Referring Study Sections Is a Work of “ART” (Assisted Referral Tool)


Did you know there’s a tool to help you find relevant study sections for your grant application? The Assisted Referral Tool (ART) was developed by the NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR) to recommend potentially appropriate study sections using text from your application. Using these recommendations, you then have the opportunity to suggest the study section for the first level of scientific review of your application in the PHS Assignment Request form. In his blog post titled “Encouraging Use of the PHS Assignment Request Form in Applications,” the NIH Office of Extramural Research Director Dr. Mike Lauer discusses the PHS form, ART, and important related topics.

Here are a couple of tips for using ART:

  • Enter your application title – it’s optional but highly recommended for stronger results.
  • Enter both Abstract and Specific Aims sections – in general, an abundance of text improves performance.

And here are a couple of other important points:

  • Requests cannot be guaranteed.
  • Do not contact current members of a study section to which your application is or might be assigned and please do not suggest reviewers.

Contact information for the SRO responsible for each study section can be found on the study section description pages. You are welcome to contact SROs to inquire about the fit of your proposal with the study section.


    1. You may find this FAQ helpful (more on the Resubmission FAQ page):

      May I request that my Resubmission application be reviewed by a different study section or have primary assignment to a different NIH IC than my original application?

      Resubmission applications usually are assigned to the same study section and Institue/Center (IC) as the original application but you can request a change using the Assignment Request Form with the resubmission application following the instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide. It is a good idea to consult with your Program Officer (PO) and/or Scientific Review Officer (SRO) to discuss whether a change would be appropriate.

      The Division of Receipt and Referral (DRR) at the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) is responsible for assigning applications to ICs and in some cases to Scientific Review Groups (SRGs). DRR usually accommodates requests if appropriately justified and requested well before the review meeting date, but reserves the right to make the final decision. ICs websites describe mission interest which can help applicants match topics of research to the appropriate funding component. The CSR website provides information regarding the focus of expertise of each of the CSR standing study sections.

      You may direct referral questions to the CSR Referral Office (

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