CSR Peer Review Notes

Yawn. The May edition of Peer Review Notes includes exciting job opportunities (folks looking to leave the lab: SROs wanted, not to mention a director for the new Translational & Clinical Sciences Division … perhaps a glimmer of hope, Whimple), an asynchronous electronic discussion review anecdote, updates on IRG realignments, and the story of a $10 grant awarded to a 10-year-old in 1957 (project had NO public health significance no less!).

I’m still wondering how the following peer review recommendations (a la Great Zerhouni) – apparently to be phased in via a pilot program in JUNE – represent a significant enhancement of the process:

Restructured Applications: The recommendations also [in addition to shorter R01 application length] call for R01 applications that are structured according to the review criteria with an emphasis on an application’s impact and significance in advancing scientific knowledge. Each application would be rated against individual criteria and also given an overall score. Applications would then be ranked, and any necessary adjustments in scoring made. [okay, the ranking is new – so you would get priority score, percentile, and rank?]

More Focused Reviews: Reviews themselves would be shorter and more specifically address how applications fared in terms of the criteria—impact, investigator, innovation/originality, research plan and environment. This set of changes will emphasize the impact of the application, versus the methodology, allow reviewers to read more applications and give applicants, councils and staff clearer feedback. [hmmm]

Enhanced Training: The recommendations also call for enhanced training for Scientific Review Officers, chairs and members and incentives for reviewers. [don’t hold back folks – let them know what might incentivize you!]



  1. BB said

    Love the story of the 10 year old who got a grant (I guess it would be privately-funded?) for his rocket ship.

  2. BugDoc said

    I’m curious to know why NIH doesn’t require NIH-funded scientists to participate in grant review. It seems reasonable for them to ask for 2-3 sessions of ad hoc grant review in exchange for 5 yrs of funding. Perhaps PIs with 2 or more R01 awards could be asked to be standing members of a study section. After all, without NIH extramural funds, most of us wouldn’t have the opportunity to do research, so I don’t think some specified service in return is too much to ask. Most of us do this anyway, however, tying level of service to level of funding seems like it would mandate increased participation of more senior investigators, which I keep seeing as a point for improvement.

  3. bikemonkey said

    Would you really want someone reviewing your grant who was being forced to do it? I’m not sure that I would…

  4. BugDoc said

    NIH and our universities require us to do many things for the privilege and fun of doing research in an academic setting, including progress reports, teaching, committee work, etc. I don’t think participating in the system that funds your research by reviewing grants should be considered “forcing”. Spending a couple of weeks over a 5 yr period on grant review in return for ~2 million dollars seems like a fair return. If investigators aren’t willing to participate in review (or some other small NIH related service could also be substituted), then they shouldn’t accept the award.

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