NIH All About Grants Podcast: To Resubmit or Not

>> Kosub: Hello, and welcome to another virtual edition of NIH's "All About Grants" podcast. I'm your host David Kosub with the NIH's Office of Extramural Research. So you've gone through the whole process of putting together your application, putting words to paper and submitting it and going through review, but unfortunately it did not get funded. What do you do next? Do you have thoughts about resubmitting your application, perhaps, and that's what we're here today, we're going to be talking all about the ins and outs of Resubmission, and I'm glad to say we have two program officers with us from NIH. Dr. Sige Zou from the Office of Research Infrastructure Program, Office of Director, and Dr. Jennifer Troyer from the National Human Genome Research Institute, and I welcome y'all both to the show.

>> Troyer: Hi, David, thanks.

>> Zou: Hello, everyone. David, thanks.

>> Kosub: Great. So Jennifer, I'll start with you. What's the Resubmission all about? Why should someone consider it?

>> Troyer: So a Resubmission is an opportunity to think about the reviewer's comments, talk to your Program Director, come back in with an application that hopefully is better for the process of going through the review and the rethink and the resubmission. In general, I almost always advise people to resubmit because it gives you a much higher probability of getting the application funded especially if you do a really good job of replying to the reviewer comments.

>> Kosub: Good to hear there's a better likelihood of being funded the next go round. Sige, adding to what Jennifer said, do you have any additional advice as to why someone might consider resubmitting?

>> Zou: I totally agree what Jen said. As you all know, NIH grants are highly competitive. Many applications are not funded the first time. However, many funded projects are from resubmission of applications submitted several times. You should only considering resubmissions if you are waiting to or can address adequately all the issues and the criticisms raised in the study sections or described in the summary statement. So basically your resubmission should be highly responsive.

>> Kosub: So actually building on that, the comments that you're getting from study section and from review, how how should someone address these comments, and maybe, Jennifer, you could start?

>> Troyer: Yeah, so I think that it's important, and it's always a good idea to just like when you get a review back from a manuscript you submitted through a journal, take a few days, think about it, walk away, come back, and address those comments even if you disagree with them, address them respectfully and considerately. And so often there are things that you can easily address, perhaps it's something that you thought was clear but the reviewers didn't understand and you can rewrite that section and readdress that. Sometimes there are things you can do like additional literature review, additional statistical analyses, maybe even some fairly quick, fairly straightforward lab work that will help support your case or show that you have that experience and ability to do it, so additional preliminary data is sometimes something that is asked for. But wherever possible, you want to make sure that you are taking the review as constructive criticism, as something that you can improve in your work, and this is part of the scientific process that we go back and forth and sometimes there are real, you know, honest scientific disagreements, we all have them, but addressing them directly and respectfully is the way to go.

>> Kosub: So what if, and this question could be for you, Sige, like what if you can't address the comments that you get in peer review? What do you do then?

>> Zou: If you Really cannot address the comments based in the study sections or described in the summary, you should provide the reasons why they cannot be addressed. You know, a common example is sometimes the review asks the questions which cannot be really justified with the current technologies, so but as long as you can provide sufficient justifications, you know, you should be okay. However, of course, you know, if you really cannot address all the questions, you can also maybe want to consider apply in new programs or submit different applications with modified aims.

>> Kosub: Great. Thanks for that. Kind of a nuts and bolts question: If someone is considering doing a resubmission, do they need to acknowledge that somewhere on their application, on their cover letter, somewhere else? Maybe, Jennifer, you could take a stab.

>> Troyer: Yeah. So when you're applying there's a box to check that says that this is a resubmission, and then it will get designated in the system as such, as an A1, and one thing that you should be aware of is that when something is a resubmission, part of the review process is to ask how have they addressed reviewer's previous concerns. The other thing you should be aware of is that while you won't necessarily be re reviewed by the same people, it's possible that it will go back to the same people or at least that those people will be in the room for the review, so you want them to be seeing that you are really taking their concerns seriously.

>> Kosub: Great. Great. Are there any limitations or how often can someone resubmit an application? Is there a limitation on that? Maybe Sige, you can take that?

>> Zou: Technically you are only allowed one resubmission however if that resubmission is not successful, you can submit application again, but as a new applications. Only resubmissions you can address criticism directly, but in any new applications, you can also address reviewers comments but not mention in the applications. So presuppose you can submit as many as you can, however, I would say, you know, if you consistently get, you know, not a fundable score or actually the applications are not funded, not discussed, you may consider change of topic, dramatically revise the applications and submit it as a new application instead of resubmission.

>> Troyer: Can I add to that, though?

>> Kosub: Yeah, please.

>> Troyer: I will spend a lot of the times when applications are not discussed, and this is especially true when it's a new investigator or an early stage investigator, it's because not enough detail is provided, and so that can be fixed. You can go back in and resubmit with much more information on your approach, on your methods, your preliminary data, all those things. So it's always a good idea to talk to the Program Director on that funding opportunity and see what their assessment is of your probability of doing better if you do resubmit based on what the reviewer's comments were. It's a little harder for the Program Director to help you when it's not discussed because all they have is the written paper that you have, but still we have a lot of experience in terms of what are things that are score driving, what are things that are fixable, and what are things that might not be.

>> Kosub: Great, thank you for that. Totally encourage people to reach out to their program staff. Before we end, always like to give the opportunity for guests to kind of provide any last minute thoughts, some stuff that we may not have hit on that you really want to mention regarding this. So I open it up to both any final comments related to resubmission that you would like to leave the audience.

>> Troyer: So I'll just say that, you know, as with anything, I think that there's always room for improvement, and that's how you should see a resubmission is you've been given an opportunity to do even better, and really the other thing that I'm always telling people is to not just focus on what was said that was negative, but also remember to focus on what was said that was positive and build off of the positives, and in order to put back in an application that people are going to be more enthusiastic about.

>> Zou: Yeah, I just want to say if you consider resubmission you should, you know, consider it to be highly responsive and also should talk to your program officer to understand the resubmission process and the requirement, and also I would suggest during the resubmission of the applications, you want to talk to your colleagues, you know, in your field for any scientific advice and also ask your colleagues outside the field for clarity of the application.

>> Kosub: Awesome. Awesome. Great advice. Well, Jennifer and Sige, greatly appreciate this opportunity to hear from you about thoughts on resubmitting one's application. For those interested, please again reach out to your program staff; they're a wealth of information that they great resource for folks. And we also have information on our NIH grant page, just search for resubmission application and you should be able to find a lot on the policy and other good information. Thank you again. This has been David Kosub with NIH's "All About Grants". Bye.