Study Section Anomalies

I have a trainee who submitted a diversity F31, and received a very respectable (maybe fundable) score. She then received a cryptic email from her SRO stating that the grant will be “re-reviewed due to administrative issues”. They then proceeded to pull her score. I called the SRO, and he would not give me the reason and would only state that it is going to be re-reviewed by a special emphasis panel. Has anyone ever heard of such a thing? Looking at the roster, it is not a conflict of interest. Any insights would be helpful!


18 thoughts on “Study Section Anomalies

  1. Conflicts you don’t see? Comments made that should not have been made and indicate a bias? Something that tainted a reviewer or the entire panel (like discussion outside the presence of Federal official, bias on another application)?

  2. After getting off the phone I realized I probably should have asked him if her application was the only one with issues. Now that I think about it, there may have been multiple applications which were pulled.

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  4. Happened to a colleague once. Turned out to be a COI that hadn’t been disclosed and someone else on section got pissy about it. Usually some of the good feeling of one score will carry over a bit to the SEP.

  5. Darren, not wishing to pee on your new blog fireworks (all blogging is good and every lab should have one), but I’d be careful about criticizing NIH review processes using your real name and just enough peripheral information to be dangerous.

    A couple of clicks from Google brings up the people page of your lab website, and there’s only one minority trainee on there, so now everyone knows you’re pissed about a specific application enough to bitch about it on a site you call “Sci Rants”. I would imagine, based on your scientific interests, within a few more clicks at the CSR website I could narrow down the review panel and the name of the SRO, but that would be unfair.

    Anyway, blogs are good, bitching about NIH in public using your real name less so.

    Back on topic, SEPS are invariably better than the cat-herding that occurs at study sections, so good luck to you and your trainee!

  6. Thank you for your comment Ola. I have never been shy about commenting about the NIH on my Twitter account (using my real name). That being said, I didn’t intend this post to piss on or bitch about anything. I truly wanted to know if other people have had the same thing happen to them. Even if you did figure out who the SRO was, how would that be dangerous? As far as I can tell, I did not say anything negative except that they could not disclose what happened.

  7. wow!!….ola is right, it can only be 1 of ~3 SROs and sections….TMI is right….thank goodness for internet anonymity with this f#$%*d up business….

  8. I have left critical comments at Rock Talk using an identifiable email address. Once upon a time the head of CSR called me to discuss a Letter to Editor type thing I’d written, some might find it critical of him. I have a habit of buttonholing anyone who will listen- current head of CSR, deputy director level POs.

    I doubt I’ve paid a price at study section or at Council level for my attitudes.

    This paranoia is overblown.

  9. No, Dave, because of common sense.

    Sounds like he has a fair question to me and there was nothing in the post that was nasty or overly-critical. Even if there was, fair play to him.

  10. The entire NIH system could do with less closed door mediation and more transparency in how funding is allocated – and how, precisely, these funds are spent by the university and/or hospitals. Especially in regards to clinical trials for both diagnostic devices and new compounds that are targeted at specific illnesses.

    I applaud you, Sir, for taking this to the Internet.

  11. As others have iterated, the problem is not that NIH should be immune from public discussion. Quite the opposite.

    No, the problem is that (like it or not), study sections and the CSR are often staffed by curmudgeonly old f***s who still don’t “get” this whole InterNet thing. In 10-15 years, when the folks who grew up using the Twitterz etc. are calling the shots, this whole conversation will seem laughable. Until then, never underestimate the ability of silly old (usually) men (usually) in large groups to make ill-informed decisions based on the weakest of rationales, such as getting out of bed the wrong side, or disliking something you posted on your newfangled interweblog.

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