I just received an e-mail from NIH concerning the implementation of new peer review practices in the aftermath of the Enhancing Peer Review navel-gazing effort. Noteworthy implementation plans are excerpted inside the crack.
Allow Flexibility through Virtual Reviews: Pilots will be conducted in 2009 on the feasibility of using high-bandwidth support for review meetings to provide reviewers greater flexibility and alternatives for in-person meetings.
Improve Scoring Transparency and Scale: Review criteria-based scoring on 1 to 7 scale commences in May 2009. Reviewers will provide feedback through scores and critiques for each criterion in a structured summary statement.
Provide Scores for Streamlined Applications: In 2009, streamlined applications will receive a preliminary score.
Shorten and Restructure Applications: Shorter (12-page research plan) R01 applications (with other activity codes scaled appropriately) will be restructured to align with review criteria for January 2010 receipt dates.
Fund the Best Science Earlier and Reduce Need for Resubmissions: To ensure that the largest number of high quality and meritorious applications receive funding earlier and to improve system efficiency, NIH is considering separate percentiling of new and resubmitted applications and permitting one amended application.
Review Like Applications Together: NIH is establishing an Early Stage Investigator (ESI) designation. In 2009, NIH will evaluate clustering ESI applications for review. The same approach will be considered for clinical research applications.
I have said it before, and I'll say it again, shortening the R01 to 12 pages is going to differentially harm new investigators, who basically need to overwhelm a study section with preliminary data. It is thus absolutely essential that new investigator R01 applications be reviewed in their own clusters.