At NIH, Two Strikes Policy Is Out The National Institutes of Health (NIH) submit essentially the same proposal three is relaxing a 5-year-old policy that gave times—the A0, A1, and A2 versions. The researchers just two chances to submit essen- problem was that reviewers tended to give tially the same grant application before hav- lower scores to first-time proposals, knowing ing to start over with a new idea—a rule that the applicant had two more chances, and many worried was especially hard on young then often recommended funding them on investigators. Instead, the agency announced the second or third try. This had the effect on 17 April, applicants can now resubmit a of putting researchers in a holding pattern, proposal as many times as they like. many times for an extra year, until their grant Scientists seem “uniformly pleased,” by was finally funded. To make the process less the change, says Howard Garrison, deputy agonizing and more efficient, NIH adopted executive director for policy at the Federation the reduced two strikes policy, and it worked, of American Societies for Experimental Rockey says: More A0s were funded. Biology (FASEB) in Bethesda, Maryland. Many scientists, however, clamored to “They see it as a sign that NIH has taken bring back the A2, arguing for more than into account the pain and the difficulties that one chance to revise their pitches. And some people are experiencing.” scientific leaders have urged the agency The shift is the result of years of com- to adopt a 2008 recommendation from plaints from FASEB and others about the an advisory panel: that every proposal be agency’s “two strikes” rule, in place since considered a new A0, even if it was already 2009. It gave investigareviewed. The panel tors two chances to pitch also recommended NIH a research proposal: “This change will give allow unlimited resuban initial “A0” version missions. The new plan the research community that received reviewer is a hybrid of these two greater versatility in c o m m e n t s a n d, i f scenarios, and “the simrejected, a subsequent A1 plest way to approach allowing them to present version that the applicant this issue,” Rockey said. their phenomenal ideas.” could retool based on the Some research advo—SALLY ROCKEY, NIH first round of comments. cates don’t go that far, If the A1 also missed but are pleased. The funding, however, the scientist had to start new policy “is a little bit … convoluted, but over with a new A0 application that was I think it’s the right direction,” says Stefano substantially different. Bertuzzi, executive director of the American That requirement created problems for Society for Cell Biology in Bethesda. It early-career investigators, who often lack won’t solve NIH’s overall money problems, the staff and resources needed to generate he and others note, and it does not the preliminary data used to support totally necessarily mean more applications will be fresh ideas, says Sally Rockey, NIH’s deputy funded, Rockey said. director for extramural research. It was Some NIH watchers lamenting the forcing even established labs to abandon agency’s growing budget woes have taken productive long-term studies that probably to blogs to describe the shift as rearranging would have been funded in a better budget the deck chairs on the Titanic. Others climate, she adds. worry researchers will now submit the Under the new policy, scientists will same proposals over and over, driving up still have just one chance to submit an A1 application numbers, lowering success rates, proposal. If it fails, however, they will be and increasing the burden on reviewers. free to resubmit the same application in the Rockey says NIH does expect an initial next funding round as an A0, and the same rise in the number of applications because NIH reviewers will be told to view it as a more investigators may have more than one fresh proposal. “I’m very optimistic that this proposal under review simultaneously. But change will give the research community she thinks that, in the long term, the numbers greater versatility in allowing them to present will stabilize as researchers “revert” to a onetheir phenomenal ideas to NIH,” Rockey said at-a-time approach. All the same, Rockey in a call with reporters. says NIH will closely monitor the results of NIH’s resubmission policy has varied over future funding rounds. the years. Before 2009, investigators could –JOCELYN KAISER

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Published by AAAS

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As part of the tsetse fly genome project, Aksoy’s collaborator, Matthew Berriman of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, U.K., also sequenced the DNA of some of the insect’s resident microbes. One that had been previously sequenced, Wigglesworthia glossinidia, is a bacterium that lives in a specialized organ in the insect’s gut and helps keep it well nourished. The microbe, for example, has genes for the synthesis of vitamin B, whereas the tsetse has only proteins for transporting this vitamin. “Without these obligate microbes, the fly cannot maintain fecundity,” Aksoy says. IGGI hopes the tsetse fly sequence will help revive the long-stalled fight against the insect and the misery it spreads. Even though epidemics of sleeping sickness erupted in the 1980s and 1990s, the number of researchers studying the host tsetse fly sharply declined during that period, with many switching to the better funded fields of malaria and AIDS. Beginning in 2004, Aksoy and the few remaining researchers in the field established the initiative on a shoestring—about $50,000 per year from the World Health Organization. Then in 2006, the Wellcome Trust committed about $4 million in in-kind sequencing toward decoding one tsetse fly species. All told, 146 researchers helped decipher the new genome. No vaccines against trypanosome diseases now exist, and the available drugs cause severe side effects including convulsions. One control strategy that seeks to get rid of tsetse flies by flooding the population with sterile males is showing some success (Science, 20 July 2007, p. 310). But better control strategies are needed. The new genome suggests one: Chemical inhibitors targeting the single transcription factor that controls milk protein production could inhibit tsetse fly fecundity and lower parasite transmission rates. And now that researchers know the tsetse fly’s repertoire of taste and odor receptors, they should be able to improve traps by including more attractive chemical baits. “This is really going to drive research in how to control tsetse flies in the next 2 decades,” says Stephen Richards, an arthropod genomicist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. However, researchers studying malaria and other insect-transmitted diseases caution that translating genome data into control strategies is difficult. Najib El-Sayed, a parasitologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, has sequenced several parasite genomes, and each time he expected that cures for their associated diseases or ways to prevent their spread would be forthcoming in 5 years. “Now I know better,” he says. “The genome is just the beginning.” –ELIZABETH PENNISI

Biomedical funding. At NIH, two strikes policy is out.

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