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Use the PHS Assignment Request Form

Use the optional PHS Assignment Request Form to list expertise needed to review your application, exclude reviewers, and request an institute assignment.

For investigator-initiated R01, R21, and R03 applications, we also advise you to request assignment to the most appropriate study section of reviewers.

In any case, it’s a good idea to consult a program officer to get their advice on the appropriate institute and study section assignments.

In the absence of a request from you, NIH’s Center for Scientific Review (CSR) will assign your application to an institute and study section. CSR bases assignments on its referral criteria, relying on referral staff and knowledge-based technologies to decide.

While CSR staff usually honor your request, they are not required to, and they may make a different assignment based on NIH referral guidelines and workload factors.

NIH saves the form separately, so you won’t see it included in your application image after you apply. Your peer reviewers won’t see it, either.

Which Form Sections to Use and Why

The form includes instructions which you can preview in the Sample PHS Assignment Request Form.

The PHS Assignment Request Form itself and all the fields shown are optional. It’s not a separate attachment, so find the form as part of the application.

You can choose to use the PHS Assignment Request Form for any of the following purposes:

  • List up to five areas of expertise needed to understand and review your application.
    • Completing this section is a good idea even if you decide not to use the other parts of the form.
    • Highlight disciplines involved, particularly if multidisciplinary, to help CSR assign your application and to ensure the appropriate expertise on the panel.
  • Exclude reviewers. NIH policy allows you to list people who should not review your application, though your scientific review officer makes the call.
    • Limit your response to 1,000 characters.
    • Valid reasons include the following:
      • Competitor (if you believe the competitor would not give you a fair review).
      • Long-standing scientific disagreement.
      • Conflict of interest.
  • Request assignment from CSR to a study section and institute.
    • Requesting assignment is appropriate only for investigator-initiated R01, R21, and R03 applications.
    • Here’s why you should take the time to make this request and ensure the best match:
      • Institute. Having your application assigned to an institute that is enthusiastic about your research may improve your chances of funding.
      • Study section. We advise you to request a study section after carefully researching groups that are likely to be scientifically appropriate for your application. Check CSR’s Study Sections for a complete list and to find one related to your scientific discipline.

After you apply, learn how to find out your resulting assignments in the Do You Have the Right Reviewers? section of Application Assigned to a Review Group.

Have Questions?

A program officer in your area of science can give you application advice, NIAID's perspective on your research, and confirmation that NIAID will accept your application.

Find contacts and instructions at When to Contact an NIAID Program Officer.

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