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Peer Review Process

Upon receipt, competing applications will be reviewed both by the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for completeness and for conformance to all eligibility requirements and special provisions and requirements. Incomplete applications will be returned to the applicant without further consideration.

Those applications judged to be complete and eligible will be evaluated, according to the review criteria listed in the T32 Program Announcement, by Subcommittee F convened by the Division of Extramural Activities of the NCI. Applications will receive a second level review by the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) to determine if the application meets the broad program needs and priorities of the NCI and the National Cancer Program.

NCI Peer Review Criteria

The scientific review group will consider and address each of the core review criteria presented below when reviewing and scoring T32 applications. Reviewers will determine the quality of the proposed research training program, including information presented in the data tables and appendix. Reviewers will consider whether the requested number of trainees and the ratio of pre-doctorals to post-doctorals positions are appropriate for the program.

Overall Impact:
Reviewers will provide an overall impact score and critique to reflect their assessment of the likelihood of the training program to provide high quality cancer research training that will adequately prepare individuals to pursue research careers in the research area focus of the program, taking into consideration the following five core review criteria in determining the overall score.

Five Core Review Criteria

1. Training Program and Environment:

• Is the training program unique, relative to other training programs in the same institution?
• Are the research facilities and research environment conducive to preparing trainees for successful careers as biomedical scientists?
• Do the objectives, design and direction of the proposed research program ensure effective training?
• Is the proposed program of training likely to ensure that trainees will be prepared for successful and productive scientific careers?
• Do the courses, where relevant, and research training experiences address state-of-the-art science relevant to the aims of the program?
• Does the program provide training in inter- or multidisciplinary research and/or provide training in state-of-the-art or novel methodologies and techniques?
• Is a significant level of institutional commitment to the program evident?

2. Training Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI):

• Does the Training PD/PI have the scientific background, expertise, and experience to provide strong leadership, direction, management, and administration to the proposed cancer research training program?  
• Does the PD/PI plan to commit sufficient time to the program to ensure its success?  
• Is sufficient administrative and research-training support provided for the program?  
• For applications using the multiple PD/PI (PDs/PIs)

o Is a strong justification provided that the multiple PD/PI leadership approach will benefit the training program and the trainees?
o Is a strong and compelling leadership approach evident, including the designated roles and responsibilities, governance, and organizational structure consistent with and justified by the aims of the training program and with the complementary expertise of each of the PD/PIs?

3. Preceptors/Mentors:

• Are sufficient numbers of experienced preceptors/mentors with appropriate expertise and funding available to support the number and level of trainees proposed in the application?  
• Do the preceptors/mentors have strong records as researchers, including successful competition for independent peer reviewed research support in areas directly related to the proposed research training program?  
• Do the preceptors/mentors have strong records of training pre- and/or post-doctoral fellows?
• Are there plans to advise the less experienced T32 program faculty by the established preceptors?
• Are there plans to broadly distribute trainees among mentors?

4. Trainees:

• Is a recruitment plan proposed? Does it include strategies to attract high quality trainees and diverse populations?

o What is the number and quality of eligible/candidate trainees for this training program?
o Are plans to recruit trainees from both outside and inside of their sponsoring institutions presented?

• Are there well-defined and justified selection criteria and retention strategies?  
• Is there a competitive applicant pool adequate to warrant the proposed number of predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees for this training program?

5. Training Record:

• How successful are the trainees (or for new applications, other past students/fellows in similar training) in completing the program?  
• How productive are the trainees (or for new applications, other past students/fellows) in terms of research accomplishments and publications?  
• How successful are the trainees (or other past students/fellows) in obtaining further training appointments, fellowships, and/or career development awards?  
• How successful are the trainees in achieving productive scientific careers, as evidenced by successful competition for research grants, receipt of honors or awards, high-impact publications, receipt of patents, promotion to scientific leadership positions, and/or other such measures of success?    
• Does the application describe a rigorous evaluation plan to access the quality and effectiveness of the training program?

o Does it include a system for tracking participants following program completion, such as publications, grant proposals and awards, and career trajectory of supported trainees?  
o Is the evaluation plan adequate to track career outcomes of trainees and to determine if the program is successful?

• Are effective mechanisms in place for obtaining feedback from current and former trainees and monitoring trainees’ subsequent career development?

• Competitive Renewal Applications

  The committee will consider the progress made in the last funding period.

o Does the application describe the program’s accomplishments over the past funding period(s)?
o Will the proposed program improve/strengthen the training experience?
o How successful has the program been in efforts to recruit and retain individuals from diverse underrepresented populations?
o What is the track record of the training program in achieving its objectives?
o Has the program successfully filled the training slots?
o Have trainees been broadly distributed among the mentors?


Additional Review Criteria

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will evaluate the following additional items while determining scientific and technical merit, and in providing an overall impact/priority score, but will not give separate scores for these items.

Protections for Human Subjects

Generally not applicable. Reviewers should bring any concerns to the attention of the Scientific Review Officer.

Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Children 

Generally not applicable. Reviewers should bring any concerns to the attention of the Scientific Review Officer.

Vertebrate Animals

Generally not applicable. Reviewers should bring any concerns to the attention of the Scientific Review Officer.


Generally not applicable. Reviewers should bring any concerns to the attention of the Scientific Review Officer.

Resubmission (previously called “Revised” or “Amended”) Applications

When reviewing a Resubmission application, the review committee will evaluate the application as now presented, taking into consideration the responses to comments from the previous scientific review group (i.e., in the summary statement) and changes made to the project.


Additional Review Considerations

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will consider each of the following items, but will not give scores for these items, and should not consider them in providing an overall impact/priority score.

Recruitment and Retention Plan to Enhance Diversity

Peer reviewers will separately evaluate the recruitment and retention plan to enhance diversity after the overall score has been determined. Reviewers will examine the strategies to be used in the recruitment and retention of individuals from underrepresented groups. The review panel’s evaluation will be included in an administrative note in the summary statement.

Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research

Taking into account the specific characteristics of the training program, level of trainee experience, and the particular circumstances of the trainees, the reviewers will address the following questions.  Does the plan satisfactorily address the format of instruction, e.g. lectures, coursework and/or real-time discussion groups?  Do plans include a sufficiently broad selection of subject matter, such as conflict of interest, authorship, data management, human subjects and animal use, laboratory safety?  Do the plans adequately describe how faculty will participate in the instruction?  Does the plan meet the minimum requirements for RCR, i.e., eight contact hours of instruction every four years?  If this is a renewal, is there a report describing past instruction in the five components described above? The review of this consideration will be guided by the principles set forth in NOT-OD10-019. Plans and past record will be rated as ACCEPTABLE or UNACCEPTABLE, and the summary statement will provide the consensus of the review committee.

Select Agent Research

Reviewers will assess the information provided in this section of the application, including 1) the Select Agent(s) to be used in the proposed research, 2) the registration status of all entities where Select Agent(s) will be used, 3) the procedures that will be used to monitor possession use and transfer of Select Agent(s), and 4) plans for appropriate biosafety, biocontainment, and security of the Select Agent(s).

Budget and Period of Support

Reviewers will consider whether the budget and the requested period of support are fully justified and reasonable in relation to the proposed research.