Innovation angst

Jun 20 2014 Published by under Careers

I hate the Innovation criterion in NIH proposals. And I know I'm not alone. Many of my colleagues spend an undue amount of time working on that one little section. Even though we all know it's not weighted all that heavily (as opposed to Approach for example). It is however a target for the easiest of stock critiques. I understand the NIH wants to drive the creation of innovative methods/approaches/systems/bear tranquilizers, but that seemed to happen in abundance before they introduced it as a criterion. And there's a ton of stuff we need to know/do that doesn't require no stinking innovation to get at.

Or maybe I just suck at putting together the Innovation section.

10 responses so far

  • Heavy says:

    I get hammered in the Innovation section EVERY time.

  • Dr. Noncoding Arenay says:

    In my recent grant submission I thought hard to come up with "innovation" in my proposal. Now lets see if the reviewers buy it or poop on it.

  • BenK says:

    It seems to me that the innovation and approach sections end up as flip sides of a coin. This poses a problem. Realistically, what is needed is two separate granting agencies or funding lines. The Black Swan strategy would suggest putting 90% of the funding in a 'capitalize on existing preliminary data and validated methods by generating huge data sets or transitioning to clinical studies' line, 7% on refining new methods, and 3% on 'innovation that will make everybody move to a new line of business.'

    Ultimately, the way this ends up being broken out is a bit of a mess. Agencies/foundations have different tolerances for risk, but they also usually want each of their grants to contain a bit of both the conservative effort and the tail.

  • @NeedhiBhalla says:

    I've seen a few people take advantage of the innovation section by using it as the place to emphasize their preliminary data and how it informs their research directions. It seems a much more concrete way to talk about innovation, particularly in the context of research questions or hypotheses, without feeling like you need to overstate your interpretations or use buzzwords.

  • becca says:

    I think forcing them to read the "innovation" section of RO1s is a great soporific to cause bears to become tranquil.

  • eeke says:

    As innovative as an idea might be, I've found that if you are not using a shiny-new-toy to implement your idea, your proposal is not innovative. I guess this falls into the "stock critique" category. Shiny-new-toys are nice, but I think they are also drivers of "me too" stuff. Which is boring.

  • I almost never read the Innovation section of grants, for the same reason I don't read the Discussion section of papers. I don't giveafucke what *you* think is innovative about your grant or how *you* interpret your data. *I'll* be the judge of whether your proposed studies are innovative or what your data mean.

    And BTW, if I do on a whim read your Innovation section, it can only hurt you, because if I find that you are putting assertions in there that don't even prima facie speak to innovation, then it gives me a basis for criticism. For example, if you talk about what an expert you are at some technique.

  • IGrrrl says:

    It's hard in part because Innovation is so subjective. It's also hard to get away from starting the section with "This is innovative because..." which hits the reviewer with no context. Why not frame how things are done/thought about now, and present your innovation by contrast? It helps you avoid overstatement. No need for more than half a page. If CPP does read it, at least you'd give him an argument he may or may not agree with, not just an assertion.