NIH has posted a tentative timeline for the Challenge Grant review process, which will likely follow the Transformative path of a two-stage editorial board review (so assume Stage 1 reviews completed in June, probably via IAR, with editorial boards discussing applications in July):
NIH is using an innovative peer review format—editorial board reviews—to help identify research that has the potential to transform biomedicine. Two groups of reviewers play key roles: specialized experts assess the applications for scientific merit and submit written critiques; experienced reviewers with a broad understanding of the science further critique the applications. This second group functions as the editorial board and meets face-to-face or electronically to discuss the initial assessments and score the applications by focusing on their overall significance and impact.
CSR is using this type of review to assess new Transformative R01 applications in an effort to support extraordinarily innovative, high-risk, original or unconventional research projects that hold promise to revolutionize a broad area of biomedical or behavioral research: http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/T-R01/. Editorial board reviewers will conduct an initial review and select a reasonable number for further review.
CSR initiated an evaluation of the quality and effectiveness of editorial board reviews in spring 2008. The pilot involved a range of SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) and Bioengineering Research Partnership applications. Preliminary data show that editorial board reviews may improve the quality of reviews for complex, multidisciplinary applications.
A majority of reviewers, some 64%, said they would choose this type of review for their own applications; of the experts who submitted written critiques considered by the editorial boards, about 38% said they would prefer these reviews for their own applications.
No matter what, you’ll receive back critiques and criteria scores (and an impact score if your application is “discussed”), which will be useful for converting RC1s into R21s or R01s as appropriate … or not if the comments and scores suggest you not pursue this line of work.