Right now I'm asking myself why I spent 100+ hours carefully writing a grant proposal that was destined to not get a serious reading. Below are dueling comments from the same reviewer (for the sake of discretion, some details have been censored): #1. On a technology I proposed to develop:
The single cell technology is interesting but does not seem terribly “ground breaking”.
The second goal of designing an [X] method of doing single cell [X] studies would be terrific technological breakthrough.
#2. On a career development plan in which I propose to hone my mathematical and computational skills:
...would seem to have a lot to learn in the area of computational biology to do the systems work proposed.
Very good career development description. [The plan] will result in accomplishing the clearly outlined goals of learning mathematical modeling of gene circuits.
In addition, this reviewer miscounted the number of my papers (it's not hard - they are all listed in chronological order in the specified section of the proposal) and then criticized me for not having enough of them. On top of that, I was dinged for:
There may be not enough biology expertise to help out with the development of the [X] work. But applicant is already trained in this general area so maybe not a problem.
Never mind the fact that everything I know about X was learned in this lab, which has a long published track record with this technology (something that we also emphasized in the proposal). Ok, so it's maybe a little self-indulgent to bitch about a review in a blog. We all get lousy reviews on occasion. The thing to know about these reviews is this: in many cases half-hearted, self-contradictory complaints are usually a cover for another, less explicitly stated objection. In this case, the underlying objection (based on other parts of the comments that I'm not posting here) seems to be that the reviewer (sitting on a non-topic-specific review panel) isn't really thrilled about where the field of systems biology is in general is right now, and doesn't believe that biological systems can be modeled fruitfully until we've already worked out every last molecular detail. I argued the contrary in my proposal. Read the feed: