The youngsters are ranting…. (updated w/links)

I don’t want to pick a fight with the Genomic Repairman… or maybe I do.

I got my hands on this post from earlier today-  a self-proclaimed rant on a PI who has had long term funding. Very long term- like nearly three decades. Genomic Repairman writes:

The guy has an RO1 going on year 27, and another younger model RO1 that just turned 26 years old. Each of these grants is in excess of $500k a year in direct costs, plus the guy has a piece of an PO1 (don’t worry this is relatively new). Seriously to have two grants that old, um has there never been a fucking priority shift? Ever? At some point wouldn’t the NIH cutoff funding for the grant as this dude has probably drug this shit down the road for way to long.

Hmmmm. Well, first, just because you have a grant for 27 continuous years, doesn’t mean you are still working on the original specific aims or using the same techniques. Just because you have a grant for 27 years doesn’t mean the contents haven’t changed- it just sort of means that you keep getting your renewals to work on interesting continuations of your previous work. I’m not sure what part of that the Genomic Repairman doesn’t understand.

But I’ll trade anecdote for anecdote. I happen to have a good friend that has had an R01 for 27 years. That person is an AMAZING scientist, he’s got more insight into his particular area of research than almost anybody else I know in that field.  Furthermore, the area that this person works in is one of the most important disease that exist, hands down. Do we need a shift in priorities, just to have a shift? I think that there are really good reasons to keep this person funded, and the people who review that investigator’s grants seem to think so as well. I have a second colleague who has an R01 that he has had for 30 years this year. Another AMAZING scientist. I strongly believe that deadwood doesn’t get R01s that last for three decades…. especially if that tenure includes renewals the last 5 or 6 years. Having continuous funding for so many years generally means that one is an amazing grant writer with a unique insight and the skill to approach a particular problem. Generally*.

So while you youngsters may rant- go on- why don’t you instead try to learn something from those PIs that have been highly successful getting federal grants. Give the old guys (and gals) a break- and remember that they have a knowledge of the history of an area and many times an insight into the future of an area, that us younger scientists haven’t yet developed.

*PS- I’m not denying that there is some shit that goes on or implying that all grant awards are given totally and completely on merit.

PPS- And to a further point in Genomic Repairman’s post- just because one has had a grant for 27 years doesn’t *necessarily* mean that one is good at mentoring people to give talks and answer questions, or just in general. I know that is a sad truth, but that is how it is.

PPPs- BTW the first renewal of an NIH grant is notoriously difficult to get.

PPPPs- Two more bloggers have weighed in as of this morning…..

the estimable Juniorprof and the marvelous Abel Pharmboy

go read over there!

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15 thoughts on “The youngsters are ranting…. (updated w/links)

  1. So while you youngsters may rant- go on- why don’t you instead try to learn something from those PIs that have been highly successful getting federal grants. Give the old guys (and gals) a break- and remember that they have a knowledge of the history of an area and many times an insight into the future of an area, that us younger scientists haven’t yet developed.

    While I see where GR is coming from, I like this post too…and it’s good to remember how much we can learn from those seasoned grant writers out there. I recently had the chair of our department (who reportedly got all 1’s on his last R01 renewal…wowzers) read over my K grant. Probably the best decision of my career.

  2. To be fair, it seemed like GR was saying its ridiculous that “deadweight” PIs have multi-decade R01s, not that having a grant for that amount of time automatically makes a PI dusty and non-innovative.

  3. MitoScientist- Study section seems to like what that guy/gal is writing. Like it enough to give it fundable scores.

    And furthermore, a note on terminology. The description ‘Deadweight’ when used to refer to a faculty member- usually refers to PIs in a scientific field that can not carry their weight- i.e. they CAN NOT get funding, and they do not contribute to their departments. A PI who is currently funded doesn’t fit this description.

    So there should be no such thing as a ‘deadweight’ PI that has been funded continuously for 27 years and is currently funded.

  4. allegedly renewals are statistically easier (after that 1st renewal) than new submissions. But that doesn’t mean it is a free pass to spend 500,000 a year. you still have to write something people give a shit about.

  5. Always remember to check the first years of funding too. I know of several grants that have been taken over by a different PI. I’m sure it is less common but it does happen. The same person may not have headed up the project for the whole interval…

  6. My apologies if this posts twice – for some reason I’m having problems posting comments on WordPress blogs…

    DrDrA:
    I agree with your regarding holding a grant for decades – it’s something I aspire to. However, to be fair to GR, he didn’t really say something long these lines:

    PPPs- BTW the first renewal of an NIH grant is notoriously difficult to get. It is, contrary to what Genomic Repairman writes, not easier than a first submission and especially not for a first submission from a new investigator.

    He was referring to a comment I had posted where I did make the point that the first renewal is the hardest, in part because you no longer have new investigator status.

    And not everyone over at LabSpaces qualifies as young. 🙂

  7. Odyssey- Noted. Sorry I just scanned through the comments and didn’t completely process the whole thread. Also- not meaning to imply that everyone at lab spaces is a youngster… I’m not hatin’ on labspaces… not at all. 🙂

    C PP- Correct. Direct budgets aren’t listed in reporter. A direct budget of 500K/yr would be way, way, way above the modular budget limit and would require special justification.

  8. Pingback: Long standing R-series grants are not the problem « JUNIORPROF

  9. Pingback: Yes, Weedhopper, you can have the “same” R01 for decades « Terra Sigillata

  10. As far as I know, obtaining grants is about achievements (showing you can, past work) and vision (the novelty and importance of what you propose).

    I don’t feel that anything else should matter and I generally agree that senior scientists stay in place, winning grants and renewals because they simply excel in their field (achievements + vision for future work).

  11. Actually, gallantecology, obtaining NIH grants is all about *approach* and significance (possible your ‘importance’ criterion). Director Berg of NIGMS demonstrated that with his feedbackloop blog posts….

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