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Massachusetts General Hospital Postdoc Association Office for Research Career Development Grantwriting: Who Reviews Grants?. Janet E. Hall, MD Reproductive Endocrine Unit Department of Medicine Massachusetts General Hospital Boston, MA. Today’s Goals. Understanding the Review Process

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Massachusetts General HospitalPostdoc AssociationOffice for Research Career DevelopmentGrantwriting:Who Reviews Grants?

Janet E. Hall, MD

Reproductive Endocrine Unit

Department of Medicine

Massachusetts General Hospital

Boston, MA


Today’s Goals

  • Understanding the Review Process
    • what happens when you submit a grant to the NIH (or other agency)?
    • how does this influence how you prepare your application?
    • who can you talk to?
  • Resources
submission of a grant


Reviews the



Submits the






Submission of a Grant

Grant Application





what s in the box
What’s in the Box?
  • NIH is one of eight health agencies that are part of the US DHHS
  • NIH is composed of 27 separate Institutes or Centers
  • Office of the Director
  • Nat’l Cancer Institute
  • Nat’l Eye Institute
  • Nat’l Heart, Lung & Blood Institute
  • Nat’l Human Genome Research Institute
  • Nat’l Institute on Aging
  • Nat’l Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism
  • National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
  • Nat’l Institute of Arthritis & Musculoskeletal & Skin Diseases
  • Nat’l Institute of Child Health & Human Development
  • Nat’l Institute on Deafness & Other Communication Disorders
  • Nat’l Institute of Dental Research
  • Nat’l Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases
  • Nat’l Institute on Drug Abuse
  • Nat’l Institute of Environ Hlth Sciences
  • Nat’l Institute of General Medical Sciences
  • Nat’l Institute of Mental Health
  • Nat’l Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke
  • Nat’l Institute of Nursing Research
  • Nat’l Library of Medicine
  • Nat’l Center for Research Resources
  • John E. Fogarty International Center
  • Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center
  • Center for Information Technology
  • Center for Scientific Review (CRS, formerly DRG)
know your nih institute
Know your NIH Institute!
  • Look at NIH Institute-specific websites (
  • Learn Institute’s research priorities
  • Look at Institute’s application success rates (# applications; # awards):

types of scientific review groups
Types of Scientific Review Groups
  • ScientificGroups (SRG)
  • CSR
  • Regular Study Sections
  • Special Study Sections
  • Special Emphasis Panels
  • Institutes
  • Scientific Review Groups
  • Contract Review Committees
  • Applications Reviewed
  • Research Project Grant
  • Academic Research Enhancement Awards
  • Postdoctoral Fellowships
  • Small Business Innovation Research
  • Shared Instrumentation
  • Program Projects
  • Centers
  • Institutional Training Grants
  • Contracts
  • RFA’s
  • Conference Grants
  • Career Awards
  • Some Small Grants
nih system of peer review
NIH System of Peer Review
  • Center for Scientific Review
  • assigns to Study Section & Institute/Center
  • Study Section
  • evaluates for Scientific Merit
  • Institute
  • evaluates for Program Relevance
  • Advisory Councils and Boards
  • recommends action
  • Institute Director
  • takes final action for NIH Director ($)
initial review scientific merit
Initial Review: Scientific Merit
  • Assignment to Study Section
  • Information Sent to Investigator
    • assignment number
    • name, address and telephone number of the scientific review administrator (SRA) of the Review Group to which the application is assigned
    • assigned Institute contact and telephone number (s)
who assigns the applications
Who Assigns the Applications?
  • Referral Officers
    • Professional Scientists most of whom also serve as Scientific Review Administrators of CSR Study Sections
  • Can I Influence the Assignment?
  • Cover Letter
    • indicate the Study Section which you think is most appropriate
      • study section rosters and overall interests are posted
      • Reorganization is ongoing
    • indicate the Institute(s) likely to be interested in funding your work
initial review scientific merit11
Initial Review: Scientific Merit
  • Constitution of Study Section by SRA
    • ensures expertise to review all grants
    • distributes grants among reviewers
  • Grants Forwarded to Reviewers
    • reviewed for conflict of interest and appropriateness of assignment
    • each reviewer will have 8-12 grants to review in full as primary, secondary or reader
    • reviewers will receive all grants (60-75 in total)
initial review scientific merit12
Initial Review: Scientific Merit
  • CSR Study Sections
    • review 80,000 applications per year
    • ~ 70-75% of applications reviewed by NIH
    • uses ~18,000 external reviewers
  • Study Section Membership
    • ~ 16 members - regular and ‘ad hoc’
    • term is 3-4 years with staggered appointments
  • Criteria for Selection to Study Section
    • demonstrated scientific expertise
    • mature judgement, balanced perspective, and objectivity
    • personal integrity - critical re confidentiality
    • representation - women, minority, clinical
initial review scientific merit13
Initial Review: Scientific Merit
  • Preparation of Review
    • scientific review using established criteria
    • Streamlined Review - bottom half
  • Study Section Meeting
    • 3 times/year x 2 days
    • members/chair, SRA, Institute Representatives
    • review bottom half grants
    • individual discussion of all top half grants primary, secondary, reader, full group and final vote by all members (1 high --- 5 low)
criteria based review
Criteria-Based Review
  • attempt to emphasize more innovative concepts and approaches rather than safe science
        • APPROACH
        • INNOVATION
council review
Council Review
  • Priority Score
    • average of all scores x 100
    • ranking tabulated from the results of the current and two previous review meetings percentiles
    • preparation of summary statement (pink sheet)
    • Institute’s National Advisory Council
    • scientific and public representatives ~12-15
    • meet 3x/yr to advise the Institute on its programs and priorities and review research applications
    • review of application based on scientific merit and relevance to the Institute’s programs and priorities
awarding of grants
Awarding of Grants
  • Institute
    • acts on recommendations of the Initial Review Group and Council
      • scientific merit
      • programmatic considerations
      • availability of funds



how long does it take


How Long Does it Take?

Submission Jan-May May-Sept Sept-Jan

Initial Review June-Jul Oct-Nov Feb-Mar

Group (IRG)

National Advisory Sept-Oct Jan-Feb May-Jun

Council Board

Earliest Possible Dec 1 Apr 1 July 1


*** Dates are changing so stay current

CSR is considering new ways to shorten the review cycle.

CSR is considering novel grant and review formats.



R01 Applications are now Electronic

*    No paper applications will be allowed

*    Applicants and grants offices should prepare Now!*    BIG process change      -- Involves change in application form      -- Must use application form from specific Funding Opportunity Announcement in the NIH Guide

*   Grants offices must submit applications

Get more info at

grants for different career stages phd



Grants for Different Career Stages: PhD

















T32 - Institutional Training Grant

- pre & post doctoral slots

F32 - Individual Minority Pre-Doc

F32 - Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship

K22 - Research Scholar Dev’t Award

*R03 – Small Grant *R21 – Exploratory Grant

K02 - Independent Scientist


R37 - Merit Award

nih career development programs k awards
NIH Career Development Programs (“K” Awards)
  • fourteen different mechanisms
  • articulate with Career Stage:

Mentored, Mid-career, Senior

  • interact with other NIH Awards
  • use “K Kiosk” or “Career Award Wizard”:
career or k series awards
“Career” or K-series Awards
  • designed to “protect” time, i.e., free up time currently spent in clinic or on administrative or teaching duties
  • most are for early career development
  • provide ‘salary’ not ‘stipend’
  • meant to train U.S. citizens/permanent residents
    • K99 is an exception to this policy
  • limited to U.S. research/clinical institutions
k series awards
K-series Awards
  • K01 – Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (Ph.D.)- usually basic research
  • K08 – Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (M.D. or other clinical degree)- usually basic research
  • K23 – Mentored Patient-oriented Research Career Development Award (M.D. or other clinical degree)
  • K99/R00 – Pathway to Independence (PI) Awards
  • K22- Transition Award- 2-3 years at NIH; 2-3 years at extramural academic institution in U.S.
  • K24 – Mid-Career Investigator Award in Patient-oriented Research (M.D.)
elements reviewed in mentored k award applications
Elements Reviewed in Mentored K Award Applications
  • Qualifications of candidate
    • prior training
    • letters of recommendation
    • publications**
  • Mentors
    • previous mentoring experience
    • expertise in area of research
    • current funding
  • Research project
    • hypothesis driven
    • preliminary data
    • reasonable in time frame
    • logical sequence of studies
    • appropriate safeguards
  • Career development plan
    • ‘enrichment’
    • training
    • future plans
  • Environment
mentored clinical scientist career development award k08 k23 k99
Mentored Clinical Scientist Career Development Award (K08/K23/K99)
  • Essential components of grant application:
    • career development plan must be carefully documented
      • may include coursework
      • may work toward a graduate degree
    • mentorship must be strong and appropriate
    • Institutional commitment to career development must be clear
who reviews k award applications
Who reviews K award applications?
  • K award applications are generally reviewed by Institute-specific study sections, NOT the Center for Scientific Review (CSR)
  • check the roster of study section members BEFORE the review
r series grants
R-series grants
  • R01s – Research project grants unsolicited and in response to Funding Opportunity Announcements (e.g. PAs and RFAs)
  • R21s – Exploratory/Developmental grants usually only in response to FOAs
  • R03s – Small grants only in response to FOAs
use the institutional resources available to you
Use the Institutional Resources Available to You
  • Clinical Research Program
    • Statistical Support
  • Clinical Research Center
    • Scientific Review Committee
  • Research Affairs Administration

Ask your colleagues!

Ask your mentors!

grant resources
Grant Resources

Sample K award applications

  • K08:
  • K23:
use the resources available to you


    • Office of Extramural Research
    • Grants Policy
    • Institute Personnel
    • New Investigators
  • Center for Scientific Review
    • Referral & Review
      • overview of Peer Review Process
    • SRG Study Section Rosters
      • NIH Peer Review Notes
  • Grants Net
  • Private Foundations (examples):
      • ADA , JDRF
Use the Resources Available to You