IMAG and NHLBI Funding Iniative Pep Rally


Discussants: Grace Peng, Pankaj Qasba, Denise Kirschner, Vasilis Marmarelis, Dan Beard, Stephanie Sabourin (scribe)


We wanted to end the meeting with this important session to help people think about the future of this field we are trying to promote through the MSM Consortium. Frankly, many people participate in the MSM to figure out how to get funded for their work. Many IMAG folks participate to figure out how to design funding opportunities to make it happen. We created this session to analyze more closely where the rubber meets the road. What applications are coming in, how they are being reviewed and whether or not they are getting funded. Each of you participate in some aspect of this pipeline. We want to ensure that the pipeline actually flows, and the true excitement of multiscale modeling is allowed to permeate throughout the research communities.


  • (10 min) Grace and Pankaj - programmatic interests
slides to LOI investigators
NCI FOA coming out to bridge to population scale and another for integrative cancer biology collaborating with integrative cancer program.
Two DOE initiatives: computational modeling for systems biology (for microbial community) and another.
  1. When you mentioned not having the score reflect "fixable flaws", is this for all NIH study sections?
  • Response: No, this is special to the Cooperative Agreement in the IMAG funding announcement.
  • (15 min) Manana, Denise and Vasilis - thoughts on review
Manana's Thoughts
If your application is not successful after 2 reviews, you can reapply as an investigator initiated grant.
1. If application is not scored, it is not recommended for resubmission, but I would still like to review, can I do this?
  • Response: Non-discussed does not mean that you are not able to resubmit. You might need a lot of improvement, but if you think possible then you should feel free to resubmit.
2. How many links is sufficient for Multiscale?
  • Two. Up to the applicant to explain why it is multiscale
3. If 11% application was unfundable, what is the payline? What is acceptable? Everyone gave me a two.
This is why we plan to have this session, and hopefully at the end it will be more clear.
4. Resubmission?
  • If you submit to a PAR you can take the same application and submit as an R01 (as long as previous submission was not a R01)--Changing mechanism. Same idea if you apply first to R01 and then switch to the U01.
5. How much clinical focus should be in the proposal? Will it be reviewed by clinicians?
  • IMAG does have domain areas of interest, but also focused on the methodology. If there is an aim that focuses on clinical work, then this will be added, but it depends on the focus of the application.
  • (5 min) Dan - a case study

Dan's story

Over a year ago had an idea to write a MSM U01 on coronary blood flow. Met collaborator whose papers he's been reviewing. Put together a proposal as Co-PIs and brought in some other key personnel and applied to the MSM PAR and received a 12%, 2.2PS that wasn't funded, despite having no weaknesses. He called Grace and asked if he could transfer it to NHLBI because the payline was higher, but this couldn't happen. The reviewers didn't give much to respond to so he wasn't sure where to go. He didn't want to take things out of the application, so he took a chance in going back in a very minimalist way--addressing anything commented on and added more new work. So this time, he got a 3%, so he thinks it will get funded (just below the payline likely --audience chuckle--) For Dan's case it was better to assign him to NHLBI, so he was transferred.
Commentary from past reviewers:
Despite enthusiasm from reviewers, sometimes highest scores are 3. If everything is positive, you can't give a score of 2. Often, there are no-identifiable weaknesses, but some people still give a 2. Think we are nervous about giving 1s, but need to do this when there is such enthusiasm. For example, if grant is missing a statistician, then maybe give a 2 and the group can reapply after finding a statistician. The great idea with the U01 is that if there are fixable flaws you can still score extremely high. We are in a very tight funding time.
Comment about innovation--if only innovative in modeling, this will not be fundable, because for NIH the translation is necessary.
Don't fake collaborations--Reviewers (especially in a group like this) can tell
Right expertise is important on panel to fill in gaps due to lower page limits--Grace responded that NIH reduced the page limit, so that reviewers focus more on the impact and significance as opposed to details. Review culture should change to focus on strengths rather than weaknesses. Describe why application is meritorious as opposed to why it is not.
Two types of innovation--incremental and disruptive. The review culture has focused more on incremental and penalizes disruptive innovation.
  • (10 min) Grace and Pankaj - post-management of reviews and funding


Open discussion on how to move forward

_________ Post by Kirschner: Key points that review panel looking for:

1) Evidence of multi-scale over more than 2 scales (pictures worth a 1000 words!)

2) Evidence of REAL collaboration in work-- writing of grant integrated well, past history of collaboration, future plans for meetings, etc

3) Clearly stated Aims with achievable goals and outcomes

4) Timelines and milestones articulated

5) Modeling described carefully and enough details (or track record) to discern whether work can be performed

Post by Schwaber--------

Can the two scales required be intracellular, e.g. DNA, RNA, Transcription Factor, Signaling proteins, protein networks, receptor-post synaptic responses etc. or must they include "physiology level" scale?

User:SauroH My last three grant reviews have contained blatant technical falsehoods in the reviews. There is nothing one can do about this other than resubmit, but it delays progress by 1 year. This is particularly annoying.

It is important for reviewers to calibrate the magnitude of the weaknesses they find. I try to imagine as a reviewer what kind of response the investigators would have to make to deal appropriately with my critique. If they would just have to add one sentence then it should not be a reason for reducing the score. If they would have to rewrite some part of it, then it could be.

Scott Christley: How are new investigators and early career investigators handled for th U01 specifically in the context of collaboration where the other co-PIs are not of that status?

Bill Lytton: Ironically standing study sections are being encouraged/pushed to move their scoring in the other direction -- redefining 2s to 3s. I suppose that in MSM given the interdisciplinary nature of the work there is more likelihood of finding a flaw somewhere.

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