So I have it on reasonable authority that the pay line at the NSF/MCB is hovering at around the 10% mark (May, 2013). This is in contrast to their usual pay line, closer to high teens.

In a few areas at NIH, the paylines have dipped to around 6%.

Is it time for NIH and NSF to implement a pre-proposal mechanism (like the DOE already uses)?

When pay lines are so low, it is a big waste of time for everyone involved to write and review these 12-15 page proposals, 9 out of 10 of which are going to go without funding.  We could all be spending our time in better ways.

What are your suggestions for making this process more efficient?  Let’s discuss it in the comments.


7 thoughts

  1. I would go even much more rigorous. Preproposal of 1 page. Full proposal of 5 pages. I really doubt that all those pages are giving a better outcome on what is successful research. The good news is that the NSF-BIO IOS and DEB are now doing pre-proposals, and in a few years, they will be able to do the statistics about the score of the pre-proposal and the final score. I am pretty sure that there is a HUGE correlation.

    1. Hey Kim, I actually agree. I was just trying to sugar coat it a bit to be nice 😉 But sugarcoating doesn’t usually help. Thank you for your comment

  2. One page preproposal is the way to go. The preproposal should be the specific aims page. The amount of time it takes to draft a full proposal and then cram it through a University submission process is substantial. Not just the time that it takes the PI to do the full applicaiton, but the time of grant administrators, Sponsored Programs Offices, etc…

  3. AHRQ waste of time. DId an R01, LOS’s, all the hoopla, and govt nonsense, waited, waited, post 6mo, did not EVEN review it.

    what a waste of time and money. Grant lottery.

    1. You’re bitter, Tatianna.
      I understand that.
      But just because you have some sour grapes about how your grants were received doesn’t mean the whole system is screwed.
      It IS a lottery – but it’s a biased lottery.
      It’s biased towards many things:
      – Who you are
      – Who you know
      – How compelling the science is
      – Who your reviewers are
      – How well presented your ideas are
      – etc.

      You can choose to either throw up your hands in despair, or actually learn how to shift the odds in your favor. They may still be poor odds, but it’s a lot better than the odds if you treat it as a total lottery and do nothing to improve these things.

  4. CMMI grant “awards” has dipped to <4-5% funding levels. Stop the insanity. Stop wasting time, money, energy on the grant lottery.

    1. OK, then what are researchers supposed to do, Tatianna? Yes, it sucks. But if you’re at a university where research is expected, opting out isn’t an alternative.

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