The Center for Scientific Review (CSR) is the gateway for NIH grant applications and their review for scientific merit. We organize the peer review groups or study sections that evaluate the majority (75%) of the research grant applications sent to NIH. We also receive all grant applications for NIH, as well as for some other components of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Since 1946, we have worked to see that NIH grant applications receive fair, independent, expert, and timely reviews—free from inappropriate influences—so NIH can fund the most promising research.
The Power of Peer Review
Our peer review system has enabled NIH to fund fundamental, cutting-edge research that years later led to new treatments which have allowed millions to leave their doctor’s office with new drugs and cures for diseases that afflicted their parents or grandparents.
Why Has NIH Peer Review Been So Successful?
- It is transparent to the applicant.
- The focus is on funding ideas or people not institutions.
- Ideas spring from independent researchers across the country.
- Researchers must compete—like entrepreneurs—for funding.
- Scientists from the external community are the primary judges.
- Scientists and staff put a high value on fairness and work hard to maintain it.
Challenges and Changes
To keep medical advances coming, we are working to:
- Become more scientific in assessing approaches to improve the efficiency and the quality of NIH peer review.
- Improve study section alignment to evolving fields of science.
- Understand and address possible disparities in NIH awards.
- Collaborate with the NIH and scientific communities here and abroad to identify critical problems and develop solutions for supporting the best science.
- Build up the culture of peer review that keeps it fair and effective.
The power that drives NIH is found in the collective efforts of people who submit, review, and administer NIH grant applications. We continue to reach out to inform and involve as many of them as possible.