Proposals are evaluated by a panel in a face-to-face meeting of the panel (although reviews are occurring with greater frequency by phone or video conferencing to save money). Download a description of the formal process by which reviewers assign scores, how the scores of individual reviewers are combined during the reviewer meeting, and how decisions are made to discuss or not discuss proposals.
Download the formal review criteria used by reviewers for R-series grants, a copy of the rating scale that reviewers use to rate these grants, and the formal template the reviewers are asked to complete for each R grant.
Download a list of the most common reasons R grants are given poor ratings by reviewers.
Download the formal review criteria used by reviewers for K-series grants, a copy of the rating scale that reviewers use to rate these grants, and the formal template the reviewers are asked to complete for each K grant.
Download a list of the most common reasons K grants are given poor ratings by reviewers.
Grants receive scores on a 1 to 10 scale, with higher numbers reflecting a worse score. About 60% of the grants are scored as “Not Discussed,” which means that they are in the lower 60% of proposals reviewed. Such grants are not discussed at the face-to-face review meeting. You are provided a summary sheet of reviewer evaluations of the proposal, whether or not it was discussed in the reviewer meeting. These are made available about two to four weeks after the review panel meets. The summary sheets are made available on the government website called “eRAcommons.” Contact the Office for Research staff to obtain an account for eRAcommons (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Although it varies by Institute within NIH and budget cuts imposed on NIH by Congress, grants that receive scores in the top 10% are typically funded. If your grant is discussed, you will receive a percentile ranking of your proposal. Otherwise, you will receive a score of ND (not discussed).
You are allowed one re-submission of a proposal. Some researchers decide they should not bother resubmitting if their proposal was not discussed. The decision to resubmit should be based on the content of the summary sheet of reviews and whether you think the criticisms can be addressed. Sometimes the difference between being discussed and not being discussed is determined by a fraction of a point on the rating scale, so it is better to base resubmission decisions on the summary sheet comments rather than the ratings of the proposal per se.
When you submit a resubmission, you write a one page response to the reviews and physically flag changes in the main grant by italicizing or right-lining in the margin the new text. You should approach reviewer comments as constructive criticism. Do not fight with reviewers, but stand up for what you believe is right. Usually, fighting with reviewers is a losing battle.
Download an example of a one page response to reviewers.
Only 8% of grants are funded on their first submission. Resubmissions are the norm.
As of April 2014, NIH now allows proposals that have gone through the submission and resubmission process without being funded to be submitted as a new grant that makes no reference to the original submission. Prior to April 2014, the mandated delay before submitting a previously submitted proposal as a new proposal was three years. There is no longer a waiting period.