Preparing for Funding Opportunities Using the Simplified Review Framework 

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

Last October, we announced that NIH was implementing a simplified review framework for most research project grants (RPGs). As a reminder, in the simplified review framework NIH aims to better facilitate the mission of scientific peer review – identification of the strongest, highest-impact research. The changes are intended to:

  1. Enable peer reviewers to better focus on answering the key questions necessary to assess the scientific and technical merit of proposed research projects: Can and should the proposed research project be conducted?
  2. Mitigate the effect of reputational bias by refocusing the evaluation of investigator/environment to within the context of the proposed research.
  3. Reduce reviewer burden by shifting policy compliance activities to NIH staff.

Today, NIH released a Guide Notice (NOT-OD-24-085) to provide an update on our implementation plans for the simplified review framework. The Notice provides guidance to applicants on navigating new and updated funding opportunities expected to be published between now and January 2025.

Prior to January, the community will notice that many funding opportunities for applicable activity codes are being reissued to include the simplified review framework language in Section V. Application Review Information. Active funding opportunities with due dates on or after January 25, 2025, will be expired early and most will be reissued to reflect the simplified review framework. Funding opportunities with pending expiration dates prior to January 25, 2025, including impacted parent announcements, may be extended with additional due dates until they can be reissued with the simplified review framework.

Applicants should pay close attention to the Related Notices and Key Dates sections of funding opportunities to ensure they are applying to the right opportunity for their target due date. To stay informed of notices and funding opportunity reissuances, we encourage you to monitor the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, where any changes will be published (you can also subscribe to a weekly digest of new NIH Guide posts).

Please note that although there are no application changes associated with the simplified review framework, NIH is transitioning to updated application forms (FORMS-I) to support other initiatives. FORMS-I will be required for due dates on or after January 25, 2025 (See these Notices for FORMS-I and Changes Coming in 2025, as well as this blog on 2025 changes). New and reissued funding opportunities using the simplified review framework may initially be posted without an application forms package. In these cases, application forms will be added 30 – 60 days prior to the first application due date. Applicants can begin drafting their application attachments before FORMS-I becomes available using the current FORMS-H instructions and adjust if needed once FORMS-I instructions are available.

We encourage applicants to review today’s Guide Notice for more details on NIH’s implementation plans, as well as register for a public webinar on April 17 from 1 – 2pm EDT to learn more about navigating these changes and have an opportunity to get their questions answered.

We have provided various resources on our Simplified Review Framework web page to help the community understand the changes associated with the simplified review framework, including a summary statement mockup, critique template, drop-in slides, and a recording of the November online briefing. Applicants and reviewers can expect to receive plenty of guidance and support as we near January 2025.

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