Signing Officials Can Access Overall Impact Scores and Summary Statements Starting June 24

Effective June 24, 2020, summary statements and overall impact scores for grant applications will be available on the eRA Commons Status Information screen to users with the signing official (SO) role. Currently, only principal investigators can view the scores and summary statements.

This change came about following the update to the  System of Records Notice (SORN) for eRA records, allowing NIH to disclose information to applicant organizations for the purpose of communicating about matters related to agency award programs.

This means that the NIH will make the overall impact score and all current and previously issued summary statements available to the applicant organization through the NIH eRA Commons.  The user must have the signing official (SO) role in the eRA Commons in order to view the impact score and the summary statement.

For help accessing the Status Information screen, please see the online help for the Status Module. Once the system is released on June 24, there will be a help page with specific instructions for how SOs can access review outcomes.

For information regarding this change, please refer to Guide Notice NOT-OD-20-126.

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26 thoughts on “Signing Officials Can Access Overall Impact Scores and Summary Statements Starting June 24

  1. I’m curious as to the impetus behind this as personally it makes me very uncomfortable to not have control over who sees my score and my summary statements (particularly for training awards when comments may be very personal). Is there any way to opt out of sharing these with our signing officials, particularly as signing officials may share them with others?

  2. It is not clear from this notice as to whether AOR or SO can only view or they distribute the summary statements(SS) of the applicants within their organization. Some institutes will have lot of signing officials and it is not clear whether the information in SS can be accessed and distributed to anyone at the institute.
    Summary statements in general will contain significant scientific information, including discussions of unpublished preliminary data in the application and making them freely available any individual other than PI at applicant organization will only increase incidences related to loss of intellectual property. NIH should think more about protecting how the information is accessed, distributed and must have strict policy about no downloads/copies or distribution of contents within the SS with in the organization except PI of of the grant.

    • Individuals with the SO role can already view in eRA COMMONS the records for all grants within their organization. They are designated the authority to do so by the organization, with the responsibility to ensure the organization complies with applicable Federal laws and regulations, including required certifications and assurances, its application, and the terms and conditions of individual awards. In accordance with NOT-OD-20-126, NIH has added SO access to the overall impact score and the NIH Summary Statement to clarify that this information may be shared with applicant organizations and facilitate award management and communications with applicant organizations.

      • How the information in a summary statement will help facilitate award management and why is it required only now? On the contrary, this step by NIH of providing access of SS to SO might be unnecessary and counterproductive.
        Signing officials in general are not scientists and I see no reason why NIH wants to give access discussions related science contained in SS to them. Moreover, information and comments in the summary statement from the funding agencies(for eg, comments related impact of science) can be misused by hiring and promotion committees at host institutions during decision making processes related to both hiring as well as tenure. This will be counterproductive especially for young faculty as they might have to answer to their departments as to why esteemed NIH peer-reviewers think their science is not relevant or feasible as stated in SS.
        NIH is urged to rethink and retain the current status and keep SS privileged and confidential between applicants and NIH similar to anonymity of peer-review process.

      • Please provide itemized details as to how access to Priority Score and Summary Statement can “….ensure the organization complies with applicable Federal laws and regulations, including required certifications and assurances, its application, and the terms and conditions of individual awards.”; and please provide examples of how the absence of such information has negatively affected the organization’s ability to comply with laws and regulations. I am genuinely puzzled and concerned. The concerns expressed by readers regarding this move are real and serious,

  3. As an academically and scientifically enthusiastic scientist with proven excellence in independent brainpower and collaborative dynamic research contributions in terms of publications (senior authorships alongwith 48 first authorships out of 50 scientific publications in leading peer-reviewed journals), I wish to congratulate my American Grants Management officers and team at the NIH, USA for stringently streamlining the fiscal year-based financial statements with funding cycles and organizations for effective and meaningful dissemination of emerging scientific knowledge worldwide!
    The NIH Nexus snapshot was scientifically stimulating and thought-provoking propeling my inherent scientific and medical research capabilities for future public health-oriented contributions; it is indeed essential to follow stringent guidelines for ethical biomedical research, and in this context, the NIH would make the overall impact score and all current and previously issued summary statements available to the applicant organization via the scientifically sound NIH eRA Commons, ensuring privacy of priveleged scientific information without unauthorized third-party access, thereby further streamlining the American scientific research code of conduct with the user possessing the signing official (SO) role in the eRA Commons in order to view the impact score and the summary statements and previous funding-year awards with precise NIH USA federal budgetary financial well-defined break-ups and justified utilizations in timeline-driven yearwise pre-award and post-award grants cycles.
    As a valuable insight in the complex and sophisticated American Grants healthcare management with ethical principles and code of conduct, I have previously worked in the NIH-funded biomedical research at prestigious organizations in financial years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012, and demonstrated my scientific excellence in productive research outputs, abstracts and international peer-reviewed publications, and therefore, this well-drafted snapshots from my American experts at NIH USA certainly provided me a brilliant scientific backdrop for future professional development, including investigator-initiated grants with my independent Asian Indian female brainpower investment in the years to come so as to elegantly bridge the existing scientific and medical research knowledge-gap amongst clinical research community worldwide!

  4. As an SO I thank NIH for making this information available to us. NIH staff often ask us to evaluate JIT responses to comments in the summary statement. We are also expected to know what pending projects are likely to be funded when reviewing overlap sections of other support. It is impossible to carry out these responsibilities without access to summary statement information.

    • Could you please give some examples as to what information in particular that is present only in SS but not in the submitted application? As per NIH staff, Individuals with the SO role can already view in eRA COMMONS the records for all grants within their organization and it is impossible to know probability of whether the grant will be funded looking at SS !!

      • Well for instance, just this past week I had to review, endorse and submit a revised JIT budget in response to reviewer concerns in the summary statement. That’s a difficult thing to do without having access to the summary statement.

  5. Hi
    Summary statements in general will contain significant scientific information, including discussions of unpublished preliminary data in the application and making them freely available any individual other than PI at applicant organization will only increase incidences related to loss of intellectual property. NIH should think more about protecting how the information is accessed, distributed and must have strict policy about no downloads/copies or distribution of contents within the SS with in the organization except PI of of the grant.

  6. I think it is very important that NIH require SOs to treat summary statements and scores as confidential. SOs should be held responsible for preventing these documents from being shared with other administrators on campus, such as department chairs and deans. At my university, tenure candidates are already being penalized if only a small percentage of the grants that they submit are funded. If the deans and department chairs oppose a particular tenure candidate, they go to the SOs to get the information on how many failed applications the candidate submitted. It is very likely that these same administrators will now ask SOs to share summary statements, unless NIH explicitly disallows it. It is already so difficult for new investigators to receive their first award. Most of them have to try a dozen times at least. To finally succeed and then have the comments on their failed applications come back to haunt them in the tenure process is simply unfair. It is not in NIH’s interest to give university administrates new ways to harass early stage investigators during the tenure process. But this will be the unintended consequence of the new policy unless NIH carefully restricts access to summary statements.

  7. I agree with others that summary statements should only be released to PI’s. No offense to SO’s, but university environments are porous and summary statement information could be used for purposes outside of the intent. No offense to reviewers but we all have examples of off-target comments that could be misunderstood by administration. SO’s could request or even require access of statements from PI’s when there is need.

  8. This is disturbing and harmful. The scientific opinions and impact scores of failed grants will not help the signing officials in any way. The signing officials are often not practicing scientists. The summary statements and scores are meant for the PIs to improve their grants. As mentioned by another person, this WILL cause irreparable damages to early stage investigators. The signing officials and administrators will know these information and form premature conclusions, which will definitely affect how the PIs are treated during the next submission or tenure. If a PI gets a fundable score, he/she will be more than happy to share everything.

  9. This should not apply retroactively but only moving forward (if it must apply at all). When we apply for a grant to fund a high-risk or unconventional project, we should be aware at the time of application submission whether or not our institutions will have access to scores and summary statements at a future time. It is especially important for untenured faculty or others in vulnerable positions. The policy that is in place at the time of submission should apply to submitted grants indefinitely, in the way a new law cannot apply to action that took place before the law was enacted. Retroactive application is highly unethical.

    I am also troubled that this important information was made widely available in a newsletter only today, July 2, long after the decision-making process. I was not aware of the commenting period last fall. Access to scores and summary statements can have potentially devastating consequences for applicants. I am appalled that policy concerning this sensitive information was handled so thoughtlessly.

  10. Is there anything that would prevent the Department Chair or Dean’s office from requesting summary statements from the SO to “help evaluate faculty”?

  11. This is very disappointing. There is no reason why this information should be available to anyone other than the PI as the score is not the only factor that determines whether a particular application will be funded. This practice will almost definitely lead to the use of anonymous summary statements being used in promotion and tenure decisions.The NIH should reconsider.

  12. Is this policy change the result of lobbying from universities and research institutes to reduce faculty numbers due to financial loss incurred by COVID-19 pandemics? Scientific and academic freedom will be compromised by this move and in special cases will jeopardise individual PI’s faith in the NIH system of stringent integrity. This change in policy will bring backlash in peer review system. Human character is complex and that is why peer review does not reflect uniform comments. I wonder what is the motivation behind to lead to this decision without public comments.

  13. I agree with other PI’s. Summary statements and Impact Scores should be released only to PI. If SO needs those informations to assist the process, PI should have a decision-making. I am afraid that my administration will use these sensitive information against PI, in particular, in a campus environment where minority groups are not well protected.

    • I completely agree with the concerns of the other PIs. This is particularly true for minority PIs or disadvantaged PIs. If NIH implements this policy on top of all the low funding rate they have year after year, it will be a disaster, no doubt. But I am afraid they have some sinister motivation behind this move.

      • Some of us already assigned specific administrator as a “delegate” under eRA to access progress report, xTrain and scores. Making the SS a NON-“privileged communication” (as stated on every SS) is disturbing.

  14. This is a terrible idea, for all of the reasons stated above. Making the scores and SS available to anyone other than the PI will absolutely have significant detrimental effects for some individuals. If the SO needs information, they should communicate directly with the PI. There will be no way to ensure confidentiality if the SOs are given access to the SS- a screen shot can take care of that.
    As a long-time NIH study section member, I can see how comments could be taken out of context and misappropriated. As a PI, I see no reason why this is necessary. As a department chair, I am concerned about pre-tenure faculty who might indeed be put in a vulnerable position by this change. Abuse will occur. This is a mistake that, if not rectified, will be detrimental to the advancement of biomedical research and the development of our scientific workforce. Please reconsider.

  15. If this move helps the universities and NIH ultimately manage the grants better, the move becomes justified and prudent.

  16. The information in summary statements will now be available and distributed to all administrators within an an applicant’s organization and any negative comments in summary statements will be used against applicants.

  17. Making the SS available to an adminstrator other than the applicant is troubling. If a SO needs the SS to prepare PI’s JIT (as defended by Jessica above), she/he can easily get a copy from the applicant. I don’t see the value of SO’s free access other than potential risks against the applicants. I was at a smaller institution before, our business manager often asked us for SS and turned them in to the Chair as part of our annual faculty evaluation documents. Some senior faculty resisted because they could (w/ active R01) but someone like me on the tenure track had no choice but complied. I am seriously concerned about possible abuse of SO’s access.

  18. Within a short period of time, referees will realize that their comments are being used in tenure evaluations. Not wanting to damage the careers of applicants, most referees will write very opaque statements that leave applicants with no idea how to improve applications. A few less well intentioned referees may take advantage of the situation to damage the careers of people they do not like.

  19. This will create a another plate-form to discriminate vulnerable pool of researchers and PI by the institutions with no accountability. Instead of solving the disparity in funding, NIH this action will create problems.

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