Soup To Nuts: The NIH Proposal Process (Part Five)

NIH  037Today’s post is one in a series exploring the process of preparing and submitting an NIH proposal. 

Part I – Overview/Regular Research Grants

Part II – Regular Research Grants

Part III – Program Project/Center/Training Grants

Part IV – Fellowship/Career Transition Awards

First Review of Submissions

Once you’ve successfully submitted your proposal, it begins to wend its way through the NIH review process.  The first evaluation is typically administered by the Center for Scientific Review (CSR), which will organize an initial peer review group called the Scientific Review Group (SRG) to analyze your proposal.  The SRG will be headed by a Scientific Review Officer (SRO), who will examine your application for completeness and assign it to a group of reviewers versed in their fields that will provide an unbiased critique.  At first, your application will be analyzed by select members of your SRG, where it will be judged based on the following criteria:

1              Significance – Does the project address an important problem, or critical impediment to progress, in the field?  And will technical capability, scientific knowledge, and/or clinical practice be improved?

2.            Investigator(s) – Are the PDs, PIs, collaborators, and other named research personnel appropriate for the proposed project?

3.            Innovation – Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions?

4.            Approach – Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project?

5.            Environment – Are the institution support, equipment, and other physical resources available to the investigator(s) adequate for the proposed project?

Following review, each of the above considerations will be graded numerically by the reviewer to produce what is called the proposal’s preliminary Impact Score.  In these cases, the lower number the better. . .a score of 1-3 is considered ‘High Impact,’ 4-6 is ‘Moderate Impact,’ and 7-9 is ‘Low Impact.’  In order to be eligible for consideration by the SRG as a whole, a proposal’s preliminary Impact Score must meet a certain threshold.

If your application is fortunate enough to make it to the large SRG meeting, it will be discussed by all members, after which time each participant (including the initial reviewers) will score the application as a whole according to the above system.  The scores will be averaged and multiplied by ten, thus producing the final Impact Score, which shall range from 10 to 90.  Finally, a Summary Statement shall be prepared and sent to the applicant detailing the overall Impact Score; a summary of the proposed project; the scores and comments of the preliminary reviewers; and, perhaps most importantly, the application’s Percentile, which is the approximate percentage of applications that received a better overall impact/priority score from the SRG section during the past year.  Here again, the lower the number, the better the applicant can feel about her chances of ultimate success in receiving an award.


Next time: Second-Stage Review And Beyond, Including Common Errors