Four pages to fund established PIs, to General Population with the rest of you!

Apr 02 2013 Published by under [Education&Careers]

I've mentioned the idea of funding people at the preproposal stage before, so I made a conscious effort in my panel reviews this round to see who I might consider for preproposal funding.

Invariably, it was senior PIs who included citations instead of preliminary data.

But this brings up a critical discussion point for NSF: With three year grants, 7-15% funding rates in most panels, an annual grant cycle and an unofficial policy of not funding too many proposals to one PI, an NSF dependent investigator runs a high risk hitting a dry spell. Is the potential of a small number of established labs getting funded on a 4 page proposal such a bad thing?

Discuss. (Your response may vary, depending on career stage)

13 responses so far

  • Comradde PhysioProffe says:

    Kill the olds!!!??!!

  • eeke says:

    There is not yet enough data for the PO's to determine whether pre-proposal ranking has any correlation with success of corresponding full proposals. The PO who ran my panel, though, didn't think that there was. This person said that there were a few proposals that did well in the first round, but did not do well at all in the second round. Now that I've served on a panel, I would be against giving special treatment to a select number of people. We're all in the same boat.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    We're all in the same boat.

    Are we? I would argue that having an impressive track record and not is stretching the definition of same boat.

  • Joshua King says:

    Exceedingly dumb idea. The process, in it's entirety, is supposedly in place for a reason. As eeke points out, there may be a disconnect between "fundability" of the pre- versus full proposal that no amount of track-record awesomeness can cure. Funding investigators rather than proposals is a fine idea, but the proposal process currently in place at NSF is not the right vehicle for taking that ride.

  • eeke says:

    As panelists, we were instructed to judge the science in the proposal, not the investigator.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    What's to say that you would not be judging the science? A new investigator uses space to cram in data whereas established folks can use citations and use the space for a clearer explanation.

  • Anon says:

    As eeke says: As panelists, we were instructed to judge the science in the proposal, not the investigator.

    However, in all the panels I've sat on, SEVERAL panelists continue to judge the proposals by who wrote it!!

    In fact, when I argued that a certain proposal was poorly written and didn't deserve funding, several panelists got upset and said "How can we refuse XX?". OMG. I thought that this was SO wrong. He doesn't deserve funding every year just because he comes from (insert Big School) and is famous for previous projects.

    But I think he thinks he does deserve funding every year , and in fact the head of that NSF section had to deal with him when he called upset that his proposal wasn't funded. It WAS poorly written!! I think some people just get in a rut and get constantly funded based on their record, but this means that junior folks never get a chance to get funded because people like him keep taking the money for decades until they finally retire/die.

    I was so pleased to see that in one of our panels, we not only rejected his poorly written proposal but took time to look at several proposals that were fairly equal in rankings and then choose other factors to decide funding - such as junior status, minority, broader impacts, etc.

    But I think that probably happens almost never.

  • staphnut says:

    If NSF funds at the preposal stage, what's next? Why bother submitting a preposal, just give a NSF check simply because "we know" they will produce papers?

  • drugmonkey says:

    who I might consider for preproposal funding.

    Invariably, it was senior PIs who included citations instead of preliminary data.

    oh, how quickly they assimilate....

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Prediction: within three NSF will have the data to show that the top 3ish preproposals always get funded in the full round and will consider funding them in April.

  • Terry says:

    If there was enough $ to go around to all proposals with substantial merit, I'd be okay with this idea.

    If a productive lab that is also doing quality work puts in a short proposal, and the panel has confidence the money will go to a good project, why the heck not? The only reason not - and an important one - is that it is unfair to non-established researchers, who wouldn't have a chance to compete for the same limited funds.

    But when NSF has the money to fund all of the proposals that they would like to fund, sure this is a great idea. Maybe we should start breeding those flying pigs.

  • Arthur Hunt says:

    Prediction: within three NSF will have the data to show that the top 3ish preproposals always get funded in the full round and will consider funding them in April.

    How would the budget be arrived at?

    I know, that's not a very fair question given that we are talking very hypothetically. But this seems to me to be not an easy question.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Just as the did for The Big Pitch, they would go back to the PIs and ask for a budget, which would then be negotiated between the PIs and the PO.

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