Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NIH challenge grant rabbit-hole

I have not written a blog lately because the NIH released a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) challenge grant 12-OD-102 that was equivalent to saying Drink Me. And then another (12-OD-101) that said Eat Me. The first was to develop a high impact professional development program for science teachers; the other was to show that there was a more effective way for students to learn science. Once someone really smart told me if there seems like there should be a better way, there probably is. Certainly we know a lot about how people learn, yet we aren't teaching that way. This is how I wound up writing two challenge grants, or at least working on them on my spare time.

Released on March 4, 2009,and due on April 27, 2009, the NIH RFA OD-09-003 had a compelling white rabbit to follow: Come up with a unique solution to an important health or education problem that could be tested in a two year period at a price tag of $500,000/year. The challenge areas ranged from bioethics to translational medicine, with this outreach and education solicitation in the middle of the pack.

For those of you who haven't had the opportunity to write an NIH grant lately (it had been a decade for me), this rabbit takes some curious turns (pools of tears, caterpillar advice, etc). Learning that the background section is not allowed, Time 12 font is illegal, and that using the NSF biosketch format could cause your grant to be rejected are just some of the treats at this tea party. Luckily, our university hired extra excellent staff to help us learn how to play croquet with the queen. So now our grant has been submitted and we occasionally get emails that it has passed through another threshold on its journey to be reviewed.

I am not complaining about the experience because we came up with two good ideas that I hope some agency will eventually fund. I am just trying to justify my absence from my blog. I also hope that the reviewers of our grant like the opening: Twas brillig

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