Step 3: Peer Review and Funding Outcomes
Peer Review Process
After you develop and submit your grant application and the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) and NCI receive and assign it, it will undergo the NIH Peer Review process to ensure that your application receives fair, independent, expert, and timely review so that the most promising research may be funded.
The NIH peer review system consists of two sequential levels of review mandated in 1974 by Section 475 of the Public Health Service Act. This dual review process provides a more objective evaluation than a single level of peer review by guaranteeing that the members of the scientific research community evaluate the project’s scientific and technical merit. The goal of the system is to provide the responsible NIH official with the best advice available regarding both scientific and societal values and needs.
The two levels of the NCI Peer Review process:
- Level 1- Initial Peer Review: The CSR or the NCI manages the initial peer review meetings to evaluate the scientiﬁc merit of research grant/cooperative agreement applications.
- Level 2 - NCI National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) Peer Review: The NCAB conducts the second level of the dual peer review system.
Just-in-Time (JIT) Information
For applications reviewed by the CSR and scored within a certain range, the NIH automatically sends an email requesting the following JIT information:
- Updated other support for senior/key personnel
- Certification of Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for the use of human subjects (if applicable)
- Required Education in the Protection of Human Subjects (if applicable)
- Certification of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval (if applicable)
These requests are not a Notice of Award (NoA) or a guarantee of funding.
JIT information must be submitted for review and evaluation prior to an award being made.
JIT information must be submitted electronically using the Just-in-Time feature in the eRA Commons.
For questions regarding JIT requirements for a specific grant application, contact the assigned grants management specialist.
After the first three steps of the NCI grants process are complete, NCI will make funding decisions and selections for grants.
Around October 1st, the beginning of a new federal fiscal year, the NCI Scientific Program Leadership Committee (SPL) discusses program priorities and preliminary funding allocations. In order to determine the program allocations, the SPL considers:
- Congressional mandates
- New scientific opportunities
- New initiatives
- Program priorities
- Previous commitments, such as noncompeting continuations
- Other projected needs
- Anticipated availability of funds
The SPL cannot make final allocations and funding decisions until they know the actual amount of the federal appropriation.
In recent years the NCI has adopted a new approach to the selection of grant applications to ensure a balanced grant portfolio and to recognize the value of research proposals that are highly original or address important scientific priorities. NCI does not establish an absolute payline. To ensure that we are taking advantage of the most promising scientific opportunities, NCI sets a conservative funding range for those applications that score exceptionally well and will almost always receive funding. Applications that score well but at higher ranges receive further review by NCI’s scientific program staff and leadership. This process allows individual consideration of a broad range of applications, while maintaining the principle that peer review remains the primary consideration for funding.
The NCAB approves more grants than the NCI budget can finance. Early in the fiscal year, the NCI formulates funding guidelines for its programs based on expected allocations of funds, program requirements, and prior history. Final funding decisions are made by the director of the NCI and the NCI Scientific Program Leadership (SPL), based primarily on review percentile/impact score ratings of scientific merit, the institute’s program objectives, avoidance of duplicate effort, and other considerations. The funding mechanisms are reevaluated prior to each grant review cycle and adjusted to the current level of funds available and future funding.
After review and discussion with the NCI division, program and grants management, it becomes an authorization (paylist). The chief GMO and grants management staff use this paylist as the authority to complete the administrative review, negotiation, and award process.
Options if Your Application Isn’t Funded
If your application isn’t funded, you have three options:
- Revise and resubmit
- Create a new application
- Apply outside of NIH
Following an unsuccessful initial application, the NIH permits one attempt to resubmit the application. If you decide to resubmit, you should know that resubmissions have unique rules. NIH will not accept a resubmission later than 37 months after the receipt date of the initial New, Renewal, or Revision application. Applications must be submitted for the dates listed in the appropriate Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA).
The NIH will also accept a new (A0) application following an unsuccessful initial submission (A0) or resubmission (A1) application. The subsequent new application does not need to demonstrate substantial changes in scientific direction compared to previously reviewed submissions and it must not contain an introduction to respond to the critiques from the previous reviews. The number of submission cycles is not limited, but NIH does however encourage applicants to refine and strengthen all application submissions. See NOT-OD-14-082 for additional information.