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Fall 2010, Issue 12

Results of NIH Reviewer Focus Groups

Over the summer, the Office of Proposal Development, in collaboration with Naomi Rosenberg from the Sackler School and Linden Hu from Tufts Medical Center, organized focus groups of Tufts faculty members who had served recently on NIH study sections. The goal was to discuss how the recent changes to NIH submission requirements have affected the process of peer review and the reviewers’ experiences with the new, shorter proposal format.

On September 14th, a public presentation and discussion was held to share focus group results in the hope that faculty members who have not served on a recent study section would benefit from their colleagues’ experiences as they prepare for the next round of submissions. The Office of Proposal Development put together a summary of reviewers’ comments combined with insights gained from readings of grant submissions and summary sheets from a variety of fields and with a range of scores.

Take-home points:

  • The major criterion was the future impact of the proposed work, defined as significance coupled with feasibility. The impact is that on the field, not necessarily that on human health.

  • The most successful proposals were by those who had clearly started over with the new format, rather than trying to condense the longer format into 12 pages.

  • The proposal has to take the research out of the principal investigator’s “comfort zone,” which often requires out-of-field collaboration.

  • Reviewers agreed that the review criteria favor new applications over renewals because of the emphasis on innovation and pushing the boundaries of research. However, at this point, there have not been enough review cycles to evaluate how reviewers in a range of study sections approach renewal applications.

To watch a video of the presentation, click here.

To download a summary of findings, click here.

For more on the Office of Proposal Development, please see http://grantwriting.tufts.edu.



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