The grant proposal we submitted to the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (Canada's NIH) in September has scored much too low to be funded.
We were very optimistic that it would succeed. An earlier version submitted in March had just missed the funding cutoff (it ranked #10 out of 47 but only 8 of these were funded), and the reviewers' comments on it had contained only a few relatively minor criticisms. I had later spoken to the Chair of the review committee (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology-B) to ask whether the committee might have felt that this proposal did not really fall under their mandate and should have instead been sent to the Microbiology and Infectious Diseases committee. He said that he had initially been concerned that this would be a problem, but that the committee had been very supportive of the project, saying that this was exactly the kind of work they should be funding.
Before this resubmission we had drafts of the proposal reviewed by three UBC faculty members. All thought it was already very strong, but they also made many suggestions of ways to make it even better, all of which we implemented. We posted the final proposal on the 'What we're planning' page of our lab's website, so you can download a pdf of the Summary here, and of the full proposal here.
But this time we were unlucky. The two reviewers assigned to fully evaluate the proposal had not seen the earlier version, and although one of them was 'very enthusiastic', the other argued that the problem of how bacteria take up DNA was unimportant even within microbiology, and clearly felt that the committee should not waste its scarce resources on our work.
So, Plan B. The next deadline for resubmission is March 1, and we'll send a revised version to the Microbiology and Infectious Diseases committee. I don't think we'll change much of the science in the proposal, but we will redo the parts that explain why the research is important. In the previous version we had emphasized its significance for molecular biology. However that seems to have backfired, as the harsh reviewer argued that the controversy about the function of DNA uptake (which we had deliberately not raised for this committee) reduced the value of the research we proposed. For this new committee we'll emphasize the microbiology.
Because we don't have many publications in the last year or two, I think we need to get both of the post-doc's manuscripts submitted to journals before we submit the revised proposal. One of these manuscripts is well under way, but the other is more important, as it reports the best of the preliminary work we describe in the proposal.
Writing these manuscripts, polishing the proposal, and teaching my new genetics course are going to occupy all my time for the next seven weeks, so I won't have any chance of getting back to the bench until March.
Billionaires and science prizes: "Fund the science, not the prizes"
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