Grant Review

Disclosure: I participated in the preparation of one of the Collaborative Research Center applications.

Today and tomorrow, the applications for ME/CFS Collaborative Research Centers and Data Coordinating Center are undergoing peer review at NIH. It’s a very important stage in the decision making process, and competition is tight.

If you look at the roster for the review panel, you will undoubtedly recognize some names. There are nine ME experts on the panel, out of twenty-six total members. Because there is a great deal of overlap among ME experts, I reported on NIH’s management of potential conflicts of interest in grant review.

Peer review is incredibly important at NIH. The review panel is comprised of scientists with relevant expertise. They score the applications on a variety of criteria, and come up with an overall impact score “to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved.” The final calculated score ranges between 10 and 90, with 10 being the best possible score. Applicants can access their scores three days after the meeting, or no later than August 1st in this case. Summary statements, which include reviewer comments, are available about thirty days after the meeting.

But the scores are not the end of the process. The rest of the decision making happens within NIH. Program staff prepare funding recommendations based on scores, comments, and the Institutes’ overall research priorities. Those recommendations are presented to the Institute Advisory Councils, which review the material in light of the Institutes’ goals and needs. The Council recommendations go to the Institute Director, who makes the ultimate decision on which grants are funded.

The Council stage in our case is a little complicated. There are ten Institutes contributing money to the RFAs, but it seems unwieldy to present recommendations to all ten Councils. NINDS is listed first on both RFAs, and Dr. Vicky Whittemore is the research point of contact, so I am assuming that NINDS Council and Director will be presented with the recommendations. However, NIAID is contributing the same amount of money as NINDS ($2 million per year for five years), so it is possible that NIAID Council will also be consulted.

The dates of the Council meetings are important to note because it creates a very tight deadline. The NINDS Council meeting is September 7-8th. The NIAID Council meeting is on September 11th. Final award decisions must be made immediately afterwards because the fiscal year ends on September 30th. Dr. Whittemore has said that they hope to get Notice of Award letters out before that date.

There is one more item, tucked almost out of notice. Another meeting of the CFS Special Emphasis Panel will be held on July 31st. I can only assume that this group will review applications submitted under the general funding opportunity, and not under the RFAs.

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10 Responses to Grant Review

  1. BOBBI ausubel says:

    Cheers to you for obtaining all this info. and Bigger Cheers for understanding all this.
    May the work BLOOM. You are an outstanding investigator!

  2. Terry Gilmete says:

    Fantastic! Thank you for your reporting and thank you for all the links to help in understanding this process!

  3. Cheryl Boese says:

    Thank you for keeping us informed and educated on this complex process. I appreciate the effort and energy you expended on this. I love the links that ptovide an opportunity to dig deeper. I always learn so much from your blog! Your work is impactful and inspiring!

  4. It is a little disconcerting to see important things have short deadlines – after minimal advance warning to the affected people. ‘Hurry up and wait – but be prepared to turn on a dime’ doesn’t allow feedback from slow patients.

    And the next round won’t be for a year. A lot rides on these decisions.

    Thanks for the informational post. Wish it didn’t give me a queasy stomach.

  5. Christine Williams says:

    Thank you Jennie. Your expertise and attention to detail is much appreciated by all of us holding out hope for real progress. Chris Williams

  6. Ixchelkali says:

    Thanks, Jennie. I appreciate your efforts in keeping us informed.

  7. billie moore says:

    Jennie, thank you for another very informative blog post. Would you please list the names of the ME/CFS experts on the panel, as I did not recognize the nine you mentioned? Thanks.

  8. Kathy D. says:

    Thanks for this update.

    Solve ME has sent out an email asking people to send in votes for Congress to reinstate the money allocated to study ME/CFS. The House of Representatives took this item out of their budget. It is very important to put pressure on Congress to reinstate this amount, although it’s skimpy.

    Also, Jose Montoya of Stanford U. issued an important study linking 17 cytokines to ME/CFS; the levels vary with severity of the disease. This is going around to many media, and was published the PNAS journal and in the Science journal. It’s been on NRP, ABC News Good Morning America and Reuters, as far as mainstream press.
    Please note.

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