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Serving on a Peer Review Committee

To fund the best science we need the best peer reviewers to assess the scientific merit of grant applications. Find out why you might want to join the ranks and learn what you can do to get involved.

Table of Contents

Peer Review Service: Why Join?

Beyond the prestige associated with service as a peer reviewer, serving on a review committee is a rewarding and enlightening experience that can benefit you in various ways.

Though the honorarium you receive cannot compensate you for your time or for the service you provide the scientific community, remuneration comes in other forms. Read on to understand the benefits.

Apply Your Review Experience to Your Own Application

As a reviewer, you have a treasured opportunity to see pitfalls other applicants step into, without suffering the slings and arrows of a poor review.

You can also learn firsthand what other researchers do to impress reviewers and meet their expectations. For example, you can observe how others present the Significance and Approach sections of the Research Plan, which have the biggest impact on your score.

And, though you must protect the integrity of peer review and avoid conflicts of interest, you can get a glimpse of new research that may stimulate your thoughts and open future opportunities.

You can use this knowledge to write stronger applications. Even if your grantsmanship is exemplary, small improvements learned while being a reviewer can make a difference in whether you get funded or not.

Receipt Dates? What Receipt Dates?

Under NIH's continuous submission policy, you can apply any time for any R01, R21, or R34 funding opportunity that uses standard receipt dates. Your application will be reviewed by the time the next study section with relevant expertise meets.

Even non-permanent reviewers may qualify for this perk under NIH's rules for recent substantial service.

In practical terms, continuous submission shortens the time from application to review by up to two months (one month for AIDS-related applications) and allows you to pick up a review assignment without missing your next application deadline.

You May Not Need to Leave Your Home (or Lab)

Some reviews are now being done using technology that eliminates one of the biggest burdens: travel.

You can teleconference into many meetings, and the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) has rolled out two more options for participating.

  • Internet Assisted Meeting, where you log in to a Web site to enter scores and comments, engage other reviewers through a discussion board, and participate at your convenience through the duration of the review meeting. Your scientific review officer will monitor comments to ensure discussions reach a conclusion.
  • Video Assisted Meeting, where you videoconference into your study section meeting. These are "hybrid" meetings where some members attend in person while you connect using a secure video link.

Invest in Your Career

Think of peer review as an investment: you're giving something now (time, effort, and energy) in return for something more valuable over time (exposure, experience, connections, and a broader view of your field).

Your institution may even give you special recognition for your service.

How to Become a Peer Reviewer

Do you want to serve as a peer reviewer? You may not even need an NIH grant. Read on to learn about several ways to get involved.

Volunteer for an NIAID Peer Review Committee

If you're interested in participating on an NIAID review committee, contact Lynn Rust in NIAID's Scientific Review Program. Send a CV and a very brief summary of your areas of expertise.

We have four permanent review committees:

And we also have one-time-only Special Emphasis Panels that review applications where NIAID is the locus of review.

Serve on a Standing Study Section

If you have some review experience or you're an experienced investigator, you may qualify for membership on a CSR standing study section. These study sections review applications that may be funded by any NIH institute, not just NIAID.

For details on eligibility and the nomination process, go to CSR's How Scientists Are Selected for Study Section Service.

Become an Early Career Reviewer

If you've established a research career, you can participate in one study section meeting each year even if you've never received NIH funding. Get details at Early Career Reviewer (ECR) Program.

Sign Up for Temporary Service

You may be able to serve occasionally as a non-permanent reviewer.

Peruse CSR's Integrated Review Groups and NIAID's own committees listed in How to Volunteer for a Review Committee, above.

If you find a panel that interests you, contact its scientific review officer to see if there's an opportunity to participate in a review.

Please spread the word about review service and encourage your colleagues to come aboard—we (and NIH) are always looking for new reviewers.

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Last Updated March 04, 2014

Last Reviewed March 04, 2014