Lipid News

The state of the lipid research community — improving grant review

Binks Wattenberg
March 01, 2018

I have just returned from Washington, D.C., where I was on a National Institutes of Health study section. I am happy to report that the state of the lipid research community is excellent. But it always can be better, particularly when getting our grants reviewed, and that is a prime focus of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Lipid Research Division, or LRD.

National Institutes of Health study sessions meet at the main NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, shown in this aerial photo.NIH photo

The underlying premise of a new LRD initiative is that grants with a lipid focus suffer when study sections do not have sufficient lipid-centric reviewers. Although the scientific review officers, or SROs, work to get relevant expertise on the panels, several have told me they sometimes struggle to find lipid reviewers. We need individuals on these panels who can put the lipid work into context for the other study section members. Toward this end, we have an ongoing effort to improve the review of lipid-related grants by identifying qualified reviewers with lipid expertise. This has been a three-phase effort.

First, early last year we reached out to the ASBMB membership to encourage members involved in lipid research to join the LRD if they had not done so already. This has swelled the ranks of the division, and we are now 640 members strong.

The second phase was a survey sent out to the LRD membership to capture the review experience and research expertise of each member. The response? Not bad, but could be better. Out of the total membership, 348 received the survey. (Why not all? Explanation below.) Of those, we received 143 responses — an outstanding response rate for this kind of survey request. The survey identified 46 individuals who have NIH reviewing experience, which is the strong preference of the SROs, and an additional eight U.S.-based researchers with non-NIH reviewing experience. Those individuals might be recruited by SROs to increase the ranks of reviewers.

In the third phase, the results of the survey, in spreadsheet form, are now being distributed to SROs of study sections that historically have handled grants from the LRD membership. The SROs’ responses have been very enthusiastic. Finding qualified reviewers with the right expertise is one of their most time-consuming challenges. They definitely will use our results.

We know there are more qualified reviewers out there, and the SROs would love to have them serve on their panels. So rather than the usual kvetching around the bar about the terrible review your lipid grant received, here is how you can help. First, if you do lipid research and are not an LRD member, join here. Second, only a little more than half of the LRD membership received the survey, because many of you have asked not to receive e-mails from the ASBMB. We have no way to reach you. Please consider changing this in your profile so we can get in touch.

While the state of our community is strong in many ways, the fate of lipid grants is in your hands, in more ways than one. Help us to help you.

Binks Wattenberg

Binks Wattenberg is an associate professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Join the ASBMB Today mailing list

Sign up to get updates on articles, interviews and events.

Latest in Science

Science highlights or most popular articles

Ocean virus hijacks carbon-storing bacteria
Journal News

Ocean virus hijacks carbon-storing bacteria

July 07, 2020

A Journal of Biological Chemistry paper reports that these minuscule interactions could have ripple effects on global carbon dioxide levels.

CRISPR nanoparticles are the next big hope in Alzheimer’s disease treatments
News

CRISPR nanoparticles are the next big hope in Alzheimer’s disease treatments

July 04, 2020

Nearly 6 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease without solid treatment options.

Summer food science
Stroopwafels

Summer food science

July 02, 2020

For those of you bound for a summertime holiday weekend, we dug into recent research on the yummy foods you might serve at a socially distant picnic.

How lipid droplets stay in shape
Journal News

How lipid droplets stay in shape

June 30, 2020

Andrew Greenberg and colleagues discovered that the protein perilipin is involved in storage and hydrolysis of neutral lipids within these key structures in cells.

The bat-virus détente
News

The bat-virus détente

June 28, 2020

Bats cope with myriad viruses, including the one causing Covid-19, with few ill effects. Scientists are probing their immune systems to fathom how they do it. The answers might help infected people, too.

Organizing fat: Mechanisms of creating and organizing cellular lipid stores
Lipid News

Organizing fat: Mechanisms of creating and organizing cellular lipid stores

June 23, 2020

Mike Henne, a cell biologist at UT Southwestern, summarizes recent findings about the highly regulated production and turnover of lipid droplets.