NIH encourages you to submit an Assignment Request Form with your application

The form can help direct your application to a particular study section (scientific review group) and give us information to help us conduct the review. It allows you an opportunity to request an awarding component (an NIH institute or center such as NIMH) assignment or assignment to a specific study section. There is no requirement that all fields in the form be completed. The form is for internal use only; we do not share it with reviewers. The form is optional but assignment requests made in a cover letter instead will not be accepted. NIH experts always examine your submitted application and will make knowledgeable decisions about its assignment in lieu of any specific requests.

 

Reasons to Use an Assignment Request Form

  • Suggest we assign your application to a particular scientific review group.
  • Suggest we assign your application to a specific awarding component (an NIH institute or center) that you think would be interested in your research.
  • Let us know of potential reviewers who you feel might be in conflict with your application.
  • Describe the expertise needed to review your application. Do not provide names.

Suggesting a Scientific Review Group

We designed our review groups to have some overlap, so more than one might have the expertise to review your application. You may express a preference and we will try to accommodate your request if it is appropriate and possible. Our scientific staff make the final assignment after they carefully consider your suggestions and explanations in light of NIH policies. The review location for some applications is predetermined, such as those submitted under a request for applications (RFA).

There are a number of ways to identify an appropriate study section:

  • You can search for a CSR review group by searching for topics or using the CSR Assisted Referral Tool.
  • Examine recent study section rosters to gauge the scope of the group. Note that rosters change over time as we recruit reviewers based on the scientific content of the applications.
  • Consider seeking guidance from an NIH institute or center program officer (PO). These individuals usually attend meetings of review groups and can share their insight.
  • Use the NIH RePorter database to identify the study sections that reviewed successful applications in your field. Please pay attention to recent applications and be aware that our study section guidelines are regularly updated.

Requesting Assignments to Awarding Components

You can also request that your application be assigned to an awarding component you think would have the most interest in your research. It's a good idea to contact one or more program officers for guidance before you submit. You can identify NIH program officers via staff listings on NIH institute and center web sites. You should also look at the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) you will use to submit your application. Applications cannot be assigned to an institute or center that does not participate in the particular funding announcement.

Helping Ensure Your Review is Unbiased and Appropriate

Identify potential reviewers you think might be in conflict with your application. Rosters are typically posted online 30 days before the review meeting and, if you see a reviewer on it who could be biased, contact your scientific review officer (SRO) as soon as possible. Additionally, use the Assignment Request Form to tell us if you know of a potential reviewer who you believe could not provide an impartial review. A researcher in your own field who holds a different scientific opinion is not automatically considered biases. These individuals usually provide excellent reviews because they understand the scientific issues. Your scientific review officer will consider the situation and make the final decision. If he/she agrees that there is a conflict, the reviewer will not be assigned to your application and will not be in the room when it's discussed. (Scientific review officers will only be able to confirm that NIH policy was followed and will not be able to tell you if specific people were placed in conflict.) Learn more about NIH policy on conflicts of interest.

Information That Can Be Conveyed in the Assignment Request Form

  • Up to three positive (please assign to) or negative (please do not assign to) requests for assignment to an awarding component. Include the short abbreviation (e.g. NCI for National Cancer Institute) on the form.
  • Up to three positive or negative study section (scientific review group) requests. Include the short abbreviation of the study section you wish to request. Be careful to capture all formatting (e.g. spaces, hyphens) when you type in the request.
  • List individuals who you believe should not review your application and why.
  • Explain or list expertise/disciplines involved.
  • Other information, such as the reason for a late submission, should be conveyed in your cover letter.