You say that a petition by US biomedical scientists against the one-retry limit on grant applications to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was “beside the point”, despite acknowledging the validity of their arguments (Nature 492, 7; 2012). As the petition's author, I disagree: trying to correct a poor policy decision is not the entire point, as we all recognize, but it is most certainly part of the point.
We believe that the petition — which has now been signed by more than 3,000 scientists (see go.nature.com/x5tik5) — outweighs the questionable arguments for retention of the policy put forth by the NIH (see go.nature.com/mwfqel).
In our view, NIH study sections cannot distinguish the quality of proposals in the first quartile. Therefore, once the percentage of applications being funded falls significantly below the 25th percentile, those in the first quartile that go unfunded should be allowed to resubmit as many times as they wish because they are equal in merit to those that are funded.
We are not in the grip of an “unhealthy” obsession, as you suggest. The NIH's unfair decision could be undone with the stroke of a pen, which would help to ease these tough times for biomedical research. We urge scientists to continue working on all fronts to contain the damage caused by reduced federal spending on research.