Enhancing Peer Review: The NIH Announces Consolidation of Review Criteria for Institutional Research Training Grant Applications (T32) Submitted for FY 2010 Funding

Notice Number: NOT-OD-09-074

Update: The following update relating to this announcement has been issued:

Key Dates
Release Date: March 27, 2009

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH), (http://www.nih.gov)

Background

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awards Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Institutional Research Training Grants (T32) to institutions as one of its primary means of supporting predoctoral and postdoctoral research training, to ensure that a diverse and highly trained workforce is available to fulfill the Nation’s biomedical, behavioral and clinical research needs (PA-08-226).

In June 2007, NIH initiated a formal, agency-wide effort to evaluate the NIH peer review system (http://enhancing-peer-review.nih.gov/).  After careful deliberation and consideration of the recommendations resulting from this year-long evaluation, NIH announced a series of plans in the latter half of 2008 to implement a number of key changes in the NIH peer review system, including the introduction of a 9-point scoring system, for research grant and cooperative agreement applications received for Fiscal Year 2010 funding. 
Under the new scoring system, each of five review criteria will receive an individual score of 1 to 9 (1=outstanding, to 9=poor).  In addition, the overall impact/priority score will be reported in the summary statement for applications discussed at the review meeting; this overall score will be determined by considering the 5 scored criteria, plus additional review criteria. 

Currently, T32 training grant applications are evaluated based on 7 major criteria: (1) Training Program; (2) Training Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI); (3) Preceptors/Mentors; (4) Past Training Record; (5) Institutional Training Environment, Commitment, and Resources; (6) Trainee Recruitment, Selection, and Retention Plan; and (7) Short-Term and Research Training Positions, plus additional review criteria.  The purpose of this notice is to announce the consolidation of these 7 existing review criteria for training grants into 5 major review criteria.  It should be emphasized that while the review criteria have been consolidated, they remain essentially unchanged in scope.    The additional review criteria and considerations described in the funding opportunity announcement (PA-08-226) also remain in place.

Implementation

The consolidated review criteria (below) will be effective immediately for all institutional training grants (T32) applications submitted for FY 2010 funding. 

Consolidated T32 Review Criteria

The scientific review group will address and consider each of these criteria in assigning the application’s overall score, weighting them as appropriate for each application.  Reviewers will first determine the quality of the proposed research training program, including information presented in the data tables and appendix, and then consider whether the requested number of trainee positions is appropriate for the program.

Training Program and Environment: 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 multi-disciplinary 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?  For applications that request short-term research training positions, is this aspect of the program well designed and, where appropriate, integrated with other aspects of the training program; are the numbers of short-term positions appropriate; and does the program include features to encourage short-term trainees to consider careers in health-related research?

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 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 designating multiple PD/PIs, is a strong justification provided that the multiple PD/PI leadership approach will benefit the training program and the trainees?  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?

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 research support in areas directly related to the proposed research training program?  Do the preceptors/mentors have strong records of training pre- and/or postdoctorates? 

Trainees: Is a recruitment plan proposed with strategies to attract high quality trainees?  Are there well-defined and justified selection criteria and retention strategies?  Is a competitive applicant pool in sufficient numbers to warrant the proposed size and levels (predoctoral, postdoctoral and/or short-term) of the training program in evidence?  For applications that request short-term research training positions, does the program have the potential or evidence to recruit high quality, short-term trainees?  For renewal applications, how successful has the program been in attracting and retaining individuals from diverse populations, including populations underrepresented in science?

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 trainees (or for new applications other past students/fellows) in terms of research accomplishments and publications?  How successful are trainees (or other past students/fellows) in obtaining further training appointments, fellowships, and 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 program have a rigorous evaluation plan to review the quality and effectiveness of the training?  Are effective mechanisms in place for obtaining feedback from current and former trainees and monitoring trainees’ subsequent career development?  For renewal applications, does the application describe the program’s accomplishments over the past funding period(s); are changes proposed that would improve/strengthen the training experience?  For programs that provide research training to health-professional doctorates, is there a record of retaining health professionals in research training or other research activities for at least two years?  For applications that request short-term research training positions, are plans presented to follow the careers of short-term trainees and to assess the effect of the training program on subsequent career choices?  What is the success in attracting students back for multiple appointments?  What is the effect of the short-term component on the overall training program?
Individual Institutes and Centers may have additional specialized review criteria appropriate for their special initiatives and mission.

Inquiries

Questions should be directed to:

Rodney Ulane, Ph.D.
NIH Research Training Officer
Director, Division of Scientific Programs
Office of Extramural Programs, OER, OD
National Institutes of Health
6705 Rockledge Drive, Suite 350
Bethesda, MD 20892
Email: NIHTrain@mail.nih.gov
NIH Extramural Training Mechanisms: http://grants1.nih.gov/training/extramural.htm


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