Enhancing Peer Review: The NIMH Announces Consolidation of Review Criteria for NIMH Career Opportunities in Research (COR) Honors Undergraduate Research Training Grant (T34) Submitted for FY 2010 Funding

Notice Number: NOT-MH-09-018

Key Dates
Release Date: September 3, 2009

Issued by
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (http://www.nimh.nih.gov)


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) awards Career Opportunities in Research (COR) Honors Undergraduate Research Training Grants (T34) to institutions as one of its primary means of supporting pre-baccalaureate research training to help ensure that a diverse and highly trained workforce is available to assume leadership roles related to the Nation’s mental health research agenda (PAR-08-093).

In June 2007, NIH initiated a formal, agency-wide effort to evaluate the NIH peer review system (http://enhancing-peer-review.nih.gov/).  After careful deliberation and consideration of the recommendations resulting from this year-long evaluation, NIH announced a series of plans in the latter half of 2008 to implement a number of key changes in the NIH peer review system, including the introduction of a 9-point scoring system, for research grant and cooperative agreement applications received for Fiscal Year 2010 funding.  Under the new scoring system, each of five review criteria will receive an individual score of 1 to 9 (1=outstanding, to 9=poor).  In addition, the overall impact/priority score will be reported in the summary statement for applications discussed at the review meeting; this overall score will be determined by considering five scored criteria, plus additional review criteria.

Currently, T34 training grant applications are evaluated based on seven major criteria: (1) Training Program; (2) Training Program Director; (3) Preceptors/Mentors; (4) Training Record; (5) Institutional Training Environment, Commitment, and Resources; (6) Trainee Recruitment, Selection, and Retention Plan; and (7) Evaluation and Tracking Plan, plus additional review criteria.  The purpose of this notice is to announce the consolidation of these 7 existing review criteria for training grants into 5 major review criteria that will receive individual criterion scores.  It should be emphasized that while the review criteria have been consolidated, they remain essentially unchanged in scope.  The additional review criteria and considerations described in the funding opportunity announcement (PAR-08-093) also remain in place.


The consolidated review criteria (below) will be effective immediately for all NIMH Career Opportunities in Research (COR) Honors Undergraduate Research Training Grant (T34) applications submitted to NIMH for FY 2010 funding, and will also be effective for applications submitted to the May 12, 2010 receipt date (for FY 2011 funding).

Consolidated T34 Review Criteria

The scientific review group will address and consider each of these criteria in assigning the application’s overall score, weighting them as appropriate for each application.  Reviewers will first determine the quality of the proposed research training program, including information presented in the data tables and appendix, and then consider whether the requested number of trainee positions is appropriate for the program.

Training Program and Environment:  Are the objectives, design and direction of the proposed research training program appropriate?  Does the proposed program provide an appropriate foundation (didactics, programmatic activities, and research experience) for subsequent graduate training in a research area relevant to the NIMH mission?  Does the training program incorporate inter- and multi-disciplinary and state-of-the-art research training opportunities?  Are innovative approaches to research training utilized?  Is the quality of the research environment appropriate for the proposed research training program?  Is the level of institutional commitment appropriate?  Is the quality of available facilities and resources for education and research suitable?

Training Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI):  Does the Training PD/PI have the scientific research background, training expertise, and administrative experience necessary to lead the proposed research training program?  Does the PD/PI plan to commit adequate time to the program?

Preceptors/Mentors:  Is appropriate expertise available in the scientific community at the institution?  What is the caliber of the preceptors as researchers, including the overall quality of their research, their publication record and their successful competition for research support in areas directly related to the proposed training program?  What is the record of preceptors as mentors, especially as mentors of undergraduate students?

Training Record and Evaluation Plan: What is the success of former trainees in seeking further career development and establishing productive NIMH-related scientific careers?  Is there evidence of further career development,  including matriculation into a Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. program; successful completion of the Ph.D or M.D.-Ph.D.; receipt of fellowships or career awards; additional training appointments and similar accomplishments?  Is there evidence of a productive scientific career,  including a record of successful competition for research grants; receipt of special honors or awards; a record of publications, receipt of patents, promotion to scientific positions; and any other measure of success consistent with the nature and duration of the training received?  What is the track record of the preceptors in directing undergraduate training or the potential of those preceptors lacking a track record?  Is the evaluation plan adequate and sufficiently detailed to track career outcomes of trainees and determine if the program is successful in launching research careers in mental health? Does it include a system for tracking participants following program completion, such as publications, grant applications and awards, and career trajectory of supported trainees?

For renewal applications:  Are there plans to make changes that improve program performance and the assessment of outcomes?

Trainee Recruitment, Selection, and Retention Plan: Are the quality and size of the applicant pool appropriate?  Are the plans and procedures for the recruitment, selection, and retention of diverse individuals appointed to the training program well defined and appropriate?

For renewal applications:  Have these plans been maintained/modified to address past successes or concerns with recruiting, selection, and retention?


Inquiries regarding this notice may be directed to:

Rebecca Steiner, Ph.D.
Division of Extramural Activities
National Institute of Mental Health
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6149, MSC 9608
Bethesda, MD 20892-9608
Telephone: (301) 443-4525
FAX: (301) 443-4720
Email: steinerr@mail.nih.gov

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