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.
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, either alone or working with scientific review officers (SROs), first try to resolve the issues with the applicant as a grievance.
If the applicant's concerns cannot be resolved informally, the appeal process is initiated.
In cases where the SRO and program officer agree with the request for appeal, the application will be re-reviewed and an appeal will not be taken to Council. In cases where the SRO or program officer does not agree with the request for appeal, NIAID refers the appeal to its main Advisory Council.
After reviewing program staff's and review staff’s recommendation, Council recommends whether to approve or deny the applicant's appeal.
- If Council denies the appeal, 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 cases. In most cases, they determine that investigators must resubmit their applications.
For an appeal, the principal investigator (PI) does not revise the application. Instead, 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. They will also provide appeal-related materials to Council.
Investigators and Applicants
- Before initiating an appeal, discuss your concerns with your program officer. 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 that 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, 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 program officer you would like to pursue an appeal, ask your authorized organizational representative (AOR) to send a letter of appeal on your behalf to the program officer. 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. Program officers and SROs will need sufficient time to gather pertinent information and make recommendations.
- If your program officer 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 program officer 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 program officer indicating your choice.
- Your AOR must sign the request.
Follow the procedures below.
- 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.
- If an applicant sends you an appeal letter:
- Reply to the PI and AOR with an Acknowledgement of Letter of Peer Review Appeal—not an email—within 10 working days.
- Fill out an Awaiting Receipt of Application (ARA) Form.
- Send copies of these two documents to your division coordinator who will initiate an electronic ARA; forward the acknowledgment letter to NIAID Receipt and Referral, the NIAID appeals officer, and NIAID ECB Support; and add both documents to the grant file.
- 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 to your division coordinator, who will forward a copy to the NIAID appeals officer and place the materials in the appropriate Council folder.
- 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 Awaiting Receipt of Application (ARA) Form.
- 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 Awaiting Receipt of Application (ARA) Form.
- 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
- Council can take either of the following actions:
- 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 program officer receives an appeal letter from the applicant, initiate an electronic ARA for the program officer 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 program officer 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 Awaiting Receipt of Application (ARA) Form.
- If the program officer or SRO does not agree to re-review, the appeal goes to Council.
- The program officer will send 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 (applicant's formal appeal, summary statement, Special Issue Worksheet, and any related correspondence) in appropriate Council folders.
- Add 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 remaining in your files, such as the summary statement.
- Work with program officers to resolve appeal requests.
- If not in agreement with the appeal, write a formal rebuttal statement to the appeal.
- Attend Council meeting for cases that proceed for Council consideration, and be prepared to address review questions related to the appeal.
NIAID Appeals Officer, Executive Secretary of Council
- Provide guidance to NIAID staff to help resolve issues.
- Ensure the Institute director is aware of all appeals before Council.
- Review cases, oversee preparation of documentation, and forward appeals for Council consideration.
- Provide Council members with the appeal letter, the Institute’s recommendation, and any written comments from the SRO or SRG.
- Review and sign the Peer Review Appeal Disposition Letter from program staff advising the PI of the appeal outcome.
- Send a copy of the letter to NIAID ECB Support, program officer, 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 meeting agenda.
- Provide guidance to staff on all aspects of the appeals process.
- After Council:
- Use the CSR Tracking Sheet to notify CSR of applications that Council recommended for re-review.
- Review the Peer Review Appeal Disposition Letter drafted by program staff for the Council executive secretary's signature to ensure content and format are appropriate.
- Forward final draft of the Peer Review Appeal Disposition Letter to the NIAID appeals officer within 10 days of Council.
NIAID Receipt and Referral, DEA
- Review and approve ARA and ACR forms.
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
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