Your Opportunity to Speak Out on NIH Peer Review Processes

NIH released an important Request For Information in early July, asking for ideas about how to change current peer review and grant submission systems to ensure that the peer review system keeps pace with the science that it serves.

NIH released an important Request For Information in early July, asking for ideas about how to change current peer review and grant submission systems to ensure that the peer review system keeps pace with the science that it serves. A significant reason for the review is to manage the increased number of grant applications – nearly 80,000 in 2006, almost double the number NIH received in 2001. Two newly-formed advisory groups will review the feedback and report to the NIH Director's Advisory Committee.

Please take a moment now to reflect on your own experience with the NIH system and provide some comments or react to suggestions that have been made. Many new ideas are floating around NIH now. For example, some feel peer review should be done via teleconference or online software instead of face-to-face meetings, to allow more flexibility and make serving on panels less burdensome. Some feel that to get the best reviewers, NIH should compensate them in some way (e.g. by providing an extra year of support for their research grants). There is a proposal to shorten the application form to 15 pages. Some argue that shortened forms may adversely impact new investigators who have less data to present and have to lay out more theoretical information to demonstrate the quality of their ideas. Perhaps you feel that the current system is fair and working well overall -- then you should certainly say so.

The NIH website contains instructions for providing comments on these issues. You may address any or all of the following issues:

1. Challenges of NIH System of Research Support
Please describe any specific challenges presented by NIH's current system of support for biomedical and behavioral research such as the current array of grant mechanisms, number of grants awarded per investigator, and the duration of grants.

2. Challenges of NIH Review Process
Please describe any specific challenges presented by NIH's current review.

3. Solutions to Challenges
Please concisely describe specific approaches or concepts that would address any of the challenges described in 1 or 2, even if it involves a radical change to the current approach.

4. Core Values of NIH Peer Review Process
What are the core values of NIH peer review that must be maintained or enhanced?

5. Peer Review Criteria and Scoring
Are there improvements to the scoring criteria or procedures that you would like to recommend?

6. Career Pathways
Is the current peer review process for investigators at specific stages in their career appropriate? If not, what changes would you recommend?

We encourage you to submit comments directly to NIH via the email address included in the website, but in addition, to share your comments with us at APA so your views can inform the comments that APA will submit.

Fair and stable grant review is so very important to the support of psychological research-- it deserves a few minutes of your time. Please encourage your colleagues to respond as well. We at APA expect to submit comments on Monday, August 13, so we encourage you to share your comments (to Pat Kobor) by the close of business on Friday, August 10. The NIH deadline for response is 5 pm on August 17, 2007. (Note that the APA convention begins on August 16!)

We look forward to seeing SPIN readers’ thoughts and ideas on the NIH peer review system.