Uncharacteristically Bad Advice From NIAID

NIAID has done an amazing jobbe of posting all kinds of detailed information and advice on their Web site for NIH grant applicants. New PIs should be spending literally hours there reading and thinking. However, they have provided some *bad* advice concerning the grant abstract.

First, they grossly inflate the importance of the abstract to the review of your grant:

All your peer reviewers read your abstract and narrative.

The implication is that the unassigned reviewers on the review panel will read your abstract while the discussion is going on and base their opinion on it. No. I have asked a substantial number of my colleagues who serve regularly on study section, and almost all of them do the same as I do: completely ignore the abstract and look at the specific aims page and the biosketch while the discussion is going on.

Second, they give affirmatively bad advice about what to include in the abstract:

* Use your Specific Aims as a template — shorten it and simplify the language.

* In the first sentence, state the significance of your research to your field and relevance….

* Next state your hypothesis and the innovative potential of your research.

* Then list and briefly describe your Specific Aims and long-term objectives.

This is way too much detail, and the last thing you want to do is actually list your specific aims in the abstract. Why is this? Because when you apply for a competing renewal, the only parts of the originally funded application that the reviewers of the renewal will see are the abstract and summary statement. And the last thing you want is for the reviewers of the renewal to start comparing what you have actually achieved to your original specific aims.

Studying Study Sections

If you are not aware of the trends of expertise on the various study sections that could conceivably be a relevant home for your grant, haven’t studied the grant titles/PIs/abstracts that have been funded after review in those study sections, are not involved in ongoing discussions with SROs about this issue and to provide input concerning appropriate areas for necessary bolstering with ad hoc members, and are not writing your grants in a very targeted fashion to deal with the reality on the ground in the study section you have decided to have your grant assigned to, then you are fuckeing uppe, bigge tyme.

More Twitter Nonsense

A blogging colleague is trying to decide whether to continue to “resist” twittering, and a bunch of mopes are trying to talk him into “embracing” it. One of their stupid rationalizations is that twitter is a great way to access the scientific literature and that it is really good for fostering actual science. What a fucken sad joke.

As far as, “twitter helps me stay abreast of SCIENZ”, this is ridiculous. I stay abreast of science by being part of a community of scientists who share information with one another in a selected directed fashion (and by reading the tables of contents of a relatively small number of journals). I have e-mail and voice discussions with people on a daily basis about important new science. I visit other institutions and attend conferences to deliver seminars and meet with people several times per month. I know about new important shit before it even gets published. If I don’t know about something, and it ends up published in some shitball journal I’ve never even heard of, then it is certain to be scientifically irrelevant.

This whole idea that we need MOAR INFORMATIONZ, and that in the onslaught of a massive flood of information floating around on the Internet we need SOCIAL TOOLZ to filter that information is a fucken joke. What we need is LESS INFORMATIONZ; the flood is just a distraction and a waste of time. And the proliferation of more and more and more journals publishing more and more trivial garbage is something to rue, not celebrate.

Gibberish like twitter has *zero* effect on the conduct of actual meaningful science and the flow of information among actual scientists publishing their work in reputable journals. I need to know about some article published in some fucken journal I’ve never heard of like I need another fucken whole in my head. Twitter may be great for amateur science enthusiasts to get each other all excited about some new science coming down the road, but for real scientists doing the actual work, it is a complete waste of time.