Friday, May 27, 2011

If you can't read the directions, don't bother applying

NIH just released a reminder that, in essence, states that PIs should read the directions before applying. You can read this groundbreaking announcement here.

Though in some ways I find it ridiculous that NIH has chosen to spend precious time creating and releasing this document, I can understand why it is needed. When the page limits for research plans were shortened last year, several study section members told me stories of extra information "hidden" in various other parts of the application. "Resources and Environment" sections turned into "Methods and Resources" and dribbled on for pages about methods instead of libraries and office space. One proposal that came across my desk had a "Background and Significance" section brazenly planted in the Appendix.

There is a lesson to learn here, folks: YOU ARE NOT THAT CLEVER. For every trick that you think you have invented to circumvent the page limits, hundreds of others have probably tried (and failed). The people submitting NIH grant applications are scientists- meaning that they, like you, are creative thinkers who are trying desperately to convey the importance of their research in 6 or 12 pages.

For your sake, and to protect the integrity of the review process, spend your time developing new ways to be less verbose in your writing, and stop wasting your time trying to find ways to avoid following the rules.

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