Application Assigned to a Review Group

Application Assigned to a Review Group

The NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR) checks your application for administrative and formatting requirements. CSR also assigns the application to an NIH Institute or Center (IC) and a review group.

For investigator-initiated R01, R21, and R03 applications, the Institute and review group assignments are based on your science. If you included an assignment request with your application, NIH staff take that into consideration as well.

For applications in response to an initiative such as an IC request for applications, applications would all be assigned to that IC and, typically, to a single opportunity-specific review group.
 

NIH Checks Your Application

After your application moves to CSR, staff there assign it a number and make sure it conforms with administrative and formatting requirements.

Your application gets a unique identification number that looks like this: 1 R01 AI183723 02 A1 S1. Learn how to interpret the parts of the application number using the NIH definition of application identification number. NIH staff will typically refer to your grant or application using that number.

CSR manual check is a potential failure point for your application. NIH may return your application to you without a peer review for any of the reasons we described previously at Act Now to Avoid Post-Submission Rejection on Submitting Your Application.

A late application is also a potential failure; read Late Applications and Post-Submission Materials.

Applications Are Assigned to an Institute and Integrated Review Group

At that point, CSR assigns an investigator-initiated application to an integrated review group, an umbrella organization comprising several study sections, and then to the study section that will perform the initial peer review. It also assigns your application to an institute or center for potential funding.

You may have requested these assignments in your PHS Assignment Request Form, as we described at Use the PHS Assignment Request Form. While CSR often complies with these requests, it is not required to, and CSR staff may make different assignments based on NIH referral guidelines and workload.

For applications in response to an initiative such as an IC request for applications, applications would all be assigned to that IC and, typically, to a single opportunity-specific review group.

Within seven to ten days after you apply, you should find your initial assignment information in the Commons.

Study Section. At first, the Commons may show your integrated review group instead of your study section. During the next few days, CSR will update this information with the study section assignment. If you don't see your study section assignment within two weeks, call the NIH Referral Office at 301-435-0715.

Institute. After NIAID receives notice of your application, our Referral and Policy Analysis Branch assigns it to one of our program divisions using our internal referral guidelines.

Approximately 30 days before the review meeting, CSR posts your study section's updated roster in the Commons. You'll have to wait longer if your application is assigned to a special emphasis panel (SEP).  

Do You Have the Right Reviewers?

Check your application's assignments and make sure those assignments give it the best chance of success. It's critical to have your application reviewed by those who will appreciate and competently evaluate your application.

When you applied, you may have made an assignment request, listed expertise needed for review, or asked to exclude reviewers. Learn more at Use the PHS Assignment Request Form.

Now that you have your assignments, ensure you have the right reviewers. For investigator-initiated R01, R21, and R03 applications, you may also be able to request assignment changes.

First, check the study section assignment. Log in to the eRA Commons to check that your application is assigned to a study section that has the expertise you requested in your PHS Assignment Request Form.

If you did not get the study section you requested, check carefully that the one you are assigned to meets your needs. CSR may have more than one study section with the expertise you require and sometimes creates ad hoc groups to fill in gaps. Find out more from your scientific review officer (SRO).

Later, check the roster. After the roster appears in the Commons—about a month before the review—make sure the expertise you need is on the committee. If it is not, notify your SRO, and discuss any problematic competitors you see on the roster.  

Know Your Reviewers

About 30 days before the review meeting, check the roster again to make sure the study section has the necessary expertise to review your application.

Keep in mind that rosters change from one review cycle to the next, so you won't know exactly who's on the panel until CSR posts updated rosters about 30 days before the review meeting.

Still, at that point, you can check to see if the study section appears to be a good choice, e.g., it has some people who have the appropriate expertise. If unsure, contact your SRO to discuss.

Keep in mind that it is often better to wait for the next receipt date than be reviewed by the wrong reviewers.

Check the Institute Assignment

Did you request assignment to an institute in your application? We explained how at Use the PHS Assignment Request Form.

If you didn't get the right assignment or you think you requested the wrong institute, check in with your program officer.

Your application stands the best chance of getting funded if it goes to an institute that considers the research high-priority, and program officers are in the best position to make that assessment.

How to Request a Change of Institute or Study Section

If you feel your application was not assigned to an appropriate institute or study section, you can request a change.

For a study section request, first find a better one:

  • Check the CSR Integrated Review Groups to find an alternative. Find roster links at the top of the study section pages.
  • Discuss your alternative with the chief of the integrated review group for your assigned study section. Find his or her contact information in the CSR Personnel Directory or ask your scientific review officer if you cannot find it online. (Don’t contact the listed reviewers.)

For an institute reassignment request, follow the process described below but tailor the letter to a change of institute.

To make your request, fax a letter to CSR at 301-480-1987 requesting a new assignment and briefly stating the rationale for the change. Below is an example of an acceptable and an unacceptable request.

  • Acceptable: "The focus of study section X seems to be more on the structural biology of molecules of immunologic importance. Since my application proposes to develop new antibodies for Phase I human studies, the clinical perspective of reviewers on study section Y is critical to appreciate the approaches I have taken."
  • Not acceptable: "I don't want X reviewers but want Y instead."

If this action does not resolve the problem, you may dispute the assignment with the CSR director of receipt and referral at 301-435-0715. Also inform your program officer about the situation.

Have Questions?

Contact your assigned scientific review officer, found in your eRA Commons account or in your funding opportunity announcement. If you do not have a scientific review officer, go to Scientific Review Program Contacts.

Content last reviewed on August 11, 2016