When rejection isn’t really rejection – more friendly advice from your NIH grant reviewer

I know you’ve heard it, too – “Not Discussed” means you should toss that idea in the black hole of bad research ideas never to be spoken of again. But how many clever, impactful, innovative ideas start out that way?  Of course, some people are born beautiful, but we all know the story of the ugly duckling.

Sometimes, there are moderate to major weaknesses in the research or training AS PROPOSED. This may be serious enough to push it to the bottom half of the group resulting in the dreaded “Not Discussed”. But it does not necessarily mean that the idea cannot be modified into an exciting and fundable project.

You have developed and nurtured this project this far. So take a deep breath and read the critiques carefully and with an open mind. You may be surprised that the concerns are addressable – and may even improve the research! Study the reported strengths, as well as the weaknesses. If anyone can sculpt this into a better project, it is you. Consider that the response might be a resubmission, or a new submission that is a better spin off of the present one.

So remember that sometimes rejection is really just an invitation to create a better proposal. But, even if you decide that this proposal really is better sent to the black hole, then learn from it and let it go – on your terms.

More Resources

Rejection and Resiliency Roundup

Dealing with Rejection

Responding to Manuscript Reviews While Avoiding Cerebral Aneurysms

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