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Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

e h i n d c l o s e d d

e h i n d c l o s e d d o o r s :w h a t g o e s o n i n a p e e r r e v i e w m e e t i n gPeer review committees:n Are managed by a scientific review administrator (SRA), a professional NIH employee at the M.D. orPh.D. level with a scientific background close to the study section’s area of expertise.n Have 12-24 members recruited from active scientists, generally people who have (or have had) R01sthemselves. Most members are academics. Some have long-term appointments to the study sectionand others are temporary members.n Will review as many as 60-100 applications per meeting.n Usually assign three reviewers to very closely review each application, though the whole panel shouldread all of the applications.Study section meetings:n Are closed—the discussions are not made part of the public record and spectators are not allowed.n Include a discussion of general business, provisional approval of the list of applications which aredeclared uncompetitive and thus not scored, and discussion of the remaining applications. Reviewerswho have a conflict of interest with a given applicant are asked to leave the room when thatapplicant’s grant is discussed.Discussion of applications includes:n The three reviewers most closely linked to each grant providing discussion of that grant’s strengths,weaknesses, and their preliminary scores.n Other members discussing scientific and technical merit.n All members stating their scores, which are recorded.n Any recommendations for changes in the budgets of individual grants.After each meeting, the SRA documents the results in a summary statement, which is forwarded bothto the appropriate institute or center that would support the grant (if budget is available) and to the principalinvestigator. These summary statements, which are often called “pink sheets” because they wereonce given back to the applicant as the pink layer from a multi-sheet carbon-paper form, are the key tounderstanding what was said about your grant during the review.Summary statements may vary somewhat depending on the SRA, but all contain:n Overall résumé and summary of review discussion (for applications that were discussed and scored).n Essentially unedited critiques by the assigned reviewers.n Priority score and percentile ranking.n Budget recommendations.n Administrative notes (e.g., comments on human subjects or animal welfare).The major grant that funds most U.S. healthscientists’ work is called an “R01.” There is nospecial reason these grants are called R01—it isnot an abbreviation for any longer term. The letterR conveys that it is a Research Project Grant, butthere are other types of NIH research grants thatbegin with other letters.R01 grant applications are usually investigatorinitiated—thatis, the researcher proposes a topic tostudy rather than the agency indicating what kindsof topics it would like to see. Other approaches arealso common among large funders. Many funders(including NIH) use Requests for Proposals (RFPs),Requests for Applications (RFAs), or Program98 excellence everywhere

Q u e s t i o nq&aWhere do research funds come from?answernNational governments, including both that of the country where you will work and those of othernations that have taken an interest in supporting work in your area of science or your geographicalregion.nNon-governmental organizations—a very broad group of national and international organizations.nnnnMultinational organizations such as the United Nations and its agencies (for example, UNICEF), theWorld Health Organization, etc.Public-Private Partnerships such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, theInternational AIDS Vaccine Initiative, etc.Private foundations such as the Wellcome Trust, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the HowardHughes Medical Institute, etc.National and multinational corporations such as mining companies, oil companies, etc.Announcements (PAs) to alert researchers togrant opportunities that will fund research aroundparticular topics.Applications to NIH are submitted to the agencyand then immediately sent to a division thatspecializes in managing the review of applications—the Center for Scientific Review (CSR). Therethe grant is reviewed on two levels: one is a peerreview level meant to evaluate the proposal’sscientific and technical merit, the other is reviewby staff members from a few of the agency’smany institutes and centers to determine wherethe grant might best fit into the agency’s interests.For example, a grant that focuses on atherosclerosiswould face peer review by a panel of expertsin heart disease and, after review by the institutesand centers, would likely find its way to theinstitute that focuses on heart disease. Within theoverarching agency NIH, that is a section calledthe National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Agrant you might write with an American collaboratorto fund research on Chagas disease (a parasiticinfection with considerable impact on the heart)might make its way to that institute, or to the NIHinstitute that focuses on infectious diseases, or, ifit is a Fogarty International Research CollaborationAward (FIRCA), it might be funded by the FogartyInternational Center, which is also a section ofNIH. The Fogarty Center’s work focuses on globalhealth and international partnerships.At NIH, the level of review that focuses onscientific and technical merit is carried out byone of many “study sections,” each of which isorganized around a general scientific area. Eachstudy section has a specific scientific focus. Individualreviewers who are members of the studysection review a grant application for scientificmerit. Each rates it with a numerical score, andthen the whole committee comes to agreementon the proposal’s final score, a three-digit number.In this system, 100 is the best possible score,and 500 is the worst. After reviewing the proposalas individuals, proposals that the committeemembers agree are not of high enough quality tobe competitive are often not even discussed atthe peer review meeting, and will not receive anumerical score.getting funded99

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