NIH Center for Scientific Review—Standing UNITEd

Funding News Edition: April 07, 2021
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As part of UNITE, an NIH initiative to end structural racism in biomedical research, the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) continues to take steps to address individual and systemic biases in peer review.

Appointing a Point of Contact for Concerns

Applicants who have concerns about fairness or bias in review can now report them directly to Associate Director for Diversity and Workforce Development Dr. Gabriel Fosu.

Training Reviewers in Bias Awareness

This August, CSR plans to launch an interactive training module on bias for all CSR reviewers, chairs, and scientific review officers (SROs). The training will include a range of nuanced case studies to raise awareness of potential biases as well as mitigation strategies and tools for bystanders.

Diversifying and Broadening the Reviewer Pool

CSR strives to expand the pool of well-qualified reviewers and build tools to help SROs identify new scientists who want to participate in the review process. See Demographics of CSR Reviewers for data on categories such as gender, ethnicity, and race.

Separating the Science From the Investigator and Environment

To address the effect of systemic bias—e.g., advantages of reputation, network, and pedigree—on evaluations of scientific merit, CSR is considering using blinded review processes. Collaborating with the NIH Common Fund, CSR is conducting a pilot of a multi-stage, partial double-blinded review of R01 applications for April 2021 review. For additional information, see the May 27, 2020 Open Mike blog post “Anonymizing Peer Review for the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award Applications.” 

In addition, a CSR Advisory Council Work Group is spearheading efforts to simplify peer review criteria, recommending a decoupling of the science from the investigator/environment criteria, which will open the door for a first-stage review of the science without knowledge of the investigator or institution. For presentation slides and video, go to March 30, 2020 CSR Advisory Council Presentations.

Diversifying the CSR Workforce

CSR is also taking a close look at the diversity of its staff, particularly SROs. Get a glimpse of the group’s composition at Demographics of CSR Scientific Review Officers, which will be updated regularly.

Read More

For complete details on CSR’s efforts, read the March 3, 2020 Review Matters blog post Commitment To Advancing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Peer Review by CSR Director Dr. Noni Byrnes.

On a Related Note

Comments are due this Friday, April 9, for NIH’s Request for Information (RFI)—Inviting Comments and Suggestions To Advance and Strengthen Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Biomedical Research Workforce and Advance Health Disparities and Health Equity Research. If you want to provide feedback, do so quickly.

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