NIH Changes Criteria for Evaluating Grant Proposals

The National Institutes of Health, or NIH, has updated its 7-year-old Criteria for Evaluating Research Grant Applications to better accommodate clinical, interdisciplinary, and translational proposals.

NIH said the changes are in response to feedback from the extramural community indicating that the 1997 criteria did not sufficiently address the salient points of all projects.

To address these concerns and better accommodate clinical, interdisciplinary, and translational studies, the new guidelines were adopted at an August meeting of NIH Institute and Center Directors. The changes were made after a Roadmap Trans-NIH Clinical Research Workforce Committee worked with NIH staff, NIH committees, and chairs of Scientific Review Groups to modify the peer review criteria areas of significance, approach, innovation, investigators, and environment.

“The overriding aim was to ensure a rigorous and fair evaluation of all grant applications,” said NIH in a fact sheet crafted to answer questions about the criteria. “The updates were incorporated into a single set of criteria intended for use with all research grant applications.”

The new grant application evaluation criteria takes effect for all investigator initiated research grant applications submitted on or after January 10, 2005 – including those responding to a Program Announcement, or PA. This means that review committees will begin using the updated criteria for investigator-initiated grant applications during the summer of 2005, and all NIH PAs and Requests for Applications will be based on new NIH guidelines.

The American Psychological Society is evaluating the impact of these guidelines on behavioral and social psychology. Among the questions that have been raised are whether these changes would mean preferential treatment for clinical, translational, and interdisciplinary research proposals, and whether these criteria would affect support for other kinds of research proposals, including proposals in basic research.

More information about changes to the guidelines is available on the Office of Extramural Review Peer Review Policy and Issues Web site, at Inquiries regarding the updated peer review criteria may be directed to Anthony M. Coelho, Jr., Office of Extramural Programs, Office of Extramural Research, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 3533, Bethesda, MD 20892. Coelho can also be reached by telephone at (301) 402-7543 or via e-mail at

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