In this portion of the blog, we’ll be going over some of the considerations in resubmitting an NIH proposal.
First and foremost, and this might seem like a silly starting point, do you still want to do this project? It takes about 4-5 months to get an answer and the summary statement, and a lot could change in that time period. Maybe you were awarded other grants? Maybe the results point to a different direction?
Once you’re through with that, the first “real” thing to look at is whether you can address the concerns in the summary statement. I mean, if reviewers shot down everything, came up with some actual errors you didn’t see, gave recommendations you simply cannot or will not do… you may need to seriously rethink things.
But let us put extremes aside. Usually the summary statement is quite constructive, you still want to do the project, and you didn’t get the science all wrong the first time around.
As you may know, the summary statement is roughly constructed around reviewers commenting on your proposal through the prism of the five main review criteria: Significance, Innovation, Approach, Investigators and Environment. We have discussed how to best target each of these in the proposal in a separate blog, as well as the relative importance of each of these criteria to the overall impact score.
The first thing one should do when getting an unfundable outcome…is take a deep breath. After that, carefully go over the reviewers’ comments. This can sometimes be tough, because in many cases we’ve seen that investigators feel that reviewers were either unfair in the review, unmindful of the text, or sometimes even downright unknowledgeable in the topic-area of the proposal. While any mix of these may be true, these are the gatekeepers between you and funding.
After venting possible frustration, it’s usually good to return to the critique with a more critical eye and see how to best address all points and concerns raised in the summary statement. And please do take care to address all main points in there – reviewers don’t take well to their concerns being ignored and this may very well go back to the same set of primary reviewers and study section (usually does).
We’ve found that making an inclusive worksheet of concerns, with a column of “how to best address this” helps a lot. This also forms the basis for the introduction to a revised section and for a basic concerns checklist for the resubmission.
A few general pointers for answering concerns:
- Don’t be afraid to make real changes to your proposal. Quite the opposite – this is expected from a resubmission. If everything was terrific the first time, they would have given it a fundable score.
- DO include additional or more advanced preliminary results. It’s good to show that you have advanced (if you can). But the importance of this is contingent on the specific reviewers (i.e. did they request additional data?).
- Do NOT get into a flaring argument with reviewers. This is not an argument you will win. It is okay to clarify misapprehended details, point out overlooked text they might have missed and reference corrections to mistaken or outdated points reviewers may have raised, but be mindful about how you do this. Think about how you would like this done if you were in the opposite side.
Manager of Consulting Services
In our next resubmission posts we will discuss:
- How do A1 resubmissions do relative to original proposals?
- How do virtual A2 fare relative to first resubmissions?
- Are investigators making use of this virtual A2 opportunity, and if so, for what type of proposals?