Zotac unveils two Thunderbolt 3 enclosures to attach external GPUs to Apple’s MacBooks


Zotac unveils two Thunderbolt 3 enclosures to attach external GPUs to Apple’s MacBooks

Zotac is joining the slowly growing market of external enclosures potentially capable of using Thunderbolt 3 to connect to a MacBook, unveiling at Computex the Thunderbolt 3 External Graphics Dock for connecting a graphics card to a host system, alongside a smaller Thunderbolt 3 External Box meant for attaching other hardware.

The Thunderbolt 3 External Graphics Dock is an enclosure meant to house graphics cards, with Zotac advising it is compatible with cards up to the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. According to Tom’s Hardware, the device supports cards up to 9 inches in length, restricting its usage to shorter graphics cards.

In order to accommodate the power needs of a graphics card, the enclosure includes its own 400-Watt internal power supply, which is also capable of charging a connected notebook. So far, Zotac has not advised of how much power it could deliver to a connected system.

Like other GPU enclosures, it connects via Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type-C to a notebook or a desktop, providing transfer speeds of up to 40Gb/s, and potentially allowing a notebook to take advantage of the graphics card for gaming, video editing, and other specialized needs. The unit also offers extra connectivity options, with four USB 3.0 ports, and a Quick Charge 3.0 port.

The second device, the Thunderbolt 3 External Box, performs a similar function to the graphics dock, but it is generally meant for other types of PCI-e hardware. Tech Power Up reports the enclosure includes a smaller 120-Watt power supply without any additional PCIe power connectors, meaning it will work with graphics cards that can function adequately that just draw power from the PCI-Express 3.0×16 slot.

Rather than for a graphics card, the Thunderbolt 3 External Box is intended for other hardware that uses the PCI-e slot, such as PCI-e solid state drives or multiple-port network cards. Just as with the graphics dock, the enclosure also has four USB 3.0 ports, with an extra 32Gb/s M.2 NVMe slot internally.

Zotac has yet to confirm how much the Thunderbolt 3 External Graphics Dock and Thunderbolt 3 External Box will cost, nor when the two enclosures will start shipping.

via AppleInsider
Zotac unveils two Thunderbolt 3 enclosures to attach external GPUs to Apple’s MacBooks

Introducing the Ruger American Rimfire Stainless

Ruger American Rimfire Stainless
Ruger American Rimfire Stainless

Ruger FirearmsU.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. (NYSE: RGR) is proud to introduce the Ruger American Rimfire Stainless. In response to voice of the customer feedback, Ruger engineers have worked diligently to create a stainless steel configuration of this popular rifle in three calibers. Available in .22 LR, .22 WMR and .17 HMR, these stainless steel and synthetic rimfire rifles live up to Ruger’s reputation for accurate, rugged and reliable firearms.

These new Ruger American Rimfire models feature a 416 stainless steel barrel, bolt and receiver. Hand-buffed from end to end, the satin finish is highlighted by the contrasting black thread protector, bolt release, stock and one-piece Picatinny scope base. The 18” cold hammer-forged barrel free-floats in the lightweight synthetic stock and is finished with a ½”-28 threaded muzzle.

The Ruger American Rimfire rifle also features the renowned, patented Ruger Power Bedding integral bedding system, Ruger Marksman Adjustable trigger and ultra-reliable rotary magazine. The modular stock system helps to adjust the rifle fit to the shooter by allowing for different comb heights and lengths of pull. These new models ship with a high comb, standard length of pull module installed, providing ideal cheek weld for optics.

Ruger American Rimfire Stainless
Ruger American Rimfire Stainless

For more information about the Ruger American Rimfire or to learn more about the extensive line of award-winning Ruger firearms, visit Ruger.com or Facebook.com/Ruger. To find accessories for Ruger firearms, visit ShopRuger.com or your local independent retailer of Ruger firearms.

Ruger American Rimfire Stainless Specs

About Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.

Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. is one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of rugged, reliable firearms for the commercial sporting market. As a full-line manufacturer of American-made firearms, Ruger offers consumers over 400 variations of more than 30 product lines. For more than 60 years, Ruger has been a model of corporate and community responsibility. Our motto, “Arms Makers for Responsible Citizens,” echoes the importance of these principles as we work hard to deliver quality and innovative firearms

This post Introducing the Ruger American Rimfire Stainless appeared first on AmmoLand.com Shooting Sports News .

via AmmoLand.com Shooting Sports News
Introducing the Ruger American Rimfire Stainless

Watch 95 Weird, Wondrous Minutes of Star Wars Found Footage Through the Decades

This isn’t even close to the weirdest thing in this video. Image: YouTube

Star Wars is one of those franchises that has been everywhere and done everything. There probably isn’t a “thing” you can imagine that Star Wars hasn’t been at some point: porn parody, pet toys, television show, garden tools, virtual reality, you name it and Star Wars has probably done it.

And if it’s been done, it’s probably in this absolutely insane video put together by the Cinefamily in Los Angeles.

For the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, Cinefamily held a special screening of this 95-minute film comprised totally of real footage of Star Wars in culture throughout its existence. Some of it is normal. Most of it is not. From classic news stories and commercials to weird parodies and behind the scenes clips, there’s so much here, it’s unbelievable. Check it out.


via Gizmodo
Watch 95 Weird, Wondrous Minutes of Star Wars Found Footage Through the Decades

Stop Mowing Your Lawn

I grew up mowing a giant, mangy lawn. My family lived on an acre of hilltop land, which we kept shaggily mowed, too spiky to walk on in our bare feet. On one side was a cornfield. On the other side was our neighbor, Mr. Howland, the Ned Flanders of lawn care. He seeded his lawn with fine golf-course-grade grass, mowed and sprayed it weekly, and even rolled it flat like an off-season Zamboni driver.

Mr. Howland’s lawn infuriated me. I stewed about it every time I gingerly steered our riding mower around the nest of killdeer in the unkempt grass, and as I mowed along the property line, grimacing at the clear Goofus-and-Gallant contrast. After I mowed, I would tromp across our acre of brown spiky stubble and take off my shoes on Mr. Howland’s lawn.

Well, well, well: It turns out that ours was the morally correct lawn. It would have been more correct if we’d mowed even less and let the grass grow to its natural height, or ceded some of the backyard to the wild field of pheasant grass. We didn’t need to be ashamed of dandelions, or brown patches, or ground-nesting birds.


As The Nib’s Ted Steinberg and Shannon Wright explain in their comic “Hate Mowing Your Lawn? Good! Don’t Do It,” the regularly mowed lawn is a recent invention, popularized in the U.S. only after World War II. Its rapid expansion, driven by lawn-care companies and reliant on invasive species of grass, sucks up nearly 20 trillion gallons of water a year, 50 to 75% of home water use each summer. While lawns, like any plant life, suck up greenhouse gases, the energy spent on their care wipes out any gains. Cutting back on lawn care is one of the easiest ways you can reduce your climate-change impact. You’ll burn less fossil fuel, and the taller grass will retain more moisture.

So I win the long game, Mr. Howland. And I know you were mowing over our property line.

via Lifehacker
Stop Mowing Your Lawn

Impression v. Lexmark: Patent Rights Exhausted by Sale, Domestic or Abroad

By Jason Rantanen

Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc. (2017) – Download opinion

In a  straightforward and almost unanimous opinion authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit on both domestic (8-0) and international exhaustion (7-1).

The Supreme Court’s opinion is summed up by a single sentence early on. “We conclude that a patentee’s decision to sell a product exhausts all of its patent rights in that item, regardless of any restrictions the patentee purports to impose or the location of the sale.”  Slip Op. at 1.  The underlying  rationale is offered a bit later: “Patent exhaustion reflects the principle that, when an item passes into commerce, it should not be shaded by a legal cloud on title as it moves through the marketplace.”  Slip Op. at 11.  With these two pronouncements, the Supreme Court has in one swoop both simplified patent law and added new complexities, challenges and opportunities to the innovation ecosystem.

Impression v. Lexmark involved, at its core, the question of whether restrictions placed on a patented product could be enforced through an infringement suit–often a more viable legal mechanism for the patent owner than an an action for breach of contract.

Under Federal Circuit precedent, the answer for over two decades was yes.  The theory relied upon by the Federal Circuit in decisions such as Malkinkrodt, and reaffirmed by the en banc court in Lexmark v. Impression, was that the patent owner could decide to give away only some of its patent rights when it sold or authorized the sale of a patented product.  As a result, the patent owner could sue a party who violated those restrictions for patent infringement because, the theory went, the purchaser did not possess the relevant set of patent permissions–the “sticks” in the “bundle of rights” that the patent owner possessed.  Thus, for example, a patent owner could place a single-use only restriction on an ink cartridge or medical device and sue for infringement if the device were reused.  In short, the exhaustion rule was effectively default rule of patent law that the parties could contract around.

The Supreme Court rejected this approach, basing its conclusion on common law principles of ownership as reflected in its 1853 decision in Bloomer v. McQuewan.  “For over 160 years, the doctrine of patent exhaustion has imposed a limit on [patentees’ right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling their invention].”  Slip Op. at 5-6. “When a patentee chooses to sell an item, that product ‘is no longer within the limits of the monopoly’ and instead becomes the ‘private, individual property’ of the purchaser, with the rights and benefits that come along with ownership.”  Id., quoting Bloomer. While a patent owner may impose contractual restrictions, those restrictions are a matter of contract law, not patent law.  “A patentee is free to set the price and negotiate contracts with purchasers, but may not, ‘by virtue of his patent, control the use or disposition’ of the product after ownership passes to the purchaser. United States v. Univis Lens Co., 316 U. S. 241, 250 (1942) (emphasis added).”  Once  a patent owner sells a patented product, it has obtained the patent reward and may no longer rely on patent law.  Referencing its opinion in Kirsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 568 U.S. 519, 538 (2013), the Court observed that exhaustion has “an impeccable historic pedigree,” a backdrop against which Congress has repeatedly revised and fine-tuned the patent law.

The Federal Circuit’s error was that it started from the wrong place: interpreting the  infringement statute.  But “the exhaustion doctrine is not a presumption about the authority that comes along with a sale; it is instead a limit on ‘the scope of the patentee’s rights.’”  Slip Op. at 10, quoting United States v. General Elec. Co., 272 U. S. 476, 489 (1926) (emphasis added).   The sale transfers the foundational rights to use, sell or import the product sold; it simultaneously exhausts the patent rights:

The right to use, sell, or import an item exists independently of the Patent Act. What a patent adds—and grants exclusively to the patentee—is a limited right to prevent others from engaging in those practices. See Crown Die & Tool Co. v. Nye Tool & Machine Works, 261 U. S. 24, 35 (1923). Exhaustion extinguishes that exclusionary power. See Bloomer, 14 How., at 549 (the purchaser “exercises no rights created by the act of Congress, nor does he derive title to [the item]by virtue of the . . . exclusive privilege granted to the patentee”). As a result, the sale transfers the right to use, sell, or import because those are the rights that come along with ownership, and the buyer is free and clear of an infringement lawsuit because there is no exclusionary right left to enforce.”

Exhaustion applies regardless of whether the patent owner sells the product or a licensee–even a licensee subject to restrictions by the patent owner.  “A patentee’s authority to limit licensees does not, as the Federal Circuit thought, mean that patentees can use licenses to impose post-sale restrictions on purchasers that are enforceable through the patent laws. So long as a licensee complies with the license when selling an item, the patentee has, in effect, authorized the sale.” Slip Op. at 11-12.

“In sum, patent exhaustion is uniform and automatic. Once a patentee decides to sell—whether on its own or through a licensee—that sale exhausts its patent rights,regardless of any post-sale restrictions the patentee purports to impose, either directly or through a license.”

The Court also held that foreign sales exhausted U.S. patent rights–in other words, a system of global exhaustion.  This conclusion, too, was bolstered by a common law policy against restraints on the alienation of chattels.

Justice Ginsburg concurred with the Court’s holding on domestic exhaustion but dissented with respect to international exhaustion.  She would hold that “A foreign sale…does not exhaust a U.S. inventor’s U.S. patent rights.”

What’s left? Lexmark strikes a powerful blow against post-sale restrictions by negating the threat of infringement to enforce those restrictions.  But it hardly eliminates such restrictions–to the contrary, the Court is clear that such restrictions may still be enforced under contract law.  In addition, the Court’s opinion revolves around sales of products.  Left unanswered is the role that patents will continue to play in non-complete transfers–licenses of a good or service rather than a sale.

Previous Patently-O Commentary:



via Patent Law Blog (Patently-O)
Impression v. Lexmark: Patent Rights Exhausted by Sale, Domestic or Abroad

Star Wars Nothing But Star Wars

Star Wars Nothing But Star Wars


To celebrate 40 years of Star Wars, Cinefamily TV created this epic video mixtape loaded with insane and obscure footage, from interviews, to parodies, to fan tributes, and much more. If you’re not prepared to spend 95 minutes right now, the trailer should convince you.

via The Awesomer
Star Wars Nothing But Star Wars

Judah Vs. The Machines: In which a robot services a hotel room

Robots remain a rare sight outside of labs in most of the world, but in Silicon Valley, they have already started taking on service jobs. In this episode of Judah Vs. The Machines, Judah visits the Crowne Plaza hotel in San Jose to check out Relay, a hotel service robot that can autonomously bring guests food and other necessities.

After poking Relay’s creator, Steve Cousins about equal pay for robots, Judah decides to compete head-to-head to see whether a machine can actually best a human at hospitality. The hotel arranges a competitive delivery challenge to see if Relay can secure higher service ratings from guests. And while robots are a long way from running hotels by themselves, Relay has the advantage of being fast, quiet and unconcerned with tips.

Outside of hospitality, Cousins’ company, Savioke, also puts its robots to use in research labs and industrial facilities where specialty items are needed on a moments notice. Relay and all of its brethren are on track to take up service jobs at new hotels in the near future, though, for now, they only operate well in environments that tend not to change much — this is one place where humans still hold an ace card.

See all eight episodes of Judah vs. the Machines here.

via TechCrunch
Judah Vs. The Machines: In which a robot services a hotel room

A Bare Bones Kit for Getting Started with Hand Tools, Building a Swedish Torch Camp Stove, Outdoor Furniture & More

The Beginning Hand Tool Kit

Thinking of getting into hand tools? Here Shannon Rogers, founder of The Hand Tool School, shows you the beginning hand tool kit:

Backyard Gazebo for $500 w/ Limited Tools

Linn from Darbin Orvar tackles another large-scale project, this time constructing a gazebo on her father-in-law’s property, using just a jigsaw and a hammer:

DIY Swedish Torch and Camp Stove

Ben Uyeda does something a bit different this week, creating a "Swedish torch"-style camping stove:

HomeMade Modern Loft Tour: The Bathroom

Not a build video, but this tour of Ben Uyeda’s bathroom is cool because we get to see how many of the projects he’s built have actually become integrated into his life:

Making Cedar Lawn Chairs

In this sponsored post, John Heisz builds outdoor furniture using DeWalts’s Flexvolt line of tools:

Harbor Freight Belt Sander to Shop Vac Dust Port Adapter

Ben Brandt shows off a killer app for people who have shops and own 3D printers: Being able to make virtually any kind of dust port you need. With your own 3D printer, compatibility is no longer an issue.

via Core77
A Bare Bones Kit for Getting Started with Hand Tools, Building a Swedish Torch Camp Stove, Outdoor Furniture & More

Are Copyright and Patent Overlapping or Mutually Exclusive in Protecting Software Innovations?

Guest Post by Pamela Samuelson, Berkeley Law School.  Professor Samuelson’s newest article Functionality and Expression in Computer Programs: Refining the Tests for Software Copyright Infringement, is forthcoming in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal.

“Neither the Copyright Statute nor any other says that because a thing is patentable it may not be copyrighted. We should not so hold.” So said the Supreme Court in Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 217 (1954).

In Oracle Am. Inc. v. Google Inc., 750 F.3d 1339 (Fed. Cir. 2014), the Federal Circuit invoked this language in rejecting Google’s “policy” argument that application program interface (API) designs were more appropriately patent, not copyright, subject matter. Id. at 1380-81. The Oracle decision seemingly accepted as unobjectionable the possibility of overlapping utility patent and copyright protections in program interfaces, and perhaps even of copyright as a gap filler for interface designs for which patents had not been obtained.

Because the contours of copyright and patent protections for software innovations remain unclear notwithstanding more than 50 years of experience trying to apply these intellectual property (IP) regimes to these utilitarian writings and virtual machines, the question of whether or to what extent copyright and patent overlap or are mutually exclusive continues to bedevil the field. The Federal Circuit’s Oracle decision is unlikely to be the last word on this subject.

Recently, I rediscovered the 1991 study that the Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) and the Copyright Office wrote about the software IP overlap or exclusivity issue. The Patent-Copyright Laws Overlap Study (May 1991) was prepared at the behest of the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property and the Administration of Justice. The Study is more than 90 pages in length and has more than 50 pages of appendices.

[1991 Patent-Copyright Overlap Study]

Among the most significant of the Study’s software findings is that there is “no overlap in subject matter: copyright protects the authorship in a set of statements that bring about a certain result in the operation of a computer, and patents cover novel and nonobvious computer processes.” Letter from Ralph Oman and Harry F. Manbeck to the Hon. William J. Hughes, July 17, 1991 (transmitting the Study to the then Chair of the House Subcommittee).

Another finding is that “[p]atent protection is not available for computer programs per se,” which supports the Study’s conclusion that copyright and utility patent for programs are not “coextensive.” Study at iii (emphasis in the original). The Study identifies the doctrinal rationale for this exclusivity: program innovations “consist of mental steps or printed matter.” Id. at vii. Copyright and patent could, however, protect “totally different aspects” of program innovations. Id. at 2. The Study cited to the Supreme Court’s decision in Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99 (1879) as the “bedrock opinion for the view that patent and copyright are mutually exclusive.” Id. at 19.

As for user interface designs, the Study reports that “[t]he mere display on a screen of commands, menus, questions and answers, forms, or icons is not generally considered patentable subject matter for utility patents” because “it is generally considered to be merely printed matter.” Id. at 45-46. Yet processes to produce user interface displays might be eligible for utility patenting. Id. at 47. (The Study discusses the possibility of design patent protection for icons. Id. at 46-47.)

Insofar as user interface screen displays have original expressive elements (e.g., videogame graphics), they would be eligible for copyright protection. Id. at 60-67. However, many aspects of user interface designs are akin to blank forms and lack originality. Id. at 68-69. Some aspects of user interfaces, such as lists of commands, are uncopyrightable under the doctrines of merger and scenes a faire and the words and short phrases exclusion. Id. at 70-71.

The Study recognized that some commentators had raised concerns about overbroad copyright protection for programs; yet, others, it noted, think that expansive protection is needed. Id. at 86-87. The Study concluded that this debate notwithstanding, it would be “premature” to conclude that the risks of overbroad protections were significant as there is “no overlap in subject matter” between copyright and patent. Id. at 88-90. The Study urged Congress to wait and see how the law evolved. Id. at 89.

“At the bottom of this debate,” said the Study, “it appears is the question of protection of functionality….” Id. at 87. It would be contrary to the statutory exclusions set forth in 17 U.S.C. § 102(b) for copyright to protect program functionality. (“In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated or embodied in such work.”) Study at 87. According to the Study, the protection of functionality “is assigned to patents where a much more rigorous test must be undergone and the barriers to entry in terms of time, cost, and complexity, are higher.” Id. at 88.

It is unfortunate that the Federal Circuit did not have access to this Study when deciding the copyrightability issue in the Oracle case, as its conclusions might have given the court pause about invoking the Mazer overlap-endorsing dicta in response to Google’s mutual exclusivity argument.

In a forthcoming article, Functionality and Expression in Computer Programs: Refining the Tests for Software Copyright Infringement, I challenge the Federal Circuit’s conclusion that copyright and utility patent can provide overlapping IP protections for software innovations. The article notes that the Mazer dicta was made in the context of a real, if partial, overlap in copyright and design patent subject matters. Stein’s statuette qualified as a work of art under U.S. copyright law. However, used as the base of a lamp, the design was also eligible for design patent protection as an ornamental design of an article of manufacture.

The Court in Mazer was unequivocal about copyright and utility patents having separate domains. It cited approvingly to two of Baker’s progeny that had held “that the Mechanical Patent Law and Copyright Laws are mutually exclusive,” Mazer, 201 U.S at 215, n.33 (emphasis added). See Taylor Instrument Co. v. Fawley-Brost Co., 139 F.2d 98 (7th Cir. 1943) (no copyright in temperature recording charts because they were integral parts of previously patented machines) and Brown Instrument Co. v. Warner, 161 F.2d 910 (D.C. Cir. 1947) (accord). Overlaps in design patent and copyright subject matters had, by contrast, long been accepted. Mazer, 201 U.S. at 215, n.33.

The exact contours of utility patent and copyright protections for software innovations may not shimmer with clarity, but the 1991 Study adheres to the Supreme Court’s long-standing pronouncements in Baker and Mazer that copyright and utility patent are and should be mutually exclusive. Now if only the Federal Circuit can be made to understand this.

via Patent Law Blog (Patently-O)
Are Copyright and Patent Overlapping or Mutually Exclusive in Protecting Software Innovations?

The best-kept secrets to winning grants

Illustration by Sébastien Thibault

Anaesthesiologist and clinical researcher Peter Nagele started his first independent position in good shape. It was 2007 and he had already earned two early career grants for his laboratory at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. But when he applied for his first major research grants from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) he got two crushing rejections.

Nagele had made some rookie mistakes: one proposal, for a 10,000-patient clinical trial, was too large in scope to be eligible, and the other was not a priority research area for the agency. “Those projects never saw the light of day,” he says, “and rightfully so.”

By his third attempt he had learnt some invaluable tips and tricks. He got feedback from colleagues on his draft proposal, he talked to a grants programme officer at the NIH to work out the best strategy, and he added experienced co-investigators to his proposal.

In 2015, his homework paid off. His application for a smaller clinical trial to look at the use of beta-blockers to prevent post-surgery heart problems was funded for roughly US$500,000 a year. The difference between failure and success, in his opinion, was “significance of the research and feasibility.” He demonstrated to reviewers that he and his collaborators would be able to do the work on time and on budget.

Competition for funding is ruthless, and the stakes are particularly high at the NIH — the largest single source of funding for biomedical research in the world. The agency’s research-project grants — R01s and other, similar grants — are the main mechanism for funding investigator-initiated biomedical research in the United States, supporting about 27,500 investigators at any given time. The 5-year average success rate is 18% of the applicant pool — a historic low that shows little sign of moving, given the relatively flat NIH budget since 2008 and uncertainty about its prospects. As a result, grant reviewers resort to finding any flaw they can to weed out applications.

That creates a daunting challenge — particularly for young investigators, who don’t yet know the ropes. “The system has many biases in it — unintended, by and large. But certainly the more experience someone has, the more these biases work in their favour,” says Jon Lorsch, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) in Bethesda, Maryland, which awards more than 11% of the research grants funded by the NIH.

Experienced researchers and grant managers know that scientists can increase their chances of success, for example, by taking full advantage of the programmes designed to help new investigators, teaming up with senior colleagues when appropriate, choosing the right budget and funding mechanisms, and talking early and often with NIH staff who are there to advise. Nature spoke with experts in ‘grantsmanship’ and delved into the data to find out what works — and what common advice is best ignored. Much of the guidance translates to grant applications elsewhere in the world, particularly for the young scientists that many funders are looking to court and nurture.

Early-career investigators are unknown quantities to a grant-review panel, says Lorsch. “But they are no less important” to the system.

Embrace your inexperience

Since 2008 the NIH has tried to reverse the tilt in the playing field that gives established investigators a funding advantage. One strategy has been to prioritize ‘new investigators’, those who have never had NIH funding for an independent project. New investigators who obtained their final research degree or completed their medical residency within the past ten years are considered early-stage investigators (ESIs). When applications come in, they are split into groups; those from new investigators are compared against one another, but not against those from more-established researchers. This allows scientists to compete against applicants who have similar experience and resources.

Applications from new investigators and ESIs must win funding for new applications at roughly the same rate as do those from established investigators. And half of the successful proposals from new investigators must be from ESIs. Age is no barrier: in 2016, about 300 investigators won their first R01 awards aged 50 or older.

The data show that these rules even out the success rates across age groups. But they have done less to spread out total funding dollars (see ‘The NIH’s long tail’). Just 10% of NIH-funded investigators receive more than 40% of NIH funding. So, the NIH also conducts ‘special council reviews’ of any proposal from investigators who already hold $1 million or more in funding. This month, it announced a points system, called the Grant Support Index, to limit the amount of funding and the number of large grants that any one scientist can hold. The proposed index assigns a value to each type of grant and limits researchers to 21 points — the equivalent of three R01 grants at a time.

It’s important that researchers with new-investigator or ESI status use it to their advantage, says John D. Robertson, owner of the Grant Writers’ Seminars and Workshops, a company based in Buellton, California, that helps researchers with their grant applications. Young investigators should also enquire about extending their ESI status if their research has been interrupted for reasons such as parental leave, medical leave, extended medical training beyond residency, active military duty or even natural disasters.

But applications from such researchers must still demonstrate competence and independence in ways that might not be required of more established researchers, who are well known among reviewers. ESIs must provide enough detail in their proposals to show that they can carry out the planned research.

Add someone senior — maybe

Scott Fears, a psychiatrist and geneticist at the VA West Los Angeles Medical Center in California, has struggled to earn his own R01 for work studying the developing brains of vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus). But in another line of research, he earned a smaller, two-year grant known as an R03 after including a more-established collaborator to make it a multi-investigator grant. The reviewers, Fears says, indicated that his collaborator’s experience was a factor in their scoring. “Adding her has gotten me nothing but positive comments,” he says.

Many young investigators wonder if teaming up with a better-known researcher in their field would boost their chances, too. Anecdotally, the approach seems to help some researchers, but experts warn that the strategy can backfire.

There are two ways to include other investigators in an application. One is to add a co-investigator who brings specific expertise or equipment to a project. The other, for projects that are multidisciplinary in nature, is for two or more scientists to apply for a multi-investigator grant; in this case, each researcher is responsible for different components of the project.

At the NIH, multi-investigator applications come with some caveats: ESIs who team up with non-ESIs will negate their early-career advantage for that application. And under the current vision for the Grant Support Index, a share in a multi-investigator grant scores nearly as highly (6 points) as a single-investigator R01 (7 points). Robertson advises adding a senior person as co-investigator instead, which does not jeopardize the ESI status and, at least for now, doesn’t add points to the co-investigator’s Grant Support Index.

Nagele tried this in his third attempt at an R01, and included two co-investigators who had the experience and expertise to get his project done. It worked, he says. But this strategy could have drawbacks, too. The partnership must make sense from a scientific perspective, other­wise reviewers could see it as an attempt to ride the coat-tails of a bigger name. And if the co-investigator is a past supervisor, reviewers might criticize the applicant as not being sufficiently independent — a consideration that could also affect tenure decisions even if the application is successful.

“It’s only an advantage if the person is really a co-investigator, doing the work as a collaborator,” Robertson says.

Ask for more money

Another decision young investigators face in their first R01 application is whether to go with a research budget that fits the modular-budget mechanism — that is, one for budgets of less than $250,000 a year. Applications for more than that must include a detailed accounting of how the money will be spent on personnel, equipment, travel and research. Many young investigators report that senior departmental colleagues advise them not to ask for more than $250,000 in their first applications — the rationale being that the NIH won’t want to hand big sums to an inexperienced scientist.

“This is a consistent refrain,” says Casey Greene, a computational biologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. “As I scientist, I did not view the evidence as compelling.”

Taking a modular budget, especially in light of the yearly budget-slimming cuts that the NIH applies to all awards, might hurt a young lab’s research. And the data suggest that it won’t improve the chances of winning a grant. Of the 22,765 R01s that were being funded in 2016, 55% had budgets of less than $250,000 and 45% had budgets of between $250,000 and $5 million. About 56% of new awardees aged 45 or under held ‘non-modular’ budgets, of more than $250,000. And nearly half of those investigators were classified as new investigators (see ‘The ‘mod’ squad’).

When the NIGMS analysed the new grants it had awarded in the past five years, it found that although only 14% of ESIs apply for non-modular budgets, their success rate, of 25%, was better than that for established investigators. It was even slightly better than for their ESI peers who applied for the lower, modular budgets. Experts advise researchers to apply only for as much money as they genuinely need.

Even so, perceived inexperience with large budgets can be a hindrance in the review room. Fears confronted the budget issue with his monkey experiments, which are notoriously expensive. Reviewers’ feedback told him that they thought his study was statistically underpowered, but they were unwilling to give him the bigger budget that he would need to increase the sample size. “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t sometimes seems like a theme at NIH,” he says.

Don’t bank on the R21

Wendy Walwyn, an addiction researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, thought she had stumbled on exactly the kind of translational research that the NIH was interested in when she found a connection between dietary omega-3 fatty acids and reduced anxiety during opioid withdrawal. It suggested that a simple change in diet might help drug addicts to quit.

She called various programme officers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse to ask which study section, or reviewer panel, was most appropriate. “They all said the same thing: you shouldn’t combine preclinical research and clinical work in the same application,” she recalls.

They suggested that, instead, she split the proposal into two applications for a two-year grant mechanism designed to fund exploratory studies: the R21. “I had already tried that. Twice,” says Walwyn. It wasn’t a successful strategy.

The R21 is often a go-to grant for young investigators starting up labs. Many look at it as a way to gather preliminary data to support an R01 application, or as ‘bridge’ funding to tide them over once they’ve exhausted their start-up funds, until they get an R01.

But Walwyn’s story of R21 failure and frustration is not uncommon. Many investigators feel that the R21’s two-year payout is not worth the time and effort spent writing the application: “I only bother writing R01s — as opposed to R21s — for the amount of science one can do for the amount of headache,” says Greene.

Not only that, but fewer R21s are given out each year — just 2,219 in 2016, compared with 6,065 R01s and equivalent grants. And they are harder to get: the overall success rate for R21s in 2016 was 15%, several percentage points lower than for R01s.

Stephen Piccolo, a bioinformatician at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, learned this lesson personally. He had been told to stay away from R21s, but he ignored that advice when he saw an announcement requesting applications from people in his field of cancer informatics. His proposal earned a competitive percentile score, but he found out in April that it is unlikely to be funded. He’s still optimistic about the R21 mechanism and plans to submit a revised proposal. But he is also practical about its limitations. “If you feel like your project is the right scope for an R01, then don’t go for the shorter grant — keep trying until you get the R01.”

Talk to the programme officers

Programme officers, also called programme directors, are NIH employees who shepherd grant applications through the system, from submission to award. Their role includes advising investigators by e-mail and on the phone — but not every scientist takes full advantage of this opportunity.

“There’s not any question that is off-limits,” says Alexandra Ainsztein, a programme director in the division of cell biology and biophysics at the NIGMS. New investigators should ask about the various institute missions and research priorities that can affect the decision to fund, says Stacia Friedman-Hill, a programme director at the National Institute of Mental Health.

“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t sometimes seems like a theme at NIH.”

These considerations can often mean that proposals with scores outside the fundable range, especially from ESIs, might get a ‘reach’ and be funded, she says. Programme officers can also advise on each institute’s favoured grant mechanisms and probable paylines — the percentile-score cut-offs for funding. The best time to start talking is before a proposal is written. From just a page or outline of specific aims, a programme officer can help to guide researchers to the right study section or a specific funding opportunity, or can suggest adjustments that align with the institute’s current research priorities.

They will also point out if experimental approaches or research questions are not likely to be funded. Nagele knows this. After a discovery that the anaesthetic gas nitrous oxide could act as an antidepressant, he and his collaborators wanted to submit an R01 application for a clinical trial of that idea. A discussion with a programme officer at the National Institute of Mental Health revealed that the institute does not fund clinical trials unless the intervention works on a specific biological target in the brain; the mechanism was unknown for nitrous oxide.

“Had we prepared that R01, after several weeks or months of work, it would have been dead on arrival,” says Nagele. Instead, he applied for and won an R21 to investigate where nitrous oxide acts in the brain.

Another time to seek advice is on receipt of a review-summary statement after the study-section meeting. If an application’s score falls well outside the probable payline, a programme officer can tell investigators which criticisms carried the most weight during review and should therefore be given priority when the application is revised for resubmission. The programme officer can also offer guidance if an application’s score is close to what might be funded; paylines can shift for various reasons.

Ainsztein often advises investigators in this “doughnut hole” range to resubmit an application before funding decisions are made because, as experiments continue, they usually have updates. And a resubmission does not prevent the first attempt from being successful. “It is more work,” Ainsztein says, “But there are no guarantees until the award notice goes out.”

Programme officers ask that researchers be respectful of their time, however — waiting until three days before a deadline to seek help with a grant is ill-advised.

Ainsztein also encourages researchers to get involved in the review process itself. Young scientists, she says, should apply to the Early Career Reviewer programme at the NIH, which allows them to serve as grant reviewers in a limited capacity. Learning the process from the inside can be invaluable (see ‘Grant guidance’). Piccolo did this and says that the experience bolstered his confidence. After seeing other people’s proposals, he says, “I thought, ‘I can do this. If I put the effort in, I can be successful’.”

Grant guidance

Quick tips you’ve never heard

• Watch a video of a mock study-section discussion by the National Institutes of Health Center for Scientific Review.

• Do not name potential reviewers in your cover letter. This will immediately disqualify those people as having a potential conflict of interest.

• Do name names when requesting in your cover letter that a direct competitor should not review your grant application.

• Look for ‘funding opportunity announcements’ or ‘requests for applications’ that identify institutes’ specific research priorities. Often, success rates for these dedicated pools of funding are higher than for general review pools.

• Do not oversell medical significance or pop a disease name into your title, if your research is really fundamental in nature. It could send your application to the wrong institute or study section, significantly lowering your chances.

But optimism is not in vast supply these days. Dara Ghahremani, an addiction researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, says he feels as if he is on a grant-writing treadmill and someone keeps turning up the speed. Ghahremani earned an R21 early in his associate research-faculty position, but has since failed in seven attempts to obtain R21s and other grants. He has resorted to applying as a co-investigator on other people’s grant applications to cover his salary. With his time spread thinly, he has not been able to publish his own work in a timely manner, making it harder to apply for independent funding.

And the treadmill doesn’t stop after that first R01 is secured. Lorsch and his NIH colleagues are very much aware that renewing an R01 grant is also a daunting task. The success rate for first-time renewals has dropped dramatically over the past decade, from about 53% to 32%.

“We don’t want to bring a whole bunch of ESIs into the system if there’s not much for them downstream,” says Lorsch. He has some simple advice for those investigators who have earned their first R01: “Focus on the work you are doing for that grant.” That means ignoring the temptation to immediately try to win a second major grant, he says. The number one reason that investigators fail to renew a grant is that they have not shown enough productivity or progress, Lorsch says.

For the many young investigators whose first R01 attempts are triaged without being scored, Friedman-Hill offers encouragement: “Fifty per cent of the applications didn’t get discussed. They have good company.” Those applications come from a mix of new, experienced and very senior investigators, she says. “The difference is that experienced investigators will just keep trying.”

via news@nature.com
The best-kept secrets to winning grants