Peer Review Policies & Practices

People sitting at a long table with laptops
       On This Page: 

Peer review meeting in progress
(Photo courtesy Center for Scientific Review)


What's New in Peer Review

Thursday, June 18, 2015

NIH Statement on Integrity in Peer Review. The NIH issued its position concerning: 1) the responsibilities of all participants, including individuals named on applications and officials of applicant organizations, in maintaining the integrity of the NIH peer review process, 2) potential consequences for any unlawful or unethical attempt to influence the outcome of NIH peer review.  See NOT-OD-15-106

Wednesday, April 15, 2015
New Website Launched for Reviewers:  A brand new website to help guide reviewers through the peer review process was launched on April 15.  The site provides policy notices, guidelines, step-by-step instructions, videos and critique templates. Check out the Guidance for Reviewers website today.

Friday, January 30, 2015 

New Biosketch Format. The NIH is transitioning to a new biosketch format. The NIH encourages applicants to use the newly published biosketch format for all grant and cooperative agreement applications submitted for due dates on or after January 25, 2015, and will require use of the new format for applications submitted for due dates on or after May 25, 2015. See NOT-OD-15-032 and NOT-OD-14-024.

Simplified Late Application Policy. The NIH simplified the policy for late application submissions. A two week window after the application due date now applies, during which NIH might consider accepting a late application. The new policy is effective for applications submitted for due dates on or after January 25, 2015. See NOT-OD-15-039.

Revised NIH Definition of "Clinical Trial". The NIH has revised its definition of "clinical trial" to clarify the distinction between clinical trials and clinical research studies and to enhance the precision of the information NIH collects, tracks, and reports on clinical trials. The new definition applies to competing grant applications that are submitted to NIH for the January 25, 2015 due date and subsequent due dates. See NOT-OD-15-015

Genomic Data Sharing Policy. The NIH Genomic Data Sharing Policy applies to all NIH-funded research that generates large-scale human or non-human genomic data as well as the use of these data for subsequent research. Beginning with applications submitted for the January 25, 2015 due date, NIH expects investigators and their institutions to provide basic plans for following this Policy in the Resource Sharing Plan section of grant applications. See NOT-OD-14-124, NOT-OD-14-111, and NOT-OD-15-027

Marking Changes in Resubmission Applications. NIH has removed the requirement to identify substantial scientific changes in the text of a Resubmission application by 'bracketing, indenting, or change of typography'. It is sufficient to outline the changes made to the Resubmission application in the Introduction attachment. See NOT-OD-15-030.

Updated Submission Policy. The NIH announced an updated policy for application submissions that allows applicants to come in with a new application after an unsuccessful resubmission.See NOT-OD-14-074 and NOT-OD-14-082, NOT-OD-15-059, and FAQs on application submission.


Back to Top


Information for Reviewers

How to Volunteer.  Consider volunteering to serve in the NIH peer review process.  See Becoming a Peer Reviewer.

Incentives for Reviewers: Continuous Submission.  Certain reviewers may be eligible for Continuous Submission. The continuous submission policy has been changed.

Guidance for Reviewers:  Find pre-meeting, meeting and post-meeting activities on the new Guidance for Reviewers’ website to help guide reviewers through the peer review process.  The site includes useful and important information such as reviewer guidelines, policy documents, step-by-step instructions and videos for using the Internet Assisted Review (IAR) system. In addition, critique templates are located on the website; reviewers must check with their Scientific Review Officer on which template to use.

Protecting NIH Grant Applications.  Reviewers must take every reasonable precaution to safeguard NIH grant applications and related materials, which are considered highly confidential.  See: 

Maintaining Confidentiality.  Each NIH reviewer must certify that s/he has read and will abide by the NIH confidentiality and nondisclosure rules.  See Integrity and Confidentiality in NIH Peer Review.

Declaring Lobbyist Status.  Each NIH reviewer must certify that s/he is not a federally-registered lobbyist before participating in NIH peer review.  See OFACP Policy of October 2014 (PDF - 114 KB).

Managing Conflicts of Interest. Before the review meeting, each NIH reviewer must certify that s/he has declared all known conflicts of interest, and after the meeting, that s/he did not participate in the evaluation of an application or proposal with which s/he has a conflict of interest.  See:

Evaluating Human Embryonic Stem Cells.  In assessing overall impact, reviewers evaluate the scientific appropriateness of proposed hESC lines or the justification for using a cell line that is not listed on the NIH Registry for Stem Cells.  See NOT-OD-12-111 (6/11/2012).

Back to Top


Information for Applicants

Applicant Responsibilities in Maintaining the Integrity in Peer Review. All participants in NIH peer review, including individuals named on applications and officials of applicant organizations, are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the review process, and violators may face consequences. See NOT-OD-15-106

Overview of Peer Review.  For a general overview of NIH peer review, visit Peer Review Process, or see Core Values of NIH Peer Review for a more detailed understanding. 

Regulations Governing NIH Peer Review. View 42 CFR 52h: Scientific Peer Review of Research Grant Applications and Research and Development Contract Projects:

Appeals of NIH Initial Peer Review.  The NIH policy and procedure for handling appeals of the outcome of initial peer review are explained in:

  • NOT-OD-11-064 (04/15/2011): Appeals of Initial Peer Review
  • NOT-OD-11-101 (7/29/2011): Resubmission of Applications with Pending Appeals of NIH Initial Peer Review

Post-submission Materials.The NIH accepts certain materials and videos as application materials after the application has been submitted but before peer review.  See:

  • NOT-OD-13-030 (1/29/2013): Reminders and Updates: NIH Policy on Post-Submission Application Materials
  • NOT-OD-12-141 (9/27/2012): Interim Guidance for Videos Submitted as NIH Application Materials
  • NOT-OD-12-111 (6/11/2012): Notice of Impending Change in Peer Review Criteria and Submission Requirements for NIH Applications Involving Human Embryonic Stem Cells

Back to Top


Advisory Councils or Boards

NIH Advisory Councils and Boards perform the second level of NIH peer review, and make recommendations to the Institutes and Centers.

Assessing Objectivity.  Professional situations may cause an objective observer to question the integrity of Council review.  See Guidance for Members of NIH Advisory Councils and Boards (PDF - 389 KB).

Special Council Review.  Notice of NIH Special Council Review of Research Applications from PDs/PIs with More than $1.0 Million Direct Costs in Annual NIH Support.  See NOT-OD-12-140 (8/20/2012).

Maintaining Confidentiality. Each NIH Advisory Council member must certify that s/he has read and will abide by the NIH confidentiality and nondisclosure rules. See SGE Confidentiality and Nondisclosure Rules  and COI Certification for Advisory Council members

Back to Top