DEA

So you thought your science was already rigorous and reproducible…

Last fall, NIH released new guidelines for implementing rigor and transparency in research project grants. Applications for research grants and mentored career development awards submitted in 2016 must include information on scientific rigor and reproducibility. What’s going on?

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A few months ago, NIA decided to follow the practice of two other NIH institutes and arrange two-stage review of program projects. We have recently completed the first review cycle under this new review model. We launched this two-stage effort because of concern that the separate small committee reviews which each handled one program project lacked the context for scoring that is available to the customarily larger panels who review a substantial set of research grant applications in one meeting.

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We have bumped the NIA general allocation up by one point all around. For most research grants—at least the ones under $500k a year—that pay line is now the 10th percentile. We are paying new investigator R01 applications to the 18th percentile and early-stage investigators can now breathe comfortably with the knowledge that their R01 applications are being paid to the princely 20th percentile!

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We are now paying career award applications to a score of 15. I know this will bring cold comfort to too many of you. And, the shock of learning that we are paying those career award applications with an emphasis on Alzheimer’s disease to a score above 30 leaves a sharp sting for those whose worthy aims do not address that priority.

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You have a burning idea about aging. Now you need the funding for it. What do you do? Or, you once sent an application through the inscrutable machinery of grants.gov. You even retrieved reviews after an eternity of waiting. And now, apart from burying the reviews in several feet of dirt where they will be of most use, you have no idea what your next move is. We may have the answer for you.

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California, here we come! No, we’re not participating in a gold rush, we’re going to the annual meeting of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) next week in Long Beach. We’re looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. We also hope that you’ll take the opportunity to connect with NIA staff at the meeting, during scientific sessions and at the Exhibit Hall.

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About half of the 22 NIH Institutes no longer post a funding line. Of course, we at NIA do so much better—we post multiple funding lines! We are transparent, though. I’ve heard it said around the halls of NIH that a funding line is a crutch for staff, an easy way to indicate to investigators that their application could not be paid.

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It is April. Spring flowers, trees in bud, warming temperatures, and a funding update from NIA that is as natural as the Spring, and as welcome as the flowers? (OK. Not so much!) Still, it is good news for some.

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It’s spring! Here’s some exciting news that may help you get some spring fever! Effective with applications submitted on February, 12, 2016, and moving forward, NIH is allowing up to $100,000 plus fringe benefits toward an applicant’s salary to cover the percentage effort requested on NIH K08 and K23 awards. Current K awardees also benefit from these new guidelines.

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Several recent commentaries (Danthi, Wu, Shi and Lauer; Lauer, Danthi, Kaltman, and Wu;) have found that the percentile rank an application receives in peer review has little or no noticeable relationship to how productive (in terms of citation impact of publications) a subsequent award is, should the application be so fortunate as to be awarded. So, a first-percentile application is apparently no more productive than a 15th-percentile application. Is that outcome really surprising?

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