How to Tackle Re-submissions
Read the reviewers' comments and panel summary, and let them sink in for at least a few days. Try to decide whether the proposal was not funded because the project is not of broad interest, not aligned with the program's directives, or poor grantsmanship. Try to be as objective as possible, and see your proposal from the viewpoint of a reviewer/panelist. Remember that critical comments are not personal. Reviewers generally want to be enthusiastic about exciting proposals; negative comments should be read as information on how to make the next proposal more fundable, not as discouragement of one's work. Even if you disagree with some of the negative comments (for example, you may wonder in exasperation whether the reviewer read the part of your proposal where you address just the very objection he raises!) but take that as a sign that you need to explain the point more clearly in the next submission, not a sign that the reviewer is dumb or mean.
The panel summary is, by nature, quite short (Each scribe - a panelist - is responsible for 10-15 summaries per panel review). Only the most important strengths and weaknesses are included, and details may be omitted. The language of the panel summary is usually very neutral, bordering on being vague.
Therefore, you may have to read between the lines to interpret the panel summary and it is often helpful to talk to (or email) the Program Director for details of the critiques so that you can properly address those concerns when you prepare your re-submission. Most Program Directors are very helpful and welcome a chance to talk to a potential PI – it is indeed part of their job.
Re-submissions are technically treated as new submissions and therefore, you do not have to indicate that your proposal is a re-submission or the changes you have made since the previous submission. However, Program Directors typically take careful notes during each panel review and are aware of re-submissions, whether they are explicitly pointed out to panelists or not. Program Directors usually pay special attention to the comments made in the previous review period and whether satisfactory changes are made in the new submission. It is also not unusual for a few reviewers or even panelists to review the re-submission in the subsequent review period. Therefore, it is a good idea to summarize the main critiques of the previous submission, and what you have done to address those concerns in the re-submission. If you do not concur with the critiques, carefully and respectfully explain why, and try to get support from other sources. It is important not to sound defensive – remember that critiques from reviewers are not personal and do not mean to be offensive. Take a step back from the hot seat of a potential PI and tackle your re-submission objectively with a cool head. Remember that you have to play to win so quitting the grants game guarantees failure!