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The Hard Decisions

For researchers looking for grants, it can be difficult to understand how a committee makes its funding decisions. Nature News’ Kendall Powell says that these decisions are not made lightly, especially when there are many solid applications for only a handful of grants. “The real question is whether good, solid work is enough when as much as $800,000 is at stake — the cost of supporting a cancer investigator and his or her lab over four years,” Powell says, adding that “the competition is extreme.” Funding success rates are down, in part because of the economic downturn. This puts pressure on the reviewers, who say they feel forced to make impossible choices, Powell adds. Even some “outstanding” grants are sometimes rejected in favor of others, simply because there’s not enough money to fund everything. How can one gain the edge in such an environment? Well, Powell says, one idea is for researchers to run their applications through a peer-review process of their own making, by sharing the proposal with colleagues, getting their feedback, and using their contacts to “sniff out the personality of the panel and the nature of the competition.” Asking for help, she adds, is always a good idea.

The Scan

Not as High as Hoped

The Associated Press says initial results from a trial of CureVac's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine suggests low effectiveness in preventing COVID-19.

Finding Freshwater DNA

A new research project plans to use eDNA sampling to analyze freshwater rivers across the world, the Guardian reports.

Rise in Payments

Kaiser Health News investigates the rise of payments made by medical device companies to surgeons that could be in violation of anti-kickback laws.

Nature Papers Present Ginkgo Biloba Genome Assembly, Collection of Polygenic Indexes, More

In Nature this week: a nearly complete Ginkgo biloba genome assembly, polygenic indexes for dozens of phenotypes, and more.