Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Annals of ineptitude: NIH grant planning edition

Still clearing my desktop.

The April 4th issue of Science has a ten page section up front regarding the current travails of U.S. grant-funded researchers: "Chasing the Money".

The NIH funding situation has been getting progressively worse over the past few years. Meanwhile, over the years, the NIH has kept coming up with new schemes to direct funds to new investigators in order to pump fresh blood into the system.

Now, read the following excerpt from the lead article:

  • The agency makes it easier for new investigators to get funding, for example, but it doesn't know how they fare 5 years out, when their first big grant is up for renewal. "We want to make sure we're not setting them up for failure," says Sally Rockey, NIH's deputy director for extramural research. The agency plans to start tracking these people, to gauge whether they're headed for dire straits.

Now read it again.

Note the words "plans to start." Plans. To. Start. Plans to start. Now? Now?(!) 

Two things: 1) when starting a program, it's good to think through the outcomes beforehand. Especially when your enticing people into a career and investing heavily in them. Especially when their livelihood while pursuing that career is dependent on your organization. Similarly, it's good to try to ascertain results/outcomes in as timely a fashion as possible. 2) Sally Rockey and her colleagues should read "Chasing the Money" in the April 4th edition of Science as well as the many other articles out there about the current funding environment. They might learn something. Why would these new investigators not be headed for dire straits?

File this away under the NIH subsection of government ineptitude. 

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to let you know that as an MSTP trainee I really enjoy reading the perspective of a (seemingly) established/successful physician-scientist. Keep the good stuff coming! Always nice to see what the environment is like from a different angle as I consider career moves.