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NIH 101: What You Need to Know! Daniel Sklare, PhD, NIDCD Lana Shekim, PhD, NIDCD Peggy McCardle, PhD, NICHD ASHA LfS ’08 Conference.

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NIH 101: What You Need to Know!Daniel Sklare, PhD, NIDCDLana Shekim, PhD, NIDCDPeggy McCardle, PhD, NICHDASHA LfS ’08 Conference


NICHD Mission in Research on Human Communication; NIH Two-Tiered Review Operations: Who are your reviewers and what transpires at study section? And…The Funding Decision: How Does it Happen?

nichd mission in research on human language and communication
NICHD Mission in Research on Human Language and Communication

To more fully understand and to translate to practice (clinical, educational, and in parental guidance):

  • Typical language development (oral, signed, bilingual)
    • Shared interests with NIDCD include sign language acquisition, lg acq in hard of hearing/deaf children with cochlear implants; gestural development in deaf children
  • Atypical language development (other than studies exclusively focused on SLI); language difficulties related to developmental disabilities and syndromes
    • Shared with NIDCD: language development, characterization, & tx for autism, SLI, lg disorders in children speaking Black English/ bilingual /ELL
nichd mission in research on human language and communication cont d
NICHD Mission in Research on Human Language and Communication (Cont’d)
  • Speech perception and normative processes in speech development
    • Some overlap with NIDCD as it supports and is studied in conjunction with speech disorders
  • Cognitive and developmental cognitive neuroscientific bases of human language and communication
  • Reading, writing and related learning disabilities
who are they peers and experts
Who are they? “Peers” and experts…
  • Reviewers must be recognized authorities in their field;
  • Now or formerly, a principal investigator on a research project comparable to those being reviewed; 
  • Dedicated to high quality, fair reviews;
  • Not have a conflict with the application being reviewed!
  • Panels must have diversity with respect to the geographic distribution, gender, race and ethnicity of the membership. 
what about mentors coauthors and colleagues
What about mentors, coauthors, and colleagues?

CONFLICTS of INTEREST are taken very seriously. Certain people will be excused from the review:

  • Anyone from your institution
  • Partner, Spouse, Significant Other, coauthor, collaborator, etc.
  • Anyone with a vested interest in the outcome
  • Anyone who feels they cannot be objective
which panel will review my proposal
Which Panel will review my proposal?
  • A “study section”—there are a couple hundred…
  • You can choose, but do so wisely – with help from your program official
  • Which study section depends on:
    • Scientific content and methodology
    • Mechanism (e.g., R01, R03, F32, K01 . . .)
    • Which Institute proposal goes to
    • Whether responding to RFA
what an applicant gets after review
What an applicant gets after review
  • A score
  • A percentile (usually, depending on review)
  • Detailed written comments from at least 2 reviewers
    • Even if your application is “unscored”
  • An opportunity to talk to a program official about your options!
how do i know who s on the review panel
How do I know who’s on the review panel?
  • Check the CSR Web site on Peer Review –

  • For meeting dates, descriptions of review groups, and panel rosters
  • BUT… panels change with ~25% rotating off each year and temporary members added as needed for expertise
are all review panels in csr
Are all review panels in CSR?
  • R01s and many other grant types are reviewed by CSR.
  • There are ALSO review divisions in each Funding Institute at the NIH.
  • They review RFAs and for some Institutes special grant types (e.g., at NICHD program projects, small grants and many training grants are reviewed “in house”)
  • Reviews are organized and conducted by Scientific Review Officers (different from Program Officials)
five review criteria
Five review criteria
  • Significance
  • Innovation
  • Approach*
  • Investigator*
  • Environment*

Reviewers also must consider human subjects protection and diversity

what r01 reviewers are told about evaluating new researchers
*What R01 reviewers are told about evaluating new researchers:
  • Approach: More emphasis on demonstrating feasibility of techniques/approaches than on preliminary results
  • Investigator: More emphasis on training and research potential than on number of publications
  • Environment: Evidence of institutional commitment—resources, time to perform research
how is scoring done
How is scoring done?
  • Priority score assigned
    • Numerical rating—Scientific merit of proposed research relative to "state of the science"
    • 100-150: Outstanding
    • 151-200: Excellent
    • 201-250: Very good
    • 251-300: Good
    • 300-500: Unscored (usually)
  • Assigned reviewers recommend a range of scores, but all reviewers at the table score each application! Your score is the average.
what do the scores mean
What do the scores mean?
  • 100-500… lower is better! Think Golf, not basketball.
  • Percentiles are reversed – again, lower is better.
  • Unscored – triage of those in the lower half… not a death warrant.
how many tries
How many tries?
  • Three strikes and you’re out…01, 01-A1, 01-A2.
  • On each revision, 3-page intro outlining your responses to the concerns (R01 & R15; for R03 and R21 it’s limited to 1 pg)
  • Mark your changes when you can
  • An extra month for submission (revisions have different submission deadline)
what if i m out
What if I’m “out”?
  • Read your summary statement
  • Talk to your PO
  • Think about new grant type (mechanism – smaller or larger, high innovation) or new approach (“new” version)
  • (Think about other funders)
  • Try, try again!
evaluation of scientific merit is separate from funding decisions
Evaluation of scientific merit is separate from funding decisions
  • Evaluation of scientific merit:
    • Run by Scientific Review Officer
  • Decision whether to fund:
    • Program Officials
    • Advisory council
    • Institute director

What Determines Which Awards Are Made?

Scientific merit (the score and percentile)

Program Considerations

Availability of funds

what s the current funding climate
What’s the Current Funding Climate?
  • Constrained but not impossible (tighter paylines)
  • Strategies –
    • Smaller grants (don’t exceed maximums)
    • Research teams with programmatically coordinated grants
    • Leverage collaborations – and funds/ funding sources
    • Be creative
consider all funding sources
Consider ALL Funding Sources
  • Grants,Gov sponsored by HHS but covering all of US Govt,
  • National Science Foundation
  • US Dept of Education
  • The Foundation Center
nichd extramural research language development program contact
NICHD Extramural Research Language Development Program Contact

Peggy McCardle, Ph.D., MPH

Chief, Child Dev. & Behavior Branch, NICHD

Tel: 301-435-6863

Email: PM43Q@NIH.GOV

CDB Branch website:

Center for Scientific Review website: