Peer Review Policies and Practices

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Peer review meeting in progress
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What's New in Peer Review

Friday, June 3, 2016

Rigor and Reproducibility.  Scientific rigor and transparency in conducting biomedical research is key to the successful application of knowledge toward improving health outcomes.  Beginning with applications submitted for research grants and mentored career development awards for the January 25, 2016 due date, application instructions and review language focus on four key areas:

  • Scientific premise
  • Scientific rigor
  • Consideration of relevant biological variables, such as sex
  • Authentication of key biological and/or chemical resources
See additional information:



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.

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:

Maintaining Confidentiality in NIH Peer Review.  The NIH takes seriously our responsibility to maintain confidentiality throughout the peer review process.  Confidentiality applies to all individuals participating in peer review, including Federal and non-Federal peer reviewers, Special Government Employees, non-Federal ad hoc attendees, and Federal officials who attend review meetings as observers. Violators may face consequences.  See NOT-OD-14-073.


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

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