Washington Update

NIH Seeks Input on Proposed Simplified Review Framework

By: Yvette Seger
Wednesday, December 21, 2022
In response to investigator and reviewer feedback indicating frustration with current peer review criteria to effectively assess scientific merit, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center for Scientific Review (CSR) initiated a multipronged process to consider possible updates to the review framework. Following more than two years of discussion and deliberation across CSR and NIH, leaders released proposed revisions to the peer review framework for public comment on December 8.

Currently, five criteria are used to assess research project grant (RPG) applications: Significance, Innovation, Approach, Investigator, and Environment. The proposed revisions consolidate these criteria to three factors: Importance of the Research (based on Significance and Innovation); Feasibility and Rigor (based on Approach); and Expertise and Resources (based on Investigator and Environment). In addition to consolidating the review criteria from five to three, only two (Importance of the Research and Feasibility and Rigor) will be scored on the 1–9 scale. To minimize implicit bias, Expertise and Resources will be rated as “fully capable,” “appropriate,” or “additional capability/expertise needed” or “additional resources needed.” Should a reviewer select one of the latter two ratings, justification for this assessment must be provided.

In addition to the proposed three “core” criteria, additional criteria (human subject protections; inclusion of women, minorities, and individuals across the lifespan; vertebrate animals; biohazards; and resubmissions/renewal/revisions) would not receive a numerical score but would be considered as part of Overall Impact. These would be ranked as “Appropriate” or “Concerns,” with the latter requiring justification. Other considerations, such as authentication of key biological or chemical resources and budget, would not be scored or considered as part of the overall impact, but would be rated as “Appropriate” or “Concerns” for the former, and “Appropriate,” “Excessive,” or “Inadequate.”

Feedback on the proposed revisions will be accepted through March 10, 2023, and must be submitted via this website.