Will you get 12 pages, or … 18??

I came across this article in Nature this morning entitled ‘Rule change for human grants sparks spat at NIH’ (9 December 2008 | 456, 682-683 (2008). I know some of you don’t have access- so I’ll just quote:

‘The proposed change, presented on 5 December at a meeting of the NIH director’s advisory committee, goes back on a suggestion made this spring by a panel overhauling the agency’s peer-review system (see Nature 453, 835; 2008). The panel said then that it would cut all applications for major investigator-initiated grants — R01 applications — from the current 25 pages to 12, in an effort to streamline the system.

But at the advisory meeting, NIH acting deputy director Lawrence Tabak showed a slide declaring that “for R01 applications involving human subjects research, an additional 6 pages will be available for the research strategy section“.’

My first reaction: HUH??

My second reaction: WTF??

Let’s see if I got that straight- those of you that work with human subjects may get an extra 6 PAGES of space for writing- so a total of 18 pages, while the rest of us will only be allowed 12 pages.  I guess this hits me particularly hard because I work with non-traditional animal models, the complexities of which are not often appreciated in study section. So… why should studies involving human subjects be allowed an elevated page limit in relation to other types of studies involving complicated animal models, or complex technology etc. (or over any other grant, for that matter) ??

Why can’t difficulties or issues involved in using human subjects be detailed in some sort of supplement or additional section that we already do for equipment, facilities, use of live animals etc..???

Not that I’m hot under the collar about that or anything.

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12 thoughts on “Will you get 12 pages, or … 18??

  1. pure personal agenda politics at work. if this isn’t a confession that the drop in page limits is a complete disaster I don’t know what is…

  2. bikemonkey- I already write to a federal agency that allows only 18 pages and I use every last millimeter allowed. 12 pages is going to be incredibly hard.

  3. You’ll quickly figure out the writing. The question is fairness. This claims an unfair burden on human subj research, presumably when it comes to review. Yeah well I can come up with a few more special pleadings…

  4. BM- Ya- I know, I’m just saying 12 pages is going to be a real fun time. Of course the issue is fairness- you and I both could make a list of special pleadings…

  5. 12 pages is gonna be a lot more fun to write and a lot more fun to review. No more slogging through “Specific Aim #3(A)(b)(i)” or “potential pitfalls and alternative approaches”. I say hallefuckinglula!!!

  6. I am of the opinion that the new shorter page limit is going to be HORRIBLE for new investigators. I am hoping I can squeeze one in before it starts. doubtful.

  7. I agree with PP. Writing page 10-25 is a real chore for me. I can churn out the story line no problem, its the filler that absolutely kills me. Then again, I might be making a big assumption thinking that reviewers are now going to expect to read a story and not a bunch of potential pitfalls and alt hypotheses.

  8. JP and CPP- All I can say to this is when I get my pink sheets back they are FILLED with comments that say give-us-more-you-wet-behind-the-ears new investigator… you haven’t paid homage to the difficulty of this problem…

  9. Don’t feel too envious of people doing human subjects research. These people are getting hosed by the NIH.

    Am J Med. 2008 Jul;121(7):637-41.
    Why are peer review outcomes less favorable for clinical science than for basic science grant applications?
    Martin MR, Lindquist T, Kotchen TA.

    I expect reducing page limits to have negligible impact on the quality of science that gets funded.

  10. Anonymoustache- And I hate that part about the ‘you haven’t paid proper homage to the difficulty of the problem’ thing. I just have to get that off my chest.

    Whimple- I’ll have to look that up…

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