University of South Florida

Message from the Vice Dean for Research: The Big Slog

This month’s message goes out to all of you who wrote NIH grants for the Oct. 5/Nov. 5 deadlines.  As I write this letter I am also writing a revised proposal, and I am in my routine.  Too much coffee, too little sleep, the lab generating data day and night, and the general ignoring of my family.  When the Dean walks by and looks in my office, he just shakes his head, as the level of disorder is up one or two orders of magnitude.

I think that I used to enjoy writing grants, back when we were allowed more pages for the science and the funding levels were reasonable.  It is hard to write a grant when you know that only a handful out of every 100 proposals will be funded.  Nevertheless, we slog on, because you won’t be awarded a grant if you don’t submit it.  I contacted a friend who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2012 to ask him a few things, but he said that he didn’t have much time because he was working on his grant that was due November 5 (I guess a revision).  Does this make me feel any better?  No, not really.

One hopeful way of thinking about the process is to consider the “success rate” as defined by the NIH.  The definition is complex and can be found here:  I think of it as the success for a grant based upon either the first submission or a revised submission.  Included in the table below are the 2014 R01 grant success rates for several NIH institutes.  The complete data for all institutes and grant types can be found at the above URL.

2014 R01 SUCCESS RATE (%)
Institute New Renewal
NHLBHI 14.8 27.2
NIDDK 17.8 27.0
NIAID 15.9 34.8
NIGMS 18.8 46.2
NIA 14.4 22.3
NIMH 16.6 33.6
NHGRI 20.9 52.9
NICHD 11.7 17.3
NINDS 15.7 36.0

The success rates seem higher than I had expected, so at least based on the NIH definition there may be some basis for optimism.

What the Office of Research can do to help is to make the process as easy as possible.  Our goal is to have the scientist work on the science, knowing that all those “other pages” can be addressed by the capable and very experienced staff in your department and our Office.  While I highly suggest that grants be sent through the approval and submission process several days before the deadline, if you are running late let us know, and we will “keep the lights on.”


Stephen Liggett, MD
Vice Dean for Research
Professor of Medicine, Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology
USF Health Morsani College of Medicine

Stephen Liggett_2015_Preferred_headshot

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