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NIH Guide, Volume 26, Number 38, November 21, 1997

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

April 15, 2011 - See Notice NOT-OD-11-064 Appeals of NIH Initial Peer Review.


National Institutes of Health

The purpose of this Notice is to advise the extramural research community of NIH
appeal procedures and of recent revisions to them.  Formerly this process was
referred to as the rebuttals and appeals process, this process has been updated
and streamlined into the current appeals process.

The decision to fund a grant application lies with the particular NIH Institute
or Center to which it has been assigned, and is based upon both (a) the results
of the initial scientific peer review and (b) the recommendation of that
Institute"s National Advisory Council or Board.  With regard to the initial
review, after examining the summary statement containing the results of that
review for the grant application, an investigator may have concerns about, and
wish to contest a procedural aspect of the process (e.g., that the review was
biased, that conflict of interest existed, that the review group lacked
appropriate expertise, that factual errors entered into the review).  Because NIH
is dedicated to maintaining the overall high quality of its peer review system
and of the review of individual applications, it has established appeal
procedures for investigators to address such concerns.  However, the differences
of scientific opinion that often occur between investigators and reviewers may
not be contested through these procedures.  In addition, communications from
investigators consisting of additional information that was not available to the
reviewers are not considered to be appeals.

An investigator who is concerned about the review of his or her application
should first contact the Program Administrator who has been assigned
responsibility for the application (see contact information in the upper left-
hand corner of the first page of the summary statement).  He or she is the key
person for clarifying points in the summary statement or about the review
process, and may be able to provide additional information beyond that which
appears in the summary statement.  Often, the Program Administrator will
recommend either revising the application, addressing the points raised in the
review, and resubmitting it or reconsidering the basic intent of the proposed
project and submitting a new application.  (In either case, an investigator may
request that it be reviewed by a specific review group via a cover letter
submitted with the application.)

However, if after discussion with the Program Administrator, the investigator
still has concerns about procedural aspects of the review, he or she should
submit a formal letter of appeal to the Program Administrator specifying the
perceived flaws in the review.  It is the Program Administrator"s responsibility
to handle the appeal and to do so according to specific appeal procedures.

The Program Administrator will consult with the SRA who administered the review
of the application, and this consultation could result in a decision to re-review
the application.  (A re-review consists of a review of the same application, not
a revised version, by the same or another review group without access to the
summary statement of the flawed review.)  However, if the investigator, Program
Administrator, and SRA cannot agree on a course of action, then the appeal case
will be reviewed by the Institute"s Appeal Officer, a senior official not
directly involved in peer review.  The Institute will make the appeal letter
available to the Council together with the staff"s recommendation and any written
comments from the SRA or review group.  The Program Administrator and SRA have
a responsibility to be available for the Council discussion of the appeal.  The
Council has two usual options with regard to appeals:  to recommend  that the
review  stand (i. e., reject the appeal) or to recommend that the application be
re-reviewed.  Written documentation of the outcome of the Council"s deliberations
will be sent to the investigator, and the appeal letter and associated
correspondence will be retained in the official file for the application.

In sum , the key to resolution of situations where an investigator has concerns
about the review of his or her application lies in discussion with the Program
Administrator and, when appropriate, in submission of a appeal letter that. If
not resolved by NIH staff, the appeal is presented for Council consideration and

The details of the appeal procedures used by the different Institutes may vary
somewhat, but each provides a means for  appeals to be given full consideration
by staff and, if necessary, by the Council (or a subset of it).  Additional
information about an Institute"s appeal procedures may be obtained from Program
Administrators and, shortly, will also be available on the Institutes" home

(Appeals of receipt and referral issues regarding applications not yet reviewed
should be directed to the Referral Office, Center for Scientific Review
[formerly, Division of Research Grants].)

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