Opportunities and challenges for peer review at NIH

By | March 24, 2016

On March 14, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center for Scientific Review (CSR) Advisory Council met to discuss a broad range of topics affecting peer review at the nation’s largest funder of biological and biomedical research.

Mike Lauer, MD, Director of the NIH Office of Extramural Research, presented an overview of different strategies for measuring the impact of research activity and how such measures affect review of an investigators’ future research activities. Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), Walter Koroshetz, MD, discussed strategies utilized by the institute to manage its research portfolio and address declines in applications for support of basic research projects.

Several discussions during the meeting focused on the explicit requirement that applicants address aspects of research reproducibility in their grant applications that went into effect in January. Janine Clayton, MD, Director of the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health, emphasized the importance of considering sex as a biological variable. She provided an overview of the extent of analysis required for different stages of research.

CSR Director Richard Nakamura, PhD, noted the challenges for both applicants and reviewers to fulfill the new policy. Council members suggested that more detailed guidance documentation and examples of what would be considered acceptable be provided to reduce confusion.

To better accommodate the growing number of grant applications and ensure that the standards for peer review remain high, CSR has hired additional Scientific Review Officers. The Institute also continues to experiment with different meeting formats and reviewer workloads to make peer review service less onerous for reviewers and CSR staff. Meeting materials, including the archived videocast, can be accessed through the CSR website.