NIH "Emeritus Award" RFI Results-Update

May 07 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

Following on my previous post on the responses to the NIH RFI regarding a potential "emeritus" award, several commenters asked to see the responses. Unfortunately, WordPress does not appear to have a mechanism for posting such files. However, I have posted the spreadsheet through GoogleDocs. Please feel free to share your reactions.

As a further update, as first pointed out to me by @ChrisPickett5, the latest draft of the 21st Century Cures Act currently being developed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee includes a section about a "Capstone Award" (pg. 26-27).  It is quite odd to see a new grant mechanism from NIH being discussed as an addition to the law that governs NIH, as opposed to being developed by NIH using existing authorities. It is unclear if this is coming from the NIH or from one or more members of Congress interested in facilitating senior faculty transitioning out of NIH-supported research.

36 responses so far

  • Chris says:

    From discussions I've had with Congressional staff, Francis Collins and the NIH have had significant input in the 21st Century Cures Act. The Capstone Award was not in the first draft of the bill, and it's my understanding it was added after an NIH suggestion.

  • facilitating senior faculty transitioning out of NIH-supported research

    You know how you "facilitate" people "out of NIH-supported research"? You stop giving them NIH funds!

  • Dave says:

     The end of NIH funding can be quite abrupt and senior investigators may not have time to plan for the next stage of their careers. Academic institutions may be similarly unprepared to support such investigators. Thus, investigators who have made major contributions to science may suddenly face harsh consequences, such as salary cuts and unwelcome assignments. I think that an emeritus award is a terrific idea to soften a neglected career transition phase

    So much fail. So much fail. The fail is so strong.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I may be an extreme example, but I have at least 100 manuscripts either unwritten, unsubmitted or unpublished.

    My Take: I am 78 years old

    HAHAHHAAH. So you are holding us for ransom when you are the one who has failed to communicate 100 publishable studies the NIH has funded over the years?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Another howler.

    My work has developed a new field of knowledge over 25-30 years, and I have been able to start transitioning the knowledge to so far only 2 younger investigators. More are needed. Just reading my published papers is not enough to grasp the entire body of knowledge acquired over so many years.

    Where can I find a new unspoiled vessel to download my amazing Big Brain and live FOREVER!!!!!????!!!!!!!

  • DJMH says:

    I may be an extreme example, but I have at least 100 manuscripts either unwritten, unsubmitted or unpublished.

    Ok, DM, so when you say that work getting ignored by the PI is mostly the fault of the trainee for not writing a decent manuscript...

    But yeah the people in that guy's lab must be ready to kill him.

  • Dave says:

    This could be fun....

  • Dave says:

    I think it is a great idea. I’ve been thinking about how to keep active when I retire from lab work, and have been investigating becoming a writing consultant for non-native English speakers. It would be preferable to work with American researchers on topics about which I know something but again, grants and universities have not made funds available for such services. All the grant writing seminars held at Hopkins were led by individuals with masters degrees and who never actually wrote an NIH grant. Plus, attending such a one-day seminar costs money. Listing to someone talk about grant writing is entirely different from having to write one and getting continuous and constructive feedback on the efforts. Grant writing requires multiple iterations. Knowledge is expensive and under-appreciated.

      Professor Emeritus, Johns Hopkins University and Garvan Institute of Medical Research

    God help any young investigator who gets writing advice from this guy. He/she can barely strong a sentence together. This whole RFI is starting to look like a massive troll. I reckon DM has submitted multiple responses using various pseuds.

    • Crystal Voodoo says:

      I work for a science writing company. We have recently experienced an influx of late-stage investigators applying for positions. Pro-tip for emeritus professors reentering the job market: When applying for an editing job, do not assume that your publication record excuses you from using correct spelling, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation.

  • Dave says:

      Its a dog eat dog world in the process of peer review, and there are well known problems with the system. I would suggest that only emeritus scientist review grants. They should be paid for their work. They have the breath and experience to evaluate new ideas. Its categorically untrue that only young people have the imagination to appreciate novel ideas. Only those who are not competing in the system can evaluate in a relaxed and wondering manner.

    • drugmonkey says:

      What could possibly go wrong? if this series of entitled comments from older investigators in the RFI response set is any guide...

  • panchophd says:

    Just like HHMI, NIH has a "phase-out" program now, just calling it an Emeritus Award.

  • panchophd says:

      "you're going to have a lot of resentful young scientists on your hands if you do this"

    Yes, you are. Yes you are....

  • These FOIA fuckewittes should have redacted people's locations from this dataset before releasing it. It is pretty easy to figure out who some of these people are with near certainty, by correlating details from their comments to their locations.

    • datahound says:

      Yes, but there is really no reason to do that. My goal in posting this was to allow the community to see these comments, not for directed attacks against any of the individuals who exercised their rights to comment.

      I considered removing the location from what I posted, but I thought it did convey some useful context.

      • physioprof says:

        Dude, the fact that you or I might see no reason to do that doesn't mean that other people feel the same way. My point is that the NIH FOIA people are fucken idiots for not redacting location, if their purpose--as it certainly should be--is to prevent identification of individuals who made comments.

        • datahound says:

          I understand, but it is a balance. The institutional information provided is optional in the response and is relevant to place some of the comments in context (or otherwise there would be not reason for collecting it).

        • drugmonkey says:


          (Eta: PP I mean)

  • […] take the time to go and provide input. My recent post on the potential emeritus award RFI should make it very clear that your input is necessary if you […]

  • Asian Quarterback says:

    Retirement is a difficult transition, particularly when it is abrupt. One would love to leave a legacy that work he has done to be successful will continue to be done.

    Wow-za! Yes, and the young-uns would like to get a start to their life. And most are hitting 40.

  • […] already cynical enough about NIH's trial balloon at Rockey's Blog and the ensuing RFI (link to the comments is posted at DataHound), now the DataHound casually notes something really scary […]

  • jmz4gtu says:

    We've got a lot of mid-career PIs around here, right? Do you feel faculty in the 65+ range have "fostered your career" or "trained you in new technologies"?

    The plaintive whine of entitlement and self-importance really comes through in some of these posts.

    • jmz4gtu says:

      Here's another gem:
      "What is needed to allow senior investigators to step gracefully out of R01 competition without losing prestige within their institution is a grant award that will cover institutional costs of keeping them actively focused on research; traveling to meetings; writing; and serving the scientific community."

      Christ, we all think we're special snowflakes, from grad-students to emeritus faculty.

  • drugmonkey says:

    No, and No.

    They have definitely helped me out in my career from time to time. This has mostly been a reflection of their acquired power, however, deployed variously because of personal good will, mutual interest, selfish interest and/or obligation, I would say. This accrues credit to the power, not the person who happens to be wielding it, because that can always change.

    Of course, I can point to a great number of folks in my fields of greatest interest that have done science that is of tremendous significance and importance...and I salute them for those accomplishments. I do and in all sincerity. This is a credit to them.

    I will even admit that something is lost every time one of the older scientists goes into retirement.

    This is NOT the question, however. The question is whether this is worth losing a young scientist, or the productivity of a mid career scientist, to retain. And there the answer is a firm "no".

  • bz says:

    Where is the political muscle for this initiative coming from? I do think older investigators who have been consistently funded (and there is a subgroup I can think of who are solid (not glamorous) scientists) are surprised at the characteristics of the game now. But, the ones I know retired, maybe 10 years earlier than they hoped. I don't think any of them thought they had the power to influence a change like this. Is it a new group of older scientists who have the ears of NIH who are pushing for this award?

    I wonder if it's institutional -- potentially institutions don't want to give up these labs. First, they're already in place, so no startup required; second, there might be some salary guarantees, especially for the older guard; third they have a sense of obligation; fourth, some of the groups may be supporting larger groups of people, who are all out if there's no renewal of a 30+ year competitive grant.

  • potnia theron says:

    No, institutions are often glad/happy/ecstatic to get rid of these guys. They often can't say so out loud.

  • odorlessopie says:

    I'm frankly amazed that there was more than fringe support. The potential for nepotism and decreasing already poor grant-holder diversity (Ginther be damned apparently) should have killed this before it even saw the light of day. And I'm mildly depressed that some of the more clueless responders were able to obtain NIH funding. They must be able to compartmentalize their cluelessness well.

  • newbie PI says:

    I just love this quote...

    "Faculty already produce inordinate numbers of postdocs who can obtain faculty positions to carry on their work. If the interesting parts of the research have not been adopted based on the inherent promise of the science, then NIH should not expend funds to artificially sustain those lines of research."

  • […] other RFI’s because the bar is so low. I was really only inspired to submit my comments after reading the contents of the last RFI which I wanted to, but didn’t because I didn’t think my opinion was worthy1. If you […]

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