Know the Rules—NIH Peer Review Security and Confidentiality

Funding News Edition: February 02, 2022
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In response to breaches of review integrity, confidentiality, or security, NIH officials may notify an institution, defer or withdraw an application, or terminate an award or committee service.

Credit: NIAID

As a participant and stakeholder in the NIH peer review process, familiarize yourself with the Guide notice NOT-OD-22-044, Maintaining Security and Confidentiality in NIH Peer Review: Rules, Responsibilities, and Possible Consequences. The new notice replaces three older Guide notices (NOT-OD-14-073NOT-OD-15-106, and NOT-OD-18-115) and went into effect on December 30, 2021.

We advise you to read NOT-OD-22-044 carefully for the full details. This article shares summaries of the notice’s major sections.

The Purpose section covers why security and confidentiality in peer review are essential to safeguard the exchange of scientific opinions, protect confidential information, provide reliable input to NIH about research projects to support, and more.

In the Security section, NIH defines the role of the NIH designated federal official (DFO), also known as the scientific review officer (SRO), for an initial peer review meeting or the executive secretary for a National Advisory Council (NAC) meeting. The DFO provides access to secure review materials and ensures compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies.

Both the Security and Confidentiality sections of the notice list prohibited activities for peer reviewers and NAC members. For example:

  • Do not access, attempt to access, or attempt to share access to government peer review systems without authorization from the relevant DFO.
  • Do not share, disclose, transmit, or discuss grant applications, contract proposals, information from closed sessions, or associated confidential information with anyone except as authorized by the DFO.
  • Do not contact applicants [principal investigators (PIs) and key personnel] directly about the review or ask them to send additional information. If an applicant contacts you about the review, notify the DFO.

The same two sections instruct PIs, key personnel, officials from their organization, and others acting on their behalf. For example:

  • After you submit and before the peer review meeting, the only acceptable channel for communication about the review is through the assigned DFO for a grant opportunity or contracting officer (CO) for a contract solicitation.
  • Don’t contact reviewers directly about the review or try to send them additional information. If peer reviewers contact you about the review, notify the DFO or CO.

As described in the Certifications section, each reviewer certifies the Security, Confidentiality and Nondisclosure Agreement in the Appendix of the notice "with the understanding that any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation may subject me to criminal, civil, or administrative penalties (18 USC §1001)" such as fines or imprisonment.

The Possible Consequences section covers actions NIH officials may take in response to breaches of review integrity, confidentiality, or security. NIH officials could request information from or notify an institution, defer or withdraw an application, terminate an award or committee service, and more. NIH may also refer cases to the U.S. Office of Inspector General, Department of Justice, or other appropriate federal agencies.

Learn more about Integrity and Confidentiality in NIH Peer Review. Email the NIH review policy officer at with your questions on this topic.

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