Unlimited Submissions for NIH Grants?

The National Institutes of Health is weighing a peer-review system where grant proposals, even ones being resubmitted, would be treated as new.

By | February 20, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, VIA FLICKR: PEN WAGGENERCurrently researchers seeking funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) can resubmit their grant proposals only once after they have been rejected. But that may soon change. In December, the advisory council for NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR) floated a plan to let investigators resubmit unsuccessful grant proposals as many times as they want, with reviewers considering them anew each time.

“The CSR council suggested a pilot study in which investigators would be allowed an unlimited number of resubmissions but no more than two applications over 12 months,” according to ScienceInsider.

The idea is not a new one. It was originally proposed in 2008, when an internal NIH report suggested ending the system that allowed researchers to resubmit their grant applications just twice after initial rejection. Instead, the NIH reduced the number of permitted resubmissions to one. Now, as the success rate for NIH proposals hangs at a dismal 18 percent, the agency is looking for a way to reinvigorate the peer-review process.

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Avatar of: RobertE


Posts: 12

February 20, 2013

This would be an unmitigated disaster for reviewers. One of the problems with the two-submissions policy was that the first submission was often dismal, and investigators were "testing the waters" by sending in ill-formed and poorly supported ideas to obtain guidance from reviewers. I get enough lousy grants as it is. I would undoubtedly have more in my pile. Lotsa luck getting enough reviewers to handle the avalanche. If this is done, then the total number of proposals an investigator can submit needs to be capped.

Avatar of: LeeH


Posts: 35

February 20, 2013

I believe that with proper triage to address RobertE's ligitimate concern, this could help to eliminate at least some bias and associated problems with the current review system.  

Avatar of: Mendelsoff


Posts: 1

February 21, 2013

Given the current low paylines, a lot of very good science that would otherwise be funded just does not get funded.  For smaller labs it's just not feasible to completely retool under the current 2-strikes-and-you-are-out policy.  With proper triage, possibly including a cap, this could actually work for all of us.

Avatar of: zywang


Posts: 1

February 24, 2013

This is the sensible idea. Limitting 2 applications per year prevents the review avalanche and gives the freedom of choosing/maintaining research directions back the investigators. The current policy seems to me the worst among many options - it's bad for everyone: an investigor has to change research direction if fail twice, reviewers will be reading more new proposals  rather than revised proposals (the new proposals are most likely poorer in quality than the revised ones, but not necessarily fewer in quantity; -any evidence that investigors who fail twice tend to give up rather than trying more to increase the chance?). So, I think it makes a lot of sense to let the investigator choose what s/he believes is the best science, and only limit the number of proposal (this eases the job for both reviewers and investigators).

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