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ARCHIVED - Minutes of the Meeting of the Peer Review Oversight Group
November 20, 1996, 9:00 am-4:00 pm November 21, 1996, 9:00 am - 11:00am
Conference Room 3087, Rockledge Center 2, Rockville, MD

Table of Contents
Update on Meetings

Clinical Research
Small Business Innovation Research
Rating of Grant Applications (RGA)

DRG/IC Review by Mechanism (DRG)
Integration of Neuroscience Reviews
Strategies for Interim Support and Review
New Agenda items for Next Meeting
Summary and Conclusions


Dr. Baldwin welcomed the members to the second meeting of the Peer Review Oversight Group (PROG) and gave a general overview of the agenda. She reflected on the status of the NIH as compared to one year ago when the staff and the scientific community were coping with a furlough, a suspended cost-management plan, and a one billion dollar backlog in the making of awards. This year the NIH feels fortunate to have a budget with a 6.9% increase and a stable work environment. After the minutes of the past meeting were approved, Dr. Baldwin provided updates on some relevant issues of which the members should be aware, although the PROG will not be immediately addressing these issues.

Update on NIH Meetings

Clinical Research: Dr. Baldwin indicated that, while the recommendations of the Panel on Clinical Research are not within the purview of PROG, the review of clinical applications is an issue which they may one day discuss; Dr. Baldwin indicated that she felt it appropriate for the Division of Research Grants (DRG) to deal first with this issue, and Dr. Eleanor Ehrenfeld, Director Designee of the DRG, indicated that they are already at work on this. The related issue of low-volume areas of research (which applies to some clinical areas) is something that will be addressed by the PROG in the future. There was some discussion of the definition of clinical research, and Dr. Seto indicated that awards coded as clinical research can be further defined as patient oriented research, epidemiologic and prevention research, behavioral studies, clinical trials, mechanisms of human disease, health services and outcomes research. Dr. Seto noted that this coding is currently underway for all competing (Type 1 and Type 2 ) awards; the Clinical Panel recommended that the Office of Extramural Research continue the coding activity and provide yearly updates. Dr. Baldwin indicated that the interim report of the clinical panel is under preparation now and she encouraged the members to communicate with Dr. Varmus or the Chair of the Clinical Panel, Dr. David Nathan, if they had additional comments.

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Small Business Innovation Research: Dr. Baldwin indicated that the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are specifically designed for research in small businesses and are expected to lead to marketable products. She announced that there will be a special workshop at NIH on January 22; this meeting will involve various members of the scientific community, including small business representatives, and will address congressional conference report language which raises questions about the scoring of SBIR applications in comparison to investigator initiated research project grants (R01s). The scoring patterns and conventions are different, making such comparisons tenuous. There is sometimes unevenness in paylines across Institutes and Centers (ICs) because the number of submissions may vary. A new management procedure has been instituted whereby any SBIR or STTR application with a score greater than 250 must be cleared through the office of the Deputy Director for Extramural Research (DDER); Dr. Baldwin commented that she has been impressed by the rationales provided with the requests to pay some of these applications. In addition, ICs have been engaging in an inter-Institute sharing to ensure that applications which score well can be paid. The workshop will explore ways to continue to improve the quality of SBIR and STTR applications. Harkening to issues of integration of review, to be dealt with later in the meeting, Dr. Baldwin noted that all SBIR/ STTR applications except those of the National Institute of Mental Health are reviewed within the DRG, and that review panels include small business representatives. Dr. McGowan expressed satisfaction with the review process, and Dr. Leshner expressed enthusiasm for the cooperation and sharing across ICs regarding the funding of these applications. Dr. Baldwin noted that, while many government agencies have SBIR/ STTR programs, the Department of Health and Human Services has one of the highest rates of commercialization, which is a major goal of the program. There was some discussion of the use of government research funds for this purpose, and it was clarified that funding is not the purview of PROG; rather, the PROG should address such issues as whether the review process functions optimally. Dr. Braciale asked for information on how the review panels are constructed and members are chosen, and Dr. Kreek commented that the review of the two Phases might be examined, since Phase I is a relatively small portion of the overall funds for a project and the criteria for Phase II might be the most important issue to consider. Dr. Baldwin indicated that she will share with the PROG the report of the January SBIR meeting, which is open to the public.

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Rating of Grant Applications (RGA): Deliberations and Decisions At this (November) meeting, a major topic was the Rating of Grant Applications (RGA). At the previous meeting (July, 1996), PROG members had discussed the recommendations in the RGA report, and considered information which had been obtained from the scientific community through a variety of channels. At that time, the PROG decided to table several of the ten recommendations in the RGA report and to focus primarily on whether to use explicit criteria to structure the review, if so what these criteria should be, whether to score/rate the individual criteria, and whether to retain reviewer assignment of a global score or derive an overall score from criterion subscores. Pilots were recommended.

Dr. Baldwin indicated that the purpose of using criteria was to obtain clearer information to assist program staff in making difficult funding decisions. She used the example of two appcliatons with tied scores, one that is scientifically exciting but techically flawed and one that is technically excellent but only moderately exciting. A special award such as a Shannon Award might be used to provide some funding for the first, if in fact program staff have sufficient information to make this determination. In the latter case, the review might more clearly communicate to the applicant about the low enthusiasm for the work being proposed. In order to determine whether in fact the use of criteria would assist in clarifying the information provided by reviewers, pilots were undertaken by both the DRG and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

The NIAID pilot involved three review groups which reviewed a variety of mechanisms (K02, K08, R03, R13, R18, P01), and used the three criteria as originally stated in the RGA report: Impact, Approach, and Feasibility. Dr. Hortencia Hornbeak of NIAID reported that reviewers indicated, via questionnaires, that they felt in general that the use of criteria resulted in improved focus and improved information for applicants, and that they would want their own applications reviewed using these criteria. The majority of respondents indicated that preparation time and discussion time were generally judged to be the same or no longer with the use of criteria, and that they found the criteria easy to use. The majority of reviewers did not favor having a separate criterion for Innovation/ Creativity, nor did they consider it feasible to derive the overall score for applications from a standard algorithm using individual criterion subscores, although they did provide subscores.

The DRG pilot used eight study sections, including the basic, clinical and behavioral sciences, which were divided into two groups of four; one group was given a set of three criteria (Impact, Feasbility, and Investigator/ Environment) and the other was given a set of four criteria (the same three plus Innovation/ Creativity). Only R01 and R29 applications were included in the pilot. All reviewers were asked to structure written critiques and discussion by criteria and to assign a global score as usual. Each of the applications for which a reviewer was to write a critique was randomly assigned to one of three scoring conditions: numeric (same as overall rating scale), alphabetic, or no score for individual criteria. This was an exercise only; subscores were not used or reported as part of the review, but this approach allowed each reviewer to experience each condition. Evaluation included a debriefing by a member of the Office of Extramural Research senior staff after each study section meeting, with a DRG senior staff member observing but with no program or review staff present. Reviewers and program staff were asked to complete questionnaires.

The results of the debriefings and early returns of reviewer questionnaires were presented. These DRG results closely mirrored those of the NIAID pilot. The results indicated that the reviewers generally felt that structuring the written critiques and review meeting discussion by criteria was helpful in giving better focus and balance to the review, in decreasing the tendency to overfocus on technique or technical details, and that this process might in fact offer a more fair review. Reviewers were nearly unanimous in their opposition to scoring by individual criteria, and had lower enthusiasm for alphabetic than for numeric rating. They favored having reviewers assign only an overall global score. On the individual criteria, they felt that more than three or four would have deleterious effects and might fragment the review process; they opposed having Innovation/ Creativity as a separate criterion to be addressed for all applications, and indicated that if anything it should be a bonus category. Reviewers indicated that Innovation/ Creativity would be a difficult criterion for an investigator to explicitly address, and that they would not want to have to do so themselves in writing applications. However, they were enthusiastic about having their own applications reviewed using the explicit criteria of Impact, Feasibility, and Investigator/ Environment. They indicated a desire to see research productivity highlighted within the Investigator/Environment criterion, and felt that Innovation/ Creativity would most appropriately be addressed as part of Impact. They requested clearer instructions and recommended that the chair of each study section be specifically trained in the process of structuring the discussion by criteria; some groups attributed their ease in the use of criteria for discussion to a well-prepared and organized chair. Concerns were expressed about how to address past activities, either progress on a previous grant (for competing continuation applications) or responses to previous critiques (for ammended applications).

There was discussion of the pilot results and members' sentiments regarding the use of criteria; indications seemed to be leading in the general direction of using criteria to structure the written critique and the review discussion. A firm decision on this issue will be made in January or February 1997 based on additional information to be obtained from program staff.

The criteria would likely include at least Impact, Feasibility, and Investigator/Environment; the decision as to whether Innovation/Creativity would be best dealt with as a separate criterion is under continuing consideration. There was general agreement on the importance of fostering innovation and creativity in research, and considerable discussion on how best to ensure that such applications are submitted, receive appropriate reviews, and are supported by the Institutes and Centers. Regardless of whether a separate review criterion is adopted, the consideration of Innovation/ Creativity in review and in research in general will continue to be important for the PROG and for the NIH.

The three generally accepted criteria are stated below with their working definitions, which would be accompanied by some guidelines or suggestions/examples of what they might encompass:

IMPACT: The extent to which, if successfully carried out, the project will make an original and important contribution.

FEASIBILITY: The extent to which the conceptual framework, design, methods, and analyses are adequately developed, well integrated, and appropriate to the aims of the project.

INVESTIGATOR/ ENVIRONMENT: The extent to which the investigators, available resources, institutional commitment, and any other unique features will contribute to the success of the proposed research.

It was emphasized at the meeting that it is important for the scientific community to understand that the use of these criteria does not represent a fundamental change in the PHS 398 instructions, nor does it add criteria to the areas that reviewers are instructed to use in considering the scientific merit of applications during the review process. Rather, this effort represents a reformatting or reorganization of the presentation of the information, in the hope that it will result in more informative and perhaps more balanced critiques. This should be an advantage to those who rely on this information, both program staff in the Institutes and Centers and research investigators.

The working definition for Innovation/ Creativity as a separate criterion is as follows:

INNOVATION/CREATIVITY: The extent to which the project employs novel concepts, approaches or methodology.

There will be continued deliberation on how much and what explanation to provide as elucidation of these criteria. A working group was formed to gather information on the views of NIH program staff regarding the use of a specific criteria for creativity, which will be chaired by Dr. Claude Lenfant, Director of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and will include Dr. Norman Anderson, Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research and Dr. Marvin Cassman, Director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

It was generally recommended that there be no changes in the basic numerical scoring system at this time. There was enthusiasm for having reviewers continue to assign a global score to each application and that practice will continue. There was generally low enthusiasm for the idea of assigning scores, whether numeric or alphabetic, to the individual criteria or deriving an overall score using such subscores, and those practices will not be adopted, but will be discussed further at the February PROG meeting. The issue of the rating scale itself has been tabled for future discussion; for the present time, the 1.0-5.0 rating scale, with 1 as the best possible score, will be retained.

At the next PROG meeting (Feb. 13-14, 1997), members will discuss the issue of how to evoke creative, innovative projects, the possible use of a separate criterion for creativity, and the wording of any further explanation of the criteria to be used.

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Dr. Belinda Seto gave an overview of research grant applications at NIH, indicating the overall number of applications reviewed, and providing some details on site of review (whether in the DRG or the ICs), and grant mechanisms (new versus continuation, original versus amended applications, etc.) In 1994 and 1995, the NIH reviewed over 41,000 applications. In 1996, there was a decrease to 37,858, but Dr. Seto cautioned against overinterpreting this bit of information, since 1997 data already show more than 17,000 applications and since 1996 was an atypical year in many respects. Requests for Applications (RFAs) in the period from 1994 through 1996 declined by about 55%, dropping from 13% of all applications in 1994 to approximately 8% of all applications in 1996; this is at least in part due to some Institutes having made the decision to use more Program Announcements than RFAs. Another way to view this decrease is in terms of unsolicited applications (those which are investigator-initiated rather than in response to RFAs); nearly 80% of all applications fall into this category.

As context for site of review, Dr. Seto presented a view of the relative size of the funding Institutes and Centers at NIH, as indicated by size of appropriation budget. She then indicated that the review load does not necessarily map to the size of the IC. In actual numbers of applications reviewed in the ICs, there was a decline in applications reviewed in National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) from 470 to 171 following the integration of review of the toxicology and prevention and control applications with the DRG. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), on the other hand, had a review load of 2,200 applications in 1996, the highest of any single ICD other than the DRG. Data for the ICs showed that they review a diverse groups of mechanisms.

Overall, 84% of investigator initiated R01 grant applications were reviewed in DRG; together the NIAAA, the National Insitute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and NIMH performed about 11% of review of R01s, while the rest of the ICs collectively reviewed approximatly 5%. The majority of fellowships and First Independent Research Support and Transition (FIRST or R29) applications are reviewed in the DRG; generally training applications and large grant applications (program project grants, centers, etc.) are reviewed in the ICs. The majority of unsolicited applications are reviewed in DRG.

In examining the characteristics of these grant applications, it was noted that more than three fourths of applications were new while about 23% were competing continuation applications, and the majority of these continuations were in their first renewal. Overall, 69% of applications were original while about 30% were amended, and the majority of amended applications were in the first amendment (A1). Supplemental applications represented only 1% of all applications. It was noted that the policy limiting the number of amendments to two went into effect for the October 1996 receipt date, so these data do not reflect the impact of that policy change.

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In October 1, 1992, Public Law 102-321 (the ADAMHA Reorganization Act) was implemented, transferring the three research institutes of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration to the NIH. At the last meeting, the success of the NIAAA/ DRG Integration effort which resulted in the reformulation of five study sections was heard by the PROG. The effort involved various other Institutes and Centers (ICs) in addition to NIAAA and DRG, and provided a model of a process of combining applications within a scientific area and developing study sections to serve those areas. At the last meeting, it was suggested that, given the large numbers of applications, areas of science, and ICs that would be involved in the integration of NIDA and NIMH's review with DRG, perhaps taking a single area of science would be a reasonable first approach. The areas of basic neuroscience and biopsychology were suggested. Since the last meeting, there has been a great deal of activity on the neuroscience integration.

Dr. Baldwin introduced Dr. Richard Nakamura, who offered regrets from NIMH Director Dr. Steve Hyman, who was unable to address the group directly due to a conflict of meetings. Dr. Nakamura described the Directors' Working Group on Neuroscience Integration, which includes Directors of NIMH, NIDA, the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the National Institute on Aging (NIA), and the DRG. He presented the guiding principles, developed by this group and subsequently refined into operating principles by the staff level working group, chaired by Dr. Elliot Postow of the DRG. Dr. Nakamura indicated that IC Directors see this as a golden opportunity to organize the review of neuroscience, and shared Dr. Hyman's enthusiasm for the impressive cooperation and collaboration that this effort has seen to date. This was echoed by Dr. Leshner, Director of NIDA and member of PROG; Dr. Leshner indicated that this effort could eventually provide a model for future efforts. In response to a question, Dr. Leshner indicated that program projects were being considered. He further indicated, when asked about a timetable for the integration of behavioral and social sciences, that more ICs will be involved in that effort, which will be addressed upon completion of at least some additional steps in the integration of basic neuroscience applications.

Dr. Elliot Postow of DRG gave a progress report of the staff working group on Neuroscience Integration. He presented their operating principles, which emphasize flexibility and the importance of emphasizing scientific focus and breadth of perspective balanced by depth of expertise in reviewers. Dr. Postow discussed the timeline for the activities outlined, which began with the announcement of the effort to the scientific community on November 18, 1996, at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. The goal is to have newly formed neuroscience study sections reviewing applications in June/ July 1998 for fall 1998 advisory councils, for FY 1999 funding. The group intends to present a plan to PROG at the spring 1997 meeting. Issues to be addressed include the relation between grant mechanism and review venue, the interface between neuroscience and the behavioral sciences, and the impact on existing study sections of moving grant applications to the new neuroscience study sections. Dr. Postow emphasized that information is now being shared with the scientific community, through announcements on the IC homepages, and that a special e-mail address has been established to receive comments: NEURO@DRGPO.NRG.NIH.GOV

Discussion by PROG members included issues such as review of a mixture of mechanisms in study sections. It was commented that there are reasons for and against the issue and that it cannot be resolved without additional information. Dr. Postow indicated that the issue has not yet been discussed by the working groups, but is among the issues to be addressed. There were questions about other ICs which will need to be included eventually in the neuroscience effort; Dr. Leshner indicated that the ICs are aware of the current effort and that all relevant ICs will be included. Several members indicated that the timeline may be too slow and that they would like to see parallel efforts initiated before the completion of the neuroscience integration. It was suggested that perhaps AIDS was as an area that could be initiated on a parallel track for integration. Dr. Donna Dean of DRG indicated that there is some activity in the area of behavioral sciences occurring in the context of some activities initiated by the Office of Research on Women's Health, and that Dr. Norman Anderson and several IC contacts including NIDA, NIAAA, and NIMH are involved.

Given the progress to date, there was a discussion of what role PROG would play in the integration effort. The group agreed that PROG should step back and wait for the next progress report. However, they also agreed that the issue of the review of different mechanisms was one which transcends neuroscience integration and falls within their purview. Dr. Yamamoto added that this is also an issue being considered in the DRG Advisory Committee. Dr. Leshner indicated that NIDA already reviews multiple mechanisms within the same study sections and offered their situation as an "experimental laboratory" for consideration. The PROG was noted to be a good venue to discuss the underlying issues, and it was suggested that the group may want to analyze the experiences of DRG, NIDA, and perhaps NIMH in their reviews of single vs multiple mechanisms within study sections.

The issue of low-volume areas of science and whether there is a critical mass of applications needed for the most fair, thorough review was also raised; it was noted that size may not be the only critical feature involved. Dr. Demsey cited the example of the review of urology applications, which are being grouped in Special Emphasis Panels in DRG; this solution seems to have resulted in fair and thorough reviews, has satisfied the scientific community, and as a by product has relieved some workload problems.

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Dr. Baldwin announced that the NIH is examining strategies for interim funding, and in compliance with congressional report language (Report 104-659, to accompany HR 3755), a meeting will be held at NIH on Dec. 4, 1996, to discuss the various approaches Institutes and Centers (ICs) are taking. Dr. Baldwin pointed out that, especially when funding lines are tight, the time required for revision and resubmission can cause loss of research staff or disruption of ongoing projects. One way that ICs deal with this situation currently is through use of interim funding procedures which NIH has always had, such as administrative supplements. There is, of course, the dilemma of spending funds on administrative supplements vs new grants; however, costs of administrative supplements are typically deducted from the grant if/when it is finally awarded for a competing continuation. If the competing continuation is not funded, then the interim or "bridge" award is actually a phase-out award. Based on recent widespread concern about this issue, some ICs are attempting to find new strategies; it is not clear that there is any single best approach.

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) has developed a strategy in which they have set aside a certain amount, and will use that money to fund selected projects within 10 percentile points of the payline. Dr. Baldwin explained that NIGMS is making use of an NIH waiver of full Facilities and Administration costs for this period of interim support. There was some discussion among PROG members about possible sliding scale funding. Dr. McGowan discussed programmatic reductions and reinstatements of funds, and reiterated the importance of peer review in guiding decisions. He explained that the NIAID sometimes converts applications that cannot be fully funded to R03s (small grants) with set dollar limits. Dr. Baldwin also noted that Shannon awards are another way to provide some start-up funds. She pointed out that while there is no "sliding scale" per se, there are multiple approaches to dealing with this issue, which ICs tailor to the needs of specific projects or investigators. There was some discussion about the role of program staff, and it was generally agreed that study section members should be better educated about the entire NIH process including how funding decisions are made.

The National Cancer Institute is selecting those applications that fall just outside the payline and requesting 3-5 page responses to any concerns that were identified during the peer review process, and considering them for select pay on the basis of the 3-5 page responses. This strategy fits within existing program staff practices, but formalizes the process somewhat. Dr. Baldwin noted that none of these strategies is necessarily right for all ICs, and that some of these are new strategies so that it is not clear whether or how well they might work. Another effort that was mentioned was a DRG pilot on 3-5 page amended applications; it was noted that the DRG Advisory Committee views this issue more as a program responsibility than a review issue. Dr. Baldwin noted that all of these approaches relate to the time period from submission to award, which seems to be the real problem and which is one that NIH reinvention efforts are targeting. Dr. Yamamoto responded that the DRG Advisory Committee is forming a working group to look at steps in the review process. Dr. McGowan discussed an NIAID pilot to expedite the review to award process using self-referral, electronically enhanced review, and expedited council review. The timetable for the entire process, from receipt to award, is key to extramural reinvention activities.

Dr. Sue Shafer, Deputy Director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) presented a pilot in which peer review scores are rounded off. She explained that the purpose is to minimize the differences in scores, creating more tied scores, and thus giving greater latitude to program staff in terms of program priorities. Program staff are now looking at a broader range of applications in making funding decisions, and Dr. Shafer reported that this pilot is to be continued for another year. In response to questions about the differences that might occur if rounding were done after percentiling rather than before (as is now being done) Dr. James Onken of NIGMS noted that there was generally no more than a six percentile point difference in scores.

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Dr. Baldwin noted that at the last meeting there were requests for an update on NIH reinvention activities. Since the issue also surfaced more than once during this meeting, she asked members if they would like to have a complete presentation on the topic at the February meeting. Members agreed.

In addition, regardless of whether Innovation/ Creativity is adopted as a separate review criterion, it is clear that this is an issue that requires further attention. Dr. Baldwin suggested that we attempt to find ways to shed light on the conventional wisdom that peer review is inherently conservative, that creativity is not rewarded, that it can be directly cultivated, and that if we review for creativity we will get more creativity, in order to determine whether in fact these are sound premises. She asked the members to suggest ways to obtain data that would address this issue so that it can be discussed at the next meeting.

Another issue that was raised, and for which data were requested, is whether the scoring metric is stable across an entire review meeting. It is not clear that this is a problem, but it was agreed that some data could shed light on the issue. Again, Dr. Baldwin asked the members to forward any ideas or suggestions to her before the next meeting, in preparation for a discussion.

Another issue to be discussed is whether or not it is advisable to review various mechanisms within a single scientific peer review panel.

Revision of the PHS 398 application form was also suggested as a tentative topic. Several members had ideas for revision and suggested that input from the scientific community be obtained prior to the next major revision. Dr. Baldwin pointed out that revisions of the form are on a fixed timetable, and that the comment period for the current revision is coming soon. She suggested that PROG members send her comments and suggestion. The issue will be revisited at the next meeting.

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Dr. Baldwin updated the members on NIH meetings being held or planned: the Director's Panel on Clincal Research which met on November 5, 1996, and a meeting to discuss ways to strengthen the Small Business Innovation Research program, scheduled for January 22, 1997.

The Rating of Grant Applications was thoroughly discussed on the first day of the meeting, and revisited for decisions on the second day. Information was presented on pilots using explicit criteria to structure review in the NIAID and the DRG; reviewers felt that the structuring of written critiques and review meeting discussion using criteria was valuable in increasing the focus of the review and giving it better balance, discouraging the tendency to overfocus on technique. They were strongly opposed to scoring the individual criteria either using a numeric or alphabetic rating scale, and favored assigning only a global score for each application. NIAID reviewrs favored using three criteria (Impact, Feasibility, and Approach); DRG reviewers favored using the three criteria of Impact, Feasibility, and Investigator/ Environment. None of the reviewers favored using Innovation/ Creativity as a separate criterion. The PROG in their final discussion seemed to generally agree that criteria should be used to structure the written critiques and discussion, but that no changes should be made in the basic numerical scoring system at this time: global scores should be retained and individual scores for criteria probably should not be assigned. While all of the PROG members agreed on the importance of creativity, they did not reach a decision as to whether Innovation/ Creativity should be adopted as a separate criterion; a working group was formed, chaired by Dr. Claude Lenfant, along with Dr. Anderson and Dr. Cassman, and including representatives from the clinical, biological and behavioral sciences, to obtain information on the views of NIH program staff regarding the potential usefulness of this as a review criterion. This will also allow the opportunity to finalize the recommendation on scoring individual criteria.

Information was presented on numbers of applications reviewed in the DRG and in the various ICs, as background for the discussion of which mechanisms are reviewed in those settings. There was some discussion about the possible value or problem of reviewing mutliple mechansims within a single scientific review group, as there are examples of both approaches across the NIH and within the DRG. This was noted as an appropriate topic for the next meeting.

Progress to date on the integration of review of the NIDA and NIMH with the DRG was reported. This effort has been initated by directors and staff from five Institutes (NIMH, NIDA, NINDS, NICHD, and NIA) who are engaged in the reorganization of the review of neuroscience applications. Guiding principals include flexibilty and the importance of the scientific expertise required; scientific review groups will be formed de novo to accomodate the scientific areas and applications. Input from the scientific community is now being solicited through an e-mail address (NEURO@DRGPO.NRG.NIH.GOV) and the effort was announced at the 1996 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. A tentative timeline was presented which would result in newly formed groups conducting review for the funding cycle beginning in FY 1998. The PROG members expressed strong enthusiasm for parallel efforts in other areas of science being implemented on a staggered schedule rather than waiting for this initial phase to be completed.

An update was provided of the NIH strategies currently being evaluated for interim support, aimed at minimizing disruption that might be caused by lapses in funding during the application revision process. This was more of an educational presentation than an issue requiring PROG attention, but one which should serve as important background for PROG members.

Agenda items for the next meeting include an update on NIH Revinvention activities and discussions of the following: data or additional information on the issue of how creativity might best be fostered in the biomedical research arena; information on the views of NIH program staff on use of Innovation/ Creativity as a separate review criterion; stability of the scoring metric across review meetings; review of mutliple mechanisms by a single scientific review group; and possible revisions of the PHS 398 form.


I hereby certify that, to the best of my knowledge, the foregoing minutes are accurate and complete.

Peggy McCardle, Ph.D., MPH, Executive Secretary
Peer Review Oversight Group

Wendy Baldwin, Ph.D.
Deputy Director for Extramural Research

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