It's my lunch break at study section, and I felt compelled to share a few thoughts.
What is the MOST IMPORTANT part of your grant application? Shiny colored figures? Cover story on the JCI? Novel, patented assay?
Silly people: it's the title and abstract! Why is this so? Because your study section assignment and reviewers will be based primarily on these parts of the grant!
My current assignment is with a VA Merit Review section. We have a wonderful system where the reviewers can see titles and abstracts to pick ones they would love to review and those they absolutely should not review. Over time, I have discovered that prostaglandins confuse me. It is unfair to the PI to have me review a grant dealing primarily with prostaglandins. Thus, I exclude myself from those applications.
Every once in a while, I get assigned an application with significant prostagladin work that wasn't described in the title or abstract. I have finally decided that the PI, in these cases, deserves what they get. Which is generally me dozing off somewhere in the experimental plan. Falling asleep during a review NEVER helps.
We also see grants with titles so vague or misleading to be of no help whatsoever. I know we have limits on the length of the title, but please! If we can communicate on Twitter in 140 characters, we can say something coherent in a grant application!
So make sure your titles and abstracts communicate your topics well. Otherwise you may get me reviewing your prostaglandin grant, and neither one of us wants that to happen.