27,000 Snakes on a PlaneChallenge Grant Proposals?

You might have about the NIH Challenge Grants funded by the stimulus package. The grants are for two years, with a total (direct and indirect costs) of $1 million (there are other grants available too, but this post isn’t about those grants). There will be roughly 200-300 funded grants. And I’ve heard that there are 27,000 applications. Yep, you read that right.

And I don’t think this number is too much of an exaggeration (maybe three-fold, maybe not)–I have good reason to think that Massachusetts General Hospital alone submitted hundreds of grants (one number I’ve heard is 800). Most major research institutions are submitting dozens, if not more.
This is insane. There’s no way with a funding rate of less than five percent (or much worse) that grants are getting chosen on merit alone. This is like applying for an elite college where those schools have to come up with reasons to not accept perfectly qualified students. Except the ‘acceptance’ rate is worse.
It will be even worse for these proposals. Of course, I’m sure the ones I helped write will be funded…

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7 Responses to 27,000 Snakes on a PlaneChallenge Grant Proposals?

  1. Insane indeed. I threw one into the ring as well, hearing along the way that the competition was going to be nuts. Figured it would at least be a good base for an R01 if nothing else.

  2. Orac says:

    Yeah, I submitted one too. I took my Army Idea Award and expanded it to a Challenge Grant.
    I don’t have any illusions that it’s likely to be funded, although I did lay it on thick about the economic depression in my area, given that job creation and economic stimulus are part of the criteria used to fund these. Rather, I viewed submitting a Challenge Grant more as a base for an R21 in October than anything else (not enough preliminary data for an R01–and I doubt I’ll have enough for an R01 by October, although it’s possible that I could). By then the comments should be back. Also, perhaps, since it was a breast cancer grant, it could serve as the basis for a Komen Foundation Grant, given that the Komen deadlines are in late July. Unfortunately, I’m not likely to have the comments back before the Komen deadline.
    I also know several people at our institution who have been asked by the NIH to review these things. It sounds as though the NIH is desperate for peer reviewers because of the volume.

  3. Mary says:

    We elected to not submit in this round because we heard the buzz. I know one institution that was having a software problem because their internal grant tracking system uses letters to identify submitters (MaryA, MaryB, etc…) and they ran out of letters for a single investigator because that person had so many!

  4. I viewed submitting a Challenge Grant more as a base for an R21 in October than anything else (not enough preliminary data for an R01–and I doubt I’ll have enough for an R01 by October, although it’s possible that I could).

    Dude, submit the fucker as an R01, regardless of how much preliminary data you have.

  5. jenna says:

    Is it easier to get mental health grants than grants in other fields? I’m not a scientist, but it seems like my husband’s got a half dozen grants going at any time, and as far as I know, he’s never been rejected. He studies psychological therapies for abused children, and I would never tell him this, but I swear to god that he’s done the same exact study sixty different times, sixty zillion ways from sunday. Every time he tells me about his new studies, it sounds just like his old ones!
    I therefore can’t imagine that his work is so fabulous or important that he would be in the top 5% or 10% of grants submitted (or wherever the cut-off is). So, I don’t want to ask him this, but I am terribly curious: is it just much easier to get grants from NIMH than from other parts of NIH? Do the people reviewing the grants just hear the words “abused children” and feel politically or emotionally obligated to approve the money?
    He gets kind of stressed out when he’s writing grants, but that’s mostly because he hates to write. He acts like the whole thing is a pain in the ass, but mostly a formality because he knows he’ll be funded. Is it just because he’s been doing the same shit for 30+ years and no one wants to stop backing his horse? I mean, the research he’s doing could help people, but it seems like they basically already know which therapy works and which one doesn’t (like I said, he’s been doing these same damn studies for a while). If he weren’t my husband, I would probably rather see the money going to somewhere where it seemed like real discoveries could still be made. I just don’t get it.

  6. “jenna” = “the most brilliant concern troll ever”! HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

  7. Rich Lawler says:

    Yeah, I knew there was going to be a problem when I heard that only 200 total were to be awarded and that Yale University alone was submitting 312 of them.

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