Understanding the Capacity of NIH’s Peer Review System

With the complete elimination of any real cap on the number of allowable resubmissions to NIH, many of us have wondered how much the workload has increased at CSR and on NIH reviewers in general. In the past two years, outgoing NIH Deputy Director has been evaluating “the level of service that most peer reviewers are willing and able to provide, and how peer review service fits within the scope of reviewers’ other professional responsibilities.”

Among the key results of this evaluation:

  • More than 80% of mid-career R01 recipients have served as reviewers at least once in the past five years.
  • 88% of respondents who reported having been invited to review in the prior year had served at least once.
  • ~51% of respondents reported that peer review of grants should comprise less than 5% of their professional effort, but another 46% reported that peer review of grants should make up 5-10% of their worktime.
  • Respondents reported that they considered an assignment load of 6 applications per meeting, and 1 – 2 meetings per year, to be reasonable expectations. The typical load at CSR is more than this, and NIH would be hard pressed to review all the applications the scientific community submits if this preference became the norm.
  • ~3,500 qualified reviewers/year have not yet served in the last five years.

An article in the newly released CSR Peer Review Notes describes the information in more detail: http://public.csr.nih.gov/aboutcsr/NewsAndPublications/PeerReviewNotes/Pages/Peer-Review-Notes-Sep-2015Part5.aspx

Three New Webinars For June

In recent years, I have noticed a concerning trend among my grantees: They are paying for my consulting services with personal checks rather than through institutional support. Last February I launched a series of three webinars to provide grantees a lower-cost alternative to one-on-one grant consulting.

I appreciate the enthusiastic support we have had for the webinars. Due to the popularity of the Grantsmanship webinars in February, I am hosting three *new* webinars in addition to the three I debuted in February. While I personally feel that grantees submitting for deadlines in October/November should begin writing in June, I realize that it is a busy month with a lot of travel. All of my webinars will be available on-demand for three months after they are broadcast in June. So don’t worry if you are unable to attend live. Sign up, send me your questions in advance (or after viewing), and I will answer them during the presentation or via email.

The three new webinars:

Choosing Between the NIH R01, R21, and R03 (Tuesday June 16, 1pm-1:45pm EDT). How does one choose between the NIH R01 and the smaller-format R-series mechanisms? I will describe how each of these three mechanisms was designed to address a specific purpose, and how the lines between them have become blurred as the R03 program has gradually dried up and the R21 funding lines have worsened. I designed this webinar for those new to NIH.

Understanding the NIH Review Process (Thursday June 18, 2pm-2:45pm EDT). I will describe the path your application follows once it is uploaded to grants.gov. The webinar covers assignment to study section, the role of the primary/secondary/tertiary reviewers, and an understanding of who votes at the study section and on what they base their decision. You will learn about the importance of the program officer in this process. It is crucial to understand how reviewers assess your application, so you can integrate that knowledge into your approach to grantsmanship and write a stronger submission. This webinar is ideal for those new to NIH.

Best Practices Among Research Universities (Thursday June 25, 9:30am-11am EDT). Years of working with research institutions has taught me the practices that are common to those institutions that succeed (or don’t!) in the federal funding arena. I will share my opinions and observations about strategies to strengthen grantsmanship among faculty for universities seeking to increase their NIH funding portfolio. This webinar is ideal for research development staff, research deans, department chairs, grant administrators, and anyone in a position to effect change in their institution’s approach to grantsmanship among their research faculty.

I will also be hosting NIH Submission Strategies on Wednesday, June 10; Mistakes Commonly Made on NIH Grant Applications on Thursday, June 11; and How To Write the Specific Aims of An NIH R01 on Monday, June 22. Visit my website to learn more about all my June webinars and to register.

I plan to host another round of webinars in the late fall. Please send me your thoughts about topics you might like to see covered. Among the topics for which I have had requests: How to write a K submission; How to write a resubmission; and How to write a center grant application.

New Webinar: How To Write The Specific Aims– Register now!

I am pleased to announce that I have converted my popular workshop on how to write the Specific Aims document into a webinar.

The one-page Specific Aims document is arguably the most important narrative section of an NIH submission. Assigned reviewers usually begin with this section, and they start to form their funding decision based solely on this single page. For non-assigned, voting members of your review committee, it is likely the only section they will ever read. It is the first section I write, and the one that undergoes the most revisions. It must quickly convey what you are doing, why, and the impact your results may have.

If you learn to write a well-honed Aims document, it will open the door to success in writing other sections, and in writing persuasively about your work in general. Attendees will be given an example of an Aims document from one of my client’s funded applications, as well as a version into which I have inserted mistakes I typically see from grantees, in order for you to practice editing. I will also provide a practical checklist for you to use on a draft Aims.

Register today for the 2/25 webinar: https://megbouvier.com/webinars.php

“I thoroughly enjoyed your webinar on NIH Submission Strategies. It was one of the most substantive and thoughtfully organized webinars I have ever experienced. I will certainly recommend your offerings to colleagues.”
–Mary Elizabeth Strunk, Assistant Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations, Amherst College

“Meg has perfected the ability to take the “mystique” out of the process of application writing! It is now, no longer a daunting exercise!…A great workshop and extremely helpful. Meg’s persona and energy were also appreciated! … Learned how to write a great Specific Aims and Significance section. Also the exercises were very helpful” … I appreciated the practical checklist.”
–Excerpts of anonymous evaluations from recent seminars and workshops

Who: For grantees planning to submit an R01, R21, R03, or K in an upcoming cycle, and the senior faculty and administrators who advise them.
When: Wednesday 25 February 2015, 11am-12:30pm EST or On Demand
Cost: $249
Takeaways: At the end of this 90-minute session, participants will be able to: (formatted for CME application)

  1. Write a high-quality one-page Specific Aims document
  2. Apply tips and knowledge from an experienced and successful grantwriter
  3. Evaluate and revise their own and other’s draft Aims

You still have a chance to view all three webinars. “NIH Submission Strategies” and “Mistakes Commonly Made On NIH Grant Applications” can be watched on-demand. Kickstart your grantwriting for the Cycle II deadlines in June and July for $499. https://megbouvier.com/webinars.php