Washington Update

CSR Advisory Council Meeting Highlights Stakeholder Engagement

By: Yvette Seger
Thursday, April 14, 2022
On March 28, the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) Advisory Committee convened to discuss topics ranging from recommendations for restructuring study sections serving research in microbiology and infectious disease and drug discovery to initial feedback on the recently implemented bias training for reviewers and study section chairs. A key cross-cutting message was the importance of stakeholder engagement.

In her report, CSR Director Noni Byrnes, PhD, highlighted the important role of stakeholders in helping to determine the scientific merit of the approximately 66,000 grant applications reviewed by CSR. To achieve this, CSR depends on the expertise of more than 20,000 reviewers per fiscal year. These volunteers are identified through a combination of CSR staff networks and broader outreach to the scientific community. To this latter point, a presentation by Kristin Kramer, PhD, Director of CSR’s Office of Communications and Outreach, highlighted continuing efforts to increase transparency and trust with the scientific community regarding the center’s processes and implement new strategies to facilitate outreach and engagement with the extramural research community. While several of these initiatives are still under development, Kramer highlighted examples through which the multifaceted communications strategy helped debunk rumors and build trust between investigators and CSR.

In 2021, CSR introduced new training for reviewers and study section chairs to increase awareness of potential sources of bias in peer review and equip reviewers with tools to address instances as they arise. Hope Cummings, PhD, Senior Social Science Analyst, presented key findings from a survey of reviewers who participated in the first round of bias training to assess effectiveness of training to assist in identifying and mitigating bias in peer review. More than 90 percent of the initial cohort expressed that they were highly satisfied with the training and that their knowledge and awareness of bias in peer review was increased. CSR continues to administer the training and follow-up survey to reviewers to monitor effectiveness and identify additional areas to address in future modules.