Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A few points about reviewing grants

I thought I had written about this same grant that I was critiquing again yesterday before, but perhaps I haven't.  I can’t remember.  All that’s really important is that I’ve always thought this project was utter nonsense (and at least two other people from my lab agree, not to mention the reviewers of the grant the first time it was submitted), and neither of the boys wants to hear any criticism of it  Anyway…enough preamble, it’s storytime!

Crazy Man and the Golden Child sent this grant to other FGS and me Friday evening and wanted our comments back by Monday.  This in and of itself is absolutely ridiculous.  Bother other FGS and I are very careful and, um, particular editors of grammar, style, mechanics, etc., in addition to actually trying to provide good feedback on the content itself.  Point 1: I am not spending my weekend reading your grant, just because you decided that was a good time for me to do it.

I actually read the specific aims page on Saturday while I was in lab.  I had very good intentions (but then got sucked into reading a bunch of fanfic…that stuff is like crack and I have an addictive personality…).  I knew I was in trouble when I read the aims page and my first reaction was: What. The. Fuck.  Point 2: If somebody that is very familiar with all the work and background relating to a grant, the specific aims page should not leave that person scratching their head and wondering who the hell thought this was a good idea.

So then I put off reading the rest of the grant until Monday morning.  I figured, based on my previous experience in this lab with grants written by Y-chromosome carrying individuals, that most of my stylistic editing would be ignored.  (The Golden Child once said to us, “Style doesn’t matter anyway.”)  I figured it would be a quicker read if I put my OCD aside and only commented on content.  Point 3: I was wrong.

Four hours later, I had made it through the preliminary data.  Literally.  And I skipped the background and did absolutely NO nitpicky editing.  Point 4: Boy, was I wrong.

By the time I was reading the experimental plan for the second aim, I was threatening to gouge my eyes out with a pen.  I think I did beat my head against the desk a few times.  I still haven’t figured out the point of the second aim.  It makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.  If I had read this grant a few weeks ago, I would have suggested completely dumping the entire second aim.  It’s that bad.  Point 5: Get honest feedback from people before the grant is completely written and on it’s way out the door.

I’m curious as to whether they actually took any of my suggestions.  Some of them were obvious controls that should have been included in the preliminary data.  Some of them were places I had MAJOR issues with the interpretation of the data.  Some parts I thought were completely incoherent.  Neither Crazy Man nor the Golden Child has asked me any questions about any of them, and some of my comments definitely warranted at least a little discussion.  I’m getting to the point of being really frustrated that I’m asked to spend my time critiquing things, but then my comments aren’t being taken seriously.  Point 6: Don’t piss off people that will give you honest feedback. You may ultimately get some feedback that’s way more honest than you wanted.