"The Peer Review Process"

About CSR

What Happens to Your Grant Application: A Primer for New Applicants


Your application is assigned to a review group and an NIH Institute or Center


One or more CSR Referral Officers examine your application and determine the most appropriate Integrated Review Group (IRG) to assess its scientific and technical merit. Your application is then assigned to one of the IRG’s study sections. A study section typically includes 20 or more scientists from the community of productive researchers. Your application also will be assigned to the NIH Institute or Center (IC) best suited to fund your application should it have sufficient merit. (More than one IC may be assigned if appropriate.)


Referral Officers follow established guidelines that define the review boundaries of each study section. These boundaries frequently overlap, and more than one study section may have the expertise to review your application. You may request in a cover note with your application that it be assigned to a particular study section or IC. The CSR referral office seriously considers such requests.


The combined expertise of the scientists in a study section is intended to span the breadth and diversity of the science it covers. CSR may recruit temporary reviewers or secure mail reviews from outside consultants.



Checking the status of your application


As soon as your application is received and assigned to a study section, notices are posted to your online NIH Commons account. Information on the Commons and how to register is available via the Commons Web page. You may question either your study section or IC assignment by contacting the Scientific Review Officer (SRO) named in your notification or the CSR referral office (301-435-0715). It usually takes weeks to refer the thousands of applications submitted each round. If a notice is not posted in your Commons account within 3 weeks of the submission date, you should contact the referral office.


Reviewers are identified


Your SRO will analyze the content of your application, check for completeness, and decide which reviewers can best evaluate it. Reviewers receive a copy of your application approximately 6 weeks before their meeting. Each application is assigned to three reviewers, and at least two of them provide written critiques. These assigned reviewers lead the discussions at the meeting.


Because of the multi-month period between submission and review, applicants often wish to submit additional materials. Before you do, you should contact your SRO to see if this is possible and what kinds of limitations apply.


Before the study section meets, reviewers confidentially submit preliminary critiques and scores to CSR. Reviewers are then given a list of applications that were initially scored in the lower half. If all reviewers agree, these applications are “streamlined,” which means they will not be discussed at the meeting. “Streamlining” is not equivalent to disapproval, so applicants may resubmit a better application after considering the critiques they receive.

Review Meeting


The review meeting is convened


Study sections convene for about 2 days. One member serves as chair and conducts the meeting with the SRO. Relevant NIH extramural staff are encouraged to attend, but they may not participate in the evaluation. Assigned reviewers and discussants present their evaluations and outside opinions are read. After a general discussion, reviewers mark their priority scores privately on scoring sheets, which are later tabulated by CSR.


The results are released to you


Within a few days after the meeting, your priority score and percentile ranking is available to you via the NIH Commons. Within a month, your summary statement will be available via your NIH Commons account. It will include (1) the written critiques produced by the assigned reviewers, (2) the SRO’s summary of the study section’s discussion, (3) study section recommendations, and (4) administrative notes of special consideration. For new investigators submitting R01 applications, this information is posted within 10 days after the meeting.


The assigned NIH Institute or Center takes charge


After the review, an IC program officer will be your main point of contact. He or she may help interpret your review results or answer questions about the further consideration of your application. In a second level of peer review, IC Advisory Councils may consider the study section’s recommendations and determine the relevance of your proposed research to IC priorities and public health needs.


Get More Information on Peer Review at CSR


Inside the NIH Grant Review Process Video

How Scientists Are Selected For Study Section Service

Guidelines for Study Section Chairs

Role of the Study Section Chairs

How Scientists Are Selected For Study Section Service

Review Meeting Procedures (pdf)

Resources for Applicants


Get General Grant Information

The NIH Office of Extramural Research Grants (OER) Web page provides a wealth of information on funding opportunities, grant application forms, instructions, and policies. It also operates the NIH GrantsInfo service, which can be contacted via e-mail (grantsinfo@nih.gov) or phone (301 435-0714). In addition, the OER Web site provides information on the peer review policies and procedures pertaining to all NIH components that conduct peer reviews.

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