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Temporary, Emergency Situations Due to COVID-19 and Application Scores Received During Peer Review

Image of Sally Amero
Sally Amero, Ph.D., NIH’s Review Policy Officer
and Extramural Research Integrity Liaison Officer

As we continue to address the effects of the COVID-19 public health emergency on NIH-supported research, we are aware of applicant concerns about the potential impact of this temporary emergency situation on the outcome of peer review.  We want to reassure applicants that we released guidance for reviewers that makes it clear that, when reviewing applications during the coronavirus pandemic national emergency, reviewers should assume that issues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, such as the following, should not affect scores.

  • Some key personnel on grant applications may be called up to serve in patient testing or patient care roles, diverting effort from the proposed research
  • Feasibility of the proposed approach may be affected, for example if direct patient contact is required
  • The environment may not be functional or accessible
  • Additional human subjects protections may be in order, for example if the application was submitted prior to the viral outbreak
  • Animal welfare may be affected, if institutions are closed temporarily
  • Biohazards may include insufficient protections for research personnel
  • Recruitment plans and inclusion plans may be delayed, if certain patient populations are affected by the viral outbreak
  • Travel for key personnel or trainees to attend scientific conferences, meetings of consortium leadership, etc., may be postponed temporarily
  • Curricula proposed in training grant applications may have to be converted to online formats temporarily
  • Conferences proposed in R13/U13 applications may be cancelled or postponed.

NIH will work with the applicant to resolve issues related to temporary, emergency conditions prior to award.

We have also had many questions from applicants asking what they should do if they don’t have enough preliminary data for the application they had planned to submit. While it may not be the most popular answer, we always recommend that applicants submit the best application possible. If preliminary data is lacking, consider waiting to submit a stronger application for a later due date.

The COVID-19 reviewer guidance, along with FAQs for applicants and awardees can be found in our central repository of resources, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Information for NIH Applicants and Recipients of NIH Funding.

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6 thoughts on “Temporary, Emergency Situations Due to COVID-19 and Application Scores Received During Peer Review

  1. “We have also had many questions from applicants asking what they should do if they don’t have enough preliminary data for the application they had planned to submit. While it may not be the most popular answer, we always recommend that applicants submit the best application possible.”

    Yet more pressure on the shoulders of scientists in unprecedented times. A professionally worded middle finger.

  2. Thank you for the information. Will the NAIAD have a new study section set-up for COVID-19 applications for the June 5th R01 deadline?

    • The June 5th date that you refer to is for the standing NIH investigator initiated R01 submission date. Those applications are reviewed at CSR. The receipt dates for PAR-20-177 and PAR-20-178 are rolling, which means that you can submit your application anytime during the duration of the PARs. Applications submitted to the PARs will be reviewed by NIAID organized review panels. Currently planning on applications submitted in response to these PARs are planned to be reviewed within 6 weeks after receipt depending on the weekly response. You can find the solicitations and contact information at the URLs below.

      https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PAR-20-177.html

      https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PAR-20-178.html

  3. I am not planning to submit a grant this current round, but it seems to me that this would be an appropriate time to lift the restrictions for one or two rounds on the supplementary data that can be submitted at a later date before review. We used to be able to submit more that just letters or accepted publications. I realize that this would put an additional burden on NIH staff and reviewers, but it seems like a potential short term compromise.

    We have also had many questions from applicants asking what they should do if they don’t have enough preliminary data for the application they had planned to submit. While it may not be the most popular answer, we always recommend that applicants submit the best application possible. If preliminary data is lacking, consider waiting to submit a stronger application for a later due date.

  4. The suggestion that scientists should wait to submit better applications once they can get back into their labs to generate additional preliminary data is completely unsatisfactory. Unless NIH is willing to give us cost extensions of 3-4 months (I have been locked out since mid-March and not likely to be allowed back before July), which is DOE’s policy, we will all have blown 3-4 months of funding for naught. We should be funding solid ideas and asking reviewers to relax preliminary data criteria at least temporarily.

  5. “While it may not be the most popular answer, we always recommend that applicants submit the best application possible. If preliminary data is lacking, consider waiting to submit a stronger application for a later due date.”

    This is your advice? Sometimes it’s better to say nothing than to
    put in writing thoughts like these.

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