Implementing the Modified NIH Biosketch Format


Many people have been asking about the new NIH biosketch. As you may recall, in May 2014, NIH announced that we were piloting changes to the biosketch section of grant application forms. This modified format allows researchers to describe how their background and expertise relates to their proposed project. We will require this new format for most grant applications submitted for fiscal year 2016 funding, as described in a guide notice published today (NOT-OD-15-024). This sounds like a long way off but remember that the first applications for FY 2016 funding begin with due dates of January 25, 2015. The new format is now available in the “additional format pages” section of the SF424 applications page.

You’ll notice that the SF424 applications page also includes a link to the Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae (SciENcv), which we launched last year. To briefly recap, SciENcv is a system that allows you to enter your biographical data once and convert it into biosketches that can be used with both NIH or NSF grant applications and annual progress reports. Within the next few weeks we will be updating SciENcv to accommodate the new format for the NIH biosketch.

The new format accomplishes two important goals: allowing applicants to describe the magnitude and significance of their scientific contributions (including publications), and providing more detailed information about their research experience in the context of the proposed project. After my last blog on this topic, some of you expressed concerns about the new biosketch format, for example, that investigators will “oversell” their accomplishments and that reviewers will not want to read them. On the other hand, we also have received positive feedback from reviewers and applicants who have been using the pilot format so I’d like to share some of the preliminary feedback with you here.

As described in May, we piloted the modified format using five different requests for applications. The first of these pilots, involving RFA-NR-15-001, has been completed. We asked the opinions of key personnel listed on these applications and the review panelists. Their feedback suggests that the instructions for the new forms were clear and that a majority of the investigators and reviewers felt that the new format would be helpful in describing the past experience and qualifications of researchers. Some of the survey responses from the first pilot are shown in the table below. While reviewers and investigators had differing reactions to the biosketch, a majority of both groups agreed that the new biosketch was an improvement over the old version. In addition, both groups felt that the new format helped in the review process. Both applicants and reviewers expressed concerns, however, about the suitability of the new format for new investigators, but interestingly, investigators who were 40 years and older were more negative than those below age 40.


Investigators under age 40 (N=13)

Investigators age 40 – 50 (N=39)

Investigators over age 50 (N=57)

Reviewers (N=29)

To what extent was the modified format helpful for conveying experience and qualifications for the proposed project?











Not helpful





To what extent was the modified format helpful for conveying investigator’s scientific contributions?











Not helpful





To what extent was the modified format suitable for R01 or R01-like applications (U01 R21, R03, R34, etc.)?











Not Suitable





To what extent was the modified format suitable for New/Early Stage Investigators?











Not Suitable





To what extent was the modified format suitable for well-established investigators?











Not Suitable





In addition, survey participants were asked to evaluate the new biosketch in several ways, including its ease of use, its ability to help an applicant in review, its fairness to applicants, and its suitability for applicants in different programs, such as small business or training programs. In all cases, the findings suggested that the new format offered advantages. Results from the remaining pilots will become available after the roll-out of the new form. The new results will be shared with the research community, and all results will be considered in future revisions of the forms. We also will be closely monitoring the process as it rolls out to see if other issues emerge that we had not predicted.

By the way, if you’ve already built your biosketch in SciENcv, you will be able to easily adapt your existing information and the newly required biosketch information into the new modified format. If you haven’t used SciENcv, this transition is an opportune time to start. A new video providing instructions for using SciENcv is now available on the National Center for Biotechnology Innovation (NCBI) YouTube channel. In the future, SciENcv will be used not only by NSF and NIH, but by other federal agencies, addressing concerns articulated by the Federal Demonstration Partnership regarding the burden of maintaining multiple biosketches. The full implementation of SciENcv, with the excellent leadership of our interagency working group and NCBI, will offer data that will allow us to paint a more complete picture of the benefits of federal research support.

Updated Friday, December 5, 2014: NIH has provided an additional period of flexibility for using the new biosketch format. Please see NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-15-032.


  1. This is a disastrous idea and a waste of time for reviewers and investigators.
    I just hope that the question was actually formulated in a different manner, because what matters is not whether “the modified format” is “helpful”, but whether it is more helpful than the current version. That is logical thinking and formulating the question in those terms would have been highly dishonest.
    As a reviewer, I will be forced to run my own PubMed search for every investigator and draw my own conclusions. It would be ridiculous to simply trust in the applicant trumpeting his/her own achievements.

    1. Where was the question: “To what extent is the new format an improvement over the original format?” I believe this change was roundly criticized on this blog page before. Now I have to waste yet more time working out how to use another NIH generated program.

    2. No “controls” and an inadequate sample size for any statistical significance… Really?

      This week, C&EN reported that the current grant load is nearly breaking the system. Why introduce more paperwork? Shouldn’t the NIH focus more on how to reduce administrative burden and streamline the process?

  2. Unbelievable. Really, this terrible idea is being rolled out based on an N of 29 reviewers? Without any polling of the broader review community? And it is very clear that the pilot shows that the majority of all groups feel the new biosketch will be to the detriment of young investigators, but beneficial to senior investigators. Is that what NIH wants to do, really? It’s disheartening that the voluminous critique that emerged in response to the post describing the idea fell on totally deaf ears.

  3. Our grant management focus is to create materials that ease reviewer burden. The survey results above do not support the new biosketch format with only slightly more than half of reviewers rating the new format as “suitable”. Not exactly a glowing call for change. No group reflected improvement for ESI although NIH rhetoric promises to improve chances for funding of ESI!

  4. Terrible idea, and another huge waste of time for “researchers”. Who has time to do any research any more while complying with changes like this? The NIH’s money is being wasted by this extra busy work. Let us get back to the lab!

    1. I totally agree with you!!! What is the NIH thinking? or not thinking??
      They keep flooding us with useless paperwork which keeps us away from real work in the lab. New biosketch, reports with plans for following year now (didn’t I describe my plans in my application already??), efforts to ensure scientifically rigorous approach (do they really think that people that are not rigorous will now become rigorous just because they described it on a page?).OMG!
      Stop wasting our highly educated time and tax payers money with useless paperwork that none reads or cares about.

  5. The only data points that matter to me are the reviewer’s assessments. Looking at only this group, there is clear ambivalence with the exception of the New/ESI (Q#4) where the results are decidedly negative.

    Splitting the responses into only 2 groups: (1) Suitable and (2) Unsuitable/neutral
    Now the reviewer data break down as follows:
    Q#1, 50-50
    Q#2, 52-49
    Q#3, 52-48
    Q#4, 28-72
    Q#5, 55-45

    To make it a bit worse, I was stunned by the following sentence from the post: “Results from the remaining pilots will become available AFTER the roll-out of the new form” (emphasis mine).

    What’s the rush and what’s the driving force for change? #deckchairs

    1. I agree with your analysis. If only 50% of reviewers see value in this, then it is not a helpful change. I would be supportive of adding a section after publications in which PIs could emphasize non-publication contributions (data bases/patents/drug development,software, contribution to large collaborative groups etc) which are not currently captured in the biosketch. I can understand NIH trying to de-emphasize citation/h-index etc in favor of a broader impact, but I see no value in having PIs produce a PR piece about their own impact. As an NIH reviewer, I am still going to go straight to Pubmed and see for myself the publication record.

  6. As an ESI, I find it very disheartening that less than half of all those surveyed found the new format to be suitable for new investigators and yet we are being forced to comply with these changes. What happened to the call for changes to benefit junior investigators? I also think that an N of 13 investigators under the age of 40 is hardly a representative sample. As others have noted, the fact that there are no questions indicating whether the modification is a) an improvement or b) worth the additional time required by both investigators and reviewers, casts significant doubt as to whether the NIH was even remotely receptive to feedback from the scientific community. I am about to resubmit a proposal in which the investigative team was viewed very favorably and I see no benefit in these changes, and on the contrary, fear that the new format will harm my resubmission. Very disheartening, indeed.

    1. Yes! Dr. Rockey, can you please specifically address the decidedly negative perception of the new format for ESIs? The majority of reviewers said the format is not suitable for ESIs/NIs. We are losing great young scientists daily because of the low paylines (with some institutes not even having a better payline for ESIs) and preference for established scientists. How does the NIH justify this change given the clear opinion that it will hurt ESIs? As an ESI who has always held onto a small hope that my science will prevail, I’m feeling extremely disheartened.

  7. If the NIH wants investigators to spend more time on the administrative pages of the application than the science, this looks like a good approach. If the goal is to have investigators spend more time on writing (and hopefully doing) science, then this new requirement will be counterproductive. As others have commented, I’m surprised that the new format is being implemented in the face of overwhelming protest and underwhelming incomplete pilot data.

  8. If a grant application was this hastily conceived, poorly rationalized and supported with such weak data, it would surely get triaged; which is exactly what should happen to this format change.

  9. At this very moment, I am assisting in the upload of a R41 grant application. I was up at 7am and it is 8pm and we are almost through compilation and final upload. While waiting for Commons to validate the application, I saw your blog post and almost blew a gasket. I have had the most miserable 13 hours of my life today due to paperwork. It’s sad because I would have loved to reflect on the actual science–but there’s forms to complete and biosketches to format.

    The paperwork burden for this grant is 21 hours. That is about 3 days of admin and does not include writing the research plan or securing the human subjects approval. That is administrative work — 3 days out of the life of every investigator in the NIH universe. Multiply that 3 days by 4 grant submissions a year and the NIH is demanding that every research team devote around 12 days of their lives to paperwork. Twelve (12) days is equivalent to the usual 2-week vacation that people in the US get. Sponsored research offices can help, but I am working with a small business who has to do everything on their own.

    Funding for science is scarce. But also time to actually do good science is also limited. Changing the biosketch is madness. Why make more paperwork for ESIs to do and more paperwork for beleaguered reviewers to read? Unless success rates rise above their miserably low levels, why punish young scientists and say it’s their fault for not getting funded. These new requirements don’t make more money available for grants. It doesn’t raise paylines or level the playing field. The ROI isn’t there. Enough with the added requirements. Please, just stop. Just, stop.

  10. Another useless and idiotic change that will waste more of our time both to write and review grants. The disconnection between bureaucrats in DC and scientists is alarming.

  11. Has the impact of new forms for Fellowship applicants been separately considered?

    And, why does the Personal Statement for fellowship applicants request details that are provided elsewhere in F applications, e.g., …previous experimental work…that highlight your experience and qualifications…

  12. Dr. Rockey: why do you and your colleagues insist on needlessly spending taxpayer dollars as well as the precious time of scientists and reviewers? Clearly, this is not a welcome change, and I hope it is reversed before it is even rolled out. There have been bad decisions made at the level of peer review recently, but this is right up there with the worst possible decisions. Perhaps a number of us reviewers should simply resign en masse from our membership in protest? This new move is clearly out of touch with the scientific community, and I resent this unnecessary meddling wholeheartedly.

  13. R21 application: 6 pages.
    New biosketch: 5 pages.

    So do we really care about funding the best science?

    (Especially since that 6 pages is 2 pages intro and only 4 pages of proposed work, i.e. the proposed work is now shorter than a single biosketch. The math is especially “fuzzy” on a multi (n) investigator grant with 5n pages of fluffy biosketch, but still only 4 pages of the actual proposed research).

  14. When I first saw the pilot of the new form announced my comment to colleagues was that this would severely harm young investigators. Sure it is great to be able to list 5 scientific accomplishments, but then one has to have 5 scientific accomplishments to list. Surely this favors senior investigators.

    I wasn’t worried however, because the online response was overwhelmingly negative. Now additional negative data from the pilot testing of this biosketch is posted (only 28% of reviewers think the new form appropriate for young investigators) in an article describing how the new biosketch will be required with the Jan 25th submission date. How depressing. This clearly is not something that the scientific community has been requesting. It is clearly something that the powers that be have not clearly thought through. It is completely obscure who benefits from this. Certainly it is not the PIs, nor apparently the reviewers. So is it a benefit to NIH administrators? What benefit does it give them? Something to point to so that they can say that they are “improving” the review process, even though the skimpy data they have doesn’t support that.

    This is one of the most depressing developments in a sea of depressing developments. More work and more forms to fill out with no obvious way in which it benefits me or makes me more likely to get a proposal funded.

    So there is only one way to deal with this. Hire a scientific PR firm to write my personal statement that shows what a stellar scientist I am and how great are the scientific advances I have pioneered. If NIH is going to ignore the scientific community then all I am left with is to take as much advantage of this opportunity to sell myself as I possibly can.

    I predict that after one review cycle this will be the laughingstock of the review committees. A waste of everyone’s time and not worth the effort put into it. I am deeply disappointed in NIH. They should swallow their pride and abandon this disaster before it ever becomes due.

  15. Horrible, horrible, horrible! This is a ridiculous and unjustified additional burden to the already burdenensome requirements for applying for funding. It makes me less inclined to continue reviewing grants for CSR and makes the process of applying all the more painful.

    As a reviewer, I have never had a problem determining whether an applicant was qualified based on their biosketch, pubmed searches and other readily available information. This is an unnecessary waste of effort!

    Your analysis of the data from your surveys and pilot do not support your conclusions! Please repeal this ridiculous change.

  16. With all due respect, Dr. Rockey, your statement that “After my last blog on this topic, some of you expressed concerns about the new biosketch format…” is completely inaccurate. Did you actually review the feedback comments to the initial post? They were OVERWHELMINGLY negative, and from both senior and junior investigators and experienced reviewers. Moreover, as noted above, a roughly 50-50 split is not a “majority”; it isn’t even a plurality. I have to echo my colleagues: why is this change being promulgated when investigators and reviewers overwhelmingly do not favor it in their comments? Would we change any aspect of clinical care based on a small, non-blinded, flawed study such as the data cited?

    Please, we are all struggling and many investigators are not making it. We humbly beseech you to not add to our burden and further disadvantage the young investigators.

  17. This new form just illustrates how out of touch the review branch is with the needs and productivity of the scientific community and the country as a whole. It is a perfect example of too many government bureaucrats with too much time on their hands and nothing useful to do. For me as frequent reviewer of NIH grants, if i ever see someone blowing their own horn about how wonderful their research efforts have been, it is sure to bias my score of other aspects in a negative manner. An oh my god, it’s sure to bias scores against many women and minorities who have not yet had time to have much impact. Reviewers don’t need anything but the expertise to review the science proposed. A short biosketch with academic background and recent and relevant publications is more than sufficient.

  18. In response to the previous post, the comments about the proposed changes were overwhelmingly negative. It is amazing that the entire discussion was ignored. Will it be happen again now?

  19. I agree with all of the negative comments. When I first heard of this idea back in the Spring I immediately came to these same conclusions. The application process needs to be made more simple, not more cumbersome for the applicant. Clearly the people who like to sell their own accomplishments, and senior investigators, as well as those with a narrow focused line of research will benefit from this new biosketch system while newer investigators will suffer. I was amazed when I was informed this past week that the roll out is already January 25th. Very premature. I am impressed with the speed of action by NIH, but unfortunately this is one time a slower process would have been better.

  20. I am the current chairman of a standing study section (AIP) and of a separate special emphasis group. I think I know what I am talking about. This is really a terrible idea, as it increases the administrative burden for applicants and reviewers, and detracts/distracts from the science. Also, the questions asked to the (small) sample of interviewed investigators/reviewers are highly misleading– the right question should have been simple: “is this new format better the the old one, yes or no”.
    I strongly urge you to reconsider this terrible decision. Not a single person I talked with thinks that this is an improvement. None.

  21. For an institution that supposedly supports evidence-based research, this is evidence of seriously bad decision making. As others have noted, the new format biosketch is yet another bureaucratic time-sink that is providing little-to-no benefit for investigators except those gifted in self-promotion or who already are involved in successful teams. Seems like yet another example of “to them that have is given more”……

  22. Your survey is poorly designed and underpowered. It would certainly not be funded if it were an aim in a grant… I see the consensus is nearly 100% against. I recommend doing a real study before forcing more work that is not justified by solid data

  23. Just attempted to create a profile on SciENcV. Found that the system was not only terribly klugey, but I quickly got stuck in an infinite loop of “Sorry! There was an error while saving your education. Please refresh the page and try again.”, whereupon every refreshing of the page led to a complete wiping out of all data previously entered.
    I don’t think I will be wasting any more time with SciENcV any time soon…
    (Something tells me the job of creating SciENcV must have gone to the lowest bidder)

  24. N=13 Young Investigators (+ 125 others) to support NIH’s new policy change?
    What happened with N=206 that are easily available at the following website?
    Did NIH ever consider/analyze these N=206 responses?
    If NIH is going to simply ignore these responses, why do they even allow us to comments?
    Is comment section just a PR tool, as with the new section added to the new format?

  25. This new format is so disheartening and is not a good use of time at all. The required new background information could be included in the research plan. There is no need to write another assay in the bio sketches. This also is Unfair to new investigators who have less achievement to brag about. Another implication is that this creates an opportunity for dishonesty. As a grant reviewer and investigator, I like to current format. In order to do good science, we need time to do science and develop high impact research strategies, not high impact bio sketches. The current 4 pages limit for bio sketch is long enough, no need to extend it to 5 pages.
    Help! Help! Help! Help! Help!
    Please reconsider this new policy and do not make it happen.

  26. I agree with all of the prior comments. I took a look at this new format this week and it is a disaster. I can definitely see how it is a problem for ESIs. I also think it is highly problematic for established PIs. I do not think one can actually “win”. Either you oversell your scientific contributions and their significance (which will just annoy the expert reviewers on the panel who know all of the labs in the world working in these areas, none of us make findings in a vacuum), or you are embarrassed to “toot your own horn” in this way and do not convince the outside/non-expert reviewer on your application that you have done important work. Honestly, is there any scientist out there who can not look at a list of the 20 papers that someone feels is their best (or more relevant) work and figure out the impact of their publications. The “old” biosketch format from 20 years ago (that just showed the facts without the “marketing”) was probably the best, however, the narrative paragraph is OK in some circumstances (for instance training mentors). The new format is just a formula for either someone doing a snow job on the reviewers or not adequately stating their accomplishments.

  27. Huge time sink with negligible benefit. I’ve been on study section and most reviewers don’t even read the personal statement as it is. It took me 3 hours to make my new biosketch. Just considering R01s, here’s the math: There were 28,044 R01 grants submitted last year. 3 hours per PI x 28,044 grants = 84,132 PI hours spent on unnecessary paperwork. Assuming “standard” PI work weeks (10 hrs per day x 5 days per week), that’s 8413 days/1683 weeks/32 years of wasted PI time (and this is just for R01 grants). 32 years!!! Epic waste of taxpayer money and human effort. This is a disaster for New Investigators/ESIs. And what about the new requirement for student biosketches? What will they put down for their contributions to science??? The new format will help SOME investigators (those that are middle authors on team-based studies), but not most— so make the new format OPTIONAL. Please!!

    1. Thanks for doing the math, MicroPi.
      32 years … why, that’s one career, wiped out by administrative exigency.
      And by coincidence, it’s been 32 years since I served on an NIH regular study section, and chaired one for a year, as well; and I can say this about the biosketch back then: It was short and entirely adequate to give us a firm idea of whom we were dealing with–and the citation index was there if we needed that sort of help. But that was rare because once we read the science, we knew the PI for sure because there was lots of room to show his or her stuff–theoretical and technical. No biosketch can even begin to do that, and NIH is being monumentally and wastefully foolish to think that it can.
      Please do not implement this new form, and please never again insult our scientific community by promoting small-sample results from a poorly designed survey to support a major change in the grant application. The NIH does not need that kind of reputation.
      I must say !!

  28. I think that this new requirement is unnecessarily burdensome to investigators and not necessarily useful to reviewers. When the biosketch was trimmed to 15 publications some years ago, most reviewers began to ignore it and do a PubMed search to get a complete picture of the applicant, anyway. From the applicant’s viewpoint, this is just one more distraction from science. In addition to adopting the new format, the applicant will have to annoy his/her collaborators and consultants to waste their time to provide the new forms.
    Please reconsider.

  29. At what point can we acknowledge that good ideas can come from anywhere? This new biosketch further stacks the deck against those who did not do their graduate/post-doctoral work for a Nobel Prize winner or Howard Hughes Investigator. These individuals can undoubtedly claim enormous impacts-but how much of that was due to their own creativity as opposed to the immense influence wielded by their mentors? We should be going in the opposite direction-how about removing the biosketch altogether! Without the easy to obtain heuristic data such as the Investigators name, Institution and history, all we are left with is the actual research proposal. NIH has resisted this for years under the claim that “applications can never really be anonymous” because “someone will guess who the PI is”. Tell that to the Gates Foundation, who very quickly decided that stripping this type of information away worked just fine. As someone who has served on multiple NIH panels throughout the years it is obvious when an investigator is qualified to do the work, because the proposal is extremely well written, with proposed experiments well supported by preliminary data.

  30. Terrible idea! And implemented on a very flimsy basis! Does anyone think that
    1) reviewers want to hear the applicant trumpet in an subjective and biased manner their prior accomplishments and,
    2) this trumpeting has much if anything to do with the application under review??

  31. Thus far, there have been 15 negative comments. I agree with all of them. This is simply more administrative work for grant writers and reviewers (who now have to muck through the fluff piece to find the truth). As previously noted by CD0, as phrased, the survey questions are meaningless because they are not in comparison to the current format. Also, the small sample size is a significant issue. Of all people, I would hope the Deputy Director of Extramural Research would be able to look at a simple data set and arrive at an appropriate conclusion. In this case, the right conclusion is obviously “don’t change it”. The only thing the data truly point to is that this will be bad for ESI’s. I’m not ESI, but this should be a MAJOR red flag. The previous comment about now having to go to PubMed to assess impact is also spot on. During study sections, we reviewers will now have to keep a separate PubMed window open instead of using the biosketch.

  32. I agree with the other commentors that this is really a total waste of time. Further, it is a new and unnecessary burden that will again create more wasted time for applicants in the already over-burdening process of applying for NIH grants.

  33. Ok this is a very big waste of time. We got the notice about this from our department administrator yesterday so I thought I would go ahead and get it ready now while I have time. I spent half the day yesterday and all morning today working on it and I am not even half way done! I also came to the conclusion that I am going to have to write three different documents representing each of the major subdivisions of work going on in my lab. I have been reviewing grants for a long time and I am pretty sure that even if someone does read it, it will only be used as ammunition against people (not enough impact, they over stated their worth, blah, blah) and detract from the actual science in the proposal. I personally probably won’t even read the dang thing, I hardly ever read the personal statements except to get a good belly laugh.

  34. Please reconsider this policy. This is extra administrative work for researchers that has very little to do with the science being proposed. Any important aspects that are being added could have already been included in the previous personal statement. You are mandating that researchers, in order to be competitive, must exaggerate and use hyperbole to describe their work.

  35. The new biosketch format is simply a bad idea, period. You don’t seem to be listening, nor does anyone else at the NIH. Wake up. This kind of stuff just wastes the time of applicants and reviewers while giving you and your colleagues a false sense that you are contributing something to the process. On the contrary, you are hindering it!

  36. No sense repeating the many excellent arguments against this ill-conceived, unjustified monstrosity, except to echo the sentiment that it must surely have been motivated by bureaucrats desperate to burnish their progress reports to their supervisors and/or to justify hiring additional bureaucrats. As a life-long liberal progressive who has championed the importance of government, I can only say that this is the kind of thing that causes folks to join the Tea Party. In the name of reason, kill this misbegotten initiative.

  37. It is amazing that you are changing a biosketch based on the feedback of 138 people. That seems like a fairly small sample size on which to base this really terrible idea. Given your efforts to show this decision was correct, I have to believe that you’ve really received nothing but negative feedback. This is a terrible idea. All you are doing is creating barriers to getting an application submitted. Do the right thing and reverse this decision.

  38. Thanks to all the prior postings. This change is remarkably unnecessary and demoralizing at a time of crisis in our funding. Many of us are struggling to survive and NIH thinks that changing the biosketch format is going to help? Maybe it’s time to lessen the load in the number of administrators.

  39. This is an unnecessary waste of time and a potential impediment to junior investigators. The inadequately powered survey (with the key question of whether the new format is significantly better than the previous one omitted) shows little support among reviewers, who are the key individuals since they are the target for the biosketch. After all, the biosketch is meant to inform their reviews.
    The current narrative portion of the biosketch allows the investigators to highlight relevant contributions.

  40. Simple suggestion: As this is (or should be) for the benefit of the applicant, make the new biosketch format optional. Applicants who feel it is advantageous can opt in, those who think it adds little can opt out

  41. As a training grant administrator, for each new submission I already face coaxing between 20-60 investigators to give me their biosketches with the correct (limited) number of pubs and with any personal statement at all (much less one that refers to their interest and experience in training).

    We already have one assistant whose only job for many weeks is to contact those listing too many pubs, look up PMCID numbers not listed, and re-format these bios. I shudder at the additional work required for these new blatant PR items for the two submissions we plan for early 2015.

    Scientific accomplishments can already be included in the personal statement. ESIs will be at a distinct disadvantage. Established PIs will either resist describing their accomplishments in such a boastful way, or resent reducing their contributions to a mere couple of paragraphs.

    I agree with previous commenters that the pilot is an inadequate proof of concept, and that instituting this change seems less about improving the review process than about “look, we made a change, and asked for feedback before implementing it.”

  42. I am an New/ESI and just spent 3 hours converting my existing biosketch into the new format. I was disappointed by the integration with SciENcv and share concerns about the ability of new/ESIs to successfully portray their contributions in this new format. SciENcv was buggy and I encountered technical problems that made my 2 hours of work entering data into the system obsolete (changes were not saved). Also, I was shocked to find that the biosketch format generated by SciENcv (which I only became aware of by linking through from the instructions for the new form) did not have all the required fields and did not generate the new required format. While I was able to include what I believe to be an adequate narrative about my contributions to science, I have concerns that my even more junior colleagues will struggle to demonstrate how their handful of papers have yet made significant contributions. Sometimes the contributions of one’s work will not be known for years, until an adequate body of literature has been amassed. I’m also wondering about using age, rather than years from PhD or some other indicator of experience, in the survey reported in the blog. Age does not necessarily track directly with length of career, review experience, or other factors that might affect one’s ideas about this change.

  43. This is a very disappointing development. Considerable extra work for already burdened applicants with little or no (I’d say “no”) benefit to reviewers.

  44. It would have been so simple just to have *permitted* a narrative of “non publication products” for the few people who need this rather than mandating for all.

  45. What about the young scientists or those that are trying to move up the ladder? Has NIH ever considered changing their formatting and their process to favor less established (young scientists) who are in the early stages of becoming instructors or assistant professors? Whatever NIH does is to favor the ones that are well-established and loaded with donations and money from private sectors or industry. That is all into it. So so sorry that I am a scientist and my hands are tighten and can not even move. All I get is that I will be in my dead-bed before getting my first R01.

  46. I am submitting a grant with approximately 4 clinical investigators, and 8 basic investigators…..not sure how many hours of effort this will require to transition to the new biosketch format. It is supposed to reduce overhead time for PI and co-investigators, but it sounds like more time away from research, data analysis, and laboratory experiments. Basically everyone had just completely transitioned to this biosketch format, before the advent of SciencV.

  47. When CDC evaluates a drug candidate, it only approves the candidate if the new one is significantly more beneficial to the patients than the old ones. NIH, please help us to reduce the paperwork by withdrawing your plan. Pleaseeeeee.

  48. Not only is it an additional burden to already stressed out investigators trying to keep their head above water, it makes no sense if you try to comply. Just try writing your personal statement (section A) to describe how well suited you are to lead the study without mentioning your scientific contributions because that goes in section C and cannot also be mentioned in section A!!

  49. I just spent 1 hour to reformat my bio into the new format and it was painless — easy to do. About the merits (or not) of the new format. I do not think all is negative as most of the comments would indicate. The only substantial change is “Contributions to Science”. By subdividing the pubs into topical sections is informative I think and better than looking down a list of 15 pubs without context. It is also useful to define one’s contribution to the more and more popular multi-author pubs.

    1. One would think that the context for the 15 selected publications was the proposed research, and how relevant they were to predict the success of the project.
      Better, in my opinion, than describing what one did 30 and 15 years earlier about dispersed topics, when there are no significant contributions in recent years.
      In any case, congratulations. You are the only scientist that I have knowledge of that feels good about these changes.

    2. Breaking fifteen publications into categories is quite easy but hardly fulfills the requirements and spirit of describing one’s contributions to science. I believe that few of us would be complaining if that’s all that was asked. It seems that you didn’t really understand the instructions, Gerry Coetzee. That likely explains why your is the only positive comment!

  50. I agree that this change creates additional burden that seems unnecessary. Given the negative responses, I recommend NIH make this new format optional until there is a deeper understanding of the benefits weighed against the negative consequences. The administrative burden of constructing NIH proposal is unreasonably high already, given the very low pay lines. I also recommend NIH announce a significant change at least 6 months in advance of the required implementation date so there is time to prepare.

  51. We have been working on a T32 competing renewal application since this summer for a deadline of January 25, 2015 and have already collected dozens of biosketches in the “original” format. We have just been told by the Project Officer that we are required to go back to everyone and ask them to update to the new 5 page format. She feels that the proposal will be rejected if it arrives with the old versions. May I ask Dr. Rockey to please publish clarification around how the proposals will be handled if they do arrive at NIH with the outdated versions of the biosketches.

  52. “Rock talk: Helping connect you with the NIH perspective”

    Indeed, it is abundantly clear that the NIH perspective is that they’re going to do whatever they want, regardless of feedback from, or any consideration whatsoever for, the primary stakeholders here – extramural investigators that will be directly impacted by this unfortunate, wasteful, and misguided initiative. As noted above, this idea was vociferously condemned on this blog previously, and it could not be more clear that NIH simply ignored this feedback. Although I don’t recall the exact number of responses to the original blog post, I might suggest that there were actually far more than n=29 respondents who voiced their unambigous and strong objection to this change in that blog. I don’t see any honest mention of that feedback in this PR spin from Dr. Rockey. The response in this blog are wholly consistent with the previous iteration; unfortunately, it seems likely that the protests will fall on deaf ears yet again.

    The overwhelming perspective from those investigators I’ve spoken with is that this is a complete waste of investigator, and reviewer, time. As noted in posts above, it is abundantly clear from the pilot data – what there is of it – that nobody really thinks this is an especially good idea, and certainly there is no indication that “the new biosketch was an improvement over the old version”. A positive PR spin doesn’t change the data, no matter how hard or repetitively one tries. Why aren’t the blog responses included as “feedback”? Definitely a bad, bad sign. As a reviewer, I don’t want to read a nauseating fluff PR piece from an investigator blowing their own horn, and I certainly am not about to use that as a basis for any evaluation of a proposal. Instead, I’ll just skip over that section. And as an investigator, I don’t want to take the time to write a nauseating fluff PR piece either. I should be spending my time writing about actual science.

    The responses in this blog, Dr. Rockey, are the investigators’ perspectives. It is very troubling that NIH is moving forward with this despite vocal protest from those that will be most affected. We don’t need new initiatives like this simply for the sake of new initiatives.

  53. I am a research administrator as an institute at OHSU. I am preparing a grant for the February 25th deadline and will be constructing three different biosketches (version C) for the collaborators on the project. I’d like to do this only once per person, understandably. Thus, I must ask – why (a) promote ScienCV as a tool to accomplish this task when it cannot, and (b) why launch the biosketch update before ScienCV can handle it? Now, I’m going to have to do all three by hand and then REPEAT the effort once ScienCV is ready to handle version C of the biosketch.

    Additionally, since this is the first time I’m doing the new biosketch format, I’d like to try it out on my very accommodating faculty person and figure out what all my future faculty will need to do in order to be prepared to develop their new biosketches. Again, I cannot do this because ScienCV is unready for the launch of the new biosketch. So, the last hour in which I spent taking notes on directions and potential pitfalls in filling out a faculty ScienCV profile (and an ORCID one, too, if I’m being complete in supporting all the faculty in moving to the newer systems!) is now fully wasted. I cannot use the data I’ve entered into either ORCID or ScienCV.

    Final twist – the tool in ScienCV to link your ScienCV profile to your ORCID one is buggy and flatly does not work.

    If the NIH is truly behind this project, those in charge of it should ensure the required tools are available, working and sufficient to the task.

  54. In the explanation for why NIH is implementing a new biosketch, this stands out: “The new format accomplishes two important goals: allowing applicants to describe the magnitude and significance of their scientific contributions (including publications), and providing more detailed information about their research experience in the context of the proposed project”

    In my over 15 years of reviewing grant applications, the addition of the section A “personal statement” was an improvement and accomplished all of the above. It helped reviewers understand an investigator’s area of expertise, when it wasn’t clearly apparent from the 15 publications cited. The new format – which feels more like a sales pitch – doesn’t add to this one bit. Instead, it shifts the focus from the quality of the grant application to the prestige (and bragging ability) of the applicant. This seems like a bad idea that creates more paperwork and more hours needed to prepare each grant application without adding any value to reviewers.

    Also, as reviewers we were always encouraged to avoid giving benefit-of-the-doubt to very well known, well published investigators, since even big name researchers can turn out a bad grant application. This new biosketch seems to be moving things in the opposite direction by placing more emphasis on the reputation of the applicant and less on the quality of the particular application.

  55. I join the many, many others above to beseech you to reconsider this terrible plan.
    Gerry Coetzee above, who found it “easy” to reformat his/her biosketch to this new specification, must have a single or relatively narrow substantive area of research interest/expertise. I have more than one and I already spend a substantial amount of time – both as a PI and as a Co-I – revising my Part A and publications lists to emphasize the match between my experience/expertise and the proposed project’s goals (e.g., by adding to/subtracting from/rearranging contents of my “most relevant to this application” and “other recent publications” publication lists). This new requirement is going to add additional administrative HOURS to every future grant submission I head up as PI or am involved in as Co-I. This is yet another very discouraging administrative time-drain away from the (you would think) more important Specific Aims and, especially, *Research Plan * sections of the applications we submit to NIH. PLEASE revoke this plan!

  56. My previous comments were not posted, which is surprising, since I was very reserved in my opinion on this topic. Who is moderating this site? In any case, this “initiative” is a sham, and it will benefit no one while subjecting everyone to another stupid hoop to jump through, just because, apparently, leadership in the NIH thinks it is worthy. None of them apparently bothered to consider feedback from those affected by their random policy. Seriously, has anyone associated with this decision: a) ever written a grant, b) ever reviewed a grant? Common sense has to prevail here. Stop this madness before it starts!!!!

  57. Perhaps I missed something, but where does the data indicate that
    “a majority of both groups agreed that the new biosketch was an improvement over the old version”? The questions presented in the write-up did not ask reviewers/participants to compare the new “improved” biosketch to the prior version. If this was not done, how can NIH glean any useful information from the relatively small pilot on preference of one biosketch over the other? Again, perhaps I missed something, but in the absence of an explicit comparison, the data appear somewhat less than informative and NIH/CSR seems to be over-interpreting data.

    In general, just seems like more gov’t busy work that most reviewers are likely (hopefully) going to ignore and just focus on the scientific merit of the proposal.

  58. By creating more rules and regulations like this one, what NIH does is that it allows more false publications and more re-tracking of articles. Has NIH ever thought of that issue? Dr. Rockey, as a woman scientist, have you ever thought of pushing NIH to prevent the discrimination that exists against women in academia? I do not believe so. We see it every day and every where, and NIH keeps funding those labs and the institutes.
    NIH also allows for more fake data and more negativity. We will see more re-tracking and more problems. At the end of the day, patients and those in need of help are the ones that will suffer. Young postdoc , who generate the data, will have to leave the lab and be jobless and homeless.

  59. As a current study section chair (NAL) and a seasoned reviewer, I also wish to add to the many “no” votes on two grounds. First, I fear the new format will be disadvantageous to those less likely to toot their own horns. Second, I resent the extra time this new format will take both for reviewers and grant writers. As a grant reviewer, I need the biosketch to provide a publication list and funding history; I am decidedly not interested in reading a PR piece.

    1. How about NIH conducts a larger survey of PIs and reviewers asks them what they think of this new biosketch compared to the old? You can get a fair example of our feelings by reading the comments on this blog, as well as those posted earlier in the summer when the initial proposal was made. If Dr Rockey would like to post a rebuttal to the comments in this blog, that would also be very helpful.

  60. It’s the arrogance of the presentation that annoys me the most. We all complained in May and we complain again, but we as dumb investigators just don’t understand what this is all about, they do this to help us, to safe us time!!
    ” […] SciENcv will be used […], addressing concerns articulated by the Federal Demonstration Partnership regarding the BURDEN OF MAINTAINING MULTIPLE BIOSKETCHES” (emphasis added).
    The data that they present to convince us that we really like this change is even more ridiculous than what they used trying to convince us that submitting A2 applications really hurt the scientific community.

  61. As a mid career PI and a seasoned reviewer, I am concerned that the new format may well hurt young investigators most. By definition they have a thinner publication record and therefore will have less to talk about. For something like this that affects the entire community in major ways, the NIH really should conduct a larger-scale survey and weigh the young investigators’ opinions more heavily, before introducing the measure.

  62. It is very disappointing that NIH does not even care to consider millions of complains. What a waste of our time to even complain. NIH will do what they want to do. What is the point of complaining? Can any one please let me know if NIH staffs even read these notes?

  63. Last week I posted an negative but, I thought, “appropriately worded” comment on this idea and, like others, was moderated out of this discussion. So I suspect that for all of these negative comments there likely are many more being culled out by the mods for unknown reasons. Let me briefly reiterate: I think this is an incredible waste of time and a terrible idea. Please reconsider.

  64. They’re moving chairs on the Titanic. The NIH is going down and administrators are keeping themselves busy by finding problems that don’t exist, so they don’t have to think about the elephant in the room.

  65. As a senior investigator (almost 30 years of NIH funding) and member of multiple study sections, I really need to concur with the many, many critiques above. It will not help me or my senior colleagues, and can only hurt junior colleagues. The new “information” will basically add nothing of value, and the opportunity costs of loss of time, energy, productivity and sheer patience with the system are becoming overwhelming. If someone has non-publication accomplishments they wish to mention, that can easily be accommodated in the existing personal statement.
    I implore you to please rescind this decision.

  66. Instead of adding extra pages for embellished prose about published record why not use the space to list the published manuscripts beyond 15 and let the pubs speak for themselves. The basics of the biosketch are still education, publications and other support.
    The NIH should work to decrease fluff not increase it.

  67. The new biosketch format requirements include a link to “Complete List of Published Work in MyBibliography.” Creating that link is not possible for grant owners since the NCBI Bibliography also includes articles linked to that PI’s funding that he/she didn’t write. When I asked NIH about this, they said including that link in the biosketch is optional. Frankly, that answer isn’t very satisfying since the biosketch instructions indicate it’s obligatory. What else about the new format is optional? If the link really is optional, how is that information being disseminated?

  68. I shudder to think of the amount of time of the thousands of investigators and scientists from around the country (probably the world) that is being spent on making these changes. The alterations needed are not something that a secretary or administrative assistant could do. I do not see these changes as being all that helpful. Am I missing something? Why waste the time of such a highly educated group of people, fixing something that is not broken. There are so many diseases and discoveries to be made; working and thinking about these would be a far more productive use of the time of this group of people!

  69. I have spent at least 6-8 hours of my time trying to complete this new format and am no where near completion. To those of you who think you can farm this out to an assistant or coordinator, think again. This is all about salesmanship and will certainly require significant crafting from investigators. After all of this effort and frustration from dealing with the buggy SciENcv site, now I hear that NIH has extended the deadline till May. Great. If the biosketches are actually read by grant reviewers (which I understand are often not the case) I can say with assurance that this will definitely bias against early stage investigators who simply have not had the chance to accrue multiple significant scientific accomplishments. NIH, listen to us, please…let us focus on the proposal, not on this busywork. THIS IS NOT WORKING, it’s a BAD IDEA that is IMPEDING THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE AND PUBLIC HEALTH.

  70. As a reviewer, this will not add appreciably to the usable information with which to review an application. I imagine that the little influence this will have will be to stack the deck against more difficult to junior scientists.

    As an applicant, this will add substantially to my time spent on the non-scientific aspects of my grant.

  71. Sorry. I meant to say “I imagine that the little influence this will have will be to stack the deck against junior scientists.”

  72. The specific aims of this study are as follows:
    1) To design a small pilot study to qualitatively assesses the opinions of scientists and reviewers regarding sweeping changes to the existing biosketch design.
    2) To ignore lackluster and negative findings in the small pilot study and only interpret those findings that could be in someway supportive of implementing biosketch changes for nearly all future NIH grants.
    3) To attempt to link this new biosketch format to federal programs of equally dubious merit (e.g., Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae).
    4) To require numerous hours of additional work from the scientific community without performing a cost-benefit analysis for the changes being implemented or fully responding to the complaints raised.

  73. There is not a single positive comment about this new format in the list. Not one. Truly, I can’t think of any useful information that this format will allow that couldn’t be included in the personal statement of the current format. Those of us in the trenches are providing overwhelming feedback that this change will be both burdensome and detrimental. I can’t figure out why NIH would be so invested in making a change for no apparent reason (i.e., it does not solve a problem identified by investigators or reviewers). What am I missing?

  74. I am at least as concerned about what this change suggests about the process of stakeholder consultation and inclusion at NIH, as I am about the administrative and review aspects of this proposed change. There are now many more negative comments in this thread than there were participants in your pilot survey, and all save one of these comments has been strongly discouraging. A more representative survey of the scientific community would be helpful before instigating major changes to how they conduct their business. Right now, it looks like a small (effectively convenience sample because of instability of prevalence estimates from tiny N) survey with poorly designed questions is the only support for this policy. I just had trouble getting a survey with N=280 published because the journal editor felt this was only preliminary data, so we had to try another journal (he wouldn’t even send it out for review). This NIH informal pilot would not be publishable, at least in that journal.

    I also echo the justice concerns about how this may negatively impact ESI, female scientists and minority scientists, all of whom may be less inclined or able to boast about self-perceived accomplishments than white male senior investigators, and all of whom the NIH is ostensibly trying to help. The changes might benefit some consortium scientists working in fields like genetic or HIV epidemiology where middle-authorship on dozens-of-authors papers is not uncommon; however, it does not even necessarily benefit most researchers within those fields, as a scientist contributing with different skills across studies might be condemned as “diffuse” by a reviewer under the new format, and a scientist contributing the same skill over and over again might be dismissed as a low-impact “technician” by a reviewer under the new format. Essentially, the only people I think who stand to not get a new dismissive criticism from a reviewer under this new format are people who have led in the development of consortia, for whom inclusion on a high-impact manuscript may be more a courtesy than a reflection of their actual work on the specific paper. I anticipate this will help stabilize the careers of the most senior people at the expense of ESI who may contribute to consortium efforts in more narrow ways.

    In summary, I think the NIH ought to do a larger N, stratified random sample survey with oversampling of ESI, women, and minority scientists who might be the most negatively impacted by the proposed changes, and ask them which format they prefer, prior to implementing the policy change; and I think this kind of transparent, evidence-based approach should be the norm for future policy changes at NIH. Soliciting feedback from a tiny focus group, and then ignoring feedback from a much larger N, reflects poorly on NIH.

  75. I must add my support to the overwhelmingly negative sentiments expressed in response to this biosketch policy change. As a female junior faculty member and ESI, I feel disheartened and discouraged by this change — in the best case scenario, it will sustain existing funding disparities, and in the worst case scenario, exacerbate these disparities. The presented data and their interpretation are very concerning — how can these results be taken as serious support of this policy change? It’s clear that many members of the scientific community are concerned and opposed to the new biosketch format, and I beg the NIH to accept that this was a bad idea and one that should not pursued. Some complaints that the scientific community has about funding (e.g., low paylines, total I/C budgets) are not fully within the power of the NIH to fix, but this issue is and should be remedied as soon as possible.

  76. Garbage in, garbage out. The survey questions, the answers to which purportedly support and justify this disastrous and short-sighted change, were extremely poorly chosen. As others have pointed out, whether the format, in isolation, is “helpful,” is hardly diagnostic. Furthermore, as others have pointed out, the interpretations and extrapolations from the limited data are unjustified. They represent embarrassingly poor scientific thought. Dr. Rockey, are you listening? The feedback is nearly 100% negative!

  77. So since I last posted on this blog Dec. 3, there have been many more posts – all negative in response to the proposed new biosketch. Again, with all due respect, Dr. Rock, are you listening? Why is there not a single response from your team to us, your constituents? We recognize all too well that these are difficult times for science, funding, and public service, and we appreciate the efforts of the NIH team to continue to support scientists despite limited resources. However, the lack of any response to the strong and consistent feedback of the scientific community is very discouraging. We expect to have limited support for research from Congress; we don’t expect our leaders at the NIH to become part of the problem by creating unwanted and unproven additional paperwork burdens.

      1. With all due respect, this is a disingenuous response that evades the real issue. Perhaps 3 or 4 of the 97 comments on this thread are relevant to the Followup on Biosketch Implementation post, whereas the overwhelming majority are questioning the need for the change in the first place. As the onus for writing and reviewing the new biosketch is completely on grant writers and reviewers (who are volunteers), shouldn’t we as a community get more of a say on if this is a necessary change that will help the review process? Reading through the comments in both threads it would appear that many feel that this will waste everyone’s time without providing any real benefit to the review process. Due to ever increasing inflation and stagnant paylines we are expected to do more with less every year, so why make our jobs harder to do for no reason?

  78. Just ran into the requirement for this new Biosketch, and agree 100% with all the other comments here, a total waste of my time. I don’t enjoy science anymore because of additional administrative paperwork like this. We have to defend our science constantly, I would like the author of this ridiculous requirement to defend it to the scientist. The addition of the personal statement was laughable, this move is just ridiculous. As a reviewer of grants it will add nothing to my impression of the work proposed, and as long as I can see what the PI’s productivity is, I am happy.

  79. The paperwork just gets worse and worse. I wish NIH would just let us do our research in peace and stop adding more and more paperwork that just wastes time.

  80. This is a colossal waste of time. I see absolutely no up-side to the new biosketch format and requirements. In my opinion, just an additional burden!

  81. This change simply reflects the growing bureaucracy both at the NIH and within research institutions. Investigators are already under immense pressure to obtain and renew funding at a time when funding is incredibly difficult to obtain. On the other hand, administrative positions flourish and administrators must justify their existence by making modifications and policy changes. Even at my institution, senior investigators who have consistently lacked funding are moving into administrative positions after which they chide faculty for not being more “inventive” in their grant writing strategies ! Look for more gratuitous changes to processes as administrators and bureaucrats seek to find ways to “improve processes”.

  82. I have a concern about links in Scientific Contribution sections of the new biosketches being used to overcome reviewer anonymity. For example, if I provide an unindexed web page as a link, I know that the only people with that link are the people that are holding my grant. All I would need to do to know who my reviewers are would be to match up the IP addresses of site visitors to my study section roster. Certainly, as a reviewer, I would consider clicking through on any link to be a possible waiver of my anonymity, and I would think long and hard before doing it — regardless of any instructions.

  83. Can we PLEASE have back the old Biosketch format?
    (BTW – I am a woman. I respectfully but strongly disagree(!) with the idea that this format is better for women – or for any other minority group).
    If changes are needed – keep the 5 pages, let us put in a longer list (25?) of significant publications (this would allow to showcase more significant contributions) and provide more room for the Personal Statement (this would allow painting a fuller picture of ourselves). Here are my observations as both as a reviewer and as a grant-writer:
    A. As a reviewer on a review panel I found the new format to be a major time drain on reviewers and a disservice to the submitting researchers. The scattered citations make it MUCH slower and harder to assess quality and relevance of previous contributions, and the extra words describing said contributions serve only to consume both writer and reader time.
    The basic info included in a publication list: Paper titles, co-authors, publication year and venue, number of citations to-date, serve to say much more about the magnitude of the contribution than a lengthy paragraph.

    B. As a researcher writing my biosketch, I find that it needs a major re-doing for each grant submission, where all the energy goes into trying to second-guess what the reviewer may think about certain words used in describing the contributions (while knowing full well that 99% of reviewers would never bother reading these words anyhow – see point A).
    As for the man-vs-woman issue:The bio is not where it comes into play. The research strategy and approach itself is where men tend to use confident, bold and certain terms while women are more tentative, and careful not to overstate. (For yet undone research – I think that’s a good thing – but this is a different topic)
    Bottom line – please listen to the majority of voices here and undo the bio-sketch change. The sooner – the better. Thanks in advance!

  84. I think we have the right to know who came up with this “brilliant” idea. Did they ever write a grant? I agree with the people that say that this does not help applicants or reviewers. As as reviewer, I would rather see the entire publication list than having to read a few subjective statements about a publication. In addition we will need to revise the bio for every application we send in, unless all we have is 4 publications and work on one topic only. If someone asks us for a CV as a collaborator, a specific CV will need to be written for it, and who wants to do it? Given the number of application everybody ends up having to write, this overtime is absurd.
    I also WOULD LIKE THE OLD FORMAT BACK and possibly yesterday! Please do not pretend to sell the positives. There are no positives. NONE!

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