But what does all this "Save the A2!" business mean for me?

Feb 15 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers]

By now you've probably heard about the email and petition going around to Save The A2 (See pros and cons), as though the second resubmission of a grant proposal is some kind of political prisoner that your hipster friends never heard of before last week but now can't stop talking about. Basically the argument boils down to the fact that there are those who believe NIH's policy of allowing only a single resubmit of a proposal is hurting investigators and those who feel that this initiative was inacted so that first submission (A0) proposals actually have a chance of getting funded as opposed to being "put in line". While I see both sides, I tend to agree with those against the A2 being brought back, on the basis that there won't be an increase in the number of grants that get funded or probably even which grants get funded with the additional submission (see the comments here for more discussion).

Admittedly, I don't have as much of a dog in the race as many of the people discussing this do. NIH is not my primary target audience and until last summer I had never applied. It was an interesting experience and I have been working on the resubmit due in ten days. But the discussion has made me reconsider my strategy in the coming round, however.

Based on feedback on the project from both NSF and NIH, I have shifted the focus. Whereas the overall goal is the same, the mechanisms for answering the questions are substantially different. We'll be collecting different data, using modified tools to analyze those data and have broadened the sampling. Not insignificant.

That leaves me with a dilemma: How to I categorize the proposal when I submit it this time around? Is it an A1? Has it been changed enough to go in as an A0? Is there an advantage to sending it as an A1 and does that potential benefit outweigh the advantage of having another kick at the can if the application is unsuccessful in this round? While submitting as an A0 is what appears to make the most sense, I don't have a good feel for *how much* change is enough to allow for a new submit over a resubmit. From talking with some people, neither do most people. So, do I risk the study section getting the application and saying "Dude is trying to work around the system! Destroy!" and go with the A0 or play nice and submit an A1 knowing I will have to make even more substantial changes to it if it does not get funded?

12 responses so far

  • qaz says:

    If you're going back to the same study section, then an A1 is definitely a better choice. They will almost certainly remember it and the A1 gets a major advantage over a new A0 in that you can write a reply to reviewers (called "introduction to revised application") in which you get to tell them what you changed to accommodate their comments.

    One of the biggest problems with NSF is that every grant goes in as an A0, and you never get to say "here's what they said was wrong and here's how I fixed it." This tends to make NSF funding a moving target, while NIH (not perfect certainly) at least has some tendency to say "that's a good reply."

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Another factor on the tactical side for most NIH grants is the submission date. Having the extra month means you can write a new one *and* do your revision in the same round. Ditching the A2 should cut down total apps by a smidge because of this factor.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Qaz, your point on NSF is not actually true. Any resubmit has to include a response to reviews. On top of that, the panel has access to the prior summary statement and the POs inform the panel about the history of all resubmits.

  • GMP says:

    This is certainly not true in my funding division(s). In my experience, which mimics qaz's, all NSF proposals go in as new, even if they are resubmitted. If you are lucky, the program manager does remember it from before, but may or may not bring it up in front of the panel, and this information has never been communicated to me as an ad hoc reviewer. I certainly never saw any summary statements from previous submissions for any proposal I reviewed for the NSF.

  • [...] of pro/con debate from DrDra of BlueLabCoats and Comrade PhysioProf as a warmup. Additional from Prof-like Substance and Genomic [...]

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Obviously different directorates do different things, then.

  • odyssey says:

    I've had both the qaz/GMP and PlS experiences at the NSF. However, even though each application is considered "new", there is nothing stopping PI's addressing previous reviewers' concerns in the text of a revised "new" proposal. I've done that and was told by my PO it made a big difference.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I've always been told explicitly to do this, so I thought it was fairly normal. Almost every resubmit I have reviewed (on panel, so I knew they were resubmits) has included a text on "response to review".

  • Drugmonkey says:

    OMMFG! The NSF is broken!!!!!!!

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Dude, there's already a forum for that.

  • Pinko Punko says:

    I love how profs used to dealing with NIH emerge from NSF experiences liked shell-shocked aliens back from a trip to an alternate dimension. I say to those people: "yeah, I think you should just give up" and then I just let my NSF proposal ride because I am a masochist.

    NSF is the Magic 8 Ball of funding, so now you can understand when of your 7 reviews, 4 say "it is unclear"

  • biologist says:

    I received a 14% on the A1 of my R01 competitive renewal but the payline is 11%. I have gathered a lot of advice and the consensus is that I put back in a pared down version of the unfunded R01 as an R21. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around rationale and again, after talking it over with colleagues, it goes something like this:
    Submitting a failed R01 as an R21 is an expedient, possibly unwittingly provided by NIH, which, if the R21 is funded, provides 2 years of bridge funding for one to develop that new angle that the NIH requires in order for the so-called new R01 not to be kicked back as an unallowable resubmission.
    I would like to hear ya’lls views. Personally it doesn’t seem logical for NIH to allow this, but what do I know??

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