NIH removes requirement for standardized scores in pre-doc fellowship applications

I don't have much experience, but tend to agree with DM on this one:

First: If you have excellent standardized scores, I suggest you continue to put those in the pre-doc NRSA biosketch somewhere people.

Second: If you don't put them in there, the reviewer who is fond of such measures of your aptitude is going to assume your scores are really bad. Right?

Third: I think this is more evidence of NIH changes that will throw chaos into the system rather than really improving much.

NIH Program Officers do not (fully) understand what happens during review

Good advice from drugmonkey.

The takeaway message for less NIH-experienced applicants is that the PO doesn't know everything. I'm not saying they are never helpful....they are. Occasionally very helpful. Difference between funded and not-funded helpful. So I fully endorse the usual advice to talk to your POs early and often.

Do not take the PO word for gospel, however. Take it under advisement and integrate it with all of your other sources of information to try to decide how to advance your funding strategy.

R01 teams and grantee age trends at NIA

Interesting (and possibly depressing) post from Robin Barr (NIA) on funding trends.

The average age of first-time R01 funded investigators who have PhDs remains 42 even after seven years of policies at NIH to increase the numbers of new and early-stage investigators. And, over the same interval, age has continued to increase for first-time R01-funded MDs and MD-PhDs, despite the policies we have in place.

This comment on the number of investigators on an R01 caught my eye:

How many investigators does it take to write an R01? I looked at the 100 top-scoring R01 applications across NIH in January 2015 and compared them to a similar set from January 2005. R01 applications have been bulking up! In 2005, more of the top scoring applications had a single principal investigator listed as the faculty on that application—just Professor X and the students and postdocs—than had two faculty, or three faculty or any other number. By 2015, Professor X needed more help. Now, three faculty is the most common number of faculty members on an application. By 2015, the “average” top-scoring R01 at NIH had more than four faculty listed as participating on it.

I don't think it's that people need more help writing R01s; it's that funding is tight and people are scrambling to try to cover salary support.

NIH proposes "emeritus award" for senior PIs

Commentary from Datahound.

(1) This problem already has a solution. An investigator can (with approval from the relevant IC) name a new Principal Investigator for a grant. Assuming the PI is qualified and NIH approves, this is an effective transition strategy that has been used many times.

(2) For most research programs, is "succession planning" something that NIH staff are worried about? Given that many investigators train numerous younger scientists over the course of their careers and that the system is currently flooded with accomplished younger scientists, the solution to this problem without any mechanism seems to be at hand.

(3) Even proposing such a mechanism seems quite inappropriate and tone deaf at this juncture when so many younger scientists are struggling to establish and maintain their careers.

If money were flowing freely, there may be some positive things coming out of this iniative. But in the "current funding climate" I don't see how this is helpful.