New Podcast on NIH Advisory Councils: Understanding What Happens During the Second Round of Peer Review


Have you ever wondered why your grant application must undergo a separate round of peer review—even after a panel of experts initially weighed in on its scientific merit and provided a score to consider when making funding decisions?

A new All About Grants podcast delves more into the second round of peer review at NIH (MP3 / Transcript). Dr. Sally Amero, NIH’s Review Policy Officer with the NIH Office of Extramural Research, and Dr. Rebekah Rasooly, a Branch Chief in program with the National Institute of Nursing Research, will discuss the role and functions of these advisory councils. Listeners will hear about who makes up these groups, what they are tasked with reviewing, their general decision-making processes, and how their recommendations are considered at the funding NIH Institute or Center.


  1. The key sentence is the following: “However, council review is just advisory, and funding decisions are not made at council meetings or by council members.” That means funding decisions are made by Program Officials who are not peers and calling this 2nd level ‘peer review is a misnomer. Even Council discussions are almost 100% reliant on input from POs who are not active scientists but have left their active research decades earlier, yet they yield enormous power. There is no appeals process available to question PO’s decision. There is no written feedback on council discussions and recommendations or the PO’s decision not to fund applications that were judged as highly meritorious by study sections. If you write to the institute director to ask for insight into a decision then that letter ends back on the PO’s desk. This entire process stinks as it devalues the initial careful peer review by the experts in study sections who have read the application, and it is highly vulnerable to conflicts of interest of a few. Academic freedom is

  2. Is it possible to know if my application has been individually discussed by the council or has gone through expedite review, and is it possible to have a summary of the discussion?

      1. Thank you very much for the clarification.
        I am a bit impatient, since it has been a month from the council review and the status of my application is ‘pending administrative review’.
        What does this exactly mean and what is a usual timeline for getting the final response?
        Many thanks in advance for your help.

        1. The best contact to find out the status of an application post-review is the program official assigned to your grant application. You can find contact information for them in the eRA Commons.

  3. Are all the administrative reviews completed before the end of the fiscal year?
    Can a decision on a grant be taken after the end of the fiscal year?
    Finally, if a grant has been submitted on the III cycle in 2017, is 2018 the fiscal year funding the project?


    1. This chart of NIH grant review and award cycles shows the timing of application submission, first and second levels of peer review, and the earliest possible project start date. The fiscal year of the award would be based on when the actual grant award is made. An award does not need to be made within cycle it is reviewed. NIH institutes and centers generally have the option of making awards within three council rounds.

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