Clinical Research Center at the National Institutes of Health.

NIH revises grant review process to improve focus on scientific merit, reduce reputational bias

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The National Institutes of Health is taking steps to simplify its process to assess the scientific merit of research grant applications and mitigate elements that have the potential to introduce bias into review. The changes will help reviewers focus on the potential for proposed research to advance scientific knowledge and improve human health. Previously, five criteria were individually scored using a common scale; the simplified review framework reorganizes these criteria into three factors. Two of these factors – importance of research and rigor and feasibility – are scored using a common scale. A third factor, expertise and resources, is evaluated for sufficiency only and not given a numeric score. The simplified review framework will be implemented for grant applications received on or after Jan. 25, 2025.

“Studies have shown that consideration of reputation of the institution or investigator in the grant review process could affect assessment of scientific merit, potentially giving reputation greater weight than other factors,” said Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., Acting Director, NIH. “Ultimately, the potential impact of ideas on advancing science should outweigh the reputation of who is applying and where they work.”

NIH has been gathering significant feedback from the extramural community on the grant application review process, and in December 2022, the agency proposed revisions to the process through a Simplified Framework for NIH Peer Review Criteria initiative. These changes contribute to NIH’s decade long effort to address potential bias in grantmaking and enable a level playing field. Additionally, these changes reduce administrative responsibilities of peer reviewers, shifting them to NIH staff instead, thereby allowing reviewers to focus on the science. Read more …