NIH Updates

by Lee S. Mann, PhD, JD; Center for Scientific Review; National Institutes of Health reprinted from the APS Newsletter, Spring 2011

To help you understand recent peer review changes and put your best forward when applying for grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I/ve pulled together recent notices from the NIH Center for Scientific Review. I have also included useful news from the NIH Office of Extramural Research.

New NIH Peer Review Videos are a YouTube Hit

In a couple of months, our "NIH Peer Review Revealed" video has logged over 25,000 views on the NIH YouTube channel, and the related video "NIH Tips for Applicants" has logged over 15,000 views. "After so many changes, we needed new videos to show researchers how their applications are reviewed," said CSR Director Dr. Toni Scarpa. "We had a dynamic production team that shot the videos without a script or paid actors," said Dr. Scarpa. "We gave real reviewers fictional grant applications and they ran with them."

View the video and see for yourself:

CSR Posts Guidance on Unallowable/Overlapping Applications

Now that NIH has reduced to one the number of times an applicant can resubmit an application with the same content and scope, applicants and reviewers should fully understand our related policies and practices.

CSR posted a new Web page that summarizes in plain language the policies and practices we use to identify unallowable duplicate or overlapping applications and ensure our decisions are fair. We designed this summary to help reduce the number of problematic applications and empower applicants to develop and submit applications that can advance into the NIH peer review and funding process.

View the Web site:
Which Applications Are Problems?

  • Applications submitted as new (A0) but appear to be resubmissions (A1)
  • Applications submitted as new but are substantially similar to an unsuccessful A1 application
  • Applications submitted as second resubmissions (A2)
  • Duplicate applications
  • Overlapping applications

How Does NIH Address Unallowable Applications?
When we compare applications, we examine all parts. We use text comparison software and the expertise of scientific staff, and we make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

We have a three-level decision-making process to ensure decisions are fair and address applicant concerns. CSR's Division of Receipt and Referral withdraws applications that are clearly unallowable or resolves issues that can be resolved with the applicant easily.

If staff members have questions or an applicant appeals, we send the application to CSR's Scientific Overlap Committee, which recruits additional experts as necessary. If an applicant rebuts its decision, we consult an arbitration board, which includes 12 scientific staff from across NIH and meets once a week. CSR's Director finalizes the decision and communicates the result to the applicant.

Podcast: How a Cover Letter Can Help the Review of Your Application

NIH encourages applicants to consider including a cover letter with their application to help CSR staff assign it to the best scientific review group and NIH institute(s) or center(s) for possible funding. In a new NIH podcast, Dr. Ann Clark, Associate Director, CSR Division of Receipt and Referral, helps applicants understand the benefits of "Composing Your Cover Letter":

Change to Biosketch Allows Explanation of Delays

Applicants now can use their biosketch to explain how personal circumstances may have delayed their transition to an independent career or reduced their scientific productivity. This opportunity will provide peer reviewers, and others, additional information on which to base their assessment of the qualifications and productivity of the applicant.

How Can I Fix an Incorrect New Investigator or Early Stage Investigator Status?

If you are a new investigator (NI) or early stage investigator (ESI) seeking your first R01 grant, you want to make sure NIH is aware of your status since reviewers take into account your career stage, and NIH has made a commitment to fund an appropriate number of NI and ESI R01 applicants.

If your NI or ESI status is incorrect or changes after the submission of an application either because you updated your eRA Commons profile information or you were granted an extension of your ESI status (NOT-OD-09-034), the application will not reflect the changed ESI status when you view the grant folder in eRA Commons. To correct the designated NI or ESI status for the application, you should:

  • Log in to your eRA Commons profile
  • Verify the accuracy of your degree date, medical residency dates and NI and ESI status
  • Contact the NIH Commons help desk to request a correction to your NI/ESI designation (have your application number handy to speed the process). The NIH Commons help desk will correct the NI/ESI status designation for the application.

Learn more at

NIH Has Posted Many Important Policy Updates

INIH has recently released a number of new and helpful policy updates for applicants. Here is a list of some of the key releases.

Policy Change/UpdateEffective Date
All applications must be submitted in response to an funding opportunity announcement9/25/10
New policy on post-submission application materials9/25/10
End of A2 submissions1/7/10
Time limit for resubmissions1/25/11
Adobe forms B1 required for F,K,T, and D apps1/25/11
End of two-day error correction window1/25/11
New reference letter due dates4/8/11 and 6/12/11
Adobe forms B1 for all electronic apps5/7/11
Late submission policyn/a

Keep abreast of news from NIH by checking the following links.

Special Thanks to Donald Luckett, Communications Director, NIH-Center for Scientific Review, for his helpful input on this contribution.

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