The value of the research if no correlation or relationship is found is not specified in the proposal.
What happens if you cannot reject your null hypothesis? One aspect of a well formulated SA is the statement of your best guess of the outcome. In fact you need to have a section titled “expected outcomes” in the proposal. But a statement along the lines of:
Specific Aim 1: to determine the role of the individual digit in bunny hopping. I will test the hypothesis that each digit functions as a “gear” adding to the efficiency of hopping. Alternatively digits function as a unit and the loss of a single digit will not impact on the biomechanics.
You will need somewhere else to explain the biomechanical basis and justification of the difference between these (preferably the paragraph before the aims). That is:
Independently functioning toes, in theoretical models, [have been shown to] enhance physiologic efficiency by 20%.
Also (in the first para), why anyone cares about bunny hopping, and what the sad state of the pathophysiology of bunny hopping means for the public health mission of the NIH.
These are things I’ve said before. The emphasis here, is that you need a win-win SA. If your hypothesis is only interesting/significant/novel and relevant to the public health mission of the NIH if it is only proven (or only rejected), then you open yourself up to the criticism at the beginning of this post. That is not to say you can’t have an SA/goal that is finding something, or identifying something – that is possible, and needs a different kind of justification (more on that in another post).
Having an SA that may produce nothing of significance if you cannot support your hypothesis can impact not only your significance score, but also your research design score. It is considered “bad design” if you have not formulated experiments and aims that are feasible. Feasibility, btw is a big one at review: it is a word that gets used in nearly every discussion of which I have been part. This is difficult to write. It takes time. However, this is something that can make or break a proposal, and is worth the energy/effort/brain power to get right.