A series to raise awareness, encourage dialog and inspire creative problem solving for challenges in maintaining integrity in peer review. The case study below reflects a real-life situation.
An NIH peer reviewer was approached by a well-known professional grant writing service to assist a client in preparing an NIH grant application. The service advertised phenomenal success in securing NIH funding for its clients.
The reviewer was concerned by the invitation. He contacted an NIH official and asked whether participation with the service would render him ineligible as an NIH reviewer.
NIH informed the reviewer that participating in the preparation of an NIH grant application or R&D contract proposal constitutes a conflict of interest (COI) in NIH peer review. Therefore, he could remain eligible as an NIH reviewer but for the next three years would have to declare a COI with any application that he helped to prepare (see NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-21-019).
In the end, the reviewer declined participation in the grant writing service. NIH reached out to the grant writing service, who assured NIH that they were aware of the potential COI.
The reviewer’s story ends there, but NIH’s concern does not.
NIH views the failure of a reviewer to disclose COI as a breach of review integrity and will pursue the possible consequences outlined in NOT-OD-18-115. This includes notifying the individuals and institutions involved, terminating the reviewer’s peer review service, and more.
Maintaining integrity in the peer review process is essential to ensuring public trust in science and conducting a fair review.
Therefore, we encourage professional grant writing services to inform their grant writers — before they agree to participate in the service — of their obligation to declare conflicts of interest should they subsequently serve in NIH peer review.
For more, see our Taking Action – Case Studies in NIH Peer Review Integrity website.