An Inside Look at NIH Peer Review

Scholarly peer review is the process by which a researcher’s work — grant applications and research articles — are subjected to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field. This process of evaluation requires a community of experts for a given field who are both qualified and able to perform impartial review. These experts recommend scholarly work for acceptance, revision or rejection. Although impartial review may be difficult to accomplish, it is generally considered essential to academic quality and is used in most important scientific publications. Peer review encourages researchers to meet the accepted standards of their discipline and prevents the dissemination of irrelevant findings, unjustified claims, unacceptable interpretations and personal views.

Recovery Act Drives Record Number of NIH Grant Applications

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) was signed into law by President Obama on February 17th, 2009. It included significant support for biomedical research. As part of the Recovery Act, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) designated at least $200 million for a new initiative in fiscal year 2009 – 2010 called the NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research (RC1). The initiative is designed to fund approximately 200 grants. Earlier this week, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced that the NIH has received approximately 20,000 Challenge Grant applications through the Recovery Act [1].


By way of comparison, the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) reviewed 27,360 Research Project Grants (R01s) and 9,483 Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants (R21s) for the entire year of 2008 [2]. Over the next few months, the CSR will check the submitted Challenge Grant applications for compliance and then review them in a two-phase process. Reviewers with expertise in the specific Challenge Areas (listed below) will do the first phase reviews, followed by a study section comprised of researchers who will focus on each application’s overall significance and impact. The earliest anticipated start date for those grants funded is September 30th, 2009.