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Appeals of Scientific Review of Grant Applications SOP

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This standard operating procedure (SOP) includes the following sections: Purpose, Procedure, Contacts, and Links.

Purpose

To enable applicants to contest the results of an initial peer review based on a flaw in the review process but not a difference of scientific opinion.

Procedure

The following process applies to applications reviewed at NIH's Center for Scientific Review or applicable funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) reviewed at NIAID.

Applicants may appeal the results of peer review only for flaws in the review process, such as:

  • Evidence of reviewer bias.
  • Reviewer conflict of interest.
  • Lack of appropriate expertise on the committee.
  • Factual error that alters the outcome of review.

Applicants may not appeal for differences of scientific opinion. *Please note: Not all FOAs allow applicants to appeal. For example, request for applications (RFAs) often do not permit appeals.

NIAID program officers, either alone or working with scientific review officers (SROs), first try to resolve the issues with the applicant as a grievance.

If the applicant's concerns cannot be resolved informally, the appeal process is initiated.

In cases where the SRO and program officer agree with the request for appeal, the application will be re-reviewed and an appeal will not be taken to Council. In cases where the SRO or program officer does not agree with the request for appeal, NIAID refers the appeal to its main advisory Council.

After reviewing program staff's and review staff’s recommendation, Council recommends whether to approve or deny the applicant's appeal.

  • If Council denies the appeal, applicant must accept the results of initial peer review.
  • If Council approves the appeal, NIAID sends Council’s recommendation to CSR for final decision whether to accept or deny the request for re-review.

Applicants should keep in mind that Council members rarely disagree with initial peer review cases. In most cases, they determine that investigators must resubmit their applications.

For an appeal, the PI does not revise the application. Instead, the original application is re-reviewed by either the same or a different scientific review group (SRG), which does not receive the summary statement or applicant’s appeal letter.

NIAID retains the applicant’s original correspondence and copies of NIH-originated correspondence in the official electronic grant file. They will also provide appeal-related materials to Council.

Investigators and Applicants

  • Before initiating an appeal, discuss your concerns with your program officer. You must have received your summary statement before you initiate an appeal.
    • Keep in mind that you cannot appeal for differences of scientific opinion and that most appeals result in revising and resubmitting an application.
    • Also keep in mind that even if you successfully appeal, you will have to wait for the next review cycle, so consider whether you would be better off revising and resubmitting.
    • Read Should You Appeal? in Part 6. If Not Funded in the Strategy for NIH Funding.
  • If, after talking with your program officer, you would like to pursue an appeal, ask your authorized organizational representative (AOR) to send a letter of appeal on your behalf to the program officer. The AOR must sign the appeal letter.
  • You can submit an appeal from the point of receiving the summary statement until 30 calendar days after the Council meeting (second-level review).
    • Keep in mind that it's best to submit your appeal soon after you receive your summary statement.
    • To be considered for the next Council round, make sure your AOR submits your appeal before Council meets; preferably by at least four weeks
  • If your program officer advises you to submit a new or resubmission application and you agree, submit the application by the appropriate receipt date.
  • If you submit a resubmission application while you have an unresolved appeal, your program officer will contact you and give you five days to withdraw either the appeal or the resubmission.
    • Ask your AOR to send a written request to your program officer indicating your choice.
    • The AOR must sign the request.

Program Officers

Follow the procedures below.

Potential Appeals/Grievances

  • After learning of a potential appeal, contact your program division coordinator about policies and procedures, and notify the appeals officer.
  • Work with the applicant and SRO to resolve issues before they reach the appeal stage.
  • If you cannot resolve matters, the appeals officer will take the appeal to Council.

Formal Appeals

  • If an applicant sends you an appeal letter:
    • Fill out an Awaiting Receipt of Application (ARA) Form.
    • Send copies of these two documents to your division coordinator who will initiate an electronic ARA, forward the acknowledgment letter to NIAID Receipt and Referral and the appeals officer, and place them in the grant file.
  • If you and the SRO agree that an application should be re-reviewed, notify the PI, AOR, and appeals officer.
    • Do not take the appeal to Council.
    • Have your division coordinators initiate an Assignment Change Request (ACR) indicating the designated SRG and Council date to request a re-review, and also have them notify NIAID Receipt and Referral.
    • Include the correspondence between you and SRO, and specify whether it should be reviewed in the same SRG or a different SRG and Council date.
  • If you or the SRO do not agree that an application should be re-reviewed, send the following to your division coordinator, who will forward a copy to the appeals officer and place the materials in the appropriate Council folder.
    • Applicant's written formal appeal.
    • Summary statement.
    • Special Issue Worksheet — summarize the problem, your alternatives, and your recommendations.
    • All related correspondence, e.g., emails between you and the SRO, including the SRO rebuttal statement.
  • If you receive a letter from an applicant withdrawing an appeal, forward a copy to your division coordinator who will email NIAID Receipt and Referral to remove the Awaiting Receipt of Application (ARA) Form.
  • If you learn of an applicant resubmitting before an appeal is resolved, contact the investigator for his or her choice of an appeal or resubmission. If the investigator chooses to resubmit, forward a copy of the written request to your division coordinator who will email NIAID Receipt and Referral to remove the Awaiting Receipt of Application (ARA) Form.
  • If the appeal is not withdrawn, you or your division director present the case to Council.
    • Council can take either of the following actions:
      • Concur with the SRG, denying the appeal.
      • Support the appeal and recommend the application be re-reviewed by the same or a different SRG.
  • After Council, notify the program division coordinator of the outcome.
  • Within 5 days of Council, draft a Peer Review Appeal Disposition Letter for the Council executive secretary to sign, advising the PI and the AOR of the appeal outcome.
  • Forward the draft Peer Review Appeal Disposition Letter to your division coordinator and ECB Support. Make sure the Peer Review Appeal Disposition letter is addressed to both the PI and AOR.

Program Division Coordinators

  • The program officer will send you the applicant's written appeal, summary statement, the Special Issue Worksheet with staff recommendations, and all related correspondence.
  • Forward a copy of the above material provided by the program officer to the appeals officer, NIAID Receipt and Referral, and NIAID ECB Support.
  • Post all materials in appropriate Council folders.
  • Add to special issues on the pre-Council and Council agendas.
  • Within 5 days after the Council meeting, send the Peer Review Appeal Disposition Letter to ECB Support, with a copy to the Council executive secretary to sign.

Scientific Review Officers

  • Notify your supervisor upon learning of a potential appeal.
  • Gather all pertinent information remaining in your files, such as the summary statement.
  • Work with the program officer to resolve appeal requests.
  • If not in agreement with the appeal, write a formal rebuttal statement to the appeal.
  • Attend Council meeting for cases that proceed for Council consideration, and be prepared to address review questions related to the appeal.

Appeals Officer, Executive Secretary of Council

  • Provide guidance to NIAID staff to help resolve issues.
  • Ensure the Institute director is aware of all appeals before Council.
  • Review cases, oversee preparation of documentation, and forward appeals for Council consideration.
  • Provide Council members with the appeal letter, the Institute’s recommendation, and any written comments from the SRO or SRG.
  • Review and sign the Peer Review Appeal Disposition Letter from program staff advising the PI of the appeal outcome.
  • Send a copy of the letter to NIAID ECB Support, the program officer, division coordinator, the SRO, and grant file.

ECB Support, DEA

  • Review all appeal letters and associated material — advise program staff if any materials are missing.
  • Ensure the appeals officer is aware of all appeals and all appeals are included on the pre-Council meeting agenda.
  • Provide guidance to staff on all aspects of the appeals process.
  • After Council:
    • Use the CSR Tracking Sheet to notify CSR of applications that Council recommended for re-review.
    • Review the Peer Review Appeal Disposition Letter drafted by program staff for the Council executive secretary's signature to ensure content and format are appropriate.
    • Forward final draft of the Peer Review Appeal Disposition Letter to the secretary to the NIAID appeals officer for the Council executive secretary's review and signature within 10 days of Council.

NIAID Receipt and Referral, DEA

  • Review and approve ARA and ACR forms.

Contacts

Investigators with questions should talk to the program officer listed on the summary statement. Or, Communicating With NIAID—How to Get Help.

Lock icon: This link will not work for public visitors.Contact for NIAID Staff—NIAID appeals officer and executive secretary of Council

Lock icon: This link will not work for public visitors.Contact for NIAID Staff—Secretary to NIAID appeals officer

Lock icon: This link will not work for public visitors.Contact for NIAID Staff—ECB Support

Lock icon: This link will not work for public visitors.Contact for NIAID Staff—SOP contact

Lock icon: This link will not work for public visitors.Contact for NIAID Staff—NIAID Receipt and Referral

Program Division Coordinators

Lock icon: This link will not work for public visitors.Contact for NIAID Staff—DAIDS

Lock icon: This link will not work for public visitors.Contact for NIAID Staff—DAIT

Lock icon: This link will not work for public visitors.Contact for NIAID Staff—DMID

If you have knowledge to share or want more information on this topic, email deaweb@niaid.nih.gov with the title of this page or its URL and your question or comment. Thanks for helping us clarify and expand our knowledge base.

Links

Appeals of NIH Initial Peer Review—April 15, 2011, Guide notice

Last Updated October 10, 2014

Last Reviewed October 10, 2014