NIGMS has kindly publicly confirmed that CSR is recalibrating percentiles, having pushed SRGs to enforce the spreading of scores when reviewing Cycle III applications this past February and March.
Last December, CSR posted a new graphic illustrating how the 9-point scoring should be interpreted:
Colleagues and alert readers have been sharing their experiences, both on the giving (SRG) and receiving (PI) end. Reviewers were told to spread the scores, PIs were puzzled (often pleasantly) about their score/percentile. For example, in Cycle III, a score of 30 at the 7th percentile … compared with a score of 19 and 7th percentile in Cycle II … both going to NCI for consideration (do not know if they are the same SRGs). I have heard about a lot more scores in the 40s and 50s this cycle, generally described as in the Summary of Discussion as significant but with moderate weaknesses (which I suspect were being scored in the 20s & 30s last year). Just an FYI for those trying to work out their scores/percentiles.