Field of Science

R01s and Me

R01 grants, the standard grant that runs a lab from NIH, are now scored based on 5 criteria: Significance, Investigator(s), Innovation, Approach, Environment. Each criteria is given a score ranging from 1-10, with 1 being awesome and 10 being death. You really want 1s and 2s across the board have a strong chance at funding.
The best calendars year after year
When proposals are submitted, they go to a study section, which probably has 70-90 proposals to consider. Of these proposals, probably at best 5 will be funded. In order to give the "best" grants more consideration, grants outside a certain a range are not discussed at the study section meeting (why bother talking about #63). These "not discussed" grants are triaged. You get your scores from the study section members that directly reviewed the proposal, but no overall score. Now depending on study section, the grants actually being discussed proposals have 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s, and maybe some 5s.

A couple things to note, the Investigator and Environment scores do not vary much in study sections. Why would they? Presumably the person submitting the grant is a published scientist, generally a faculty member at a university or research center and the environment is where the research is done, university or research center. The one score that seems to matter most and tracks with the "Overall" score is Approach.

I have been submitting a bunch of proposals recently, who hasn't, and thought I'ld share some of my experiences. Now every study section is different and scores/trends in scores can vary markedly, so my experience may not apply to you. I should note that of these proposals, 3 were submitted to the same study section an the other 2 were submitted to different study sections (1 has funded me in the past), but all study sections were within the same Institute of NIH.

Remember the scores are for Significance, Investigator(s), Innovation, Approach, Environment. I have used the code S I I A E to represent  these respectively. So here are the scores for 5 proposals I have submitted recently and you should note that all of these proposals were "Not Discussed" (Yes, it does suck to be me sometimes.)

Grant 1         S  I  I  A  E
Critique 1     3  3  3  4  3
Critique 2     3  2  2  4  2
Critique 3     6  3  6  6  2
(Comment: Fucking reviewer #3)

Grant 2         S  I  I  A  E  (Similar types of analyses as Grants 1 and 5)
Critique 1     7  5  6  8  2
Critique 2     5  2  7  3  1
Critique 3     4  4  6  5  4

(Comment: Environment 4?!?! Apparently Reviewer #3 thinks my major research institution is not all that cut out to do the basic molecular genetics work I have been doing for a decade)

Grant 3        S  I  I  A  E  (Change in research focus, completely different study section)
Critique 1    3  7  8  8  6
Critique 2    6  4  8  7  3
Critique 3    7  4  6  7  4

(Comment: Alright this proposal either sucks or was sent to the completely wrong study section. Actually both possibilities could be true. Check out those Approach scores 8, 7, 7. Charlie Sheen would tell me Im Winning. Regardless, mistakes were made. The amount of time needed to put together an strong R01 proposal in my opinion takes too long to use )

Grant 4        S  I  I  A  E  (Similar types of analyses as Grants 1 and 5)
Critique 1    4  2  3  6  2
Critique 2    3  2  3  4  1
Critique 3    5  2  3  3  2

Grant 5        S  I  I  A  E  (A1 of grant #1 above)
Critique 1    3  2  3  3  1
Critique 2    3  2  3  3  2
Critique 3    5  2  4  4  1
(Comment: Fucking reviewer #3...again. This really sucks because this grant is now considered dead. An A1 proposal, a resubmission, cannot be put back in without major fundamental changes. So here is a grant that is reasonably close to the funding area, but it cannot be honed it must be fundamentally altered. Is this really the best use of my time NIH?)

So Grants #1 and #5 (5 was a resubmission of 1) are close and by my reading missing some Omph in the sales department. I will figure out a way to keep at it with this project (Im looking at you NSF). Grant #4 has another shot, although that 6 and 4 under Approach mean serious work has to be done to beef this one up. Grant #2 needs to go to the study section #1, #4, and #5 went to, looking back I directed it incorrectly. Grant #3 requires another publication, a complete rewrite/focus, and a new study section. I think Grant #3 is dead and will ultimately evolve into Grant #6, 7, 8, or whatever number Im up to by then.

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