March 15, 2011

From GrantWeek: NIH How-To: Revision, Resubmission, and Review

As part of its resources defining the full life cycle of a grant, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has provided detailed guidance on how to revise and resubmit an application that is declined for funding. This interactive website provides some common-sense advice ("Competition is tough, and it is very common not to succeed at the first attempt") and, more importantly, allows applicants to work their way through a flow chart describing how to determine whether a resubmission is warranted and permitted, lodge a formal appeal, start over with a new application, or search for funding outside NIH.

Investigators who have applied to NIH and had their proposals declined or who plan to submit their first NIH application can gather practical intelligence from the flowchart itself and from the seeds of insight scattered throughout:

  • What a Summary Statement Means (Here it's noted that, due in part to today's shorter summary statements, "you can correct all the problems in the summary statement and still not get a fundable score when you reapply.")
  • How to Assess the Severity of Application Problems ("Faint praise can be a worse sign than abundant criticism. You should be concerned if reviewers had no major criticisms of your application, but it got an unfundable score.")
  • How to Time a Resubmission (If your program officer attended the review meeting and told you that the discussion was favorable except for some fixable problems, it might advisable to start work on the revision even before receiving the summary statement.)
  • Can a Resubmission Hurt You? (The answer is yes; still, "during fiscal years 1996 to 2006, more than 80 percent of resubmissions got better scores, and less than five percent got significantly worse scores.")
  • Should You Appeal a Negative Funding Decision? ("Even if you win, you will have to resubmit the application, unchanged, for the next review cycle."
  • When to Look for Funding outside NIH (Consider National Health Council Health Research Funding for applications that were reviewed but not funded by NIH.)

In other NIH applicant review news, the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) has launched a new website to keep researchers up-to-date on realignment and reorganization of the study sections and integrated review groups that evaluate NIH proposals. CSR uses a comprehensive, biannual process to assess and adjust review groups to keep them current with changes in scientific disciplines. With the new website, these efforts of CSR staff, reviewers, and academic and scientific stakeholders will operate with more transparency. See the new study section guidelines and the January 2011 issue of NIH Peer Review Notes for additional information.

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