Peer Review Policies & Practices - FAQs
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Frequently Asked Questions
Peer Review Policies & Practices

Initial Posting: September 27, 2011
Last Revised: July 11, 2013

  A. General Questions

  1. If an application is submitted that doesn’t comply with requirements such as page limits, will it be peer reviewed?
  2. What is the current policy on resubmissions?
  3. How are resubmission applications reviewed?

  B. Review Criteria and Considerations

  1. What are the Review Criteria for Research Grants and Cooperative Agreements? What about for other types of funding mechanisms?
  2. What if significance is high but feasibility is low? Or questionable?
  3. I’ve read the definitions of Significance and Overall Impact but the two still seem rather similar. Can you provide some additional guidance?
  4. Overall Impact uses the same scale definitions as the scored criteria; how is it different from a sixth review criterion?
  5. When determining the Overall Impact score, should it equal the arithmetic mean of the scores for the scored review criteria?
  6. Is it possible to have an application receive a moderate score for Significance yet receive a very strong Overall Impact score?
  7. Is it possible to have an application receive a very strong score for Significance yet receive a moderate to low Overall Impact score?
  8. Is it possible for an application with numerous weaknesses in Approach to receive a very strong Overall Impact score?
  9. Aren’t projects that address diseases of large public health importance (e.g., heart disease, cancer, autism or dementia) inherently significant? Should they automatically receive high marks for Significance?
  10. Conversely, are projects that address rare diseases, diseases with modest burden, or highly focused research questions inherently less significant?
  11. The verbal descriptors for high, medium and low overall impact in the Scoring System and Procedures document indicate that applications with high Overall Impact (i.e., a score of 1-3) have “no to some minor weaknesses.” Is this always the case?
  12. The definitions of Overall Impact and Significance refer to the project’s ability to exert a powerful influence or address an important problem within the research field(s) involved. I thought the goal of the NIH is to improve public health. What’s the difference between improving public health and addressing an important problem within a research field?
  13. What should be considered in assigning the Overall Impact score for applications submitted for RFAs and other special initiatives?
  14. What should be considered in the Overall Impact score for fellowship (F) applications?
  15. What should be considered in the Overall Impact score for career development (K) applications?
  16. What should be considered in the Overall Impact score for institutional training grant (T) applications?
  17. What should be considered in the Overall Impact score for shared instrumentation (S10) applications?
  18. What should be included in the Overall Impact paragraph?

  C. Scoring

  1. What is the NIH scoring scale?
  2. What receives a score?
  3. Why is there a need for rounding? Wouldn’t having more digits help discriminate among applications?
  4. Are all scores rounded up? So only unanimous 1s will result in a 10? Doesn’t that make the range 20 to 90, not 10 to 90?
  5. Why is the percentile rounded up, while the scores are rounded traditionally?
  6. Are applications from New/Early Stage Investigators percentiled with other applications?
  7. Is the 1 - 9 scale used for all aspects of scoring an application, including the criterion scores?
  8. What does my score mean?
  9. Is the 1 - 9 scale a stanine system?
  10. Do all applications receive criterion scores?
  11. Are individual reviewer’s criterion scores open to discussion by the entire panel?
  12. Are reviewers always required to enter individual criterion scores and comments?
  13. Can the preliminary score be entered without a critique?
  14. Do reviewers have to re-upload their critiques if they revise their scores?
  15. Is "not recommended for further consideration" allowed if there is a serious human or animal subjects issue?
  16. How are the criterion scores displayed in the summary statement?
  17. What if the scores in the Summary Statement table do not agree with scores that may have been entered with the written critique?

  D. Reviewer Practices

  1. What is IAR? What does it stand for?
  2. Do reviewers fill in their critique templates online in IAR?
  3. Which version of Microsoft Word is used for the templates?
  4. Why don’t the hyperlinks in the templates work in Microsoft Word 2003?
  5. Where on the review critique template are scores entered?
  6. Where do reviewers comment on the Multiple PD/PI Leadership Plan?
  7. Is there a short “overall evaluation” critique template that a discussant can fill out in addition to adding numerical scores for the individual criterion?
  8. How are resubmission, renewal and revision applications reviewed?
  9. How does a reviewer enter criterion scores for an application with more than 5 scored review criteria?
  10. Can discussants read the critiques without posting any critique or score on IAR during the read phase?
  11. Can reviewers nominate applications for discussion even if they received a preliminary overall impact score in the lower half of applications?
  12. What kind of clustering occurs in review meetings?

  E. Post Submission Materials Policy

  1. May I submit any number of such items, or only one?
  2. Will NIH accept articles that have been accepted for publication and did not result from an unforeseen administrative issue?
  3. Why is there a 30-day cutoff for notification that a paper has been accepted?
  4. Must the article accepted for publication be authored by the investigators submitting the grant application?
  5. Why aren’t late-breaking research findings allowed as post-submission material?
  6. May I submit newly-received patent approvals relevant to my application as post-submission materials?
  7. May I submit updates on FDA IND and IDE exemptions that were not available when the application was submitted?
  8. If I submitted a multi-component application, may I submit as post-submission materials acknowledgment of a newly-announced local (e.g., State) underwriting of efforts with no change in the application budget?
  9. If I submitted a paper application on time, but found out later that some pages are missing, may I submit the missing pages before the 30 day-before-review deadline?
  10. If the master (original signature) copy of a paper application is intact and complete on the due date, but one or all of the copies is missing pages due to a copying problem, may I send in the missing pages?
  11. If I have figures or photographs in a paper application, may I submit original copies to the Scientific Review Officer after the due date?
  12. With the elimination of the five-day grace period for Reference Forms (F) and Reference letters (K) in support of fellowship and career development applications, do my referees have to submit their Reference Forms (F) or letters (K) before the receipt date for the application?
  13. If I plan to submit a fellowship or career development application on the due date, but I don’t see that all three referees have submitted their Reference Forms (F) or letters (K), what should I do?
  14. If a mentor/sponsor for a fellowship or career development candidate obtains notice of a grant award after the fellowship or career development application is submitted, can the mentor/sponsor notify the Scientific Review Officer (SRO) and may the SRO accept that information as post-submission material?
  15. If an F or K applicant/candidate obtains notice of a grant award after the fellowship or career development application is submitted, can the applicant/candidate notify the Scientific Review Officer (SRO) and may the SRO accept that information as post-submission material?
  16. I am in charge of the institutional training program for my university, and serve as the PD/PI on a T32 application that is pending review. After the application was submitted, the university filled a faculty slot and our new faculty member will fit quite nicely into the training program. May we submit information of his recruitment and his biosketch as post-submission material?
  17. If an application is missing the Human Subjects and/or Vertebrate Animals section, but the cover page indicates that human subjects and/or vertebrate animals will be used in the proposed research, will I be allowed to submit those sections after the due date?
  18. Who are the Senior/Key Personnel for a conference or meeting grant application?
  19. Parent Announcement PA-12-212 instructs applicants to provide the names and credentials of key participants in the conference, including the basis for their selection and documentation of their agreement to participate. Who are key participants?
  20. Which post-submission materials are acceptable for conference or meeting grant applications?
  21. Which post-submission materials are unacceptable for conference or meeting grant applications?
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  A. General Questions

  1. If an application is submitted that doesn’t comply with requirements such as page limits, will it be peer reviewed?
    In most cases, applications are submitted electronically, where systems enforce validations such as page limits.  In a small number of cases (in which applications are submitted on paper), NIH staff manually validate page limits.  Applications that do not comply are either rejected during electronic submission or withdrawn from consideration. For application sections without page limits (such as the Protection of Human Subjects and the Vertebrate Animals section), applicants are advised not to include inappropriate content, and not to use the Appendix to circumvent page limits.  NIH may withdraw applications from review and funding consideration in such cases. Notice NOT-OD-11-080 provides more details on the policy.
  2. What is the current policy on resubmissions?

    NIH permits one resubmission of an unfunded application (see NOT-OD-09-016).

    For all application due dates after April 16, 2014, following an unsuccessful resubmission (A1) application, applicants may submit the same idea as a new (A0) application for the next appropriate new application due date (see NOT-OD-14-074).

    Resubmissions (A1) must be submitted within 37 months of the new (A0) application (see NOT-OD-10-140). 

    For more details on the Resubmission Policy, visit the Resubmissions webpage.

  3. How are resubmission applications reviewed?

    Reviewers are instructed to evaluate the resubmission application as presented, taking into consideration the responses to comments from the previous scientific review group and changes made to the project. For resubmitted renewals, the committee will also consider the progress made in the last funding period.

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  B. Review Criteria and Considerations

  1. What are the Review Criteria for Research Grants and Cooperative Agreements? What about for other types of funding mechanisms?

    For research grants and cooperative agreements, the five scored review criteria are Significance, Investigator(s), Innovation, Approach, and Environment. For a full overview of the scored review criteria, and additional review criteria and considerations for many funding mechanisms, visit the Review Criteria at a Glance document.

  2. What if significance is high but feasibility is low? Or questionable?

    If it is the opinion of the reviewers that the project is not likely to answer the questions it poses, then overall impact is likely to be low. The degree of uncertainty about feasibility will likely determine whether this is rated as a minor, moderate or major weakness.

  3. I’ve read the definitions of Significance and Overall Impact but the two still seem rather similar. Can you provide some additional guidance?

    Significance is a stand-alone assessment of the project’s goals in the context of the relevant field, and to a large extent assumes that the investigator(s), approach and environment are adequate to allow for successful completion of the aims of the project even if later discussion of each of these review criteria will identify problems. When reviewers assess the Overall Impact of an application they are expected to take into account the scored review criteria (e.g., significance, investigator(s), innovation, approach and environment) and the additional review criteria to judge the potential of the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the field. For more information, visit the Overall Impact versus Significance document.

  4. Overall Impact uses the same scale definitions as the scored criteria; how is it different from a sixth review criterion?

    The Overall Impact score is a synthesis that takes into consideration all of the scored review criteria (i.e., for research applications: significance, investigator(s), innovation, approach and environment) as well as all of the applicable additional review criteria.

  5. When determining the Overall Impact score, should it equal the arithmetic mean of the scores for the scored review criteria?

    Not necessarily. The Overall Impact score considers all scored review criteria as well as all applicable additional review criteria. In addition, an application does not need to be strong in all scored review criteria to be judged likely to have a major scientific impact. Therefore, it is possible for one or more review criteria to overshadow the other review criteria, thus driving the Overall Impact score up or down. Please remember that there is no formula to derive the overall impact score from the individual criterion scores. Reviewers are instructed to weigh the different criteria as appropriate for each application in deriving the Overall Impact score.

  6. Is it possible to have an application receive a moderate score for Significance yet receive a very strong Overall Impact score?

    One can envision such scenarios. For example, a talented investigator in a very strong environment proposes a highly innovative and very sound approach to address a generally important problem (e.g., breast cancer). However, the proposed project will be relevant to only a narrow area within the larger field of breast cancer research, thus reducing its Significance. Nevertheless, the Overall Impact score could still be strong since the strengths of the project in the other core review criteria give this work the potential to have a sustained, powerful influence on that part of this important field.

  7. Is it possible to have an application receive a very strong score for Significance yet receive a moderate to low Overall Impact score?

    Yes. The Overall Impact score synthesizes all scored review criteria as well as all applicable additional review criteria. Thus, while the significance of the project is very strong, the investigator might lack key credentials, the innovation might be minimal, the approach might be problematic, and the environment might not offer adequate support for the project.

  8. Is it possible for an application with numerous weaknesses in Approach to receive a very strong Overall Impact score?

    Yes. No single review criterion (e.g., Approach) alone determines the Overall Impact score. A project may have numerous minor weaknesses that affect the score for Approach, yet still have a very strong Overall Impact score if the application is exceptionally strong in the other review criteria and the quality of the team and environment lend confidence that the project will have a major overall impact on the field. “Minor weaknesses” are defined as “addressable weaknesses that do not substantially lessen overall impact.”

  9. Aren’t projects that address diseases of large public health importance (e.g., heart disease, cancer, autism or dementia) inherently significant? Should they automatically receive high marks for Significance?

    Not necessarily. The Significance score reflects whether a project addresses an important problem or critical barrier to progress within the field. For example, while a project may generally address a devastating disease with high prevalence, the specific problem addressed in the project may be only tangentially related to the disease, the problem may not be very important for patients with the disease, the proposed work may duplicate already published reports, or the expected results may be unlikely to substantially change knowledge, concepts and/or practice in the field.

  10. Conversely, are projects that address rare diseases, diseases with modest burden, or highly focused research questions inherently less significant?

    No. Work on rare diseases, highly prevalent diseases with modest burden, and highly focused research questions can still be extremely important. Reviewers should judge whether the proposed goals and aims address an important problem or critical barrier to progress in the field, whether the proposed work will improve scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice in the field, or if the project will change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive the field.

  11. The verbal descriptors for high, medium and low overall impact in the Scoring System and Procedures document indicate that applications with high Overall Impact (i.e., a score of 1-3) have “no to some minor weaknesses.” Is this always the case?
    Not necessarily. The verbal descriptors and additional guidance on Strengths/Weaknesses are offered only in an effort to provide continuity in scoring among study sections. However, reviewers must not just “count” strengths and weaknesses to arrive at the final Overall Impact score. Remember that the Overall Impact score represents a synthesis of all of the review criteria and what may be a moderate weakness to one reviewer may be only a very minor weakness to another reviewer. For example, a very strong investigator in a very strong environment is addressing an extremely important problem. The approach is very innovative and could revolutionize the field. However, because the approach is so new and has not been tried before, it is not guaranteed that the project’s goals will be met and some reviewers see this as a weakness. However, in the end, the study section concludes that the potential rewards far outweigh the risk(s) associated with the approach and that the application deserves a high Overall Impact score.
  12. The definitions of Overall Impact and Significance refer to the project’s ability to exert a powerful influence or address an important problem within the research field(s) involved. I thought the goal of the NIH is to improve public health. What’s the difference between improving public health and addressing an important problem within a research field?

    The mission of the NIH is to support research in pursuit of knowledge about the biology and behavior of living systems and to apply that knowledge to extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability. To accomplish this mission, the NIH supports biomedical and behavioral research representing a wide array of research fields as well as tool development, clinical trials and other projects in support of the biomedical research enterprise. In an effort to fairly evaluate scientific and technical merit through the peer review system of a broad range of applications (those that seek cures, not only for diabetes, heart disease, and autism, but also for the lesser recognized orphan diseases and those that ask basic biomedical questions), it is important that Significance and Overall Impact be evaluated within the context of the research field involved. NIH program staff and Institute leadership will evaluate each project’s relevance to their Institute mission in making funding decisions.

  13. What should be considered in assigning the Overall Impact score for applications submitted for RFAs and other special initiatives?

    FOAs for IC-specific RFAs and targeted trans-NIH initiatives (e.g., Roadmap or Common Fund), including infrastructure and capacity building programs, may include other FOA-specific review criteria in addition to the scored review criteria and the standard NIH additional review criteria (human subjects, animal welfare, renewal, resubmission, biohazards). The Overall Impact score for applications submitted for these initiatives should reflect the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved, in consideration of the scored review criteria as well as all additional review criteria (as applicable for the project proposed) and the likelihood that the project will advance the stated goals and objectives of the program as articulated in the FOA.

  14. What should be considered in the Overall Impact score for fellowship (F) applications?

    For fellowship applications (Fs), the overall impact score should reflect the reviewers’ assessment of the likelihood that the fellowship will enhance the candidate’s potential for, and commitment to, a productive independent scientific career in a health-related field, in consideration of the scored criteria (i.e., Fellowship Applicant, Sponsors/ Collaborators/Consultants, Research Training Plan, Training Potential and Institutional Environment & Commitment to Training) as well as all applicable additional review criteria.

  15. What should be considered in the Overall Impact score for career development (K) applications?

    For career development award applications (Ks) the overall impact score reflects the reviewers’ assessment of the likelihood for the candidate to maintain a strong research program, in consideration of the scored review criteria (i.e., Candidate, Career Development Plan/Career Goals & Objectives/Plan to Provide Mentoring, Research Plan, Mentor(s)/Consultant(s)/Collaborator(s), Environment and Institutional Commitment to the Candidate) as well as all applicable additional review criteria.

  16. What should be considered in the Overall Impact score for institutional training grant (T) applications?
    For institutional training grant applications (Ts), reviewers are asked to provide an overall impact score to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the proposed training program to promote the training of pre- and postdoctoral fellows in biomedical, behavioral and clinical research, in consideration of the scored review criteria (i.e., Training Program and Environment, Training Program Director/Principal Investigator, Preceptors/Mentors, Trainees and Training Record) as well as all applicable additional review criteria.
  17. What should be considered in the Overall Impact score for shared instrumentation (S10) applications?

    For shared instrumentation applications (S10s), the overall impact/benefit score reflects the reviewers’ assessment of the potential benefit of the instrument requested for the overall research community and on NIH-funded research in consideration of the scored review criteria (i.e., Justification of Need, Technical Expertise, Research Projects, Administration, Institutional Commitment) as well as all applicable additional review criteria.

  18. What should be included in the Overall Impact paragraph?

    The Overall Impact paragraph provides the reviewer with the opportunity of explaining how the Overall Impact score was derived (i.e., those factors that contributed to the score).  If a project has a strong/weak overall impact score then the reviewer should highlight those scored criteria that contributed to the favorable/poor score.  For example, if the potential significance of a study was so great as to overshadow a number of methodological weaknesses then this should be clearly stated.  Likewise, if the design of the study is so flawed as to negate any potential significance and/or innovation of the study then this should be clearly stated.  Importantly, the Overall Impact paragraph should provide a clear view into the reviewer’s thought process that led to his/her Overall Impact score.  It is not intended to simply summarize and/or restate the strengths and weakness detailed in the critique.

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  C. Scoring

  1. What is the NIH scoring scale?

    The current scoring scale for individual reviewers’ scores uses a 9-point scale, with a score of 1 indicating an exceptionally strong application with essentially no weaknesses. A score of 9 indicates an application with serious and substantive weaknesses with very few strengths; 5 is considered an average score. Ratings are in whole numbers only (no decimal ratings). This scale is used by all eligible (without conflict of interest) Scientific Review Group members to provide an overall impact score and for assigned reviewers to score review criteria (e.g., Significance, Investigator(s), Innovation, Approach, and Environment for research applications). For more information, visit the Scoring System and Procedure document.

  2. What receives a score?
    Assigned reviewers provide a preliminary overall impact score for each application.  They also provide criterion scores for each of the scored review criteria.  At the review meeting, each eligible review group member provides a final overall impact score for each discussed application.  The overall impact score that appears in the summary statement for each discussed application is calculated by averaging the final overall impact scores given by all eligible members, multiplying by ten and rounding to the nearest whole number (i.e., 10 to 10.49 = 10; 10.5 to 11.49 = 11).
  3. Why is there a need for rounding? Wouldn’t having more digits help discriminate among applications?
    The scores are rounded to prevent the appearance of a precision that does not exist. Tie scores indicate that the tied applications cannot be reliably distinguished from each other based solely on scientific and technical merit.
  4. Are all scores rounded up? So only unanimous 1s will result in a 10? Doesn’t that make the range 20 to 90, not 10 to 90?
    Only the percentiles are rounded up. The overall impact scores are rounded traditionally, making the range 10 to 90. Getting a score of 10 would not necessarily require total unanimity. For example, if 24 reviewers scored 1 and one reviewer scored 2, the average would be 1.04 (26/25). Multiplication by 10 yields 10.4, which would be rounded to 10 rather than 11.
  5. Why is the percentile rounded up, while the scores are rounded traditionally?
    Percentiles are rounded up because we do not use a zero percentile, and the desire is to have a whole number percentile. So percentiles from 0.1 to 0.9 are rounded to 1.
  6. Are applications from New/Early Stage Investigators percentiled with other applications?
    Percentile bases are determined for standing study sections, but no separate percentile base exists for ESIs, NIs, or established investigators. A CSR-all base is often used for percentiling applications reviewed by Special Emphasis Panels (SEPs), or in some instances, Institutes/Centers may have their own base for percentiling SEPs reviewed in their respective Institute/Center.
  7. Is the 1 - 9 scale used for all aspects of scoring an application, including the criterion scores?
    The 1 - 9 scale is used to assign the individual criterion scores, the preliminary impact/priority score and the final overall impact score. It is not used for criteria that are only rated "acceptable" or "unacceptable" such as protection of human subjects.
  8. What does my score mean?
    For help interpreting your score, please review the Scoring System and Procedure document.
  9. Is the 1 - 9 scale a stanine system?
    No. Stanines impose a specific distribution of scores based on pre-determined standard deviations from the mean. The NIH scoring scale does not impose such a distribution. Percentiling is used to achieve comparability of scores across review groups.
  10. Do all applications receive criterion scores?
    All applications – whether they have been discussed in the review meeting or not – receive criterion scores. Reviewers use the criterion scores to help them determine the overall impact score, but the criterion scores are not expected to be weighted equally. It is up to each reviewer to determine an overall impact score that best describes the likely overall impact that each application will have. Such determinations reflect each reviewer’s best estimate of how much impact the application will have, given the importance of the questions being asked and the likelihood that the project will succeed, given the combination of investigators, approach and environment that are described in the application.
  11. Are individual reviewer’s criterion scores open to discussion by the entire panel?
    The review panel does NOT vote on each criterion. However, during the discussion of an application, review committee members could choose to discuss individual criterion scores to make sure they understand the points raised by an assigned reviewer. It is important to understand that criterion scores are intended to be pieces of information to help understand each reviewer’s evaluation, but are not intended to be the sole basis of how to decide on an overall impact score.
  12. Are reviewers always required to enter individual criterion scores and comments?

    In some cases, an SRO may wish to bring in a reviewer who is a content expert on a particular part of an application. For example, a statistician might be used as a reviewer for an application that relies heavily on the use of statistics to analyze a biomedical issue. In this case, it would be inappropriate for the statistician to score parts of the application for which he/she does not have expertise.

    For this reason, reviewers are free to leave sections of the critique template empty of comments if they do not apply for his/her evaluation. In addition, entering criterion scores into eRA systems is not mandatory.   However, if a criterion score is entered, a critique must be uploaded.
  13. Can the preliminary score be entered without a critique?

    No. To enter any score, a critique must be entered, with the exception of some mail reviewers and unassigned reviewers who do not need to enter a critique.

  14. Do reviewers have to re-upload their critiques if they revise their scores?
    No. However, if they wish to change any of their written critique to go along with their revised scores, they should upload a revised critique.
  15. Is "not recommended for further consideration" allowed if there is a serious human or animal subjects issue?
    Yes.
  16. How are the criterion scores displayed in the summary statement?
    Criterion scores are added automatically by the Internet Assisted Review (IAR) system as a table at the beginning of each reviewer’s critique.
  17. What if the scores in the Summary Statement table do not agree with scores that may have been entered with the written critique?
    The scores that are in the table in the summary statement are accepted as final. Reviewers are instructed NOT to enter scores with their critiques and that errant scores in the critiques may be removed in finalizing the summary statement.
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  D. Reviewer Practices

  1. What is IAR? What does it stand for?
    Internet Assisted Review (IAR) is a web-based system that has been used to manage the electronic submission process of reviewer critiques for several years.
  2. Do reviewers fill in their critique templates online in IAR?

    No, reviewers download a Word file that contains the critique template for the mechanism they are reviewing. Many standard review critique templates are available on the Guidelines and Fill-able Templates for Reviewers page.  Once reviewers fill out the template in Word, they upload the entire file into IAR.

  3. Which version of Microsoft Word is used for the templates?
    The templates are compatible with both Microsoft Word 2003 and older versions. They are also compatible with OpenOffice, an open-source suite of office software.
  4. Why don’t the hyperlinks in the templates work in Microsoft Word 2003?

    The hyperlinks that are associated with each review criterion only work with Microsoft Word 2007 or later versions. These hyperlinks all point to the same Web site, but bring the user to different “anchor” points on the page that correspond to a particular review criterion or consideration. For users with Microsoft 2003, the hyperlinks associated with each review criterion do not work, but an accessible hyperlink is provided at the top of the template that links to the same Web site, so that the same information is available.

  5. Where on the review critique template are scores entered?
    Scores are not entered on the critique template; rather, they are entered directly into IAR.
  6. Where do reviewers comment on the Multiple PD/PI Leadership Plan?
    Multiple PDs/PIs are included in the enhanced investigators criterion, so are considered under the investigator(s) criterion on the critique template.
  7. Is there a short “overall evaluation” critique template that a discussant can fill out in addition to adding numerical scores for the individual criterion?

    No, but discussants can use the critique template for the mechanism they are reviewing and only fill out the “Overall Impact” section of the template.

  8. How are resubmission, renewal and revision applications reviewed?
    Each resubmission, renewal or revision is evaluated usingstandard criteria, plus additional criteria that go beyond that of a new grant application. See the enhanced review criteria for specifics on each of these criteria.
  9. How does a reviewer enter criterion scores for an application with more than 5 scored review criteria?

    IAR accepts scores for only 5 criteria. Any additional scored criteria have to be added into the text of the critique and added manually on the summary statement.  Please contact your SRO (Scientific Review Officer) for details.

  10. Can discussants read the critiques without posting any critique or score on IAR during the read phase?
    No. If you are a discussant or other assigned reviewer and you have not posted your scores/critique, you will not be able to read the critiques of others.
  11. Can reviewers nominate applications for discussion even if they received a preliminary overall impact score in the lower half of applications?
    Yes.
  12. What kind of clustering occurs in review meetings?
    R01 applications from ESI/NIs will be clustered for review, when possible.  In addition, when possible, clinical research applications with be clustered together.
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  E. Post Submission Materials Policy

The post-submission materials policy states “the only post-submission grant application materials that the NIH will accept are those resulting from unforeseen administrative issues”, and lists the following acceptable post-submission materials:

  • Revised budget page(s) (e.g., change in budget request due to new funding or institutional acquisition of equipment)
  • Biographical sketches (e.g., change in senior/key personnel due to the hiring, replacement, or loss of an investigator)
  • Letters of support or collaboration resulting from a change in senior/key personnel due to the hiring, replacement, or loss of an investigator
  • Adjustments resulting from natural disasters (e.g., loss of an animal colony)
  • Adjustments resulting from change of institution (e.g., PI moves to another university)
  • News of an article accepted for publication (a copy of the article should not be sent)

  1. May I submit any number of such items, or only one?
    An investigator may submit any number of such items, but must follow the page limits specified in the policy.  That is, for post-submission materials that are not required on a form page, and are not covered by one of the exceptions such as an RFA or institutional training mechanism, each explanation or letter is limited to one page.  Therefore, if a research team lost a member after the application was submitted, and the PD/PI wanted to replace that individual with two substitute personnel, he could submit a one-page explanation and biographical sketch for each new person, plus a revised budget page(s).
  2. Will NIH accept articles that have been accepted for publication and did not result from an unforeseen administrative issue?
    NIH will accept news of all articles that were accepted for publication after the application was submitted and are relevant to the proposed project. News of an article accepted for publication is considered another category of acceptable post-submission materials, separate from information being submitted from unforeseen administrative issues.)  For each article accepted, you may submit only the following: Authors, institutional affiliations, title of the article, the journal that accepted it, and the expected time of publication.
  3. Why is there a 30-day cutoff for notification that a paper has been accepted?
    The purpose of the policy is to provide an even playing field across the agency, types of applications, and study sections in terms of when the reviewers have access to information and in terms of the types of information they receive. The thirty-day window before a review meeting is time when reviewers are concentrating on the applications and their critiques, and SROs are making preparations for the meetings. In most cases, reviewers are asked to submit their preliminary critiques, criterion scores, and impact scores a week before the meeting.
  4. Must the article accepted for publication be authored by the investigators submitting the grant application?
    In most cases NIH expects that news of an article accepted for publication will be in reference to an article authored by the investigators submitting the grant application, but news of an article authored by other investigators could be accepted if the SRO determines that it directly affects the work proposed in the application.
  5. Why aren’t late-breaking research findings allowed as post-submission material?
    In most cases, the time from submission to the review meeting date is two-three months, and reviewers gain access to the applications five-six weeks before the review meeting date.  Therefore, only a few weeks are left in that window in which new data could be gathered, analyzed, and submitted.  For those mechanisms in which the time from submission to the review meeting date may be longer, such as applications submitted in response to Requests for Applications, or institutional training grant applications, the policy provides exceptions to accommodate this additional time.
  6. May I submit newly-received patent approvals relevant to my application as post-submission materials?
    No.  The status of patents pending or approved is not considered during the peer review process.  However, the PI may submit such information to the Program Officer assigned to the application.
  7. May I submit updates on FDA IND and IDE exemptions that were not available when the application was submitted?
    No.  The status of IND and IDE exemptions will be assessed at the time of award, if an application is considered for funding.  Therefore, such updates should be sent to the Program Officer assigned to the application.
  8. If I submitted a multi-component application, may I submit as post-submission materials acknowledgment of a newly-announced local (e.g., State) underwriting of efforts with no change in the application budget?
    No.  Budget considerations are not typically included in assessing the scientific and technical merit of the proposed work, but can be negotiated at the time of award.  Therefore, an applicant who learns of local underwriting efforts should notify the Program Officer for the application, but not the SRO.
  9. If I submitted a paper application on time, but found out later that some pages are missing, may I submit the missing pages before the 30 day-before-review deadline?
    No, if the master (original signature) copy of a paper application is incomplete on the due date, then missing pages or sections will not be accepted as post-submission materials.
  10. If the master (original signature) copy of a paper application is intact and complete on the due date, but one or all of the copies is missing pages due to a copying problem, may I send in the missing pages?

    Yes, the NIH does not view fixing a copying problem to be submitting post-submission material, as long as the master copy that was submitted by the due date was intact and complete.

  11. If I have figures or photographs in a paper application, may I submit original copies to the Scientific Review Officer after the due date?
    No, the PHS398 instructions for applicants state that PDF images of material such as electron micrographs or gels may be included in the Appendix; however, a photocopy of each must also be included within the page limits of the Research Strategy.  Therefore, applicants should include in the Appendix original copies of figures that may not reproduce well if scanned.
  12. With the elimination of the five-day grace period for Reference Forms (F) and Reference letters (K) in support of fellowship and career development applications, do my referees have to submit their Reference Forms (F) or letters (K) before the receipt date for the application?
    Yes.  An application that does not have the minimum of three Reference Forms (F) or letters (K) in the eRA Commons on the due date will be considered incomplete and not reviewed.
  13. If I plan to submit a fellowship or career development application on the due date, but I don’t see that all three referees have submitted their Reference Forms (F) or letters (K), what should I do?
    An applicant getting ready to submit a fellowship or career development application should check the eRA Commons listing for the application a week or so in advance, and check with the individuals who have agreed to serve as referees.  If they are unable to meet the deadline, or cannot be reached, the applicant should consider asking another individual to submit a Reference Form (F) or letter (K) instead.
  14. If a mentor/sponsor for a fellowship or career development candidate obtains notice of a grant award after the fellowship or career development application is submitted, can the mentor/sponsor notify the Scientific Review Officer (SRO) and may the SRO accept that information as post-submission material?
    Yes. The mentor/sponsor may notify the SRO that the notice of grant award was received, and the SRO may accept that information, but it must adhere to the one-page limit for transmitting that information.
  15. If an F or K applicant/candidate obtains notice of a grant award after the fellowship or career development application is submitted, can the applicant/candidate notify the Scientific Review Officer (SRO) and may the SRO accept that information as post-submission material?
    Yes.  The applicant/candidate may notify the SRO that the notice of grant award was received, and the SRO may accept that information, but it must adhere to the one-page limit for transmitting that information.  However, note that for certain mechanisms, receipt of another NIH award, e.g., as a PD/PI on an R03, renders the applicant/candidate no longer eligible for the fellowship or award, and the application would be withdrawn.
  16. I am in charge of the institutional training program for my university, and serve as the PD/PI on a T32 application that is pending review. After the application was submitted, the university filled a faculty slot and our new faculty member will fit quite nicely into the training program. May we submit information of his recruitment and his biosketch as post-submission material?
    Yes.  The policy includes "appointments and/or achievements" among the allowable post-submission materials for institutional training grant applications.
  17. If an application is missing the Human Subjects and/or Vertebrate Animals section, but the cover page indicates that human subjects and/or vertebrate animals will be used in the proposed research, will I be allowed to submit those sections after the due date?
    No.  The application must be complete on the due date or it will not be reviewed.
  18. Who are the Senior/Key Personnel for a conference or meeting grant application?
    The Project Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) [PD(s)/PI(s)] and the members of the organizing committee for the conference or meeting are the Senior/Key Personnel for a conference or meeting grant application.
  19. Parent Announcement PA-12-212 instructs applicants to provide the names and credentials of key participants in the conference, including the basis for their selection and documentation of their agreement to participate. Who are key participants?
    Key participants are speakers, presenters, or session moderators in the conference.
  20. Which post-submission materials are acceptable for conference or meeting grant applications?

    The only post-submission grant application materials that the NIH will accept are those resulting from unforeseen administrative issues.  Post-submission grant application materials are those submitted after submission of the grant application but prior to the initial peer review.  This option is to be used when an unexpected event such as the departure of a Senior/Key Person, natural disaster, etc. has occurred, not to correct oversights/errors discovered after submission of the application.  For conference or meeting grant applications, acceptable post-submission materials include:

    • Revised budget page(s) (e.g., change in budget request due to new funding or sources of support, changes in rental or supply charges, or speaker fees)
    • Biographical sketches due to hiring, replacement, or loss of Senior/Key Personnel
    • Letters of agreement resulting from the hiring, replacement, or loss of Senior/Key Personnel
    • Adjustments to logistical arrangements resulting from natural disasters (e.g., loss of meeting facility or family care resources)
    • Adjustments resulting from change of institution (e.g., PD/PI moves to another organization)
    • News of key participants accepting or declining invitations to participate in the conference or meeting.  The PD/PI may submit a one-page list of invitations declined or accepted by key participants, or a one-page explanation of changes needed to the meeting agenda due to those declined or accepted invitations.
  21. Which post-submission materials are unacceptable for conference or meeting grant applications?
    • Changes to the objectives, principal topics to be covered, problems to be addressed, and developments or contributions the conference might stimulate
    • Revised meeting format
    • Changes to the justification for the conference, including the scientific need, timeliness, and usefulness of the conference to the scientific community

Go to the Peer Review Policies & Practices Page




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