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Vol. LVIII, No. 2
January 27, 2006
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CSR Plans Speedier Review of NIH Research Proposals

With an ultimate goal of cutting its grant application reviews by half, the Center for Scientific Review will begin a pilot program for new researchers in February. It is aimed at carving a month and a half from the 6-month process.

CSR will conduct the pilot in 40 of its study sections, offering a shortened review process to new investigators applying for their first major NIH grant, an R01.

 
The Center for Scientific Review will begin a pilot program for new researchers in February aimed at carving a month and a half from the 6-month process.  

If all goes as planned, the shortened process will enable some new investigators with applications needing work to revise their applications and get back into a new review cycle more promptly, ultimately saving them 3 to 4 months.

"We welcome this effort," said NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni. He cited benefits for both researchers and scientific institutions nationwide, as well as "the public awaiting medical advances."

The pilot was proposed by a special trans-NIH committee chaired by Eileen Bradley, chief of CSR's surgical sciences in the biomedical imaging and bioengineering integrated review group. It was approved by NIH's extramural activities working group, which represents all the institutes and centers. It was also reviewed and approved by a joint meeting of the NIH review policy committee and the extramural program management committee.

Acknowledging the interest of outside scientists in obtaining speedier reviews, CSR director Dr. Toni Scarpa said, "Especially in the area of biomedical research, the scientific world moves fast, and we must keep up with it. We plan to use new electronic and management tools while preserving the rigor and fairness of NIH peer review, so we can identify the most promising medical research more rapidly. Our goal is to reduce the grant review process by half."

Total R01 grants are about $10 billion. They support many of the best biomedical researchers at universities and medical centers across the country — scientists who, over the years, have been awarded more than 100 Nobel prizes.

CSR recruits 15,000 outside scientists for the peer review for scientific merit of three-quarters of the nearly 80,000 applications NIH receives in a year. IC advisory councils then review the summaries CSR provides to determine which of the applications best fit their aims and public health needs. The IC directors make their final funding decisions based on the assessments and recommendations that come out of the two-tiered review process. CSR and IC processes together take about 9 months.

This pilot incorporates a number of features, including a shortened time for reviewers to consider applications, earlier study section meetings, accelerated production of summary statements and a delayed submission date for these amended applications. CSR will assess the views of the applicants in the pilot to see if they felt they benefited from the shortened review cycle. CSR will also get the opinions of reviewers.

New electronic and management methods and new electronic research applications may enable CSR to use shortened cycles in reviewing all R01 applications and other applications as well.

For more information on the pilot, visit http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-06-013.html.

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