Re: President’s Message,
October issue


Dr. McKnight,

Why do you continue to use this forum to beat up and demonize (National Institutes of Health) reviewers, especially those who have not been in the system for decades or are not what you consider real scientists? This elitist idea you keep pushing of study section infested with vermin (what you so eloquently called riffraff in previous articles) is highly insulting to the hundreds of us who volunteer our precious time and effort to provide thoughtful and stringent review of grants for the NIH and is simply wrong.

You seem to have a personal vendetta toward younger investigators, who you seem to feel are not worthy to be working scientists because they do not necessarily hold your view that flitting between shiny objects (what you term vertically ascending science) is their preferred approach to science and that those pursuing this course of carefully building the body of knowledge through solid unflashy science are taking NIH funds that rightfully belong to persons like yourself.

Your preferred approach of expelling reviewers from study section that do not perform to some undefined and nebulous standard that only you seem to be aware of is simply a thinly veiled way to make sure that junior investigators (who lack study section experience) are not able to be involved in a process that is essential to their survival in academic science.

As someone in a position of authority and influence, you should be promoting solutions to help all scientists, not just those who you deem worthy. You should be using your position to promote increased funding levels for all of us, not beating up on those of us who have been struggling to establish our careers in the harshest funding environment in modern times and trying to make it harder for us to succeed.

You should be ashamed of yourself, Dr. McKnight, for trying to make biomedical science an even more competitive and difficult career path to follow.

— Philapodia

P.S. By the way, the NIH process is by no means hands off as you imply. The Scientific Review Officers (SROs) that actually organize the study sections already monitor reviewers for quality. If a reviewer isn't up to snuff, then they simply won't be invited back. Having an IC Director come and babysit the SROs (many of whom have been doing their jobs effectively for years) is simply micromanagement and is a waste of everyone's time. The IC Directors time would be much better spent trying to secure new streams of funds for their investigators