who have had grants reviewed, discussed, and scored by that study section, as well as any colleagues who are former/current members of the study section, but who did not serve the cycle in which your grant was reviewed. These individuals will be a source of information about the biases, preferences, etc, of the study section, and can help you read between the lines of your critiques to plan what to do next.

This whole process is very important, because what the critiques *say* were the key problems with your application aren’t necessarily what really sank it. If you can’t find anyone with direct knowledge of this study section, then your next best resource would be colleagues with extensive experience dealing with a broad array of study sections.

Don’t even think about appealing. And don’t bother trying to get that motherfucker Scarpa on the motherfucken phone.

32 Responses to “Triaged?”

  1. Sxydocma1 Says:

    In the next 2 months I’m going to find out about the fellowship I applied for and the post-doctoral grant I submitted to the AHA. I’ve been able not to think about the outcome of my applications, but now, as the deadline for notification approaches, I find myself staring out the window, wondering if right now, at this very moment, the outcome is being decided. It’s becoming increasingly hard to keep it real at the bench.

  2. “what the critiques *say* were the key problems with your application aren’t necessarily what really sank it.”

    And this is fucked up. You shouldn’t need a fucking decoder ring to get relevant feedback on your grant.

  3. Sorry to break this to you, but you need a fucken decoder ring for fucken *life*. Nothing is what it appears to be. Science is no different from any other human enterprise.

  4. Albert Says:

    “Science is no different from any other human enterprise”. Real. There should be scientists who try to be different from any other scientists. Just for a fucken change.

  5. arrzey Says:

    Beyond excellent, CPP.

    You don’t need just a decoder ring – you need an anthropologist. It’s not just the “translation” its the cultural interpretation of what the words mean. Best anthropologists are other PI’s.If you want to be funded, you need to work/play/live in this world. If you don’t care, there are lots of jobs in retail.

  6. Sxydocma1 Says:

    I would totally rock a CPP decoder ring.

  7. jojo Says:

    Maybe a dumb question, but how do you find out who the members of your study section were in the first place?

  8. grantee Says:

    Thanks Spiny. Very nice !

  9. DrugMonkey Says:

    its the cultural interpretation of what the words mean



  10. For those of us who are not professional scientists, could you explain what precisely you’re talking about?

  11. arrzey Says:

    crap. Reviewers (who are scientists) are not just picking words at random. There are reasons why the wording is what is. Just because you don’t understand doesn’t mean its their fault. One more time, if you want to live in this world, you need to learn the culture. And the wording of grants is not the part of the culture that needs to be changed.

  12. DrugMonkey Says:

    Barefoot, for many of us it is a major part of our job to apply for grant funding. the big bucks, in the US, are coming from the National Institutes of Health for most biomedical scientists.

    You write an application and submit it. Next it gets reviewed by a panel (~20-30) of other scientists, just like ourselves. Three of them are generally assigned to really dissect and evaluate each proposal in advance of the panel meeting. Because the group/panel can be assigned maybe 60-90 proposals for each meeting and only something south of 20% of them are going to be funded, there is a procedure in place to streamline the discussion process. The three assigned reviewers will generate a preliminary score for each proposal. Once it comes time for the entire panel to meet, only about half will actually be discussed. The rest are “triaged” or “streamlined” or “not discussed”.

    applicants feel bad when they get this outcome.

  13. Thanks. So the “summary statement” in the OP is the preliminary score?

    Is a “study section” the whole panel or the part of the panel that does the preliminary review?

    What is the “SRO of the study section”?

    What is the “PO” who “becomes the point person”?

    “PIs” are Principle Investigators, right? Other scientists who have submitted grants to the same panel or study section?

    Is there any particular reason why “what the critiques *say* were the key problems with your application aren’t necessarily what really sank it.” I accept that life isn’t any fairer for scientists than anyone else, but I’m always curious as to the specific reasons some process is or seems unfair.

  14. […] the PP has been hitting it out of the park with hilarious videos and slightly more serious dissections of irrational responses to disappointing grant reviews, I’ve been thinking on one […]

  15. DrugMonkey Says:

    The three assigned reviewers generate a written set of evaluations, supposed to highlight strengths and weaknesses in several categories. those documents are combined into the summary statement of the evaluation.

    study section is the panel of ~20-30 peer scientists.

    the Scientific Review Officer is typically a doctoral level scientist who works for the NIH in the Center for Scientific Review. They convene the reviewer panels, assign the applications to specific reviewers, schedule the meetings and generally manage the process of initial review.

    PO or Program Officer is a doctoral level scientist who works for one of the grant funding Institutes or Centers of the NIH. They are assigned to grants when they are received but don’t do a whole lot until the initial review is completed. they are involved in the second and third levels of review. it is a little involved, try this post

    the PI, Principal or Principle (opinions vary) Investigator is the main scientist in charge of the grant application. technically, the local University or research institute is the one applying, not the PI. however in many practical ways, the PI is in fact the applicant and we talk about it that way all the time. The PI generally did the bulk of the preparation of the application, is responsible for managing the science if funded, etc.

    wrt your last question, it is hard to generalize. but 1) there is an expected review format which 2) may or may not fit nicely with the way a reviewer thinks. I think reviewers tend to go on a gut Gestalt feeling about a proposal and write the itemized critique to match that. Not always, but this explains a lot of it. 3) it might take a lot of very well considered writing to express one’s review of a grant precisely and 4) there is usually a big review burden, maybe 10 major proposals while 5) we aren’t paid for this and 6) even if we were it subtracts from more on-task jobs we need to do… so there is a time crunch.

  16. Thanks, DM. Very informative.

  17. It’s interesting. In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig begins his philosophical quest as a student of the sciences. He asks himself the question, “How do we determine which experiments to perform?” There are infinitely many experiments; how do we decide which single one to do? We don’t seem to be operating by blind chance.

    He concludes (incorrectly, IMnsHO, but that’s a topic for another day), that there is an objective property of ideas, “quality”, that we can directly perceive. We can draw some conclusions about quality, but the we draw those conclusions on the basis of already having perceived the quality. In other words, we don’t see X, Y and Z in a work or idea and then conclude on the basis of those observations that the work has quality. Rather, we observe directly that the work has quality, and hypothesize that (at least in the one case) that X, Y and Z, which we also observe, are correlated with that quality.

    It’s an interesting approach, and I think if Pirsig were a more dedicated scientist, rather than more naturally suited to bullsh… er… philosophy, he might have developed important theories in cognitive science.

  18. Didn’t understand a single word of this post. Not a single word.

    Is your blog intended only for people who speak the elite, impenetrable language of academia? Not so “comradely” after all.

  19. ginger Says:

    CPP’s posts about sports are just as incomprehensible to people who don’t closely follow not just the sports themselves but CPP’s favorite teams.

    CPP has a laser-like focus on teeny details of topics, and a well-developed disregard for whether anyone else cares as much about such minutiae. Solipsistic, maybe, but not elitist.

  20. Spiny Norman Says:

    Opinions might vary, but correct usage is invariant. The correct term is Principal Invstigator. Idiots and ignorami who type “Principle Investigator” should have their grants fucking triaged on the spot.

  21. Spiny Norman Says:

    “We aren’t paid for this.”

    If part of your salary is soft, and part of the soft component comes from NIH, you damn well are paid for this.

  22. Spiny Norman Says:

    If Daisy Deadhead wants impenetrable jargon, she should check out 4chan /b. Well, actually, she shouldn’t. No one should. But she could check out the average science fiction or firearms forum. Makes this look like the very picture of plainspoken lucidity.

  23. ginger Says:

    But Spiny, wottif they’re Investigators on bioethics grants? Them’s definitely Principle Investigators.

  24. I have to agree with Daisy. It is absolutely intolerable that anyone has interests, concerns and skills that are completely different from my own. It is nothing but injustice and oppression for anyone to fail to speak to me, about something I personally understand and care about.

  25. Oh, and Daisy, I think I remember you now from the Kerista days. As I recall, you were desperate to get in, but you were so stupid and intolerably self-righteous that no one even wanted to hang out with you, much less live with you. Anyone who doesn’t want to fuck you personally must be a misogynist, n’est pas?

  26. El Picador Says:

    Is your blog intended only for people who speak the elite, impenetrable language of academia? Not so “comradely” after all.

    There are ready solutions to your problem a mere click away.

  27. ginger Says:

    Oh, Jesus, Barebum, you’re going to stir the world’s most boring hornet’s nest again.

    And it’s “n’est-ce pas”, you pretentious asshole. If you’re going to use a foreign language to say something you could just as easily say in English (“…misogynist, no?”), the very least you should do is spell it right.

    Oh, precious sweet balls, CPP, your crankiness is starting to rub off on me, and it’s ruining my sunny fucking disposition.

  28. Isabel Says:

    Yet when I try to tell people this very thing, that things are not what they appear (or claim) to be on the surface, you call me a loon. Typical.

  29. Isabel Says:

    “misogynist, n’est pas?”

    Well your comment, besides betraying your ignorance, certainly fits the bill. Someone accuses you of sexism and you retort that she just said that because she’s unfuckable and therefore bitter. Very original…if you weren’t a buddy of CPP’s there would be a small army of people whipping out their bingo cards by now. Yes, you are right, life’s not fair.

    “ruining my sunny fucking disposition.”

    Same thing happened to me. Consequently I’m commenting less and have decided not to curse so much.

  30. Isabel Says:

    Hahaha, feeling nostalgic, I looked up the very first blog post I ever commented on and found this comment:

    Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    March 1, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    CPP, I am genuinely sorry I was inherently disrespectful and violated your assumption of good will.

    I don’t feel that way, Isabel, I appreciate your contribution to discussion here, and hope you will continue to comment.

  31. BB, did you want to re-open the Kerista discussion? You threatened to arrest/sue me the last time I discussed it, and then CPP told me to STFU. Now, you bring it up here again? (Speaking of misogyny, I guess YOU are allowed to discuss it further, but *I* am not, is that it?)

    I am fully ready to go there. Since our last conversation (and undoubtedly due to the original thread:, I unexpectedly re-connected with two other women who had similar introductory experiences with Kerista. And they remember you well.

    If you want, I can post (on my blog) the original article/personal account I wrote for PLEXUS feminist newspaper, which was never published after it was established that Kerista was NOT an actual feminist collective (as we had originally believed it was, since it was billed that way and engaged in goddess-worship), but a decidedly goofy reefer-sex cult with a pernicious pimp leader. We didn’t want to give them any additional free commercials.

    As I said previously, I saved everything… including photos, letters, direct quotes (two from you) and other related info; I can post as much of this stuff as you desire. Warning: The article may well upset/anger your feminist wife and jeopardize your, umm, reputation, such as it is. Your call.

    If you do NOT wish to go there, please run along and stop addressing/stalking me. Please stop behaving exactly like an obvious and thoroughly devoted disciple of Jud Presmont, and leave me alone, okay?

    Thank you for your cooperation, and give my regards to your Goddess Kerista.

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