Speedier NIH review of research applications planned
NIH/CSR pilot study for new investigators begins early 2006
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced a pilot effort to significantly shorten its peer reviews of research grant applications--so scientists can get on with their research sooner, to the public's benefit. This pilot rose from a growing concern that the current grant review process takes too long and is hindering the careers of promising researchers and the advancement of science and health.
The pilot will help one of the most promising but vulnerable groups of researchers: new investigators applying for their first major NIH grant, an R01 grant. R01 grants totaling about $10 billion support many of the best biomedical researchers at universities and medical centers across the country.
"This pilot illustrates our efforts for optimizing all facets of the research review and funding process across NIH. I am particularly pleased that the pilot phase will be focused on new investigators who are the most vulnerable in times of budgetary constraints and often do not have the resources to withstand long review cycles," said NIH Director, Elias Zerhouni, M.D. "Shortened review cycles will benefit researchers and scientific institutions nationwide--and the public awaiting medical advances."
The new director of the Center for Scientific Review, Toni Scarpa, M.D., Ph.D., added, "The scientific world moves fast, and we must keep up with it. We plan to use new electronic and management tools while preserving the rigor and fairness of NIH peer review, so we can identify the most promising medical research more rapidly. Our goal is to reduce the grant review process by half."
NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR) will initiate the pilot in February in 40 of its scientific review panels, offering quicker reviews to new investigators who need to resubmit revised applications for their first R01 grant. This shortened process and delayed resubmission deadlines will allow researchers able to readily address reviewer concerns to revise and resubmit their applications for the very next review cycle, or more than four months earlier than before.
CSR's process currently takes six months and involves over 15,000 outside scientific experts. Their resulting evaluations are then sent to the NIH Institutes and Centers that fund grants for a second review, which usually takes three additional months. Outside experts on their advisory councils make final recommendations on which proposals may best address NIH goals and public health needs--to advance medical knowledge, dietary and life-style preventive measures, vaccines, therapies and cures. The individual Institute and Center Directors make their final funding decisions based on the assessments and recommendations that come out of the two-tiered review process.
The pilot program was devised by CSR and a Trans-NIH Committee to Shorten the Review Cycle. This committee included representatives from the NIH Institutes/Centers and the Office of Extramural Research. The plan for the pilot was accepted by NIH's Extramural Activities Working Group, which represents all the Institutes and Centers, at the end of October and was presented to a joint meeting of the NIH Review Policy Committee and the NIH Extramural Program Management Committee this month.
Eileen Bradley, D.Sc., Chief of CSR's Surgical Sciences, Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering Integrated Review Group, chaired the Trans-NIH Committee to Shorten the Review Cycle.
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