Monday, September 3, 2012
Funding models: Drawing
Research project grants from
NIH are the core funding mechanism for extramural biomedical research in the
U.S. The majority of these grants are devoted to investigator-initiated
applications; however, since 1997 between 9-18% of grants have been funded in
response to requests for applications (RFAs) issued by specific institutes.
applications are examined by the Center for Scientific Review (CSR), a center
separate from individual institutes that directs peer review of applications.
Solicited grants and research contracts are usually examined by peer-review
panels convened by individual NIH institutes.
CSR assigns grant
applications to study sections, which are panels of 12-24 peer reviewers with expertise
on specific scientific topics, such as cellular and molecular immunology. For
applications requiring specialized expertise not present in the study section,
such as a proposal that makes heavy use of a particularly advanced microscopy
technique, CSR may add temporary reviewers who may not have general expertise
in the section's scientific field.
Each grant is assigned at
least three main reviewers within the study section, who provide detailed
critiques and score applications on a nine-point system in five areas -
experimental approach, scientific environment, investigators, innovation and
significance. Each reviewer's overall impact score takes into consideration,
but is not an average of, the scores for each criterion.
The reviewers present their
scores and discuss the applications with the rest of the study section. The
three main reviewers then may revise their scores, and the rest of the study
section confidentially records an overall impact score.
After the meeting these
scores are averaged and multiplied by ten to determine a final impact score.
Within each study section,
grants are assigned a percentile rank based on how they score relative to other
applications reviewed by the study section at its last three meetings.
CSR refers these scored
grant applications to individual NIH institutes, which largely fund grants
according to their percentile rank.
A fixed percentile is
established as a "payline" for each institute depending on the number
of grants submitted and the amount of funding available; all grants with a
percentile rank above the payline are guaranteed funding, while grants below
the payline may be funded case by case at the discretion of the institute.
Grants are generally awarded
for 3-5 years, after which an investigator may submit a renewal application,
which undergoes same peer review process.
- Chris Cain