Engage the Best Reviewers
The excellence of peer review is directly correlated to our ability to recruit and retain the most accomplished, broad-thinking and creative scientists to serve on study sections.
- Providing Benefits for Reviewers. In 2009, new reviewers were given additional flexibility (PDF - 50 KB) regarding their tour of duty, and other efforts were undertaken to improve retention of standing review members. In addition, reviewers with substantial, recent service are eligible for continuous submission of their applications.
- Recruiting the Best Reviewers. A best practices document for recruiting reviewers was made available to all Scientific Review Officers in 2009 via the Review Policy Committee.
- Enhancing Reviewer Training. In spring 2009, training was provided to reviewers and SROs related to the changes in peer review. Additional training is planned as new changes are announced.
- Allowing Flexibility through Virtual Reviews. High-bandwidth support is available for some review meetings to provide reviewers greater flexibility and alternatives for in-person meetings.
2008 Academic Rank of CSR Reviewers (PDF - 31 KB)
Increased Use of Adhoc Reviewers (Final Report, page 29) (PDF - 1.61 MB) - As a result of the increase in the number of applications submitted, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of temporary reviewers needed. In FY 2005, this number reached a high of approximately 15,000 reviewers. Most recently, these numbers have been reduced to approximately 12,000, due in part to an increase in the number of charter study section members.
Increase in Reviewer Workload (Final Report, page 30) (PDF - 1.61 MB) - Another trend contributing to the need for additional reviewers relates to reducing individual reviewer workload. The average number of applications reviewed per reviewer has steadily decreased from just slightly less than 12 applications per reviewer in the mid-1990s to a low of six applications per reviewer in 2005. Over the past two years however, the trend appears to be increasing again: Each reviewer is now reviewing, on average, seven applications.
Number of Activity Codes from 1970 (Report, pg. 36) (PDF - 1.61 MB) - The desire to meet the unique needs of different scientific communities has led to the creation of new mechanisms or the need for ICs to use the same mechanisms in different ways across the NIH. While this flexibility is a potential benefit to investigators, administrators from applicant organizations report that this practice results in some confusion. In addition, CSR study sections review applications that will be sent to different ICs for funding consideration. As a result, reviewing applications is complicated by the need to review applications responding to programs with varying goals and criteria.