NIH Revises Grant Review Process
NIH is simplifying its process to assess the scientific merit of grant applications and mitigate elements that could introduce bias into review.
The changes will help reviewers focus on the potential for proposed research to advance scientific knowledge and improve human health. Previously, five criteria were individually scored using a common scale; the simplified review framework reorganizes these criteria into three factors.
Two of these factors—importance of research and rigor and feasibility—are scored using a common scale. A third factor, expertise and resources, is evaluated for sufficiency and not given a numeric score. The simplified review framework will be implemented for grant applications received on or after Jan. 25, 2025.
“Ultimately, the potential impact of ideas on advancing science should outweigh the reputation of who is applying and where they work,” said NIH Acting Director Dr. Lawrence Tabak.
NIH has been gathering feedback from the extramural community on the grant application review process. In December 2022, the agency proposed revisions to the process through a Simplified Framework for NIH Peer Review Criteria initiative and subsequently collected more than 800 responses from individuals and scientific societies.
These changes contribute to NIH’s decade-long effort to address potential bias in grantmaking and enable a level playing field. Additionally, these changes reduce administrative responsibilities of peer reviewers, shifting them to NIH staff, thereby allowing reviewers to focus on the science.
NIH Center for Scientific Review Director Dr. Noni Byrnes said, “The simplified review framework will focus peer review on the key questions needed to assess the scientific and technical merit of proposed research projects: Should and can the proposed research project be conducted?”
NIH is developing a timeline, policy rollout and training to support implementation of the changes. Additionally, NIH plans to evaluate the changes over time, allowing for additional modifications as necessary.