Center for Scientific Review 2022-2027 Strategic Plan

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Noni Byrnes, Ph.D., Director of NIH Center for Scientific Review

Guest post by Noni Byrnes, originally released on the NIH Center for Scientific Review’s Review Matters blog

I am pleased to announce the release of the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) 2022-2027 Strategic Plan. CSR is entrusted with most of the peer review that enables NIH to support a broad range of biomedical research. Our primary goal, to ensure that peer review identifies the strongest, most promising science, depends upon an evaluation process that is fair, independent, expert, timely and free from inappropriate influences. This plan delineates a forward-looking framework comprising five overarching goals that organize CSR’s current and future initiatives in support of our important mission.

Goal 1: Maintain scientific review groups that provide appropriate scientific coverage and review settings for all of NIH science.

Goal 2: Further develop a large cadre of diverse, well-trained, and scientifically qualified experts to serve as reviewers.

Goal 3: Further develop an outstanding, engaged, and diverse staff.

Goal 4: Implement changes to the peer review process to make it more fair, effective, and efficient.

Goal 5: Achieve our mission through transparency, engagement with the scientific community and a data-driven approach to decision-making.

In developing and finalizing the plan, CSR sought and received broad input from the CSR Advisory Council as well as the wider extramural scientific community within and outside the NIH. A total of 275 comments were received on the draft plan, with 262 coming from individuals and 13 from scientific societies. Most of the comments indicated strong alignment with the priorities CSR has developed. Some offered useful differences of opinion and constructive criticism as well as comments that pertain to the implementation of these goals. This input will be valuable as we develop detailed action plans.

Note that Goal 5 of our strategic plan speaks to a decision-making process that includes engagement with the scientific community on the topic of peer review. We, of course, appreciate hearing from those who support our initiatives, but we also value dissent and suggestions for change. The insight we gain through interactions with the broader scientific community help us in our efforts to continually improve the NIH peer review process. You can reach CSR at communications@csr.nih.gov.

4 Comments

  1. Hope that the anonymous review policy in the plan can be implemented as soon as possible. If it is difficult to implement, using the policy for only a portion of the funds (e.g. 30%) in each program (e.g. R21, R01) will help. Thanks,

  2. I appreciate CSR’s goal of promoting transparency and fairness in review. After serving on many study sections I have come to believe
    the existence of a tit for tat and favoritism in some instances. I believe standing study sections develop favorites, political clout for some members, and rubber stamping of some applications e.g. for current and previous study section chairs or senior members. Instead if study section members were more randomly selected from a larger pool including leading scientists from Europe and Asia, that would remove any potential political influence from developing and promote more merit based approach to assignment of scores,

  3. There is so much at stake on the PIs and now the institute to make an NIH application worthy of review. Why there is no burden placed on the SROs to at least make sure that the A-1 application goes to at least 2 of the three reviewers who critiqued it during the earlier review? When an application gets a favorable review and score in a standing study section panel, the same application as the A-1 submission gets triaged. What kind of science we are reviewing and funding? Should there not be any accountability placed on the SROs and the CSR for fair and legitimate review?

  4. Completely agree, this happened to me, on re-submission the application was reviewed by three different reviewers. They completely disregarded that we addressed all the comments from the previous review. Normally, the application should be rewarded for being responsive to reviews, not ignored

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