Changes to the Biosketch


We’re set for a major change in how you portray your body of work when applying for NIH funds.  With strong support from NIH leadership, we will be rolling out a new biosketch format. The new NIH biosketch emphasizes your accomplishments instead of just a list of publications, which, as previously discussed, we questioned as the best way to showcase your scientific contributions.

The primary focus of the new NIH biosketch will be the magnitude and significance of the scientific advances associated with a researcher’s discoveries and the specific role the researcher played in those findings. This change will help reviewers evaluate you not by where you’ve published or how many times, but instead by what you’ve accomplished. Hopefully, this change will redirect the focus of reviewers and the scientific community more generally from widely questioned metrics, like the number of published papers, the number of citations received by those papers, or one of several statistical approaches used to normalize citations.

We strongly believe that allowing a researcher to generate an account of his or her own work will provide a clearer picture of each individual’s contributions and capabilities. But one might question whether this new biosketch will have a negative impact on younger investigators whose body of work may not be as robust as more established investigators. I believe the contrary is true; this new format will give early career investigators a platform for describing and framing the significance of their contributions, which should help reviewers better understand their accomplishments without having to rely simply on a list of publications.

The implementation of the new biosketch has a few steps: this month, NIH will launch a second round of pilot tests of the modified format. The first round was conducted last year and appeared in two requests for applications (RFA-CA-13-501 and RFA-CA-13-502).   The next round of tests will involve more applications and will include surveys of both reviewers and applicants to help us fine tune the application instructions and guidance to reviewers.

The new format, completely described on the SF424 (R&R) Applications and Electronic Submission Page, will allow up to five pages for the entire biosketch, and researchers will be permitted to describe up to five of their most significant contributions to science, the influence of their contributions on their scientific field, and any subsequent effects of those contributions on health or technology. The new format also will allow researchers to describe their specific role in those discoveries and to annotate their description with up to four publications. Additionally, researchers will be allowed to include a link to their complete list of publications in SciENcv or My Bibliography. Later this year we will be able to update SciENcv to help researchers collect the information needed to generate biosketches using the new format, fully positioning NIH to roll out the modified biosketch for all grant applications received for FY 2016 funding and beyond (which generally refers to applications submitted in early 2015). I suggest — if you haven’t already — giving SciENcv a try. Setting up your profile and testing it out now can be helpful as you are thinking about pulling together your biosketch information.

This is an important change for both the biomedical research community and NIH. Your scientific contributions are the foundations of your careers and the fuel for the biomedical research enterprise. I have great confidence that the new biosketch will be the best vehicle for conveying your contributions to NIH and peer reviewers.


  1. In generating a Biosketch from the SciENcv website, the selected Peer Reviewed Publications respective PMID numbers did not carry over from the website to the document. Will that be fixed soon?

  2. Why the NIH administrators think that reviewers cannot determine the impact of the researcher from the list of selected publications, the biographical statement and their knowledge of the field? It seems to me that trumpeting your own achievements is much less objective than selecting your best papers.
    Of course Varmus has been pushing for these changes for years and now CSR is giving up…

    1. I agree completely. Seems like all this biosketch revision is doing is asking folks to market their accomplishments while at the same time making it much more difficult to figure out what the applicant’s productivity actually has been over the last five years. I am completely unclear why the directions just do not say “give a short description of your skills and abilities in a single paragraph along with a list of all of your publications from the past five years”. Any competent reviewer can take it from there in an objective way.

      The “proposed” format seems the product of social media. All fluff and no substance.2

      1. It’s still the science that counts. Is the idea is to provide a means for pointing that the PI has done some decent work in the past and might be able to do it once again, in spite of problems with the current proposal? I suspect that, like the new possibility for endless re-submissions, we will have to see how this works out in practice.

      2. Can’t agree more. There seems to be an ongoing tendency of incorporating more and more requirement for self-promotion and self-marketing into a researcher’s interaction with the academic establishment. Sure, this is written by someone who has a lot of trouble self-advertizing and tends to belittle one’s own inputs — but what about studies that suggest that people can differ in their ability to “objectively” evaluate their contributions, and that women for example are less inclined to toot their horn than men?
        I appreciate that a researcher may have other contributions to the field than reflected in his/her published record, for example, inspiring others’ research, collaborating on ideas, rearing highly accomplished students — and that these contributions may be left out of the biosketch. But these too are the things that one would hope, can speak for themselves and are reflected in peer recognition.

        1. I think you may be missing the point here. This isn’t about marketing, but about not having to publish a paper just to be able to take credit for writing code or generating a dataset that is widely used. Instead of just listing your publications, you can list other substantial contributions you’ve made, which helps relieve the feeling that you’re being judged based on the number of citations your papers get. This is about getting a more holistic picture of someone’s output, which is increasingly important as life science gets more computerized.

      3. The new proposed format is absurd–more work for applicants and reviewers alike. I agree with virtually all the opposing comments. To think that reviewers cannot deduce the applicant’s qualifications and contributions from their publications and preliminary data is actually insulting. And to think that 5 pages of drivel will be beneficial is absurd. PLEASE reconsider this proposal. It is a TERRIBLE idea.

    2. I agree. Any good reviewer should know the field well enough to know the impact without the summary. But on the other hand, not all reviewers are good. The best thing for the field would be if more top scientists participated in the review process. Many of us do one stint on study section, but not more. We should probably all do two.

    3. Kudos to NIH for rolling out the new requirements. It is about time! With literature indicating that 90% of the published biomedical research is not be reproducible, and with the proliferation of eJournals that publish for money, it is about time to clean up the mess. These changes will minimize the publication of fluff just to increase a PI’s publication numbers as well as make the PI’ think of the actual biomedical impact of their research. With federal funding drying up, the changes will go some way towards funding research beneficial to the US public and not just the PI’s CV. And, save some trees along the way as well. I wish NIH would add a section where the PI is required to indicate the overall citation impact factor of his/her publications – that would indicate to the reviewers how much of an impact the PI’s publications had on other researchers in the field, and how much that helped move the field forward. Also, perhaps include a section where the PI can list wether his/her publications have been cited in the patent databases ( – that would indicate the pharmaceutical/industrial benefits that have resulted from the PI’s research, if any. I think every University subscribes to Thompson-Reuter’s (ISI) Web of Knowledge, which automatically generates the citation impact factor for one’s publications.There are far too many puiblications in literature that just repeat someone else’s studies in one or another type of cancer; and pharmaceutical researchers who rely on primary publications out of Universities and research institutions have been repeatedly frustarted by the non-repoducibility of such research. I am all for the changes.

      1. “These changes will minimize the publication of fluff just to increase a PI’s publication numbers as well as make the PI’ think of the actual biomedical impact of their research.”

        When the interpretation is so subjective, how do these changes actually work to accomplish this? No one disputes the problem, just the solution.

      2. It appears to me that the the part of any grant application that really makes a differences in terms of discussion is the APPROACH. So I do not see why all this waste of time of doing and redoing Biosketches. I stand to be corrected.

  3. More tinkering. Its easy enough to tell from presented papers how much impact a partiuclar PI has had. Having to read a self promotion statement isn’t really going to provide much insight into the importance of the work. As a reviewer, I am quite OK with assessing someones impact from their biosketch and publications.

  4. As a reviewer, I am not looking forward to reading more pages of biosketch. Although I recognize and applaud the effort to recognize accomplishments that are not necessarily evident from the publication list alone, I worry about the very human tendency to “inflate” contributions and the time required for reviewers to read and digest additional biosketch prose.

    I actually like the current format with a paragraph that succinctly describes the contributions and abilities of the investigator.

    1. You are likely correct. The individualist inflates, but the collectivist (communist) deflates achievements. The question becomes which is better (both are legal). What is certain is that individualism leads to achievement whereas collectivism, not so much. In the end, the collectivists always win because nobody lives forever, and mankind is better for their foolishness.

  5. The way I’ve always judged my work and that of others is to ask whether something I and my coworkers did would be part of general and common knowledge in 5, 10 25, 100 or 500 years. In addition, I always ask how old and important the problem was that the work helped solve. Your new biosketch format is exactly what has been needed to limit deceit and exagerations in the research community. What it doesn’t address is the bandwagon phenomena. Only publications establish priority, but not that well. Reputation and character is something you have yet to capture in a biosketch.

    1. Re ” Your new biosketch format is exactly what has been needed to limit deceit and exagerations in the research community. – See more at:“. Are you kidding me or are you just incredibly naive about human behavior in the real world? A substantial fraction of scientists in a pretty harsh funding climate will inevitably blow their own trumpets exaggeratedly and, arguably sometimes deceitfully (Or at the very least in a self-centered, non-objective way). Let’s not ignore the egocentricity that often accompanies ability and talent… Of course, such behavior could be counter-productive; if I were reviewing the application of someone whose career I knew something about and considered that he/she was not being objective (or, worse, dishonest) about his/her accomplishments, I would be poorly disposed to that person. A human reaction, but is that we want to see on study sections where scientific merit should prevail? My point is that subjective factors, like self-assessments of what one has achieved, should play no role in grant applications or their review (likewise, of course, other non-scientific parameters such as gender, race, geography, etc). If applicants and reviewers were dispassionate robots, it might be different, but we’re not…

      1. You are probably correct about a reviewer’s natural reaction-probably coming from what would be called envy in the case of a true achievement and a sense of deceit in the other. Trust me. The third foot has yet to drop. (The first was allowing resubmission of one’s best ideas without limitations.) The new biosketch will help breakdown the academic clubs of peer review within narrow fields that while expert are parochial, hierarchical and truly suffocating especially for the talented ESI. Past performance (or failure) is really the best indicator of future performance & achievements. I would say the fourth foot should be listing total federal dollars given to the PI in the new biosketch boldly in a big box next to the achievements. Without the dollar numbers, PIs will be hard to compare. We’ll need that numerator in the equation.

        1. This only works if you consider dollar amount to be equivalent of success in one’s discipline. It might be argued that an investigator can have a large impact but fewer total dollars. Likewise, other investigators may be quite successful at acquiring funding dollars but have relatively low impact on his/her field. Publications (in high impact journals) matter. Grant funding matters. But other variables (peer/industry awards, honors, mentorships, teaching, and the like) have just as much to do with one’s professional contributions, in my humble opinion. I think an astute reviewer would be able to discern the truly accomplished from the fluff without much effort.

  6. My first reaction to this change is: “more work for the investigator.” While I believe it has the potential to equalize the playing field for many, it also puts much more of a burden on the PI, and will be especially cumbersome for large multidisciplinary applications.

    1. I don’t see it as equalizing. I see it as further stacking the deck for senior investigators with years to thread together such a narrative. I see it as an additional level of review as statements will need to be compared with publication records and impact. I see a tremendous waste of time for PIs trying to craft these things to achieve a delicate balance between hyperbole and modesty. The current biosketch is useful, provides the same kind of information, and doesn’t have these unintended consequences. The major focus on peer review should be on the science of the proposal. Track record matters, but we already get this information.

      1. More reason to include the total federal dollars invested in an investigator alongside the statement of contributions and achievements. I would not want to have to justify a very large number of dollars. But, if achievements were made with little cost (which mine always have), I would be quite amenable to announcing them. I’ve never bought into the academic racket of equating grant dollars with true achievement.

    2. I agree. A monumental waste of time. And a replacement of objective information with subjective fluff. A terrible idea.

  7. Just another way of adding more subjectivity to what used to be the only objective part of a grant proposal. Reviewers should know the contributions in their respective fields. Investigators will simply over-state their contributions, as is human nature, and nobody will read or believe anything in the biosketch. This is a step in the wrong direction and I cannot believe that this idea has been vetted with those reviewers on study sections who will be forced to read this nonsense.

    1. Hardly nonsense. It is probably the strictest and purest judgement on a scientist’s ability and productivity. What have you and your institute spent all those millions on anyway. It hopefully adds up to something worth the cost. Has it all been work in progress and wheel-spinning-never really solving an important problem? Is your title and position all about salesmanship and the dollars you rake in? Any exaggerations here would certainly be a giveaway of poor character. On the other hand, huge achievements and problem solving by researchers warrant proper compensation and continued support on new unproven ideas.

      1. The problem is the need for the reviewer to check the factual content of the PIs statement. There will be a tendency for PIs to overtstate impact etc. Does this mean reviewers will now have to read all their papers, and the associated literature, to assess the impact of the PIs previous work? I would prefer to stick with the current format and focus effort on what is being proposed.

        1. There are too many opportunities for work in science to be misleading. Nature is hard enough to understand and try to control. A reviewer must know an applicant’s track record to know whether they are capable of achieving their stated goals. After time passes, one sees the difference between clear thinkers and those who can not see the truth (by examining their ‘old’ work). Thus, it is imperative to fund those who have been clear thinkers and leaders to the truth. Those scientists are valuable to the medical research enterprise. The others are wasting precious time and money.

          1. Apparently, there is only a supporter of these changes in any scientific forum, although really active…

    2. I agree completely with Amazed Researcher and could not have stated it better: “Just another way of adding more subjectivity to what used to be the only objective part of a grant proposal. Reviewers should know the contributions in their respective fields.”

      This strikes me as more ridiculous busywork (bs) for the applicant, and more pages of rhetoric for the reviewers to wade through. Let the publications speak for themselves!!

      Besides, couldn’t highlighting important contributions be done in the Personal Statement (which is also rhetoric, by the way)?

      1. Publications do not speak for themselves unless you believe solely in numbers, journal names, impact factors or citation numbers. I, and others, could explain to you how those can all be very misleading for some individuals and some research. So why judge a list with no understanding of the content or overall purpose? What really matters is how any scientist’s publications add up and endure. The function of publishing work in papers, in itself, has little value to society especially if those papers cannot stand the test of time, are pedantic or are easily superceded. Publications are merely a tool for sharing results for all scientists to build on to make their contributions and achievements. Solving important problems during a career (i.e. achievements) are a worthwhile goal for the NIH to task researchers with by asking them to highlight them. You should stand back and recognize that your field can be small, parochial, provincial and could better described as an academic club. In other words, your true judges are outside of your field. The field just helps make achievements possible. Your judges are the public supporting your fields’ research looking for achievements that eventually better everyone’s health — not more reports of the waste of billions through irreproducibility or researchers using irrelevant animal models. The biosketch lists of recent publications have obviously failed. The time and energy required to read and investigate a description of career achievements would be far less, and more fruitful, than that required to read and synthesize an entire list of recent publications from a quality scientist.

        1. So what about the new, younger researchers who are just starting out and looking for their first R01? How is our contribution to science going to be judged against senior PIs who are competing for the same funding? The quality of the proposal should be the main priority in the review process. This new policy just creates an even more unlevel playing field for young researchers. If the NIH really wanted to have a positive impact on the research community, they would keep the proposals as objective as possible and reduce the number of R01s any research can have at one time.

          1. “If the NIH really wanted to have a positive impact on the research community…” When will the research community wake up and realize that NIH also has an obligation to the public, i.e. that the biggest priority of this funding agency and supposedly of the research community (though I wonder, as we’re the biggest bunch of naysayers when it comes to change) is to impact society’s health in a positive way? This happens through many avenues besides published research articles. The translation of science from the bench to the bedside (and beyond) is woefully slow, in no small part because of our collective reluctance to bring our work to light in many ways besides journal articles that are read by only the smallest percentage of people. Kudos to NIH for broadening their view of “research impact”.

          2. I agree with you in principal. NIH does have a responsibility to safe-guard taxpayer money through careful assessments; this change, however, is neither careful nor an assessment. More importantly, how do you actually assess the cost-effectiveness of research that may not yield meaningful consequences to human health for decades. Your argument is tinged with the societal need to immediate gratification, and that’s simply not how science works. Unless, of course, you buy the party line of “bench-to-bedside”, which at the end of the day means we’re engineers and not scientists after all.

      2. The recent requirement to add a Personal Statement was a serious error. The requirement to add another section of purple prose and fluff is a worse error.

        Why is NIH asking applicants to write more such science-irrelevant drek and asking reviewers to read more such proposal-irrelevant drek?

    3. Correct. Objectivity replaced by subjectivity. Facts replaced by boasts. A step in the wrong direction.

  8. I wholeheartedly agreement with most of the comments expressed above. This is a BAD and unnecessary idea. For sure it creates more work for the applicants (5 pages!!!, that’s almost half an R01!). More importantly, human nature being what it is, particularly when folks are desperate for funding, many applicants will gild their lilies. Self-assessment of accomplishments and achievements suits the egotists, but surely not the more modest (but probably no less accomplished) majority of people who try to be more honest about themselves. If I were a reviewer and detected someone who seriously triggered my BS-meter, I would feel annoyed, which is not a good attitude when reviewing grants…

    The list of papers at least represents hard facts. If CSR wants reviewers to have more information, add citation index data for each paper, or an applicant’s H-index. With all these flaws, these parameters are at least fact-based, rather than the product of creative-writing.

    1. I agree. How will these research portfolio statements be validated, given different scientists’ views of their own worth? What fluff this is… NIH is getting further and further away from judging proposals based on the science and scientific merit. And women will generally be less boastful than men, so this new change will likely lead to even lower numbers of women scientists getting funded by NIH. What is wrong with looking at a scientist’s publications as a measure of productivity? It is more objective than this new format for sure.

  9. STOP!!!!! Reviewers don’t need it and don’t want to read it! Applicants don’t want to waste time on anything other than the science. Didn’t we learn anything from the latest A2 meddling? How many times have we seen grants from fantastic scientists not get funded because of the science in the current proposal???? Sometimes this is justified even though they may be a Nobel Laureate or trailblazer. Within reason, reviewers must focus on the current grant and there already is enough information for them to do that. We need innovation that will get more people doing good science not exercises that continually provide more roadblocks!

    1. Agreed. More busy work that will put more subjectivity into the process. Also agree on the additional workload for reviewers who will now need to vet these statements. Sometimes, different is not better.

      1. Let me go further – I personally will not look at this crap or take it into consideration when reviewing a proposal.

  10. If a reviewer cannot judge the impact/contribution of an applicant’s works based on the publication list, maybe that reviewer should not review that grant in the first place.

    1. People seem to be missing the point that not all contributions to a field are through a publication. If you can only judge people via a list of publications, and where these were published, this disenfranchises those researchers that make broader contributions beyond the printed page.

      I also think you overestimate the abilities of peers to objectively review/rank proposals.

      1. If the concern is really about contributions other than pubs, then make that another section with a list and *maybe* a one sentence description of the contribution. I would have no problem with that. My issue is with the pages of prose justifying those contributions. No one is going to say that their publications or contributions are less than stellar. This will turn the biosketch into the recommendation letter, where everyone is “outstanding” and “top of the class”.

  11. I agree with the fact that these 5 pages are more useless work for the PI and for the reviewers. Grant proposals do not need more subjective and self-promoting statements from the PI, there are enough in the “Impact” and “Innovation” sections. Reviewers should be given the opportunity to execute their knowledge and expertise to judge the proposed work, as well as the PI, using unbiased objective information. The new 5-page Biosketch doesn’t seems like unbiased and objective.

  12. Just weighing in to agree with Dr. Rounds and the many other experienced scientists and reviewers who have commented here. I’ve reviewed for CSR for many years on various study sections. The last major addition to biosketches was helpful. The summary paragraph does help reviewers understand the investigator’s expertise where they may have many publications in a variety of areas, and their expertise doesn’t jump out immediately.

    However, allowing for the individual to trumpet their own accomplishments and describe its impact is nothing less than subjective salesmanship. Antithetical to science which is supposed to be based on objective observation. Not helpful to reviewers at all. Not helpful to excellent, accomplished scientists who may be less skilled at sales.

    1. I’ve dealt with experts with expertise in my work, but my impression has not always been that good. They tend to stand as a hiearchical, and often obstructive, authority in a field. I’d have to agree with Niels Bohr when he said “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field”. I don’t think funding experts for the sake of their expertise is the way to go unless they are in the business of constantly developing valuable new methods. We need to go beyond that. Also, one can state achievements and contributions without being arrogant. It all has to do with what your goal has been for your life’s work. My guess is that the new biographical sketches will make grants more accessible for review by those outside a narrow field —so overzealous salesmanship and self-promotion on a narrow topic could be very detrimental. One would also especially be walking on thin ice with a reviewer from within a field.

      1. But why introduce this unnecessary complication? Are we to shorten the formats of NIH proposals only to inflate other sections that are less germane to the assessment of the work?

  13. I tend to agree with most of the negative commentary here. Reviewers who are qualified to review will not improve their understanding of the science, the capability of the applicant, or the feasibility of the work; nor is it credible that an applicant’s statement of the impact of their own work will inform the reviewer’s opinions in a more comprehensive and objective way than the current biosketch permits. There is also a hidden and perhaps unintended consequence, which will be to amplify the career-long accomplishments of a conservative pathway to investigation, while diminishing the hardscrabble work of doing new things and taking risks.

  14. I have yet to talk to anyone who sees that this new format will be of benefit to either the applicant or the reviewer. I wonder if tested this idea with various focus groups consisting of both PIs and experienced reviewers to find out what they think?

  15. Since most of the comments here are against the proposed changes in the biosketch, could we have some thoughts from “Rock Talk” about this?

  16. As a reviewer and a grantwriter, I am very much against this extra burden of work. Both the reviewer and the grantwriter need to spend more time focusing on the actual proposed science. In addition, as a reveiwer, when judging an application, I will NOT take into account the PI’s own evaluation of themselves – how ridiculous. I am looking to NIH to reverse this decision.

    1. It is apparent that opinion in these posts runs decisively against this proposal.

      I strongly recommend that the NIH poll current grantees and current reviewers before implementing this proposal,.

      Decisions of this type should be made by grantees and reviewers. Not by administrators.

    2. Here to vote against the planned change in Biosketch. It amounts to much extra work for grant writers and reviewers. And, its content will likely not achieve its goals. I, too, advise that NIH take the these responses as an indication they you seriously reconsider their plans — or put it to a community vote.
      (The proposal itself always has always been the place for investigators to note their personal contributions in both published research, unpublished research and proposed research.)

  17. The thought also occurs (and this comes from a non-expert on this topic, so having an expert in gender studies verify this would be helpful), that there is, in general, a greater tendency among women to have difficulty “tooting their own horn”. If this is a real phenomenon, wouldn’t the new biosketch work against NIH’s current push to increase fairness in awarding grants? I believe this same issue of the Peer Review Notes also has an article about women and minorities getting disproportionately fewer grant awards. Wouldn’t it also work against new investigators? Beyond these concerns, I’ve seen many instances where new investigators submitted strong, important research proposals, while well known leaders in the field occasionally submit rather weak proposals. So, to some degree, who cares what your past contributions have been? My job as a reviewer is to determine the value of this particular application.

  18. As a current study section chairperson I am completely against this change. It only adds to the subjectivity of the review process and to the workload of the investigators (and the reviewers). I see overwhelmingly negative comments and I hope somebody will take them into account, do the right thing, and go back to the status quo. There may be many issues and problems with the NIH peer-reviewing process, but evaluating a biosketch in the current format is NOT one of them.

    1. I totally agree with Dr Silvestri, the biosketch is not a main problem in the NIH system of review. For established investigators, any competent reviewer can assess an applicant’s productivity and creativity from their biosketch and a quick search if necessary. As a reviewer I would unlikely read the dribble and just go to pub med to make my assessment of their work over the last 4-5 years. The one paragraph personal statement is more than adequate to provide some background. I see little benefit of this exercise in ensuring that the best science gets funded.

  19. Why take the most objective piece of the proposal and force it into an inflated bragging competition? This is a disastrous idea and needs to be cancelled.

  20. Could not agree more with the vociferously negative reaction to this change. More busywork for the investigator and more bull honkey for the reviewer. BAD BAD BAD IDEA

  21. Not helpful to reviewers and more more useless paperwork for applicants. Please do not make this change!!!

  22. I agree with the overall sentiment to tinker with the application, but this change to the biosketch will just increase the work burden for reviewers and grant writers unnecessarily. Is there any data that reviewers DON’T agree on their ratings of investigators? Could NIH look at the three reviewers ratings for “investigators”? If this agreement is not significantly different than the other ratings (significance, innovation, approach, environment, and I guess overall impact) then I would say the biosketch does not need to be tinkered with. Also, I agree with many of the comments above that this would almost definitely lead to a ‘tooting of one’s horn’ and would not a very discriminating criteria on which to review grants.

  23. I also agree with those wary of the extra work and tendency to inflate one’a contributions. I can also see the counterpoint that a list of publications can be unreliable as well. What about simply including an objective metric of the number of citations generated from each publication? While not perfect, it would be objective and would give a rough estimate of how impactful the scientist’s work is.

  24. This is a really bad idea of asking PIs to write 5 pages to self-nominate for an NIH grant. The current personal statement is more than sufficient to tell everything and more about the PI. What NIH and reviewers should focus on is how to fund the best ideas. The proposed change would only divert us from this goal.

  25. I like the current format and feel this change, although made with good intentions, unnecessarily adds more work for the reviewer and research team.

  26. Whatever happened to reducing the burden on PIs who are applying for funding? As a research development professional, I can help my PIs by formatting and updating their biosketches. This is especially critical for large grant proposals. With this change, all of the burden for preparing biosketches will be shifted upon the investigator, because we staff members won’t be able to help them anymore! I’d much rather have my PIs focus on writing their proposals! This creates an immense administrative burden on the investigator that administrative staff will not be able to help them with.

  27. Having read all these Vox Pop responses, they are almost exclusively opposed to this new Biosketch plan (the one exception being the multiple comments from ‘CitizenScientist’, who appears to hold some kind of bizarre grudge against the current peer review system). As a result, if and when I have to submit a grant application that includes the new Biosketch format, I have decided to decline to provide the requested statements about my perceptions of my own accomplishments. Instead, I will make a short statement explaining to the reviewers why I believe such statements to be inappropriate, and asking them to base their judgments of my career on my publication record. If doing that ends up costing me a grant, so be it. But it’s time the working scientist stood up to this kind of nonsense, and I for one will make a stand. Whether the study section regards my actions favorably or not is a crap shoot, but of course grant funding at the present payline range has pretty much become that anyway…

    1. An excellent idea–all PIs should boycott this if it is actually implemented, and simply submit the standard biosketch. As a reviewer, I can certainly say I would not be in the least perturbed to see such an application.

    2. I agree with the idea that, as writers of the application, we the PIs have the right to use as much space allotted to the self-promoting section of the new Biosketch as we fit necessary. I for one, (and it seems the vast majority posting here as well), will have a single paragraph asking the reviewers to rely on the preceding old-style Biosketch. Done. Less work for the reviewer=happy reviewer. Less work for me=back to analyzing data/mentoring young scientists/writing papers and grants.

      No one says we have to use all the pages allowed, especially if they ask us to self-promote our own achievements. I struggle to be a scientist and educator, not a PR person.

      1. Without writing this one time (updateable) section of any length up to 5 pages, you will essentially provide no information to those outside your field about the scientist you have been and what you have done with the past investments in you. Your publications are not as accessible to others as you would like to think. That requires a narrative that only you can provide. A Nobel Committee cannot even write this information for a laureate. Laureates write their own and usually in the format now recommended by the NIH. Of course, few NIH scientists are laureates, but every NIH-supported scientist should have an accessible biography.

    3. I think that I am not alone in being extremely risk averse when it comes to following grant application instructions. Because peoples’ livelihood and future depend on a successful grant, and administrative institutional resources are used to submit it, I find this particular plan of action to be a little bit irresponsible.

    4. A boycott of the self-promotion section is a laudable approach.

      But a better approach would be to demand that NIH conduct a referendum of NIH reviewers, and preferably of both NIH reviewers and grantees and reviewers, before implementing changes in proposal formats…and to require majority support before implementing changes in proposal formats.

  28. The bio format does not matter much for my reviewer experiences. The most important point of bio is that the PI and team have enough capability to run the proposed projet. As long as bio has enough crudential, overstatement does not chage the score. The format change might be a waste of time.

  29. I agree with the majority of comments here. Can we maybe just make this a suggestion for inclusion in the personal statement? Going beyond that seems like wasting a lot of resources.

  30. This is another approach to concentrate wealth ( research dollars) in the hands of the already wealthy – aka those powerful scientists who control NIH. Moreover, this basically assumes that an individual who has yet to make a ” fundamental” contribution to science has no ability or potential to do so in the future. Conversely, this approach assumes that someone who has made a “fundamental” contribution in the past will do so again in the future. Have we not learned from mutual fund commercials yet? I would agree with others, let’s focus on the scientific merit and the ability of an individual to actually do the work proposed and let’s not get caught up in hyperbole.

    1. Yes, I’d anticipate this would have the opposite effect from what is being articulated. Senior investigators will benefit disproportionately because of their longer history.

  31. I really think that the current format is very good. The proposed change is really not necessary and will only make things more complicate.

  32. A nightmare for everyone involved. Exactly whose idea was this? I cannot imagine any PIs clamoring to triple the work required to produce a simple biosketch. No reviewer has the time to read this. And as already noted by others, if the reviewer cannot assess impact by the publication list and personal statement, something is wrong. This new format will create only unnecessary work, but no benefit. Most investigators are not producing research that is revolutionizing their field. Instead, they are likely doing solid, respected work that peers use and build upon, work that advances science. How is the PI supposed to describe this kind of impact? Based on what? Their own perceptions of what they think the impact is? Why are 5 pages required to do this? Again, a nightmare.

  33. I concur with the majority. I don’t see the new format helping reviewers or applicants. I found that the short list of relevant papers in the old Biosketch either told a good story or didn’t. Perhaps adding a CONCISE (3 line) statement of impact of the top 5 papers could be useful. The proposed new format appears to require that reviewers read pages of hyperbolic narrative about the PI and all senior personnel, then check online sources for the same objective information that was already in the old Biosketch. This seems more like reviewer abuse than progress.

  34. If significance to society is the criterion, then list the issued patents in the biosketch. There isn’t much of lasting significance nowadays that isn’t patented – especially since a significant amount of NIH-sponsored research is a front for the Professor’s company who licenses the patent generated with NIH funding from the university.

    1. I disagree. I have patents, but consider my basic science to be of greater long term benefit to society. I also do many studies that could be patented but I don’t feel the investment is warranted. Deep pocket institutions would have an advantage simply because they could afford more legal time to pursue patents that in the end may be trivial. My two cents.

  35. Please make a poll survey to the current CSR reviewers and staff members first before the change. As a reviewer and investigator, I don’t think the change has any positive impact on the current review process.

  36. This appears to be a yet another example of how NIH simulates activity through meaningless busywork. For some of the applications, 5 pages is the limit for the substantive part of the grant, including significance, innovation and research plan. So, the biosketch and the actual meaningful part of the application will have the same volume. Has anyone thought of the absurdity of this situation? Moreover, the current format already allows one to highlight any relevant achievements in the Personal Statement. If some egomaniac needs an extra page for this section, this has to be referred to his psychiatrist, not a peer reviewer.

  37. The overall goal to “redirect the focus of reviewers and the scientific community more generally from widely questioned metrics, like the number of published papers ..” is not a bad one. The logical thing to do would be to replace these questionable metrics with “better” metrics, but what NIH proposes is the replace them with completely subjective, non-quantifiable prose.

    Also, I second the comment that 5 pages worth of biosketch amount to almost 1/2 the length of an R01. Multiply these 5 pages with the number of key personnel (easily 5 on my proposals), and as a team we may end up spending as much effort on biosketches as on the actual science sections (which do NOT scale with the number of investigators).

  38. Having reviewed on many panels, I have a mixed reaction to this plan. I agree that it could better highlight some applicants’ contributions within contributions, as well as how one’s work systematically “adds up” that might otherwise not be obvious (especially as that relates to the probability of successfully achieving the goals of the proposal). But, yes, it will place yet another set of burdens on the grant writer and the panel members. To reduce the negatives and increase the positive aspects, it might help to provide “best” examples of what would be exemplary new biosketches from NIH’s perspective (what is it about them that achieves NIH’s new goals better than before). My hope is that instructions (to applicants) would make it easier to structure these bios for panelists to evaluate the applicants’ claims (i.e., encouraging warrants for applicants’ claims and pointing to hard evidence backing them up).

  39. I am concerned that the new format for biosketches will have an adverse impact on women scientists. There is a plethora of evidence that women are less likely to trumpet their achievements – although some have made the arguments that women do their accomplishments justice, and men exaggerate. In addition, most people recognize now the impact of groups vs. individuals in moving the scientific fields forward which changes the paradigm of the lone PI who single-handedly makes a discovery, but presents challenges in defining one’s individual role in scientific advancement.

    Seems ironic to read one story on how NIH is working toward reducing disparities, in particular racial ones, while the next story advocates for a format of self-aggrandizement that is likely to increase disparities between men and women.

  40. Every cycle I am buried with 10-12 grants to review. This is already too much reading. The personal statement already serves the purpose of trumpeting one’s accomplishments. I don’t want to read a longer, embellished version of what someone thinks their impact is and as a matter of fact I would be inclined to ignore it completely and focus on the papers. The papers have already been peer-reviewed whereas this proposed auto-hagiography will not be. The fact is it is pretty easy to figure out from the papers and – btw – from the write-up. If you want, add in citations or H index, as suggested above. Some investigators already include their H indices (of course only those with high ones – I have never seen it listed when it is like 5 or 10). I have made many suggestions to improve the review process, but they are always ignored. This is an absolutely TERRIBLE idea. For instance, I just reviewed a grant from a scientist who, based upon the dates in the Biosketch, is probably in their mid-40’s. It is pretty apparent that they have no “greatest hits” list, but the grant was a well written, solid proposal to collect some very necessary, though not particularly innovative data. I thought it was worth funding. Do we really want to force this person to embellish their solid, but not necessarily prize-winning, career? What purpose does this serve?

    1. One more point. A much, much better way to do this (and I am sure this suggestion will be ignored too) is to reduce the listed papers to 10, and then write on sentence about 5 of the papers. Thus you could say, for instance:

      MacGyver et al. , Journal of Enormously Expensive Machines: 13:666 (1999).
      “This was the first paper to show that one could measure the mass of the Higgs boson using nothing but a spoon and a piece of string and it has now become the standard for how such measurements are made (cites = 4000).

  41. While there are so many problems with the NIH review process, why in the world are we trying to fix something that isn’t broken? The current biosketch format may not be ideal, but it certainly is acceptable and fulfills its purpose. Why don’t we instead look at requiring pre-proposal (<2 pages) and invitations for most NIH grants? This would save the PI and reviewers a heck of a lot of wasted time (for those rejected) or increase the chance for funding (for those invited). Pre-proposals can be accepted on a regular basis.

    1. I also agree with most posts regarding this proposed change. I can’t see the benefit of this change,just more busy work. I also like the idea of 2-pg pre-proposals followed by invite (or not) to submit full application. With charges now being placed by many schools to submit- this would benefit younger, less well funded (via consulting discretionary funds) faculty and reduce the burden across the board for everyone.

    2. It is human nature to attempt to fix the things one has power to fix, whether they need fixing or not. Much more control over this than the fight for increased, sustainable funding levels for the biomedical enterprise. Anything else is rearranging deck chairs.

      1. Be not mistaken. As indicated by the resistance, the change will be a game-changer. Some will benefit. Others will suffer. Hopefully, an equillibrium will be established. Minimally, it sends a powerful message and change in the mindset.

        1. Really, you interpret resistance only as protecting vested interests? I would benefit from this immeasurably if it were implemented. However, it will absolutely torpedo young investigators.

          Prediction 1: Implement this plan and the age of obtaining first R01 will increase significantly within 3 review cycles.

          Prediction 2: Diversity of funded PIs and proportion of women PIs will decrease significantly within the same period.

  42. I agree with many comments. I already hated the addition of the personal statement, and this sounds like more of the same. A waste of time for both the applicant and the reviewer, making the biosketch more subjective, and I am very skeptical it will be of much use.

  43. (i) New Biosketch format calls for self-evaluations (description of one’s accomplishments), which are, by definition, subjective.
    — What is the benefit of promoting subjectivity in the grant review process?
    (ii) A Personal Statement in the Biosketch ALREADY allows an applicant to summarize their expertise and highlight their achievements pertinent to the proposal.
    — Why does a format need to change?
    (iii) Statistics on total citations and citations over the last few years (say 5 years), which can be encouraged to be presented (on a voluntary basis), is an objective way of measuring soe one’s impact.

    1. Re (iii) you ignore the fact that citation rates within fields and subfields (even sub-subfields) vary markedly and as such it can be very difficult to objective compare researchers in similar fields but publishing in different sub-topics and so on.

      And again, I’ll repeat the point that not all contributions come in the form of publications that can be cited.

  44. Fully agree with negative comments. More shifting from science to bragging and sales, adds more unnecessary work for both applicants and reviewers. How many negative comments would take for NIH to realize that this idea should bi killed now?

  45. This new biosketch format seems a very bad idea. The current version with the paragraph is certainly adequate, though also a lot of work for those of us with a variety of skillls and areas of expertise. I am not sure what NIH is thinking in proposing this new format. An R01 is 12 pages (a welcome shorter format over the old 25 pages) but now the biosketch is supposed to be 5 pages? The idea of reading someone’s self-promotion imakes me glad that I will rotate off study section soon. This has got to be rolled back. And what of large grants where you need to put in say 30 biosketches? Such a bad idea.

  46. I agree with most of the negative comments. This change will increase the workload for the applicant and reviewer. The only additional information I would be interested in is to know that in multidisciplinary papers in which the applicant’s name is not first or last, (s)he is a co-first or a co-senior (corresponding) author. There is already ample opportunity to add this without increasing the page limit.

  47. This is a bad idea that should be stopped NOW. The accomplishments relevant to the grant proposal are already in either the preliminary data or progress report. After significantly reducing the length of the application (R01) it is surprising that NIH is unnecessarily bloating the biosketch, which already contains a personal statement. Bad idea at a time when the focus should be on reducing administrative overload associated with the process.

  48. 5 page biosketches are a terrible idea for all the reasons already enumerated in this comment section. The current format is more than sufficient and not overly burdensome.

  49. Those of you in the fish pond probably cannot recognize what is happening to the pond. The big fish have been eating the little fish, and there is nowhere for any of the little or medium-sized fish to hide or grow (aside from evolving into little monsters). Those little fish are the future of the pond. Some of the ‘fittest’ little fish as well as bigger fish need to survive for a balanced ecosystem. The solution is to remove some of the unproductive and detrimental big fish by fishing them out. We could let them all starve and allow the pond to re-start itself, but that’s a slow and uncertain process.

    The new biosketch will hopefully do that by removing those who are taking more from the system than they have given back. Signs of damaging promising ESIs through cut-throat competition or deliberate undermining of their tenuous positions should certainly be examined by reviewers, if possible. How do you select the best fish for the pond is the 30 billion dollar question.

    1. I should add that connecting the pond to the ocean can solve the problem for quite some time because the big pond fish will be eaten by the sharks etc. thus leaving the smaller fish behind. The new biosketch will hopefully connect the ponds to the ocean and help solve the problem.

    2. Not! The little and medium fish will be gobbled down even faster as the big fish will have writing teams to help them embelish even more their “impact!”

    3. Little fish: “I hatched, and have swum around this rock for 2 years. Here are my publications- they are about this rock”.

      Big fish: “I have lived a long a full life, weaving an uninterrupted path of survival and productivity, and enough time has elapsed to show the worth of my accomplishments. Here are my publications, which reflect the rock I came from, but also the many places I have seen tempered by the elements and my competition.”

      I don’t disagree that there are defects in peer review and access, but I disagree that the proposed change will do more than exacerbate it.

      1. The key will be for the sharks to recognize and eat the diseased big fish. Supposedly, nature has ways of eliminating the old and diseased and nurturing the weaker young. Hopefully, the review of achievements and scientific character can be done by ‘outstanding scientists’ (Alberts B. et al. PNAS 2014). A reviewer will need to not only be accomplished, but also be versed in philosophy and history of science as well as human psychology and behavior.

        1. I would respectfully suggest that expecting the embodiment of all of these qualities in a reviewer would lead to very low numbers of qualified reviewers.

  50. I would also be in favor of hearing why this is necessary. As a reviewer and grantee, this means more pages and additional work. As a reviewer, I like that applicants have to create their own biosketch, and that it is not completely pre-formated. One can tell a significant amount about an investigator’s attention to detail in composing a biosketch.

    Second, a new web based portal will make it difficult for some international investigators to develop a biosketch this way.

    Third, I was quite surprised at the description of: “most significant contributions to science, the influence of their contributions on their scientific field, and any subsequent effects of those contributions on health or technology ”
    Has the mission of the NIH changed? I thought the NIH mission was about the advancement of human health, not the advancement of science.

  51. I wonder if this format will further undermine NIHs attempt to address bias in review. Don’t studies show that women and minorities do not self-promote as effectively? And if they do self-promote it is taken more negatively than if a man does it? Has this element been considered??

    1. Exactly, this is going to introduce more bias into the review process even as NIH purports to attempt to reduce it.

  52. As reviewers, we work hard to separate facts from fiction in scientific proposals. The last thing we want is to parse another self-aggrandizing write up. Moreover, this will only help good writers than good scientists who do not write well. I think the current system is good. Adding a link to all of an applicant’s publications may be helpful for reviewers who need to know more about the individual. Please, do not add more (unnecessary) work to reviewers.

  53. As a long time reviewer and grantwriter I strongly agree with the general sentiment that this change is not necessary and will be a burden on reviewers that will only contribute additional bias to the process. I will not likely take the time to even read the five pages of “nonsense.”

  54. It’s ironic that this is right below the article on how NIH is trying to find and address bias in review- while it may or may not be a factor by race, it’s well-established that women are much less likely to ‘blow their own horn’ than men, as well as placing more of an emphasis on the contributions of others to their work. In the unlikely event that this new format influences reviewer decisions, scores will likely start to show a significant bias towards male PIs.

  55. I’m afraid this will just be another opportunity for grantsmanship to trump substance. It also assumes that the reviewers are not sufficiently familiar with the field, which is a sad comment on the quality of our reviewing enterprise. I could see where the proposed change could help investigators who have switched fields at some point in their career, but I don’t see why this can’t be dealt with in the narrative section of the current biosketch format.

  56. I completely agree with the negative comments. This change will mean more work for grant writers, and more work for reviewers, with no improvement in the content. A truly terrible proposal.

  57. Very much in agreement with the majority. This change imposes an unnecessary burden on all involved, practically mandates self-serving hyperbole, and fixes a problem that does not exist. As a reviewer I have the current biosketch format, PubMed, NIHReporter, ISI, Scopus, Google Scholar and my own ability to read and evaluate science and scientific careers to enable me to judge impact and potential impact. Can I please just read the science now?

  58. Time for a top down change at the NIH. How much more of this utter drivel do we have to put up with. Biosketches should be getting shorter not longer. Scientists are hardly likely to downplay impact, achievements, contribution or whatever you want to call it. Originality might be a better metric to look for. If we are to encourage more scientists to collaborate how are we to measure that contribution?
    When was the last time the NIH administrators / leaders came up with a truly novel or even good idea? If anything they seem to add to the workload of those trying to win a grant, they should be easing the path not adding new hurdles.

    New tag line for NIH.. NIH … Making it even more onerous to submit a grant.

  59. I feel that this change adds to the burden of both reviewer and applicant in negative ways. The current 2-page biosketch format seems reasonable and succinct. You are able to demonstrate your experience in the area of the grant and state how your interest evolved. Why belabor the point by adding massaging that single paragraph into several more pages?

  60. Changing the current NIH biosketch to a new subjective and verbose format is a VERY BAD idea that fully reflects the disconnect between NIH administrators and scientists/reviewers trying to stay alive in these difficult financial times.

    The current NIH biosketch works. We simply don’t need new rules, especially when they undo something that works well. We don’t need to write (and read) more subjective ‘bla, bla’ about somebody’s scientific achievements.

    NIH administrators must STOP reinventing the wheel and generate more and more beaurocracy.

  61. Here are the new instructions as outlined in one of the pilot RFAs:

    C. Contributions to Science. Describe your five most significant contributions to science. For each of these contributions, cite the peer reviewed publication (or set of no more than four publications) that present(s) the work, followed by a paragraph that includes the following elements:

    the historical background that frames the scientific problem;
    the central finding(s);
    the influence of the finding on the progress of science or on the application(s) of the finding to health and/or technology; and,
    the specific role you played in the described work.

    Each scientific contribution, including any related figures, should occupy no more than half a page.

    Publications pertinent to the current grant application that are not included among the Contributions to Science may be mentioned in the Background or Preliminary Results section of the application or in a preceding section of the Biosketch (Section A. Personal Statement) that asks ‘why your experience and qualification make you particularly well-suited for your role in the project that is the subject of the application.

    When citing articles that fall under the Public Access Policy, were authored or co-authored by the applicant and arose from NIH support, provide the NIH Manuscript Submission reference number (e.g., NIHMS97531) or the PubMed Central (PMC) reference number (e.g., PMCID234567) for each article. If the PMCID is not yet available because the Journal submits articles directly to PMC on behalf of their authors, indicate “PMC Journal – In Process.” A list of these Journals is posted at: Citations that are not covered by the Public Access Policy, but are publicly available in a free, online format may include URLs or PubMed ID (PMID) numbers along with the full reference (note that copies of publicly available publications are not acceptable as appendix material.)

    At the end of section C, a link to a full listing of your published work as found in a public database such as PubMed may be included.


    1. Not only does the PI have to write up the background and significance for the work proposed in the application, but must now do so for 5 studies they have ALREADY published. Any competent and appropriate reviewer should know what the background framing of the problem is, and if the work made such a contribution to science, wouldn’t they also know what the findings were?
    2. “The influence on the finding on the progress of science” is so vague as to be meaningless, and as another commented noted, has nothing to do with the NIH mission of bettering population health.
    3. First or last author should convey what role the PI played in the described work.
    4. Why would precious page real estate be taken out of the Preliminary Studies section to waste time discussing prior publications that could have been listed in the biosketch, like always?
    5. Not being able to list publications (15, 10, whatever) means that investigators who do interdisciplinary work and are in conversation with different disciplines, and need evidence of that for the proposal no longer have a succinct and easily interpretable way to show this.
    6. Linking to a database like PubMed is not appropriate, as not all journals are indexed there, in particular social science journals, even top ranked ones, if they are not health-focused.

    1. Ghastly. No active researcher possibly could have come up with that set of instructions. Only an administrator. And only a completely clueless administrator..

  62. Further thoughts on this.
    Where is the evidence that making these changes will be beneficial, is it peer pressure from HHMI or some other org?

    When I see the words “strongly believe ” in any reasoning for doing something that tends to set the alarm bells off.

    I humbly propose you limit biosketches to 1 page. Because I can guarantee they will be more likely to be read compared with a 5 page version. Compressing ones best papers, achievements, skills and contributions into 1 page would be a good challenge.

    I think the NIH should put more resources into ensuring the reviewers actually read submissions rather than quibbling over biosketches.

  63. This change is a bad idea for so many reasons, I hope the decision makers reconsider. I am not against change, but I am against fluff, hype and self aggrandizement. The new format encourages them all at the expense of peer reviewed data (the publication list).

  64. Personally, I will be LESS likely to agree to serve on NIH review panels. This change adds more burden to reviewers, as now the reviewer must wade through the Bibliography website rather than having it be part of the current succinct 4-page biosketch. Others have already eloquently stated the many serious flaws with this new plan– which will not only add burden to everyone (reviewers and grant applicants), but will decrease the fairness of the reviews. Those with the best “spin” will win. Is NIH really just getting more out of touch?

  65. As a new PI, I have extended the biosketch personal statement in my last two R01 submissions to about 3/4 of a page in order to tout my own accomplishments in the field and to make it very clear that my lab, though young, has made progress. I was still well within the current page limits because I don’t have mile-long lists of positions and awards that the more experienced would have. So, it seems to me that this new policy simply gives the well-established more space to brag and inflate, while providing nothing new for the ESI.

  66. Such a bad idea. We already have to write such nonsense for promotions, tenure, green card letters. We all write / read these with an understanding of how overblown much of it is and roll our eyes. But the biosketch is not a place for this. Please, please reconsider. I don’t need more to read when reviewing, and I don’t need even more subjectivity in my own grant reviews. Not to mention that half of the proposals I review don’t even use the correct current format.. and half the time we end up having to edit / write our collaborators’ introductory paragraphs as it is. This is just going to lead to a huge heterogeneous mess.

  67. What a terrible idea. They take imperfect but objective measures (publications; journals; citation counts) which contribute important information and replace it with a personal narrative. This is a perfect microcosm of everything that is wrong with the academy; fashionable post-modern leftism (personal narratives) has left the drek that is the arts and humanities and inserted itself into cancer, heart disease, neurology etc… The NIH biosketch will look like an overachiever’s college application complete with an upcoming NIH-imposed section on obstacles you have overcome. It will reward people who are self-promoters and punish a scientist who is more humble and recognizes the limitations and weaknesses of their own work. Look at the comments on this board. Did they consult any scientists who are not required suck up to NIH bureaucrats? NIH reviewers need to respond to this. If NIH does not change this nonsense, then reviewers need to simply ignore the narrative.

  68. This is a truly terrible idea, for both grant-writers (another significant hoop to jump through) and grant reviewers (another subjective grant component that has to be evaluated). PLEASE reconsider before rolling this out on a grand scale, or on any scale.

  69. Most of us have multiple biosketches that emphasize different areas of research or interest, often created to support applications prepared by our colleagues or collaborators or for training grants. To write multiple self assessments that are at best subjective in nature becomes just another “unfunded mandate” that takes away time from doing creative research. As someone else pointed out, if you can’t assess the impact and significance of someone’s research from reading their publications, you should not be reviewing the grant.

  70. Despite being one of those senior PIs who supposedly benefits from this change, I say ‘uggh’ to this for all the reasons that have been listed above. The old form was short and sweet and gave exactly what was needed. This new one will be ‘fine’ but it wasn’t needed and clearly will lead to more tooting of one’s own horn.

  71. Since we are a data driven community please perform a quantitative, unbiased survey of investigators, peer reviewers and CSR staff to evaluate the pros and cons of the proposed changes. While I am personally not in favor of the proposed changes and clearly the majority of respondents here are not; however, this is far from an unbiased selection. So do the study and let’s see the data.

    1. You’re right, this forum is probably biased and it’s easy enough for NIH to do an RFI or even a survey of current reviewers and PIs. However, I stand to benefit from it, and I think it’s a really bad idea.

  72. As someone who has reviewed and been reviewed many many times…part of grantsmanship is to not annoy the reviewer and get dinged. We ding and get dinged for stuff like punctuation and grammar. If the new style biosketch seems exaggerated or even mistakenly perceived to be exaggerated on an application (and Lord help you if you are being evaluated by a competitor) then the “Investigator” score will be negatively impacted. So instead of being helpful, this new initiative could really hurt folks.

  73. I agree with some comments above! Trumpetting on your own “accomplishments” is SUBJECTIVE, it is biased, invites critique. Plus, it benefits only SENIOR and already so-called “accomplished” investigators. Year after year, I see more and more power is transferred to SENIOR investigators /PIs and less and less power to Young investigators, who actually are the brain and motor of science! — One example, in our lab the most senior “accomplished” guy asks US, Young Fellows and investigators to write his NIH grants – which I find highly disturbing, unfair, and abuse of power.

    Finally, One should recall the age of inventors of the most important scientific breakthrough! There are few good articles out there – Check out
    “Fleeting Youth, Fading Creativity” – Wall Street Journal 2010.

  74. I agree with many of the comments here. This is a terrible idea. First of all, reviewers are well qualified to judge a PI’s impact based on their selected publications. Secondly, this just creates another venue for embellishing one’s accomplishments. The ability to embellish or trumpet one’s own accomplishments if not equal across gender or cultural lines.

    Can we please leave the Biosketches alone. There are so many more serious issues facing PIs.

  75. In the ideal world, reviewers should judge only the scientific content of the proposal, blinded to the name of the PI(s). That is my opinion. A good idea is a good idea, no matter who does it.

    Would you have funded a garage company later called Apple?…

  76. If a reviewer can’t figure out from the publication list what the contribution of the applicant has been to the field, they should not be reviewing the grant – plain and simple.

    This is change for change’s sake and ignores much larger issues in peer review that should be prioritized for solutions. How about the NIH focuses on the real problems researchers are facing, rather than inventing non-existent problems to “solve”?

    1. Exactly – our real problems include a restricted funding pool exemplified by plummeting funding rates, increasing age at first R01, overproduction of PhDs, etc. Not biosketches.

  77. I actually like the current format because I believe any reviewer has the ability to judge whether or not the accomplishments by applicants are significant based on publications. I believe that reviewers still have to go to publications to judge whether or not the accomplishments claimed by applicants are true. If NIH really wants to include accomplishments, the new format should be a combination of both publication and accomplishment statement. In addition, the accomplishments should be something achieved recently. It is unfair to fund somebody with a great accomplishments made twenty years ago and had no accomplishments or no publications last 10 years…….

  78. Why is it that every time NIH changes something it creates exactly the opposite of the supposed benefit? K awards are a new barrier to starting an independent career, not a path to independence. And this is so obviously a way to introduce subjective marketing, to say nothing of the extra work. What a horrendous idea.

  79. It is hard to understand the motivation behind these changes. Relevant, high quality work by the investigator should be evident in the application itself, and should be a much better basis for judging the likelihood that the applicant will be successful. The proposed self-promotion additions to the biosketch will primarily serve to highlight large, established labs to the detriment of smaller labs, and especially will hurt new investigators. In addition, if the claims made in the biosketch are going to sway the decision of the reviewer, the reviewer must somehow evaluate the validity of the claims.

  80. Those from entitled lineages will boast shamelessly about the impact of their research, while the others, especially women, will be modest, truthful, and understated.

    Will this just be another way for reviewers to recognize members of one’s own club?

  81. Dear Sally,
    While the idea of emphasizing impact and creativity of one’s research versus paper numbers is definitely worthwhile, and while it is supported by the NIH leadership, the proposed implementation has now (this blog) been peer-reviewed and clearly rejected by the scientists who are proposal writers and reviewers.
    Listing major carrier accomplishments over the last few years in a single Personal Statement paragraph of an existing Biosketch (with references to papers):
    – is sufficient to accomplish the intended goal;
    – won’t be controversial to the NIH community;
    – won’t substantially increase the burden on proposal writers and reviewers.
    It is time to re-evaluate the implementation of a good idea before this turns into an unnecessary scandal and a public relations disaster. (Imagine headlines like “NIH decides to award best braggers”.)
    Please make NIH leadership aware of the outcome of the peer review of the new Biosketch proposal.

  82. Honestly, this is not useful. It creates a larger burden in an already burdensome grant process. What are you thinking? Maybe NIH should seek the input of those applying for funding before making changes.

  83. I don’t see any mention of a section for AREA applicants to discuss significant contributions to development of student researchers (i.e. the thing we do). This is another example of one size does not fit all. A biosketech from a well-established investigator with one or more R01s will look significantly different that an investigator working primarily with undergraduate/masters/medical students. Frankly, a entirely different biosketch for AREA grants might be useful. I would be happy to assist.

  84. I wholeheartedly agree with the negative reaction to the proposed biosketch changes. More work for investigators and reviewers that will undermine rather than improve the ability of reviewers to assess the investigator’s accomplishments. The current format combining personal statement with publication and grant lists is sufficient for reviewers to make an assessment. A PR piece trumpeting one’s contributions, that may not easily be validated, will not be helpful. Keep the current format and perhaps add the link to the full list of publications.

  85. Every cycle there is some new format or change of some part of the application. Please keep it one method for at least one year at a time. In regards to this specific change, we already have the opportunity to highlight in a paragraph our strengths, weaknesses specific to the grant at hand. This information along with publications should be sufficient and relatively unbiased. To make a 5 page history is not going to be very helpful; puts new investigators at a disadvantage, and makes more workload for the reviewer. Overall I am not in favor of this.

  86. There is only one possible way to agree with this policy: only if this statement of value is written not by the applicant, but by an independent authority in the field who has no publications in common with the applicant. Better yet, by two or three authorities. Better yet, from the future. On the positive side, when jobs in research finally run dry, there’ll be a lot of bureaucratic positions for unemployed PhDs in NIH to read, check compliance and evaluate these statements and the rest of application garbage.

  87. I agree with those who feel that the proposed changes are a bad idea for the following reasons:
    1. They add to the PI (and co-I) burden in preparing the application preparation;
    2. They are not necessary for reviewers to understand the contributions of the scientific team to the proposed work;
    3. They will increase the opportunity for subjectivity in the review process;
    4. The current “Personal Statement” already provides a mechanism for a narrative description of accomplishments and impact of each investigator on the study team.
    5. They add to the review burden.

    I also would add that I do not think that the proposed changes will help make the review process more equitable or standardized because this aspect of the application (who is proposing the work) is not nearly as important as the aims/hypotheses, the research strategy, and potential impact of the new knowledge to be gained. Allowing applicants to write 5 pages of narrative is likely only to lead some reviewers to make conclusions about the previous three aspects based on who the researchers are rather than the aspects themselves.

  88. A new Letterman segment may now be TOP TEN REASONS WHY THE NEW NIH BIOSKETCH IS A BAD IDEA.
    1. MOST IMPORTANT: It would be far better to add another page to the grant page limits so that investigators can have more room to describe their accomplishments in terms of the particular grant application instead of requiring reviewers to read all of the extra spin in multiple biosketches.
    2. The new biosketch is supposed to emphasize accomplishments. Isn’t that what the Preliminary Studies/Progress Report is supposed to be about?
    3. The idea that this self-promotion is the best way to judge accomplishments rather than citations or productivity (number of papers) does not make sense. It will be mostly spin and highly subjective, and again, the importance of accomplishments belongs in the grant.
    4. As a reviewer, I think it will be likely to take me off topic since one’s most significant publications are not necessarily the current ones, and are not necessarily on the topic of the grant application (especially if the application is in a new area).
    5. How can people possibly submit a good grant application that doesn’t already convey, WITHIN THE GRANT (where it belongs), the magnitude and impact of their contributions?
    6. There will be a lot of redundancy when co-investigators are co-authors.
    7. Publishing a paper is a team effort and individual contributions are not so easily divided up to add up to the “whole.” The team’s contributions and potential to contribute is most relevant to a grant, not the micro-level analysis of papers of each person’s contribution to a paper. The personnel justification tells what individuals will do on the grant project
    8. As a reviewer, I see this is a SUBSTANTIAL ADDED BURDEN, especially for big grants with many investigators. I think it will waste a lot of time since this information should already be conveyed in the grant (see #5).
    9. As a reviewer, what is in the grant is what is most important, not these descriptions which will be largely salesmanship.
    10. Could be wrong, but my hunch is that there was limited input from grant reviewers about this biosketch change.

    1. I agree with this list in its entirety, and the fact raised in another comment that this idea runs completely COUNTER to the otehr CSR initiative to ensure fairness in peer review.

    2. Great list! And I agree with number 4: Interesting scientists often make contributions in several areas, not all of which may be connected to the current proposal. It could be incredibly distracting and unhelpful for reviewers. This really sounds like a HHMI-derived initiative.

  89. I would like to register my strong disagreement to this proposed change. The proposed modification to the bio sketch adds work for investigators, adds work for reviewers (to check the truth of the claims), and adds even more subjectivity to the review process. I don’t think that it is good for anyone.

  90. I was a bit sceptical at first but I believe that this new biosketch format is a great idea: for example, some scientists’ impact may be bigger through their contributions to collaborative work in lieu of their own specific project. This new format will enable reviewers to understand not only what a scientist does in her lab but also the impact of his contributions to the wider scientific community. For instance, I pursue very fundamental and basic structural biology research in my lab (which has by an large become a dirty and unfundable pursuit). But, my expertise enables me to help a lot of non-structural biologists. For example, protein function predicted through structure-guided approach has on numerous occasions led to the formulation of hypotheses that have been subsequently tested in vivo and proven to be correct. Under the old system, these contributions will not be rewarded. But, under the new biosketch format, I assume I will be able to highlight the importance of my work to the wider scientific community. Perhaps, my next grant will become more attractive. Some food for thought!

  91. I strongly applaud the posted above opinion of Gino Cingulani that the proposed format of the NIH biosketch is a bad idea and increases subjectivity in evaluation of the applicant. Specifically it offers the applicant a possibility to inflate achievements and forces the reviewer to spend more time to criticaly review them. However, there are objective and easily accessible markers of the applinant’s research capability and productivity that should provite the base for his/her evaluation: (1) The “h” (Hirsch) citation marker of the applicant; (2) the frequency of citations of the applicant’s papers available from the Web of Science, Scopus or Google Scholar; (3) The ranking of the applicant in the citation websites such as biomedexperts or Research Gate. All these markers are unbiased, skin color- or ethnicity- blind. They can be adjusted (compensated) for the duration of research activity of the applicant to make them independent of the cumulative increase with time.

    1. Markers of productivity from sites where you can see how many people are reading your papers, well before they’re ever cited are exactly the sort of thing this is about, because evidence of productivity can accrue around many things besides just published papers: datasets, code, patents, etc.

      A word of warning, though, about some websites. Some are not very clear about how they arrive at the activity number they give. I would propose that any number reported must be verifiable.

    2. The problem however with some indices is that simply surviving increases your score. That does not seem helpful.

  92. This might have been a good idea if instead of increasing the page limit for the biosketch to 5, it had instead been reduced to 3. I can imagine having now to wade through a couple of pages of purple prose of someone trying desperately to make himself or herself look worthy of the investment of significant taxpayer dollars.

    1. Indeed, having a smaller amount of space of the order you suggest to describe contributions beyond publications would be more appropriate than 5 pages which regardless of the merits of the idea will inevitably lead to extra work (assuming people will try to craft beautiful prose to fill every inch of the allowed space).

      Moving the evaluation beyond simple metrics of publications, citations are things related to manuscripts is a generally good idea. The devil is in the implementation.

  93. Perhaps a better revision is to focus on the publication list as the basis, BUT to then allow for a brief statement about each of your most relevant/important publications (i.e. explain the value of the work, the impact it has had in the scientific community, etc. which could include a statement of # citations, but could include a lot more than that).

  94. The responses on this comment board are overwhelmingly negative. NIH-funded scientists (current, past and prospective) deserve to know how and why this change came about. In the spirit of openness, could Dr. Rockey please publish the opinions of the scientists/administrators who gave input into this decision?

  95. This just puts more emphasis on who is writing the grant rather than the scientific merit of the application. This is already a problem in peer review and the approach being suggested will only make it worse.

  96. Yes, it will be more work for PI and reviewer, yes it will be self-serving in ways that introverts may find unnerving, but none of this is important, compared to the huge problem of objectivity in the reviews. I can well imagine reading the PI’s fantasy about his own importance, and comparing it with my fantasy about what constitutes an honest and important and fundable self-evaluation (oh, let the youngsters beware, they’re headed for big trouble indeed). No, it is the NIH’s job to publish their criteria for fundability, and those criteria absolutely must cover every aspect of the grant application, including this asnine self-promotion that we shall all be forced to endure as investigators, as technical consultants, and as reviewers. Until NIH publishes their evaluative criteria covering my statement of how great I really truly am and always have been since the day I took my PhD, we should stand together in defiance of this senseless and costly initiative.

  97. Perhaps we should take lesson from Joe Friday of the TV series “Dragnet” who stated, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.” Dum-de-dum-dum.

  98. If you really want the input of the scientific community, you will pay attention to this negative response above and drop this idea. So much work on the part of applicants for not much gained by the reviewers, if anything. This seems an insult to reviewers – thinking that we cannot make the judgment of the quality of the applicant.

  99. Very bad idea! This will increase the unfairness that already characterizes NIH grants awarding. Honesty and modesty will be penalized while smugness and ability to sell smoke will be rewarded. The investigator’s accomplishments should be judged and evaluated by the scientific community and the review panel, not the investigator him/herself. As a reviewer, I would tend to disregard the investigator statement and rely on a PubMed search, which would increase the burden on the reviewer.

  100. I have one thing to add to Lincolnx with whom I agree (I don’t see it as equalizing. I see it as further stacking the deck for senior investigators with years to thread together such a narrative. I see it as an additional level of review as statements will need to be compared with publication records and impact. I see a tremendous waste of time for PIs trying to craft these things to achieve a delicate balance between hyperbole and modesty. The current biosketch is useful, provides the same kind of information, and doesn’t have these unintended consequences. The major focus on peer review should be on the science of the proposal. Track record matters, but we already get this information.
    What I want to add is that – doesn’t the grant already have the information in it that shows the expertise necessary to achieve the goals of the grant? And, if it doesn’t, then why not? What do past achievements, potentially in other scientific endeavors, have to do with the potential to do the proposed work? Pubs, pilot data and production line – that should be within the body of the grant and points to expertise.

  101. I support this change. Looking at Study Section rosters, though presumably experts in their own field, grant reviewers are not necessarily always experts in the fields relevant to a particular grant submission. Frequently, I recognize none of the names on the Study Section roster to which my application is assigned, and I have plenty of expertise in my field. Also, I suspect in most cases reviewers arrive at their evaluation based on looking at what high impact journals the investigator published in, not by reading what was published. But randomness and factors other than research quality figure heavily into editorial decisions in competitive journals, and ultimately _what_ you publish is far more important than _where_. Limiting investigators’ number of key articles to 15 is also arbitrary and can belie depth and breadth of one’s published works. In contrast to disempowering reviewers, having an investigator’s self-assessment will help them focus their attention on what matters, i.e. the investigator’s relevant contributions to his/her own field and likelihood this will lead to producing significant research in the future.

  102. If science is a democratic exercise, best conducted by scientists, perhaps the NIH should listen to the data expressed by the almost universally negative responses to the proposed changes. I have served on a number of study sections and have had a number of NIH-funded grants. I agree with my colleagues who see no objective data added by a longer biosketch with more lengthy prose. There is already a paragraph for these statements, which was an excellent addition to the NIH biosketch a few years ago. The current proposal will not enrich the review process, will encourage hyperbole, and will generate more work for submitting PIs and reviewers. Please make it formal and conduct a poll – VERY easy to do through eRA commons or even this listserv!
    thank you

  103. The near unanimity of opinion — that the proposed change of the Biosketch to a 5 page marketing campaign that will take precious time and energy away from the writing and reviewing of the science, and will actually undermine the ability of young investigators to get a grant — is really striking. Scientists are generally a diverse group — but in this case, grantees and reviewers are in very good agreement: very bad idea.

    NIH — Please poll the grantees and reviewers on this one!

  104. There are three issues that trouble me in this story:
    1. After the avalanche of negative critique, we may seem to be beating a dead horse here. Yet, with all the likelihood, the NIH will resurrect the beast and will expect us to ride it. What makes me think so? The idea was not well-received when it was first stated, but the NIH ignored the opinions of the scientists and started the pilots. So, the bureaucrats have their agenda and will not deviate from it no matter what is suggested by scientists and common sense. And that is not good.
    2. Even if we disregard the cost to re-write the biosketches, still changing the forms, re-writing instructions, running the pilot projects, re-training applicants, reviewers and NIH officers will take effort, time and money. The same money that should have supported our research. And that is very bad.
    3. Somewhere in an NIH office there is a man or a woman who, instead of doing meaningful work, has come up with this stupid idea and is pushing it onto us, despite all the protestations and costs (see above). This master of bureaucratic wizardry remains safely hidden from any personal responsibility. And that is really sad.

  105. I do not agree with most of the posts here – I suspect most of the people objecting to this new format are senior PIs who have sat on study sections – as the posts suggest. The current biosketch including the PS do not allow the applicant to potray their contributions to a scientific effort. The authors of these posts either naively or knowingly ignore how predatory the current scientific review system is – and how NIH granting is the final frontier of cronyism, nepotism and overtly unjust system. “reviewers can get an idea of the PI based on the current biosketch and the new format introduces subjectivity” – Give me a freaking break – only you reviewers think the review is objective. You go by PI name and institution and if you know them. Everything else is destroyed in your review – yes even Nobel prize winning work can be criticized and you use that to suppress new investigators.

    I think the new biosketch will allow the PI to explain how they contributed to a body of work – papers often do not do justice to this issue. I know for a fact that senior PIs in the “big” universities – Harvard, Hopkins etc. often undermine major contributors by manipulating the author list – they are making sure that smart, upcoming investigators do not become competition locally.

    I agree that some boastful descriptions are likely but it levels the field because senior PIs have perfected the art of networking – which is the only reason why you have PIs with 4-5 RO1s in addition to a PPG. I do not submit to the theory that the only PIs worthy of a RO1 are senior, east coast and the ones that have large labs. That is a self fulfilling concept – the larger you get the more grants you get and it is less about the science. Also, in these large labs, the actual science and projects are being handled by junior faculty who are being used by these senior PIs to sustain the predatory system.

    1. If both new and established investigators brag about their accomplishments (accurate or embellished or straight lies), who do you think will be at an advantage?

      The focus is wrong. The **science** in the proposal should be the only thing to judge. That’s it. Proposal, Proposal, Proposal – Not PI.

      Senior PIs just sit all day in meetings listening to the inventions and discoveries of young scientists that work in their labs. Young naive scientists who still think the world is Fair… What’s stopping these seniors to brag about other’s discoveries just because they work in their labs? Give them the opportunity to brag more, and my gosh, they will evaluate themselves as GODS. I have seen this in every lab I have worked in.

  106. Traha,
    I appreciate your concerns but in my limited experience on study sections (mid-level PI not senior) that hasn’t been the case. I have been pleasantly surprised to see that grants from incredibly famous scientists, with stellar big-name journal publication records, from world-renowned research institutes, can have their R01s triaged just like mine.

    I do agree that there is a strong tendency in the current system for the rich to get richer, and there is clear evidence that productivity per dollar declines with >2 large grants. However, in the study sections I’ve served on, interesting and well-written grants get good reviews no matter the PI or institution, while not interesting or poorly written applications get bad scores or triaged even from field-leading giants at top institutions. So I now think peer review is more fair to junior people than I did before actually witnessing the section in action.

    That said, I think the proposed biosketch changes WILL provide an unfair advantage to senior PIs, who undoubtedly can provide a more detailed and impressive litany of their accomplishments. So in addition to the additional workload for submitters and reviewers, IMO it will disfavor junior scientists.

  107. PLEASE reconsider this change. The personal statement was bad enough (except for comic relief). This changes adds nothing of value to the review process and feels like a change some ignorant administrator (who probably never READ a grant) thought would be a great idea. The paper work is getting too burdensome. Let us get some actual work done. I hate to point this out, but if the current NIH leadership is pushing this, they need to be pushed out.

  108. I have not read all of the comments, but many of them, and the overwhelming majority believe this change is a net negative! And I agree with most of those who have posted negative comments to this possible change.

    If the NIH Administrators are truly committed to making things more efficient, I think it wise to realize the feedback is mostly negative. No matter how well meaning the attempt at change, sometimes change is not for the better!

    I may be wrong on these numbers, but it is to illustrate a point:
    For all senior investigators, only a small percentage are ‘stars’. Let’s say 5%. You can quibble with the numbers, but this is probably approximately true, a small number of PI’s have a lot of grant support, the remaining “95%” of us, normally have one or two R01’s, and now maybe even less. The third group of individuals are junior scientists.

    My opinion on this change:
    It helps the ‘stars’.
    It hurts or at best is neutral for the “95%”.
    It hurts junior investigators.

    Thus, I believe it will be at best neutral, or more likely be negative, for the overwhelming majority of PI’s and future PI’s.

    Please, listen to the input of most scientists! Don’t make this change!

    1. Joe, It would be a very sad state of affairs if what you have estimated is true. I would hope rather that 95% of NIH-funded scientists have made some lifetime achievements (or shown talent in the case of junior investigators) like those solicited and will be able to readily justify the funds they receive. The value of the changes is to make achievement the singular goal and to eliminate some of the incentives for perverse behaviors and dipping too deep into the pocket. If you can think of a more acceptable way to eliminate the joker from the current game of poker, I’m behind you all the way. Think of where the pressure is really coming from for all these changes and who that pressure is being primarily directed.

  109. All this will do is reward the narcissistic personality disorders among us, who are fabulous at marketing themselves (with or without any substance behind their claims) and penalize the more modest. In my experience mentoring doctoral students and junior faculty, there will also be strong gender effects in the investigator’s comfort level with tooting his or her own horn, which will disadvantage women. These changes are just a terrible idea all the way around. Who came up with this???

  110. For those who wonder where this idea came from, please see the commentary by Deputy Director Tabak and Director Collins (Nature 505, 612–613, January 2014) on the issue of the reproducibility of results. One part of the commentary suggests that scientists may be tempted to overstate conclusions in order to get papers published in high profile journals. The commentary adds “NIH is contemplating modifying the format of its ‘biographical sketch’ form, which grant applicants are required to complete, to emphasize the significance of advances resulting from work in which the applicant participated, and to delineate the part played by the applicant. Other organizations such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have used this format and found it more revealing of actual contributions to science than the traditional list of unannotated publications.”

    Two comments.
    1. NIH is not Howard Hughes, which is an Institute that seeks to fund only the most high profile of scientists (and no one else).
    2. The new format will further encourage scientists to overstate the implications of their work, the exact opposite of what NIH should encourage.

    To the NIH – please reconsider. The new format will be a distinct disadvantage to any scientist who honestly and realistically views the significance of their work.

  111. It is telling that this change is introduced as “With strong support from NIH leadership”. What’s missing is any indication that applicants or reviewers are in favor of the change. Repeatedly, the blog indicates who favors the idea… “The new NIH biosketch emphasizes your accomplishments instead of just a list of publications, which, as previously discussed, we questioned as the best way to showcase your scientific contributions…” “We strongly believe…” “I believe…”

    Don’t we all believe that opinions are not the same as evidence? Pilot testing of this change has already occurred. What were the preliminary data? What evidence is there that applicants were helped by the change or that reviewers found the information provided MORE helpful than the information provided in prior biosketches? If this were a grant application, I think it would go unscored.

  112. Dear Sally,
    Last fall, after the government shutdown, you announced that many study sections would be cancelled rather than rescheduled, and those grants would be reviewed on the next cycle. Many of us posted here, nearly unanimous in our opinion that this would be bad for the research community. **You listened.** You appreciated what the research community was telling you, and you reversed your decision! I’ve never, ever been so impressed with a government agency.

    This seems like a parallel situation – your proposed change is well-meaning, but the nearly everyone in the trenches is saying it will hurt grant writers, and reviewers, and likely also women who statistically aren’t as adept at ‘blowing their own horns.’ This change will hurt us. Please, reconsider!

    Most sincerely,
    A Jr PI

    1. Well stated. I don’t think anyone believes there are anything other than good intentions here. We just disagree on the effectiveness of this change, and can foresee many negative, unintended consequences that will produce the opposite result from the one desired.

  113. Obscuring relevant, objective PI accomplishments with distracting “marketing speak” is an abysmal idea whose time has apparently come.

  114. How about making a poll for applicants, grantees and reviewers to VOTE on these changes proposed by NIH staff?

    With all due respect for Directors Tabak and Collins, they have NO regard for the consequences this change (or other) may have. SUPPORT YOUNG SCIENTISTS. Do not kill their career because they do not have accomplishments or did not learn yet ‘to play the game’ (to which seniors are so good at). In our lab, the youngest fellow brought the biggest step up in 30y of this lab. Now the senior suddenly looks “smarter” and more “accomplished” – not the fellow! Give me a break! Young people bring novelties. Wake up those who take advantage of them and be honest. The leadership at the NIH should know that, any leader should realize and acknowledge that (will they do that in their biosketch??), anyone who has done research for a long time must have realized that. But looking from higher up the reality is not that nice, isn’t it?

  115. Simply put – please stop tinkering with applications, formats, and reporting mechanisms so we can try to focus on our science instead. I agree with most commentators here – BAD idea! PLEASE do not do this.

  116. As a science fiction and grant writer, this new NIH biosketch format should generate lots of new business for me. I specialize in the sections that nobody wants to write and fewer folks want to review.

    Thanks, NIH!

  117. Can anybody point to a sound scientific evaluation of the current or proposed piloted review process and the role if any of (type of) biosketch info in it?

  118. I came to this page because I am writing a grant and wanted to make sure that I didn’t need to worry about the new format for the grant. As I communicate with administrators and co-investigators, the idea of having another thing to sign up for and maintain is agonizing and the fundamental behind the change, that self assessments is going to lead to a more appropriate judgement of the impact of an individuals work is ridiculous. That is nonsense and this change is nonsense. The burden on investigators and reviewers and administration at Universities is already enough. Think up something that is actually going to add value instead of a new social media tool. Add an optional page to the Biosketch for someone to add a longer self assessment maybe, but don’t make investigators learn TWO new software systems to maintain another on-line profile!! What is Mybibliography or SciENcv anyway – I looked at the instruction pages and it is immense. I didn’t have time to look at too closely, but it will clearly be days of administration just to figure out how to sign up and then we have another thing to maintain that adds no value to the grant, just needless hours trying to navigate another administrative maze. Please reconsider this. It is a bad idea.

  119. Please post information on the status of this change. We have investigators who believe they should begin using the new Biosketch format in Jan 2015. I need something to show them the answer – yes or no, please.

  120. Extremely bad idea. If somebody is good in writing, every little thing he/she did can be nicely written into a beautiful story as a big achievement or contribution. NIH should fund good ideas as long as the PI has sufficient technical experience. Previous track record is irrelevant as long as the idea and proposed work is good.

  121. As someone who has been reviewing grants for the past 15 years I can tell you I probably won’t even read this new accomplishments section. I rarely read the personal statements now. I don’t find them useful or even relevant.

  122. Dr. Rockey states that “this new format will give early career investigators a platform for describing and framing the significance of their contributions, which should help reviewers better understand their accomplishments without having to rely simply on a list of publications”. At the end, if those contributions are not published the reviewers don’t consider them as significant. Instead of making changes to Biosketch perhaps NIH should consider big changes to the proposal. For example, NIH’s initiatives like pioneer award, innovator award etc. are great initiates. It allows the PIs to think completely new without worrying about preliminary results and can come up with big useful translational research ideas. R01 grants put you in a box as many PIs renew them for 25-30 years by working on the same thing. NIH should seriously consider two things…

    1. Remove preliminary results section in the grant applications. Or allow the PIs to use results from already published papers (published by anybody) if they propose good research. There is so much data already available so why not using some of the available data to propose a new idea or good follow-up studies. This allows the PIs to think innovative rather than worrying about producing a ton of preliminary results. As a result, they give up on those ideas because they don’t have money to produce those preliminary results.
    2. Consider giving grants to 7-8 years instead of 4-5 years. This gives more stability to the PIs to produce good quality reproducible data rather than producing something quickly to publish and survive. This also reduces the number of applications NIH receives each year for review. Overall, it reduces the administrative work and increases the quality of data.
    I am sure NIH has much better ideas than I proposed above rather than coming up with changes to Biosketch which is in my opinion very much useless. Reviewers will just look at publications and don’t bother reading those stories about significance and contributions.

  123. Dear NIH Bureaucrats – reading through these comments I conservatively estimate that at least 80% of the respondents state, rather unambiguously, that this really does not help. None of us want to spend hours coming up with yet another version of the biosketch, let alone read pages of self aggrandizing when we evaluate grants.
    I therefore suggest that you change the wording in your as always cheerful announcement (NOT-OD-15-024) from “Input from the pilots suggests that the instructions for the new forms were clear and that a majority of the applicants and reviewers felt that the new format would be helpful in describing the past experience and qualifications of researchers.” to “Despite the mostly negative reactions from the research community we decided to ram this down your throats, anyway (because we can)”.

  124. The current biosketch allows reviewers to identify outstanding scientists who have accomplished much and are worthy of funding. There is no hidden trove of excellent investigators to be revealed when every funded application is already made at the expense of another truly worthy application. The problem is that both Congress AND NIH have not allocated sufficient funding to support obviously outstanding scientists with records of excellence. Muddying the waters with self-evaluations on the biosketch will not help this. It is simply annoying to all of us to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic so that the social director does not have to focus on the alarmingly listing deck and the approaching frozen waters.

  125. NIH…please re-consider before it is too late. Please look at the comments above – which are exceptionally negative on the whole regarding this initiative. Do you care what we think? The comments about this topic initially were also almost unanimously against this initiative. This new biosketch format will amount to 1000s of hours of lost productivity across your research portfolio every year, while doing nothing positive to improve the quality of review or science. As an NIH grant reviewer, I can tell you that I will not read the drivel that we are being forced to write. But as an NIH grant writer, I can tell you that I will need to spend the time writing it. What would you rather have us do – busywork or actual science?

  126. The new NIH biosketch represents an unnecessary burden for investigators. Having served on NIH (and other federal) grant review panels over the past several years, I feel absolutely confident that the current format provides more than sufficient information to judge the training/skills/background of applicants. As an epidemiologist, we often think of the concept of person-time, and if one considers even conservatively that this new format will require on average 4 hours to complete x 10,000 applicants = 40,000 person-hours of time. A huge impact of time without any clear advantage. We respectfully request the NIH to reconsider its position on requiring the new NIH biosketch.

  127. The new format Biosketch is incredibly intimidating for new investigators. I’m writing my first R01 and am very cognizant that my ‘Contribution to Science’ will look pathetic compared to those that have been in the business for 20+ years.

  128. If my undergraduate grades factor into whether or not my project receives funding then I am leaving academia….

  129. Does the URL link in Section C of the New Biosketch have to be at the end of the paragraph or can it be at the beginning of the section?

    1. The requirement states that it must be in Section C, but there is no requirement as to where in Section C it must be located.

  130. One wonders why Sally Rocky with her irritatingly perky statement “I have great confidence that the new biosketch will be the best vehicle for conveying your contributions to NIH and peer reviewers.” has yet to come out with some kind of reply/defense to the many many negative statements against this new format?? Perhaps because there IS no good defense of this unnecessary waste of both applicant and reviewer time

    1. I couldn’t agree more. I keep checking back to see whether the NIH is even looking at these comments. It is frustrating that 1000’s of highly educated, highly accomplished people are telling them that the new format is counterproductive and nobody seems to care.

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