Responding to Grant Critiques (without becoming apoplectic)

Apr 27 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

I love the word apoplectic. Probably because it describes my mindset much of the time these days.

I am trying to rewrite a proposal that (quite likely) did not get funded on the resubmission. It will go in as a new submission, so I don't get to write the "You lowly, insecure, idiotic reviewers have once again totally failed to appreciate not only the genius, but the significance, innovation and my ability to craft the most exquisite hypotheses" response to reviewers, called "an introduction". I do, by the way, recognize it's the significance, innovation, etc of the proposal, not me. But it does get hard to separate these out, sometimes.

So what is making me apoplectic right now? The review that says "the proposal does not present clear criteria for addressing the hypothesis of XYZ in SA 2". Well, as a matter of fact you ferkakte schlemiel, I did. It is in the section titled "Testing the hypotheses".  As in, "if variable X is greater than 1 then yes the hypothesis holds". Hard to get more explicit than that. But even if I could write a response, I wouldn't shoot myself in my tender little tootsies by even implying that this was the case. I would say (for those who are writing responses), with a heading of "concerns about hypothesis testing", the exact data tests of specific hypotheses are emphasized on pX. And then make sure there was a little grey box around the text on page X. There are lots of ways of doing this. The important idea here is to direct the reviewers attention to what you have done to address their concern.

So what to do when I can't even mention that this was a concern (this is going in as a new submission)? I need to move this text to a more forward place in the proposal. I need to move the text that was in the lovely section called testing the hypotheses, make it more general (to suit its more forward position) so that when the reviewers don't read the whole thing (as they won't) that they find this.

There are lots of books that tell you how to write a grant proposal. I've been to lots of courses that give you templates, often down to specific sentences. I've also seen people get so contorted to fit their work into the template du jour that the meaning gets twisted. I'm pretty sure there isn't a single way to do this. But if the organization isn't clear in your head, it sure as hell won't be for the reviewers, either. What I'm working on are ways to move things around so that the things the reviewers didn't see, the things I KNOW are in the proposal, are more evident, and easily noticed by the reviewers. I need to do this without upsetting what I thought was a pretty good organization (but obviously not, since they missed that fucking point).

And, reviewer fucking three, who thinks that a project on brainstem function is incomplete without cerebral imaging, the hell with you and your respiratory system.

3 responses so far

  • Joatmon says:

    It is important to have redundancy. It is probably worth mentioning the critical points in more than one place so the readers can't miss them.

  • Ola says:

    One way I've seen the whole A2 as A0 thing skirted (no idea if this is "legit" under the NIH rules) is to slip it into the biosketch. There are 2 possible routes...

    (1) Assuming the former app' was not triaged, it will have gotten a score. By the time you submit, even though the score was crap, technically it's not over until the fat council lady sings, so you can list it as "pending". Make sure to keep the same title. That way they'll know the new grant is an A2->A0. Hell, you could even mention the key problems in the little project description underneath the listing (I've seen that done only once).

    (2) Mention it in the personal statement bit. Use the statement to say something like "I attach great personal importance to determining adequate criteria for testing hypotheses, as shown in the current application (page x)."

    • potnia theron says:

      good ideas. The down side of same title is that if there is a chance of being picked up later (score on the edge), then you don't want the first one administratively withdrawn.

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