More on Reading your Grant Reviews

I’ve read lots and written lots on pink sheets. Which is what Olde Fartes call summary statements from NIH, because back in the day they were printed on … pink paper, and mailed to you (but about the same time frame, surprisingly enough).

Recently, Dr. Becca has been musing over her first r01 submission. Perhaps musing is the wrong word, drinking over it might be better. Anyway, it made me think about ways to handle reviews. Obviously first step, whether score is good, bad or ugly, is drinking. I prefer a nice peaty single malt scotch, myself.

Second step, if resubmission is in the cards (ie > 5%tile),throw something against the wall. Preferably something breakable. Always healthy. Third, wait at least one week, or more if you can stand it after reading them. Reread. Start working. Here is one strategy that works:

Go through and just cut every phrase that says something about the proposal. Have two open documents, GOOD THINGS (evidence the reviewers are smart) and BAD THINGS (evidence that they are idiots). Paste into relevant document. Keep the GOOD THINGS around, its not just good for your ego, its also a reminder of what NOT to change.

Take BAD THINGS (BT) file. The lines in it are in order that it appeared in the document, and somethings will show up twice – from summary (if you were discussed) and from individ review. Also, versions of the same thing show up in multiple ways and multiple places. These are really important! For example, feasibility can show up as “not sure PI can do this” or “methods haven’t been validated” or “why aren’t you doing XYZ?” (although the latter is discouraged by the SRA as being directive). Relevance to NIH mission can show up in significance, in innovation, in methods.

Suggestions can fall into one of several (and more than I list here) strategies of remediation. Some are things that need to be rewritten – you didn’t explain clearly (and if they didn’t get it, you indeed did not explain clearly. Your burden). Some are things that need to be re thought through. They didn’t think one of the SA’s was worth doing. Some things require more work – either prelim data, or research into the lit.

Categorize, reorganize and figure out which are critiques that can be addressed through different strategies. Figure out which are major issues and which are things they missed, as in “yes, I did power stats” or “yes we let the animals recover for 24 hrs after surgery” or “no, we are excluding individuals who had a stroke from our sample”.

Next installment, how to start the response to reviewers letter. Actually you start it with “thank you for the comments”. But what comes next.

Questions – let me know. Anyone has examples that they’d like to share, send ’em along.




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