Summary statement woes

Mar 11 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

Okay, I know I said I was too busy to post. But I just got my first major "DID YOU EVEN READ MY F'ING PROPOSAL"-inducing summary statement on my unscored proposal.

I'm serious: every single weakness 'pointed out' by reviewer 1 WAS THE RESULT OF THEM NOT EVEN READING THE PROPOSAL. Each one was something we supposedly "hadn't considered" even though the proposal is full of descriptions and experiments and conditions addressing what they call the weaknesses!!!

The other major weakness they cited was the possibility that some 5+ YEAR OLD papers that showed the particular thing we were addressing may be related to indirect behavior of the system (and not direct) weren't cited, thus the proposal's aims might not matter, even though THE EXTREMELY RECENT PAPERS WE DID CITE show unequivocally that the effects we propose to address ARE DIRECT!!!

They call it a "well-written proposal" addressing a significant issue, and then shit on it for things that DON'T EVEN EXIST in the written document.

The other two reviewers successively:

2. Had problems with the way we described the design: it was TOO SPECIFIC and not a clear enough overview

3. Didn't seem to have a problem at all.

I know that rage serves no purpose except to fuel the energy put into the rewrite. I know that the only way to succeed here is to Do What They Say To Get The Money.

But this shit still pisses. me. off. so. much. RGRGRRRRAAGGHHHH!!@@$##W%$#Q%

9 responses so far

  • Comrade PhysioProf says:

    Here's a couple thoughts:(1) When reviewers misunderstand, you need to take ownership and make it impossible for them to do so on the resubmission. This is not a matter of "blaming the victim", but rather of "taking your reviewers as you find them".In the kind of specific situation you describe, where the whole fucking thing was about exactly what they said you didn't address, it suggests a fundamental terminological or conceptual disconnect between what you were talking about and what the reviewer thought you were talking about. If you can figure out what this was, you can fix this on the resub.(2) If it was a ""well-written proposal" addressing a "significant issue", then it was perceived as decent, but not great. There is a tremendous amount of superlative inflation in summary statements, just like there is in olives.A "large" olive is really not large, and is at the lower end of the scale. Olives start at "large" and go up from there to "jumbo", "colossal", and "gigunda" (I made up the last one).Similarly, a "well-written" proposal is at the lower end of the scale, and goes up from there to "very well-written", "extremely well-written", and "superbly well-written". Likewise with "significant issue", which is the just the starting point for "very significant issue", "extremely significant issue", "highly significant issue", and "incredibly significant issue".In overall evaluations, if it is a "good" application, it means it sucks. If it is "very good", it is mediocre. If it is "excellent", it is good. If it is "outstanding", then it is very good. And if it is "truly outstanding", then it is excellent.(I'm not telling you this to be mean; I'm just trying to help you interpret your summary statement.)

  • Arlenna says:

    Yeah, I know you are right. And while we won't resubmit this one because the RFA is expired (it was one of those little random R21s), at least I have a good head start on and a very good idea of the likely issues for when we expand it into an R01. I know that if I failed to communicate things properly, that really is my fault and not necessarily theirs. There is always a way to get anyone to understand what you are talking about, so I just have to do better.

  • Comrade PhysioProf says:

    And while we won't resubmit this one because the RFA is expired (it was one of those little random R21s)Are you fucking nuts!?!?!CHALLENGE GRANT!!111!!!ELEVENTY!!111!I hear the success rate is predicted to be negative one fucktillionth!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!

  • drdrA says:

    Arlenna-1. It takes practice to learn to communicate in a way reviewers understand. I'm telling you this so you don't beat yourself up, but instead take a step back and re-think how you can make your writing and the structure of the grant so that the reviewer will find it crystal clear. 2. Take C PPs advice in this very, very seriously. 3. If reviewers cite experiments or directions that you did not write. It's perfectly fine to write- in the rebuttal- this criticism seems not to be directed at this proposal as we describe no experiments in this direction...(in a nice way) bla bla bla... BUT also ask yourself if it is possible that you may have given them the impression that you were interested in said direction somewhere in the proposal. Then remove everything that doesn't point them in a straight line to what you are going to do and why it's important.Now- give yourself a few minutes- then re-write that thing and turn the new and improved proposal over!!

  • Arlenna says:

    Thanks drdrA!! I know also that you are right. I am learning a lot about the difference between writing a training grant and writing a "grown up" grant. They let you get away with a lot less razor sharp polish on training grants. But for the big time, I need to step it up!

  • Candid Engineer says:

    Just wanted to offer my support. Hope you can pull out their useful critiques for your next proposal.

  • drdrA says:

    Arlenna-I also had a 'training' or career award- and writing that was a different thing- it was funded and the comments were- this is a great training opportunity and a good candidate, there are a few holes in the science that we are willing to overlook. Different goal, right?The grown-up grant is a whole different animal, as you are discovering. Practice, willingness to adapt, being able to understand what they want with the comments, being able to respond effectively will help you get there. Do you have a senior colleague with a great funding record that you a. could ask for help, or b. ask to read a proposal or two (of theirs)that got funded??I had a postdoc PI who is an impeccable grant writer and has a stellar funding rate. (right now 3 R01s, and for my field that's pretty awesome). I recognized this and tried my hardest to learn from it by reading his grants and figuring out why they worked.

  • Comrade PhysioProf says:

    Arlenna:If you want to send me your grant and summary statement, I am happy to take a look and give you comments. I have done this for a number of other bloggers. Obviously, I would never blog about or otherwise disclose anything about you or your grant application.physioprof@gmail.com

  • Arlenna says:

    THANK you dude, I would very much appreciate that--email is sent!!

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