NIH Notice: Changes in the Peer Review Appeals Process


 Summary:            NIH has changed the appeals process and requirements after peer review. Faculty who submit applications to the NIH should be made aware of this notice. In summary from the notice:

An appeal letter will be accepted only if the letter 1) describes the flaws in the review process for the application in question, 2) explains the reasons for the appeal, and 3) is based on one or more of the following issues related to the process of the initial peer review:

  • Evidence of bias on the part of one or more peer reviewers.
  • Conflict of interest, as specified in regulation at 42 CFR 52h.5.“Scientific Peer Review of Research Grant Applications and Research and Development Contract Projects”, on the part of one or more peer reviewers.
  • Lack of appropriate expertise within the SRG.
  • Factual error(s) made by one or more reviewers that could have altered the outcome of review substantially.

Appeal letters based solely on differences of scientific opinion will not be accepted.  A letter that does not meet these criteria and/or does not include the concurrence of the AOR will not be considered an appeal letter, but rather a grievance.  The IC will handle grievances according to IC- specific procedures.  Appeals involving potential COI or violation of ethical conduct rules on the part of an NIH staff member or other federal employee will be referred to the appropriate Deputy Ethics Counselor for consideration and resolution before any further review of, or action on, the appeal is taken.

Only two outcomes are possible following consideration of an appeal letter by Council:

  • The Council may concur with the appeal, and recommend that the application be re-reviewed. 
  • The Council may concur with the SRG’s recommendation and deny the appeal.  Although factual errors or other issues may be evident, the Council may determine that these factors were unlikely to alter the final outcome of the SRG and deny the appeal.  No action by the Council is equivalent to concurrence with the SRG’s recommendation and denial of the appeal.

The recommendation of Council concerning resolution of an appeal is final and will not be considered again by the NIH through this or another process.  At no time should the PD/PI or an official of the applicant organization attempt to contact individual members of the Council to discuss their consideration of an application or appeal, as doing so could jeopardize the confidentiality of the review process.

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