REVISED OCTOBER 2019. This document applies to all NIH grants and cooperative agreements for budget periods beginning on or after October 1, 2019.

initial review, responsibilities, CSR, center for scientific review, DRR, Division of Receipt and Referral, SRO, scientific review officer, peer review, overall impact, scored review criteria, additional review criteria, additional review considerations

2.4.1 Initial Review

2.4.1.1 Responsibilities

The DRR in the CSR is the receipt point for all competing grant applications submitted to NIH, whether the peer review will be conducted by CSR or by an ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award.. The primary determining factors in whether CSR or an ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award. will be responsible for the peer review are the announcement type, the support mechanism, and/or the program. In general, CSR is responsible for the initial review of research project grant applications (including AREA applications), Kirschstein-NRSA individual fellowship applications, and SBIR/STTR applications, while the ICs handle the initial review of conference grant applications, applications resulting from RFAs, and program project and center grant applications.

CSR also may review other types of applications at ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award. request. When the ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award. is responsible for the initial review, CSR reviews the application for completeness and staff in the soliciting ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award. review the application for responsiveness to the RFA, and the scientific review office in that ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award. coordinates the initial technical review, and prepares the summary statements.

CSR Referral Officers, who are senior health science administrators with both research and scientific review experience, assign each application to one or more ICs for potential funding and to an IRG or SRG for initial review of the scientific merit of the application. These determinations are made on the basis of the application's contents, the referral guidelines, and any written request by the applicant organization (accompanying the application) for a specific study section or ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award. assignment.

SRGs, including CSR study sections, are organized by scientific discipline or current research areas and are managed by health scientist administrators functioning as SROs. Generally, study sections are chartered groups composed of formally appointed members serving multiyear terms, to which the SROScientific Review Officer: The NIH official who serves as the designated Federal official having legal responsibility for managing the peer review meeting, the procedures for evaluating the applications assigned to the SRG and the determinations and management of conflicts of interest, as noted in 42 CFR 52(h). often adds temporary members or other additional reviewers. Ad hoc SEPs are formed to review applications that cannot be reviewed by a standing review group or study section because they require special expertise or involve other special circumstances.

SRGs, whether study sections or SEPs, are primarily composed of non-federal scientists who have expertise in relevant scientific disciplines and are actively engaged in research. NIH's conflict-of-interest and confidentiality of information requirements for reviewers are intended to promote an unbiased review process by minimizing even the appearance of a conflict of interest and by restricting the use of privileged application information.

Applicants are notified by e-mail that the application has been received and that they may have access to the SROScientific Review Officer: The NIH official who serves as the designated Federal official having legal responsibility for managing the peer review meeting, the procedures for evaluating the applications assigned to the SRG and the determinations and management of conflicts of interest, as noted in 42 CFR 52(h)., SRG, and ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award. assignments for the application in the eRA Commons. At this time, applicants may request reconsideration of the SRG and ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award. assignment. Applicants also are notified by e-mail to check eRA Commons for any change in the application's SRG or ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award. assignment, as well as a change in Council date. Once the assignment process is completed, the SROScientific Review Officer: The NIH official who serves as the designated Federal official having legal responsibility for managing the peer review meeting, the procedures for evaluating the applications assigned to the SRG and the determinations and management of conflicts of interest, as noted in 42 CFR 52(h). is the primary contact for communication with the applicant until the conclusion of the SRG meeting. An applicant organization may withdraw an application from consideration at any time during the review process. A request to withdraw an application must be signed by the PD/PI and an AOR.

In preparation for the initial review, SROs review applications to determine whether they are complete and conform to administrative requirements. For each reviewable application, they then assign (from among the standing and temporary members) at least three reviewers to write a critique of the application and to be prepared to discuss the application in detail.

Following the initial review, the SROScientific Review Officer: The NIH official who serves as the designated Federal official having legal responsibility for managing the peer review meeting, the procedures for evaluating the applications assigned to the SRG and the determinations and management of conflicts of interest, as noted in 42 CFR 52(h). prepares a summary statement for most applications reviewed. The summary statement includes the reviewers' written comments, and, for scored applications, a summary of strengths and weaknesses, other summary highlights of the discussion, and an impact score. Summary statements are then provided to the ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award.'s program staff and the PD(s)/PI(s).

2.4.1.2 Overall Impact

The SRG assesses overall impact in the determination of scientific and technical merit; overall impact is defined differently for different types of applications. When considering applications for research grants and cooperative agreements, reviewers will provide an overall impact score to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved, in consideration of the five scored review criteria, and additional review criteria (as applicable for the project proposed). All of the criteria, weighted as appropriate for each application or as described in the FOA, will be considered when assigning the overall impact score.

2.4.1.3 Scored Review Criteria

The goals of NIH-supported research are to advance the understanding of biological systems, improve the control of disease, and enhance health. For research grant applications, and most other types of applications, reviewers judge the overall impact to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved, taking into account, among other pertinent factors: Significance, Investigator(s), Innovation, Approach, and Environment. These scored review criteria may not be applicable for some types of applications. When these criteria are not applicable, the FOA will include the specific review criteria.

Reviewers will consider each of the five criteria below in the determination of scientific and technical merit, and give a separate score for each. An application does not need to be strong in all categories to be judged likely to have a major scientific impact. For example, a project that by its nature is not innovative may be essential to advance a field.

  • Significance
  • Investigator(s)
  • Innovation
  • Approach
  • Environment

The FOA should be consulted for additional information describing each of the scored review criteria.

2.4.1.4 Additional Review Criteria

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will consider the following additional items in the determination of scientific and technical merit, but will not give separate scores for these items.

  • Protections for Human Subjects
  • Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Children
  • Vertebrate Animals
  • Resubmission Applications
  • Renewal Applications
  • Revision Applications
  • Biohazards

The FOA should be consulted for additional information describing each of the relevant additional review criteria.

2.4.1.5 Additional Review Considerations

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will address each of the following items, but will not give scores for these items and should not consider them in providing an overall impact score.

  • Provision of Family Care Facilities (for Conference Grant Applications)
  • Applications from Foreign Organizations
  • Select Agent Research
  • Resource Sharing Plans
  • Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources
  • Budget and Period Support

The FOA should be consulted for additional information describing each of the relevant additional review considerations.

Although the review criteria are intended for use primarily with investigator-initiated research project grant applications (e.g., R01 and P01), including those in response to PAs, to the extent reasonable, the criteria also will form the basis of the review of solicited applications and non-research activities. However, for some activities (e.g., construction grants), the use of these criteria may not be feasible. Applications also may be reviewed against other pertinent factors as stated in FOAs.