Washington Update

CSR Advisory Council Meeting Features Peer Review Updates

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Wednesday, March 27, 2024
On March 25, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center for Scientific Review (CSR) Advisory Committee convened to discuss peer review updates for Research Projects Grants (RPGs) and fellowship applications supported by the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA). Council members also discussed interim reports from two new CSR working groups focused on study section reviewers. 

Starting with January 25, 2025, application due dates, most RPGs and all NRSA mechanisms will follow a revised review process based on the Simplified Review Framework and NRSA Fellowship Review recommendations, respectively. To ensure the community is prepared for the changes in advance of the effective date, NIH established transagency implementation committees with various subcommittees responsible for communications, policy updates, and resource development and training. For example, NIH is hosting public webinars, organizing workshops for Scientific Review Officers (SROs), and providing templates to assist reviewers in writing critiques under the new plan.

In keeping with CSR’s efforts to enhance the peer review process, the CSR Reviewer Evaluation and Reviewer Recognition working groups updated council members on their initial discussions and potential next steps. The former is charged with developing a practical framework for evaluating reviewer performance in a uniform, structured, consistent, and transparent manner. This framework is intended to supplement what SROs are already doing and help reviewers provide a fair evaluation of scientific merit. The Reviewer Recognition working group aims to identify ways NIH can increase the prestige of peer review, particularly at the institutional level. While ideas are still under development, working group members have discussed strategies such as letters from NIH notifying institutions about the value of their faculty’s service and collecting data to assess the connection between peer review service and funding success.