Appeals of Scientific Review of Grant Applications SOP

This standard operating procedure (SOP) includes the following sections: PurposeProcedureContacts, and Links.

Purpose

To enable applicants to contest the results of an initial peer review based on a flaw in the review process but not a difference of scientific opinion.

Procedure

The following process applies to applications reviewed at NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR) or applicable funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) reviewed at NIAID.

Applicants may appeal the results of peer review only for flaws in the review process, such as

  • Evidence of reviewer bias
  • Reviewer conflict of interest
  • Lack of appropriate expertise on the committee
  • Factual error that alters the outcome of review

Applicants may not appeal for differences of scientific opinion. *Note: Not all FOAs allow applicants to appeal. For example, request for applications (RFAs) often do not permit appeals.

NIAID program officers (POs), either alone or working with scientific review officers (SROs), first try to resolve the issues with the applicant as a grievance.

In cases where the PO and SRO agree with the request for appeal, the applications will be re-reviewed.

In cases where the PO or SRO do not agree with the request for appeal and the applicant's concerns cannot be resolved, then the appeal process is initiated. The appeal will be referred to the National Advisory Allergy and Infectious Diseases Council. 

Council will review recommendations from the program and review staff and determine whether to approve or deny the applicant's appeal.

  • If Council denies the appeal, the applicant must accept the results of initial peer review.
  • If Council approves the appeal, NIAID sends Council’s recommendation to CSR for final decision whether to accept or deny the request for re-review.

Applicants should keep in mind that Council members rarely disagree with initial peer review. In most cases, they determine that investigators must resubmit their applications.

If an appeal is approved by Council, the principal investigator (PI) does not revise the application. Rather, the original application is re-reviewed by either the same or a different scientific review group (SRG), which does not receive the summary statement or applicant’s appeal letter.

NIAID retains the applicant’s original correspondence and copies of NIH-originated correspondence in the official electronic grant file and provides appeal-related materials to Council.

Investigators and Applicants

  • Before initiating an appeal, discuss your concerns with your PO. You must have received your summary statement before you initiate an appeal.
    • Keep in mind that you cannot appeal for differences of scientific opinion and Council members rarely disagree with the initial peer review outcome. Most appeals result in revising and resubmitting an application.
    • Also keep in mind that even if you successfully appeal, you will have to wait for the next review cycle for a re-review, so consider whether you would be better off revising and resubmitting.
    • Read  Should You Appeal? in Options if Your Application Isn't Funded.
  • If after talking with your PO you would like to pursue an appeal, ask your authorized organizational representative (AOR) to send an appeal letter on your behalf to the PO. The AOR must sign the appeal letter.
  • You can submit an appeal from the point of receiving the summary statement until 30 calendar days after the Council meeting (second-level review).
    • Keep in mind that it's best to submit your appeal soon after you receive your summary statement.
    • To be considered for the next Council round, make sure your AOR submits your appeal before Council meets; preferably at least four weeks before the meeting. POs and SROs will need sufficient time to gather pertinent information and make recommendations.
  • If your PO advises you to submit a new or resubmission application and you agree, submit the application by the appropriate receipt date.
  • If you submit a resubmission application while you have an unresolved appeal, your PO will contact you and give you five days to withdraw either the appeal or the resubmission.
    • Ask your AOR to send a written request to your PO indicating your decision.
    • Your AOR must sign the request.

Program Officers

Follow the procedures below.

Potential Appeals/Grievances

  • After learning of a potential appeal, contact your program division coordinator and notify the NIAID appeals officer.
  • Work with the applicant and SRO to resolve issues before they reach the appeal stage.
  • If you cannot resolve matters, the NIAID appeals officer will take the appeal to Council.

Formal Appeals

  • If an applicant sends you an appeal letter:
  • If you and the SRO agree that an application should be re-reviewed, notify the PI, AOR, and NIAID appeals officer.
    • Do not take the appeal to Council.
    • Have your division coordinators initiate an Assignment Change Request (ACR), indicating the designated SRG and Council date to request a re-review, and also have them notify NIAID Receipt and Referral.
    • Include the correspondence between you and the SRO, specify whether it should be reviewed in the same SRG or a different SRG, and indicate the Council date.
  • If you or the SRO do not agree that an application should be re-reviewed, send the following documents to your division coordinator, who will forward a copy to the NIAID appeals officer, NIAID Receipt and Referral, and NIAID Electronic Council Book (ECB) Support.
    • Applicant's written formal appeal
    • Summary statement
    • Special Issue Worksheet — summarize the problem, your alternatives, and your recommendations
    • All related correspondence, e.g., emails between you and the SRO, including the SRO rebuttal statement
  • If you receive a letter from an applicant withdrawing an appeal, forward a copy to your division coordinator, who will email NIAID Receipt and Referral to remove the electronic ARA request from the eRA ARA Module.
  • If you learn of an applicant resubmitting before an appeal is resolved, contact the investigator to determine if he or she wants to appeal or resubmit. If the investigator chooses to resubmit, forward a copy of the written request to your division coordinator, who will email NIAID Receipt and Referral to remove the electronic ARA request from the eRA ARA Module.
  • If the appeal is not withdrawn, you or your division director present the case to Council.
    • Council can take either of the following actions:
      • Concur with the SRG, denying the appeal
      • Support the appeal and recommend the application be re-reviewed by the same or a different SRG
  • After Council, notify the program division coordinator of the outcome.
  • Within five days of Council, draft a Peer Review Appeal Disposition Letter for the Council executive secretary to sign, advising the PI and the AOR of the appeal outcome.
  • Forward the draft Peer Review Appeal Disposition Letter to your division coordinator and NIAID ECB Support. Make sure the Peer Review Appeal Disposition letter is addressed to both the PI and AOR.

Program Division Coordinators

  • After the PO receives an appeal letter from the applicant, initiate an electronic ARA for the PO and forward the acknowledgment letter to NIAID Receipt and Referral, the NIAID appeals officer, and NIAID ECB Support. Add the acknowledgment letter and the ARA to the grant file.
  • If the PO and SRO agree to re-review the application, initiate an Assignment Change Request (ACR) indicating the designated SRG and Council date to request a re-review and notify NIAID Receipt and Referral.
  • If the applicant withdraws an appeal or resubmits before an appeal is resolved, email NIAID Receipt and Referral to remove the electronic ARA request from the eRA ARA Module.
  • If the PO or SRO does not agree to re-review, the appeal goes to Council.
  • After the PO sends you the applicant's written appeal, summary statement, the Special Issue Worksheet with staff recommendations, and all related correspondence, forward a copy of this material to the NIAID appeals officer, NIAID Receipt and Referral, and NIAID ECB Support.
  • Post all materials in the appropriate Council folders.
  • Add the appeal to special issues on the pre-Council and Council agendas.
  • Within five days after the Council meeting, send the Peer Review Appeal Disposition Letter to NIAID ECB Support for the Council executive secretary to sign.

Scientific Review Officers

  • Notify your supervisor upon learning of a potential appeal.
  • Gather all pertinent information, such as the summary statement.
  • Work with POs to resolve appeal requests.
  • If not in agreement with the appeal request, write a formal rebuttal statement to the appeal.
  • Attend Council meeting for cases that proceed for Council consideration, and prepare to address review questions related to the appeal.

NIAID Appeals Officer, Executive Secretary of Council

  • Provides guidance to NIAID staff to help resolve issues.
  • Ensures the Institute director is aware of all appeals before Council.
  • Reviews cases, oversees appeal documentation, and forwards appeals for Council consideration.
  • Provides Council members with the appeal letter, the Institute’s recommendation, and any written comments from the SRO or SRG.
  • Reviews and signs the Peer Review Appeal Disposition Letter from program staff advising the PI of the appeal outcome.
  • Sends a copy of the signed letter to NIAID ECB Support, PO, division coordinator, SRO, and grant file.

NIAID ECB Support, DEA

  • Review all appeal letters and associated material.
  • Advise program staff if any materials are missing.
  • Ensure the NIAID appeals officer is aware of all appeals and all appeals are included on the pre-Council and Council meeting agendas.
  • Provide guidance to staff on all aspects of the appeals process.
  • After Council:

NIAID Receipt and Referral, DEA

  • Review and approve ARA and ACR forms.

Contacts

Investigators with questions should talk to the program officer listed on the summary statement.

Contact for NIAID Staff—NIAID appeals officer and executive secretary of Council

Contact for NIAID Staff—contact for NIAID program officers

Contact for NIAID Staff—NIAID ECB Support

Contact for NIAID Staff—NIAID Receipt and Referral

Program Division Coordinators

Contact for NIAID Staff—DAIDS

Contact for NIAID Staff—DAIT

Contact for NIAID Staff—DMID

Use the contacts listed above for questions about your specific situation. If you have a general question or a suggestion to improve this page, email the Office of Knowledge and Educational Resources at deaweb@niaid.nih.gov.

Links

NIH Appeals

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