NIH and NIAID Staff Assess Peer Review Service Time

Funding News Edition: July 07, 2022
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Scientific review officers (SROs) at NIH’s Center for Scientific Review (CSR) and NIAID’s Scientific Review Program (SRP) follow internal guidelines concerning the amount of volunteer service already provided by potential peer reviewers when evaluating whether to solicit their participation on a review panel.

These guidelines exist to support NIH’s long-standing interest in bringing a diversity of scientific opinions and backgrounds to bear on the review of grant applications and contract proposals, as well as contributing to reducing excessive review service by a small fraction of reviewers who may have disproportionate influence on review outcomes.

If an SRO contacts you to request you volunteer as a peer reviewer, we encourage you to consider the benefits of service:

  • Learn about new research at the cutting edge of your scientific area.
  • Hone your grant writing by evaluating diverse applications and mechanisms.
  • Build professional relationships with colleagues in your field.
  • Hear how other scientists are thinking about the field.
  • Strengthen your mentoring skills by critiquing other applications.
  • Give back to the scientific community and help shape the future.

As a practical matter, NIH recognizes peer review service can impact the timeliness of volunteers’ own applications and offers remedies through the Continuous Submission and Late Application policies.

SROs at CSR are responsible for maintaining integrated review groups (IRGs), which are standing Study Sections that review investigator-initiated applications in a particular scientific area and may be funded by any NIH institute, not just NIAID. SROs at NIAID and other NIH institutes often seek reviewers for Special Emphasis Panels (SEPs), which are temporary review committees that score grant applications or contract proposals submitted in response to NIAID’s solicited funding initiatives and programs. NIAID SROs also seek volunteers for review of investigator-initiated program project applications and clinical trial applications, as well as oversee four permanent review committees that review training and career development grant applications.

Serving on an IRG doesn’t necessarily preclude participation on an SEP, nor does volunteering on an SEP automatically prevent service on an IRG. While certain volunteer service places limitations on your eligibility for other peer review, e.g., participation in national Advisory Council meetings, the staff member recruiting you will take care of vetting your eligibility based on level of service.

And remember, you don’t need to wait to be recruited! You can proactively contact NIH or NIAID peer review programs if you want to volunteer. Read CSR’s Early Career Reviewer (ECR) Program page and NIAID’s Serving on a Peer Review Committee page to get started today.

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