I don’t think that the “problems” with the old system justify the destructive storm that we are all trying to weather. I have seen 3 labs on my floor go from active to dead. Without money they can’t hire anyone, and without people there are no data to generate papers and get grants. If it were just one lab, you would blame it on the PI, but these are 3 labs that have been running for 7-20 years. Now they have to wait a year before they have a chance of applying again, and it sounds like there will be less money available. In fact, take a look at CIHR’s projected budget. It shrinks from 1009 million in 2012 to 978 million in 2016. This isn’t flat-lining, this is de-funding science.
I have only been a PI for 6 years, but I did get the chance to serve on review panels. Of course there are “good reviewers” and “bad reviewers”, and there is some randomness to this process. That is part of our profession. However, from what I witnessed of the face-to-face reviews, there was a genuine effort to 1. get the best science science funded and 2. provide constructive feedback to help grants get funded in subsequent rounds. As a reviewer I can promise you that I worked very hard to understand the grants before I would stand up in front of my peers and discuss it. Who wants to look like a fool in front of their peers? Not me. There is going to be a lot less of that positive peer pressure with an online-only system, and I’m pretty sure the quality will suffer. Just wait for the howling that will come from people when they get those “bad reviewers”.
I am trying to arrange a meeting with my MP. I really urge people to meet with the politicians, because ultimately CIHR needs more money. The US House of Representatives just passed a bill that will add 1.75 billion to NIH budget for the next 5 years. Hopefully the Senate will also pass it. There may be better opportunities in the US if things do not change course here.
I would agree with Jen on that the new system may have good sides.
Part of the problem is that its implementation is improvised and money is missing.
Actually there seams to be a disconnect between the discourse that was used to sale the new system and the reality of the new system. To work foundation should have been a new budget envelope on the top of operating grants.
As one of several examples:
As it stands, the first round of the new system will shunt the growth of new investigators in two ways.
1- A new investigator may get a five year grant that is equivalent in budget to a large CIHR grant in the actual system. Then, this investigator cannot apply for anything else and may face a funding gap at the critical time of getting tenure.
2- A new investigator will be stuck in a hyper-competitive (annual success rate 13% for a single competition) application system. This will be for grants that may be shorter in duration and possibly in annual funds (2/3 of operating grant budgets will go to foundation). This system may never allow this hypothetical investigator to reach the foundation system. In comparison, NIH is now having special opportunities for young investigators and three rounds of R01 competition per year.
One has to wonder what such a system will do to the attractiveness of Canada for new talents in research. This is not good. Canada has become more attractive over the past years. We may lose that very fast with the new system.
The same stands for more established investigators as they may not get into foundation or get in and them fall out of the foundation scheme and back into the fray of an under-funded normal project competition. In any case that means having to fight harder and write more grants to get less money.
This is the opposite of the arguments that were used to sale this new system.
What we are getting is: more grant writing, more peer review work and less money for less research.
And this is just one of several issues. …
Few numbers based on the results released yesterday:
Percentage of basic research programs funded in the Foundation Scheme: 18%
Percentage of neuroscience grants given to female PIs in the Foundation Scheme: 20%
Percentage of neuroscience grants given to female PIs in the Oparting Grant programme in 2014: 27%
Percentage of neuroscience grants given to female PIs in the Oparting Grant programme in 2013: 29%
Basic research needs an advocate within CIHR! Translational value can not be measured in a 5-7 year window, this is a very short-sided approach. Without basic research there is no translational research, first we need to obtain knowledge that eventually can be translated. Before having knowledge we simply don’t know what could be “translatable”. Overt emphasis on translation sounds great, it is an easy sell, but lacks the proper understanding of how science works. Without basic research science will wither. One good example that does not follow this popular trend: BRAIN Initiative in the US. They only ask for high quality science, and this is exactly the right approach which is humble enough to accept the fact that we can not have power over things we do not know.
Didn’t know how to answer question 4. I don’t think the new system is fundamentally flawed, or even bad in theory. It just doesn’t address the problem – no money. It will be as fair as the old system and have the same result – a lottery (because most projects are excellent). Biggest problem I see is increased reviewer burden.
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