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Updated Criteria for Evaluating Research Grant Applications

NIH has issued updated criteria for evaluating research grant applications that will be used for proposals received on or after January 10, 2005.

The updated criteria were developed to accommodate interdisciplinary, translational and clinical proposals. They will be applied to all proposals that fall into the following categories:

  • Investigator-initiated research grant applications;
  • Investigator-initiated research grant applications submitted in response to Program Announcements (PAs)

Solicited research grant applications submitted in response to Requests for Applications (RFAs) will continue to use the review criteria described in the RFA.

The goals of NIH research are to advance understanding of biological systems, to improve the control of disease, and to enhance health. In their written critiques, reviewers will be asked to comment on each of the following criteria in order to judge the likelihood that the proposed research will have a substantial impact on the pursuit of these goals. Each criterion will be addressed and considered in assigning the overall score, weighting them as appropriate for each application. An application does not need to be strong in all categories to be judged likely to have major scientific impact and earn a high priority score. For example, an investigator may propose to carry out important work that by its nature is not innovative but is essential to move a field forward. Click here for full text of the individual criteria.

  • Significance - Does this study address an important problem? If the aims of the application are achieved, how will scientific knowledge or clinical practice be advanced? What will be the effect of these studies on the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field?
  • Approach - Are the conceptual or clinical framework, design, methods, and analyses adequately developed, well integrated, well reasoned, and appropriate to the aims of the project? Does the applicant acknowledge potential problem areas and consider alternative tactics?
  • Innovation – Is the project original and innovative? For example: Does the project challenge existing paradigms or clinical practice; address an innovative hypothesis or critical barrier to progress in the field? Does the project develop or employ novel concepts, approaches, methodologies, tools, or technologies for this area?
  • InvestigatorsAre the investigators appropriately trained and well suited to carry out this work? Is the work proposed appropriate to the experience level of the principal investigator and other researchers? Does the investigative team bring complementary and integrated expertise to the project (if applicable)?
  • Environment– Does the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Do the proposed studies benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, or subject populations, or employ useful collaborative arrangements? Is there evidence of institutional support?

RFAs, which are published in the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts, may list additional elements related to the specific requirement of the RFA, under each of the above criteria.

Additional Review Criteria: In addition to the above criteria, the following items will continue to be considered in the determination of scientific merit and the priority score:

  • Protection of Human Subjects from Research Risk
  • Inclusion of Women, Minorities and Children in Research
  • Care and Use of Vertebrate Animals in Research
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