A series to raise awareness and inspire creative problem solving of the challenges in maintaining integrity in peer review
The NIH defines a breach of review integrity as any violation of a core value of NIH peer review. Review integrity concerns not only compromise our NIH peer review process but also raise other questions and potential concerns, including about an individual's authority and responsibility as a designated PI on NIH applications and awards. Moreover, review integrity concerns lead to concerns that the relevant institution(s) may not be fully cognizant of their responsibilities and of the potential consequences of integrity breaches, which are leading to violations of the terms and conditions of their NIH awards. When the core values of peer review are compromised, funding decisions may be based on improper or inaccurate information; proprietary information may be compromised; the public may lose trust in science; and patients in clinical studies may be harmed.
The following cases are anonymized, but based on real events.
Case Study: Sharing an Application Being Reviewed
Sharing an application with anyone who has not been officially designated to participate in the peer review process is a big no-no. And it is specifically prohibitedby NIH peer review policy.
What would you do if, as the Dean of Research at a major university, a group of students, postdocs, and junior faculty reported that they hadbeen pressured into writing reviewer critiques for a senior faculty member?
What happens when the NIH discovers that an investigator has embellished his or her credentials in an NIH grant application? Or even fabricated credentials?
What happens when it is discovered that one of the reviewers currently set to review an application, had been listed as one of the key personnel on an application with the same PI in another, recent study section?
What happens when a former colleague contacts you, a reviewer, out of the blue to ask if the application on which he is a principal investigator could be treated favorably at the review meeting? Do you brush off the investigator and figure you will not let the contact influence your review of that application? Or do you instead immediately notify NIH?