Since the holy trinity important things have come in threes—listen up. You can lose the good will of study section.

1.) Get the details right; misstating the methods or findings of a reference destroys your credibility.

Know every paper you cite. Others who know the science or did it will be in the room.

2.) The slate is not wiped clean by an A0 (first submission) if it’s a re-do.

If similar to a prior unfunded submission(s) every part must be solid platinum. The research must be substantively more compelling – new preliminary data, better approach, and highly responsive to prior critique or you will engender bitterness at having to review the same ideas again. Study sections have memory.


3.) Don’t ask for more time/money than you need.

Funding is a zero-sum game; money you receive won’t go to someone else. Reviewers get cranky when you turn a three-year project into five.

Don’t be the person we remember for prior gaffes. Even if only some members are put off by a concern it can hurt your grant score…and only nearly perfect scores clear the payline.

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1 Comment
James M. Tepper, PhD says:

Cranky Reviewer is spot on on most of the tips he gives. I found only two exceptions. 1) Color figures need not be convertible to B&W. Color printers are so inexpensive and ubiquitous in 2022 that you can be assured that your reviewers will be able to see your figures in color, on their monitor or their printer. 
2) For almost Federal research grants, request the full 5 years (e.g. for RO1 and equivalent for NSF) and the largest budget that YOU CAN JUSTIFY.  Study section (IRGs) members are explicitly told that budget should not be considered in the scientific review. Budgetary matters are discussed only AFTER the scientific discussion is finished and if present, are an addendum to the review. And remember, for all NIH grants modular budgets are automatically reduced by 12.5% and non-modular budgets by 17.5%. 

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