My lab studies a protein that has been intensely researched for many years. So we were really excited when we discovered something totally new about this protein that regulates its localization in the cell. This is an incredibly important protein for a variety of diseases, and so we thought our findings should go to a semi-high impact journal. I say semi-high because we don't have in vivo data and the mechanistic data that we have so far probably isn't the entire story. Nonetheless, we made this discovery using a fancy platform technology and have plenty of experiments confirming the finding and demonstrating that it is important.
After a lot of consideration, it seemed that PNAS was our best shot because our protein is of general interest and our work reaches across more than one discipline. Papers like ours have appeared in PNAS in recent years on less important proteins and without validation of the importance or in vivo relevance of the data. So this is where we submitted 38 days ago.
The reason I decided to write this post is that the review process at PNAS is not like other journals and, based purely on anecdotal evidence (my own experience and that of two other junior PIs), my feeling is that a new PI should not even bother submitting to PNAS unless they have a strong network of NAS members interested in their work, a pre-arranged editor, or perhaps have a Nature-level paper that they want to get out fast.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Saturday, July 12, 2014
I got my score for the R01 that I wrote on my lab's main project. The scores were awesome. They thought the grant was significant and innovative. They thought my expertise was perfectly aligned with the proposed work. The scientific environment got mostly perfect scores as well. They thought the aims were great. The reviewer concerns were minor at best. On one hand this feels awesome, but on the other hand, it means nothing, because I still didn’t meet the payline, even with the ESI bonus. This hurts even more knowing that my score is one of the best anyone in my department has received in the past three years. This pretty much means that only close-to-perfect scores will be funded this round. The situation just seems impossible.
My dept chair was quite a bit more upbeat about this than me. She said there was very little chance that the study section was going to give me this grant on the first try anyway when I still have a few more months of funding left, but that I should get it on the next try. I didn’t think study sections were supposed to consider current funding, but then again, in this funding climate, how could they not? She also told me to look at this as an opportunity to stop and think a little deeper about my research, and really bring out the therapeutic future potential in the resubmission. I guess that's good advice.
My program officer said something similar about select pay. She loved my grant and said I was a great candidate for select pay given my great score and that most of the critiques could be responded to simply by adding text. However, with the remaining months on my R00 grant, she said I would likely not be competitive for select pay in the eyes of the council, because this usually goes to labs that are about to shut down due to lack of funding. So obviously things could be worse, but it still stings.
So I’m gearing up for a resubmission. ESIs can resubmit past the standard deadline for review in the very next cycle. Since my first submission, we’ve published a paper that addresses many of the questions in Aim 2, so I now have to write a new sub-aim or craft an entirely new aim. I feel like I have to come up with something so practical and feasible that there can be no new critiques, but then this means that it will probably be boring. Everything I want to write about has a catch. In vivo experiments, using a new type of primary cell, or using a new technique would all open up a whole new world of possible concerns from the reviewers.
So this means my complete blog post on writing an R01 is still postponed until further notice. If you need me, I’ll be brainstorming in my office all weekend.
Posted by Jake at 12:26 PM