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The NIH Review Process

The grant review process at the NIH is a two-step process designed to provide a fair review of every application. In order to prevent a conflict of interest, the two-step review isolates a project's scientific merit (the IRG review) from its implications for the policy of a particular institute (the Council Review).

The schematic below is a general representation of the NIH grant review process. Remember, there is no single way in which all applications are reviewed, so it's crucial to educate yourself about the process and to stay in contact with your NIH-designated point-of-contact.

Grant applications are sent to the NIH Center for Scientific Review.

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Within 6 weeks of the NIH receipt date, applicants should receive an assignment letter. This letter details a) the NIH institute/s to which the application has been assigned for possible funding,
b) the 12-14 character assignment number indicating the funding mechanism being applied for,
c) the scientific review group (SRG)/study section that will review the application, and
d) the name and contact information of the Scientific Review Administrator (SRA) who will manage the study section.

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The SRA of the study section administratively reviews the applications to assess appropriateness of assignment, completeness of application, adherence of application to PHS guidelines, and scientific and technical expertise needed to fairly and appropriately review the application. The SRA assigns each application to two or more reviewers to provide written critiques and lead review meeting discussion of that application.

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Four to eight weeks before the study section is to meet, applications are sent to study section members.

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The study section meets. Members decide which applications have sufficient scientific and technical merit to be discussed and scored. The other applications, deemed to have lesser scientific and technical merit, are neither discussed nor scored.

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Within two weeks of the study section meeting, applicants should receive a letter indicating whether their application was scored, and if scored, noting its priority score. If the score was percentiled, the percentile will also be included.

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Summary statements for all applications are compiled and mailed to PIs within two months of the meeting.

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The National Advisory Council of the assigned institute meets to determine whether study sections performed fair and appropriate review of all applications assigned to that institute for possible funding.

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The Institute decides whether to fund the application. PIs are notified of funding status six to 10 months after submission.

**Some applications, such as those for Small Business Innovative Research grants and fellowships and those focused on HIV/AIDS, receive expedited review.



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Last updated: August 12, 2003.