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NIH Unveils Enhancements and Improvements for Peer Review

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health unveiled on Friday during a meeting of advisors its plans to enhance and improve its peer review system.
 
These changes in peer review policy are “concrete solutions that will maximize flexibility, remove any unnecessary burden, stimulate new innovation, and promote transformative research," NIH Director Elias Zerhouni said in a statement.
 
The changes follow a year-long effort to solicit new ideas from a variety of interested stakeholders and administrators that generated thousands of comments, opinions, and criticisms, the NIH said.
 
The mandate on which the peer review working groups focused was to “fund the best science, by the best scientists, with the least administrative burden," said Lawrence Tabak, director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and a co-chair of the two groups.
 
The new peer review system would encourage and expand the Transformative Research Pathway, reduce the burden of multiple rounds of submission for the same application, ensure balanced reviews, and improve the transparency of the reviews, said NIH. The new policies also intend to improve the quality of reviews and shorten the length of applications dramatically to 12 pages and an 8 page appendix, said Taback. 

 

“First-rate peer review is a cornerstone of what NIH does, but our reality of course is that the increasing breadth and complexity of science has created new challenges for peer review,” Tabak said at the meeting of the Advisory Committee to the Director.
 
The NIH expects that the changes will increase the flexibility of service for reviewers, and will formally acknowledge their efforts and give them further compensation for their time and effort.
 
Another core idea of the new policies is that the NIH will develop a permanent process for continuous review of the system.
 
Some of the policy changes include the expanded use of flexible deadlines, and spreading a 12-session reviewer commitment period over a four- to six-year period, Tabak told the meeting.
 
He also said that reviewers who have provided outstanding and sustained service for a minimum of 18 full study section meetings as chartered members may apply for an administrative supplement of up to $250,000. Reviewers also may request to be considered for Merit/Javits awards on a competitive basis.
 
As part of an effort to streamline the reviewing process and to increase reliability, the scale by which peer reviewers must identify the merit of an application will be shortened from a 41-step scale to a 7-step scale.
 
The review process also will focus on central criteria such as the impact of the research, an investigator’s innovation or originality, and the feasibility of the project’s plan.
 
More information about the peer review plan can be found here.

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