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Why bridging funds are critical in today’s funding environment

Clay Clark

Clay Clark

By Clay Clark – @biochemprof

I’ve just returned from study section in Washington, D.C., where I and twenty-two other scientists met to review grants submitted to the National Institutes of Health. As a bit of background into the process, I receive the grants about six weeks before the meeting, and I spend countless hours reading and critiquing the grants. A grant proposal receives a score based on several criteria and is given an overall impact score between 1 (high impact) and 9 (low impact).

Based on the initial scores from three reviewers, the top half of the grant proposals are discussed by the study section. Following a summary of the proposal by the three reviewers, and questions by the panel, the proposal receives a score from each panel member. The proposals are then ranked against other grants in the study section and given a percentile score. Confusing? I invite you to read a thorough description of the review process here. NIH also has a series of videos that explain the process.

One conclusion that I’ve come to over the almost six years of reviewing grants for NIH is that universities should give serious consideration to bridging funds. I’ll define “bridging funds” as money supplied to a researcher when his grant did not get funded or renewed, so long as the researcher is productive and is attempting to get the grant funded or renewed.

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