The National Institutes of Health (NIH) on February 20 issued a notice reiterating the agency’s expectation that funded investigators serve in advisory roles. The notice stressed the importance of peer review and advisory groups in guiding NIH’s research priorities, and the need to ensure representation of diverse perspectives in these processes. “The NIH expects principal investigators of NIH-supported grants and contracts to serve on NIH peer review groups, when asked,” the notice says. Grantee institutions are also encouraged to support participation of funded researchers in such activities.
Recent discussions of the NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR) Advisory Council, Advisory Committee to the NIH Director, and the NIH Scientific Management Review Board have all noted the difficulty of recruiting qualified investigators to serve on peer and advisory panels. In 2014, these panels required approximately 24,000 individual reviewers and 2,500 meetings. In a post to the NIH Rock Talk Blog, CSR Director Richard Nakamura, PhD, and NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Sally Rockey, PhD, examined the peer review service of scientists currently funded by NIH. They discovered that of the 25,500 researchers within this pool, less than half (45 percent) have served one day of peer review service per year. NIH reissued its policy regarding service in an effort to increase participation.