Proposed Changes to Review Criteria for NIH Grant Applications

By Meg Bouvier

I stay current on NIH happenings and I’d be delighted to keep you informed.

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NIH is considering new review criteria and is seeking input through March 10th. There is generally favorable support for these criteria. If implemented, NIH grant writers should consider including the new headers in their research strategy to reflect the new scoring criteria.

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NIH is considering new review criteria and is currently seeking public input via a request for information (RFI), which is open through March 10, 2023. We include more details below, but it is worth noting that there is generally favorable support for these criteria and our guess is that they will be implemented perhaps within the year. If implemented, NIH grant writers should consider including the new subheaders in their research strategy to reflect the simplified scoring criteria.

Currently, applications for research project grants (the “R” grants) are evaluated based on Significance, Investigators, Innovation, Approach, and Environment. Under the new scoring criteria, grants will be evaluated as follows:

  • Factor 1: Importance of the Research (Significance, Innovation), numerical score (1-9)
  • Factor 2: Rigor and Feasibility (Approach), numerical score (1-9)
  • Factor 3: Expertise and Resources (Investigator, Environment), assessed and considered in the Overall Impact Score, but not individually scored

NIH provided the following diagram to help map the transition from the current review criteria to the proposed one:

The proposed changes will allow peer reviewers to focus on scientific merit by evaluating 1) the scientific impact, research rigor, and feasibility of the proposed research without the distraction of administrative questions and 2) whether or not appropriate expertise and resources are available to conduct the research, thus mitigating the undue influence of the reputation of the institution or investigator.

More information regarding the history behind this proposed change is available here. The message board at the bottom of that page will also let you see what others’ perspectives are regarding this initiative.

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