Summary Statements.

Last night before I left my office (at 8 pm) I made the mistake of going on Commons to check if my summary statements were posted yet. Don’t make the same mistake- it’ll just ruin your whole evening.

I’m pretty tough, but the first 24 hours after reading the critiques I usually walk around feeling mighty pissed off.  So read this post knowing that those 24 hours haven’t yet passed, and that tomorrow I’ll have a more detached impersonal view of the whole thing.

I’m not going to attempt to go through everything- I’ll just give you a couple of high points that I’m finding rather amusing (in the kind of way that makes you want to stomp all over those pages or bury them at the bottom of gym bag under your sweaty clothes).  Since I’m a big one for lists- here are the highlights in that format:

1.  Riding both sides of the fence in the same review. In the last review I got the ‘you haven’t shown us you will find anything, and furthermore there is nothing new left to find in this area ‘ review.  This was maddening- but pretty easy to refute using my big ol’ pile of preliminary data. Or so it seemed when I was writing.

Apparently this worked out a little too well- because in this round I got the ‘you will get so many things you will have to prioritize’ in the discussion summary- Ok, that’s a new one (and actually, I did talk about that in aim 3)… but then I SIMULTANEOUSLY got the ‘you haven’t shown us you will find anything, and furthermore there is nothing new left to find in this area ‘ AGAIN. And this from the primary reviewer.

So- are you telling me that I took care of your concern well enough that now you have a new concern- fine. But then the primary reviewer is just stuck on the old concern???

2.  Instead of rodents, we are disappointed that you didn’t propose to try this in kangaroos. Not really kangaroos but you get my drift- a ‘natural host’ -very exciting but very intractable, hugely expensive, and unrealistic model in which to do these kinds experiments. It’s a grand idea, and actually, I’ve written 3 grants on that grand idea and not one of them has been funded. I would LOVE (like give my eye teeth, love) to generate preliminary data in kangaroos because I really, really care about these experiments but I can not generate preliminary data in this species because these experiments are quite expensive. If I send you a grant without kangaroo preliminary data- you will triage me and tell me to get some preliminary data first. I’m just sayin…

Furthermore, rodents are also a natural host for my favorite organism (MFO), … but maybe that just slipped your mind temporarily while you were buried under a big pile of grants to review.

3.  ‘It does not generate a great deal of excitement in this reviewer’.  I’m sort of feeling like physioprof language is in order for these kinds of comments. I despise these words.

Why?  Well, in the first 2 aims I gave you something that would blow your skirt up- its exciting, its novel, its a cutting edge approach… bla bla bla… and you said this yourself pretty much.  But you also said that I wasn’t going to find anything… or that I was going to find to much… or whatever.. So while you like exciting- you are not REALLY ready to jump off the edge.  Everything that is exciting has some measure of risk to it.  You can’t get exciting without a little risk, at least not in my universe.

So, I then gave you an aim which was mindbogglingly, unbelievable, undeniably boring to write, but certain to work.  CERTAIN to work, and essential for later things like testing in hugely expensive kangaroos. And you called it boring, as though that’s a hot news flash. You know what?  I don’t much care if it is boring, and uses standard techniques- IF I ACTUALLY GET AN ANSWER AT THE END OF THE EXPERIMENTS. I thought that was the goal, but maybe I’m confused.

4.  Condescending to insult my intelligence. I just develop a very bad attitude when people say stuff like ‘the PI does not have an appreciation for the perils of XYZ approach’. … honey, I’m going to pat you on the head now and I want you to go back to graduate school and figure out all those difficult perils…

Oh please.

Yes, I have a bad attitude about this. Yes, I’m frustrated and down.  But you know what- this morning I did an hour of cardio and as I was leaving the gym two things happened.  DrMrA called me to ask if we are going to attend his cousin’s memorial (died at the age of <50 unexpectedly… left wife and two kids),… and I noticed as I was leaving the gym that the special olympics swimming competition is being held there today and the participants were arriving. There are more important things in life than grants, reviews, and summary statements.  Way.More.Important.


8 thoughts on “Summary Statements.

  1. Oh that sucks. In my last comment I expressed hope that the reviews would be constructive – but these sound even more frustrating than usual.

    I hope a good night’s sleep (and maybe some wine) helps get you through those first 24 hours.

  2. Agree, don’t download your SS just before you leave for the day!

    Sounds very positive in terms of what you will be arguing to the PO. Combined with the score range you report it sounds like the reviewers were resorting to stock critiques to keep you in the holding pattern, perhaps. That they didn’t really have any fundamental problems.

    It also sounds highly critical to get the PO to tell you what the focus of the discussion was on.

  3. DrdrA,

    Congrats on getting a great score (so what if nothing gets funded these days; you should still get to drink some nice single malt for the effort)! Regarding reading summary statements, be sure to read near a bucket in case reviewers’ comments cause uncontrolled vomiting. For fun you could also start drafting your “mock” response to reviewers, where you start with…”Hunh?” or maybe “WTF?”. Nice work on getting all the other grants out the door!

  4. Buck up. As Whimple says, enough people are dying off that if you can hang in there, maybe you’ll make it. I’m rooting for you, because I think you have the right attitude (i.e they’re all wrong, you’re right, and you’re just going to prove it to them).

    I’m looking forward to your >24 hour response, and the mock letter, and the one where you show someone else the summary statement and get useful info out of it.

    (And, I’m waiting for drugmonkey’s comments on useless summary statements).

  5. Cath- Oh its all going to be ok, eventually. DrMrA says its better to get some stupid ass comments that you can easily argue, than have someone point out a fatal flaw and get to start all over from the beginning.

    Bikemonkey- I won’t make that mistake again- from now on I’m having a drink before and a couple more after I read the SS.

    BugDoc- So right. Drinks will be had. $$ or no $$. I fantasize about the snarky comment response. I write the whole thing in my head during workouts and periods of insomnia!

    Neurolover- I adore whimple- and I know that he (she?) is so right about hanging on by one’s fingernails by whatever means necessary! I have no intention whatsoever of giving up now. I’ve got this grant written for 4 different hosts- they want different hosts- I’ll give them different hosts.

    I do have to say though- I did privately smile when I read the part of the review where one reviewer said my proposal was ‘exquisitely written’. So there are some bright spots! 🙂

  6. I hate these kinds of reviewers, because you’re stuck with them, unless you want to try to send your grant to council and say look, this is ridiculous, I addressed their concerns and they just keep arguing.

    re; the last one, all I can think of is if they wanted more in the way of “potential pitfalls and what to do about them.” for that particular technique. In other words, they’ve done it and gotten burned, and they can’t believe you’re smarter than they are. Which you might be. So look at it that way- they’re not condescending to say they’re smarter than you, they’re just assuming you’re as dumb as they are. Feel better now?

    An hour of cardio? Now I feel guilty. Mostly I just wonder if I really want to sign myself up for a career of grant reviews that are sure to look just like this (don’t they always?).

  7. It does not generate a great deal of excitement in this reviewer.

    This is the kiss of death. My guess is you either need to drop this aim, or this reviewer. My (uninformed) feeling is that you need to propose aims such that the reviewers say to themselves, “Damn, this is good stuff. If only I had the time and/or unique resources and/or people, I’d do this proposed work myself.”

  8. msphd- That’s a very interesting explanation for #3. I definitely don’t think I’m any smarter than the reviewers- but I do know that the heap of preliminary data that I showed them might provide a clue as to how familiar I am with said technique, and its pitfalls. I’m still thinking about what to do next. And I don’t do the hour of cardio to be a hero or anything- it helps to clear my head and make me a nicer person. 🙂

    whimple- I can’t take it out. It’s absolutely necessary, to validate the products of the first two aims. It is the most basic genetics you can imagine, its not glamorous. I’d love to drop this reviewer- I have no idea who it is though- so that’s going to be tough. I do not think that this reviewer participated in the review of the first submission.

    Now there is one other thing to mention here. I fought to keep this grant out of this study section when it was originally submitted because I feared the kinds of reviews I’m getting. The person in charge was unsympathetic, I was assured this was the best study section for said grant- and now the things that I feared originally are happening.

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