When an application is submitted to the NIEHS in response to a specific Request for Application (RFA), or to the NIH as an unsolicited application, it undergoes a specific peer review process. The following links provide insight and guidance to the peer review process both at the NIEHS and at the NIH Center for Scientific Review.
Peer Review at the NIEHS
Scientific and technical evaluation of applications submitted in response to funding announcements published by the NIEHS is conducted by the Scientific Review Branch (SRB). Within this branch, scientific review administrators (SRAs), who are also health science administrators, play a pivotal role in identifying the most meritorious scientific research for support using federal resources. They are responsible for the initial scientific and technical merit review of grant applications and contract proposals submitted to the NIH. The SRA identifies the mix of expertise required for the review of applications and proposals, and interprets and implements NIH policies governing the review. SRAs have comprehensive knowledge of the diverse and complex award mechanisms, understand the critical need to avoid conflicts of interest, and have the ability to exercise objectivity and fairness to all applicants.
In formalizing appropriate review panels for evaluating applications, the SRA selects consultants with the appropriate expertise, orients the review panels to applicable policies and procedures, and documents a summary of the deliberations and recommendations of the review panel. The SRA also works with the program officer and grants management staff in the planning of the scientific review meeting, providing guidance to reviewers and interpreting policies at the review meeting.
NIH Center for Scientific Review
The Center for Scientific Review (CSR)(http://cms.csr.nih.gov/) is the portal for NIH grant applications and their review for scientific merit. The CSR organizes the peer review groups, called study sections, that evaluate the majority (70%) of the research grant applications sent to the NIH. The CSR also receives all grant applications for the NIH, as well as for other components of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Since 1946, the mission of the CSR has remained clear and timely: to see that NIH grant applications receive fair, independent, expert, and timely reviews—free from inappropriate influences—so the NIH can fund the most promising research.
The CSR receives nearly 80,000 applications a year and recruits over 18,000 external experts to review them in study sections, which generally meet three times during the year. Additional scientists serve on other NIH advisory councils, which provide a second level of peer review, and make funding recommendations based on priorities set by Congress, DHHS, and the public. For nearly 60 years, this peer review system has enabled the NIH to fund cutting-edge research that has allowed millions to leave their doctor’s office with new drugs and cures for diseases that caused adverse health outcomes for their parents or grandparents.