September 16, 2020
NOT-OD-20-061 - Updated Guidance for Videos Submitted as NIH Application Materials
NOT-OD-12-141 - Interim Guidance for Videos Submitted as NIH Application Materials
Office of The Director, National Institutes of Health (OD)
This notice serves to remind the applicant community about existing guidance that restricts use of hypertext (e.g., hyperlinks and URLs) in NIH applications. Increasing use of unallowable hypertext in NIH grant applications raises multiple concerns, including:
Reviewer Confidentiality: The wide availability and sophistication of web-based tracking systems may allow applicants to identify reviewers who access web sites through unallowable hypertext in an application.
“Overstuffing”: All material required for the review must be contained within the page limits of the application. Linking out to additional information, even if it is framed by the applicant as “optional” or “supplemental”, provides additional material to reviewers that may exceed the content limitations of the application, particularly in page-limited sections such as the Research Strategy. This is a matter of fairness, since all applicants should submit the same amounts and types of information to be considered as part of initial peer review.
Review Consistency: If some reviewers consider information provided by unallowable hypertext and others do not, the quality of review can be negatively impacted by inconsistency among the reviewers.
Malware: Once a reviewer clicks on a link in an application that is not on an NIH website, the possibility exists for malware or other breaches to occur on the reviewer’s computer and/or system.
There is no change in the NIH policy on the use of hyperlinks. As a reminder, that policy as articulated in the NIH SF424 (R&R) Application Guide reads:
Applications that do not follow these instructions, and include unallowable hyperlinks, may be withdrawn from review and funding consideration.
Division of Grants Policy
Office of Policy for Extramural Research Administration (OPERA)