Request for Information (RFI): Input on Proposed Modifications of the Biographical Sketch Used in NIH Grant Applications

Notice Number: NOT-OD-12-115

Update: The following update relating to this announcement has been issued:

  • May 16, 2014 - See Notice NOT-OD-14-091. Piloting Modified NIH Biosketches.

Key Dates
Release Date: June 1, 2012

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)


This Notice is a time-sensitive Request for Information (RFI) on proposed modifications to the NIH Biographical Sketch.


The NIH has established a Working Group to examine the content of the Biographical Sketch (Biosketch) submitted with all NIH grant, cooperative agreement, and fellowship applications (see NIH Forms and Applications at A sample Biosketch can be found at The Biosketch includes sections for a Personal Statement, Positions and Honors, Selected Peer Reviewed Publications, and a list of current and prior research support. Together, these sections of the Biosketch inform peer reviewers and NIH staff about the experience, capabilities, and significant scientific contributions of the proposed key personnel in support of their assigned role on the project. This part of the application is limited to four pages and applicants are encouraged to list no more than 15 publications.

Concerns have been raised about the Biosketch as currently configured. Some feel that it does not allow applicants to fully describe the nature, significance or impact of their scientific accomplishments and capabilities. Further, some feel that the current Biosketch disproportionately advantages those with extensive publication records and unduly weighs publications that have appeared in highly prestigious journals. Accordingly, the NIH Working Group is requesting input from the biomedical research community to determine if the Biosketch should be modified to allow investigators to include a short explanation of their most important scientific contributions.

The format for the proposed modification has not been decided. Scientific accomplishments could be described in a short narrative section annotated with references to credibly document the asserted contribution to scientific understanding. References could include peer-reviewed publications or other types of scientific output such as data sets, videos, crystal coordinates, patents, licenses, or documented changes to standard medical practice or government policies. Alternatively, the Biosketch could be modified to associate a short paragraph with one or more of an individual’s most significant scientific publications documenting and describing the advances and their subsequent scientific impact. Both of these approaches are being used successfully by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Information Requested

The NIH Working Group therefore seeks input to determine whether a short, documented description of an investigator’s scientific contributions could offer a better indication of an individual’s scientific capabilities and accomplishments than the list of publications that currently appears in the Biosketch. Will this modification help level the playing field across academic institutions and career stages, and more accurately describe advances that may have originated in collaborative, multi-author and team research settings? Will the proposed modification increase the quality and relevance of information available to peer reviewers? Will the benefits of this modification accrue to the following types of applicants?

  • applicants at different career stages, especially early stage investigators
  • applicants from underrepresented groups
  • applicants from less research intensive institutions
  • applicants engaged in team science
  • applicants from different scientific fields
  • applicants for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grants
  • NRSA Fellowship applicants
  • Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) applicants
  • Other classes of applicants

The NIH Working Group welcomes comments on the proposed changes to the Biosketch from all members of the extramural community, including students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, scientific societies, grantee institutions, and the general public. Opinions about the potential to facilitate the evaluation of an investigator’s contributions and capabilities are particularly important. Information on the content and format of the proposed narrative description and other relevant issues also will be useful. Any other creative, concrete suggestions for strengthening Biosketch are welcome.
Response to this RFI is voluntary. Responders are free to address any issue related to the NIH Biosketch. Please note that the Government will not pay for response preparation or for the use of any information contained in the response. NIH will provide a summary of all input received that is responsive to this RFI. Responses can be anonymous.

How to Submit a Response

All comments must be submitted electronically to:

Responses to this RFI will be accepted through June 29, 2012. You will see an electronic confirmation acknowledging receipt of your response, but will not receive individualized feedback on any suggestions. No basis for claims against the U.S. Government shall arise as a result of a response to this request for information or from the Government’s use of such information.


Specific questions about this RFI should be directed to the following e-mail address: