Problems and concerns commonly cited by reviewers

There is a list of the most common reasons cited by reviewers for an application’s lack of success:

  • Lack of significance to the scientific issue being addressed.
  • Lack of original or new ideas.
  • Proposal of an unrealistically large amount of work (i.e., an overambitious research plan).
  • Scientific rationale not valid.
  • Project too diffuse or superficial or lacks focus.
  • Proposed project a fishing expedition lacking solid scientific basis (i.e., no basic scientific question being addressed).

  • Studies based on a shaky hypothesis or on shaky data, or alternative hypotheses not considered.
  • Proposed experiments simply descriptive and do not test a specific hypothesis.
  • The proposal is technology driven rather than hypothesis driven (i.e., a method in search of a problem).
  • Rationale for experiments not provided (why important, or how relevant to the hypothesis).
  • Direction or sense of priority not clearly defined, i.e., the experiments do not follow from one another, and lack a clear starting or finishing point.
  • Lack of alternative methodological approaches in case the primary approach does not work out.
  • Insufficient methodological detail to convince reviewers the investigator knows what he or she is doing (no recognition of potential problems and pitfalls).
  • Most experiments depend on success of an initial proposed experiment (so all remaining experiments may be worthless if the first is not successful).
  • The proposed model system is not appropriate to address the proposed questions (i.e., proposing to study T-cell gene expression in a B-cell line).
  • The proposed experiments do not include all relevant controls.
  • Proposal innovative but lacking enough preliminary data.
  • Preliminary data do not support the feasibility of the project or the hypothesis.
  • Investigator does not have experience (i.e., publications or appropriate preliminary data) with the proposed techniques or has not recruited a collaborator who does.
  • The proposal lacks critical literature references causing reviewers to think that the applicant either does not know the literature or has purposely neglected critical published material.
  • Not clear which data were obtained by the investigator and which have been reported by others.

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