The Right Steps for Filing an Appeal


Have you ever been dissatisfied with the result of your initial peer review? Have you wondered how the NIH appeals process works? Did you know that there is a difference between a grievance and an appeal? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you are in luck, because NIH just reissued and clarified the appeals policy for any decision made during the first level of review (NOT-OD-11-064). The policy applies to all competing applications received for due dates on or after January 25, 2011.

The appeals process works like this. First, the investigator must contact the NIH program officer (PO) to discuss the concerns and outcomes. Second, if the investigator would still like to proceed with an appeal, he or she should contact their authorized organization representative (AOR), since that person must concur with the appeal in order for it to be accepted by NIH. The appeal letter must meet these three criteria:

  1. Describe the flaws in the review process;
  2. Explain the reasons for the appeal; and
  3. Be based on one or more of the following issues:
    • Evidence of bias on the part of one or more peer reviewers;
    • Conflict of interest, as specified in regulation at 42 CFR 52h.5. “Scientific Peer Review of Research Grant Applications and Research and Development Contract Projects”, on the part of one or more peer reviewers;
    • Lack of appropriate expertise within the Scientific Review Group (SRG); or
    • Factual error(s) made by one or more reviewers that could have altered the outcome of review substantially.

If the letter does not meet the criteria listed above, then the concern is probably a grievance and not an appeal. Also, if the appeal letter is based solely on differences of scientific opinion, it will not be accepted by NIH as an appeal. 

Then, if review staff and program staff support the appeal, the original application will be re-reviewed. If the review and program staff do not support the appeal, then the PD/PI can either withdraw the appeal, or the appeal letter can be made available to the IC’s council during the second level of review.

Finally, if the appeal goes to council, council can either recommend re-review or deny the appeal. The PD/PI will be notified of the decision within 30 days of the council meeting.

More details are provided in the complete Guide Notice, NOT-OD-11-064.