Do Reviewers Read References? And If So, Does It Impact Their Scores?

In March 2017, we wrote about federal funders’ policies on interim research products, including preprints. We encouraged applicants and awardees include citations to preprints in their grant applications and progress reports. Some of your feedback pointed to the potential impact of this new policy on the peer review process. Continue reading

Assuring the Integrity of Peer Review

Eight months ago, CSR Director Dr. Richard Nakamura and I posted a blog on “A Reminder of Your Roles as Applicants and Reviewers in Maintaining the Confidentiality of Peer Review.” We asked you to imagine a scenario: you are a reviewer for an upcoming panel meeting, and shortly before the meeting an investigator associated with an application communicates with you, asking for a favorable review in exchange for an academic favor. We asked what you would do – accept the offer, ignore it, or report it?

We used the blog as an opportunity to remind all of us how important it is that we all do our utmost to assure the integrity of peer review. …. Continue reading

Continuing Steps to Ensuring Credibility of NIH Research: Selecting Journals with Credible Practices

The scientific community is paying increasing attention to the quality practices of journals and publishers. NIH recently released a Guide notice (NOT-OD-18-011) to encourage authors to publish in journals that do not undermine the credibility, impact, and accuracy of their research findings. This notice aims to raise awareness about practices like changing publication fees without notice, lacking transparency in publication procedures, misrepresenting editorial boards, and/or using suspicious peer review. Continue reading

A Reminder of Your Roles as Applicants and Reviewers in Maintaining the Confidentiality of Peer Review

Imagine this: you’re a reviewer on an NIH study section, and receive a greeting card from the Principal Investigator (PI) on an application you are reviewing. A note written inside the card asks that your look favorably upon the application, and in return, the PI would put in a good word with his friend serving on your promotion committee. Do you accept the offer, or just ignore it? Or, do you report it? …. Or maybe several days after the initial peer review of your application, you receive a phone call from a colleague you haven’t spoken to in quite a while. The colleague is excited about a new technique you developed and wishes to collaborate. You realize the only place you’ve disclosed this new technique is in your recently reviewed NIH grant application. What do you do? …. Continue reading

Characteristics and Outcomes of R01 Competing Renewal Applications (“Type 2s”)

An investigator’s long-term success depends not only on securing funding, but on maintaining a stable funding stream. One way to assure continued funding is to submit a competing renewal application. However, as we noted earlier this year, while new investigators were almost as successful as experienced investigators in obtaining new (type 1) R01s, the difference between new investigator and experienced investigator success rates widens when looking at competing renewals (type 2s), and success rates of new investigators’ first renewals were lower than those of experienced investigators. In addition, we know that since the end of NIH’s budget doubling in 2003, success rates for competing renewals of research project grants overall have decreased. To further understand trends in success rate for R01 competing renewals (“type 2s”) I’d like to share some additional analyses where we look at characteristics of type 2 R01 applications, and the association of their criterion scores with overall impact score and funding outcomes. Continue reading

Are You On the Fence About Whether to Resubmit?

When applicants receive their summary statement resulting from the review of an application that was assigned a score outside of the ICs funding range, there are important decisions to be made that, ideally, should be based upon evidence. What is the likelihood that an application like this one will be funded? If I resubmit the application, what changes might improve the chances for a successful resubmission?

Recall that in 2014, NIH relaxed its resubmission policy (OD-14-074) to allow applicants to submit a new (A0) application following an unsuccessful resubmission application. Also, we recently posted a piece showing that review outcomes for new applications submitted following an unsuccessful resubmission had about the same funding success as other new applications. But some applicants may wonder, what is the funding success for a resubmission application? …. Continue reading

The Predictive Nature of Criterion Scores on Impact Score and Funding Outcomes

In order to develop and implement data-driven policy, we need to carefully analyze our data to understand the “stories behind our metrics.” Without analyzing our data to know what’s going on, we’re essentially flying blind! A group of authors from the NIH Office of Extramural Research sought to investigate the stories behind peer review scoring and why some grant applications are more likely to be funded than others. They extended analyses previously reported by NIH’s Office of Extramural Research and National Institute of General Medical Studies. Last month, they published their analysis of over 123,000 competing R01 applications and described the correlations of individual component peer review scores – significance, investigator(s), innovation, approach, and environment – with subsequent overall impact score, and funding outcome. …. Continue reading

Perspectives on Peer Review at the NIH

In today’s New England Journal of Medicine, Richard Nakamura, the director of NIH’s Center for Scientific Review (CSR), and I published an essay titled “Reviewing Peer Review at the NIH.” As the competition for NIH research grants has become increasingly stiff, review scores often are pointed to as the reason for failure to obtain funding. Indeed, over the past few years, peer review has come under increasing scrutiny. Critics have argued that peer review fails in its primary mission – to help funding agencies make the best decisions about which projects and which investigators to support. …. Continue reading

Understanding the Capacity of NIH’s Peer Review System

My office devotes a lot of effort to evaluating its grants policies and practices. Since the introduction of the Enhancing Peer Review changes, NIH has sponsored an ongoing evaluation of peer review, involving formal surveys about the peer review process, as well as other types of analyses. We are keenly interested in your responses to our surveys, so if you receive an invitation to take a peer review survey, I hope you can find the time to respond. The importance of participating in these surveys is nicely illustrated …. Continue reading

Reminder About Your Responsibilities in Maintaining the Integrity of NIH Peer Review

Today we’d like to start with a little scenario:

Kevin is a principal investigator whose application is undergoing peer review. At a national research symposium, he bumps into one of the reviewers on the study section that is evaluating his application. What should they do or say? The answer: …. Continue reading