Actions Speak Much Louder Than Words
For Midcareer and Senior Investigators, the Track Record of Productivity Should Be Paramount in Selecting Grant Recipients
This article requires a subscription to view the full text. If you have a subscription you may use the login form below to view the article. Access to this article can also be purchased.
Tra il dire e il fare c’e’ di mezzo il mare
(Italian proverb, loosely translated as “Between saying and doing there is the sea”)
Ab actu ad posse valet illatio
(Latin proverb, loosely translated as “From the past it is possible to infer the future”)
Facta non verba
(Latin motto, “Deeds, not words”)
On the surface, it seems obvious—and, indeed, it is commonly assumed—that the best predictors of the scientific impact of a project are the novelty, methodology, feasibility, and importance of the proposed studies (as assessed by peer review groups). Accordingly, funding decisions by the NIH, AHA, and other bodies are based primarily on what the applicants say in their proposals. What the applicants have actually done in the past (ie, their track record of productivity or lack thereof) is generally seen as a secondary factor; reviewers are reluctant to emphasize it lest they may be accused of being biased in favor or against an investigator. Although the evaluation of a grant proposal is supposed to include the qualifications of the investigators and, in the case of competitive renewals, the progress made in the previous funding period, these factors are not paramount, and past productivity remains peripheral in the overall assessment. Reviewers commonly assume that the applicants will do what they say they will do and that, if they do it, they will publish the results of their work. Projects, we are told, must be evaluated on their own merit, not on the basis of what the applicants did (or did not do) in the past. What matters most, we hear, is the future.
The future, however, is determined to a very large extent by the past. Furthermore, as the Italian proverb quoted at the beginning of this article reminds us, saying something and doing it are two very …