Blog Archives

Rand Paul Introduces Bill to “Reform” Federal Research Grant System

On October 18, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Chair of the Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hosted a hearing entitled “Broken Beakers: Federal Support for Research.” Following the hearing Sen. Paul introduced the BASIC Research Act (S. 1973) to “reform” the federal research grant system. The bill would alter how grant proposals at all federal research funding agencies are reviewed by adding non-expert members of the public to review panels and requiring all applications for federal research grants to be made public. The bill also proposes the elimination of the Inspector General of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create an Inspector General that would oversee the entire federal research enterprise.

The controversial legislation, which was summarized in Science magazine, has been referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee but currently has no cosponsors and an incredibly narrow path to passage. COSSA is watching the legislation and will report if or when action is needed.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 31), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Coalition to Promote Research Launches Petition Drive: “Advancing Principles of Scientific Stewardship”

On June 12, the Coalition to Promote Research (CPR), which is co-led by COSSA and the American Psychological Association (a COSSA member), launched a petition drive, Advancing Principles of Scientific Stewardship. The effort is designed to make evident the support of the general public as well as the scientific community for America’s premier federal research enterprise, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The organizers hope to showcase the enormous unseen support for the peer/merit review process.

The CPR petition highlights the general public’s and scientific community’s recognition that “Effective policy planning and appropriate, stable funding levels are essential to producing outcomes that save lives and reduce health care costs; enhance the quality of life of our families and children; improve systems of health care delivery; and lay the scientific foundations for improvements in education, safety, governance, and commerce.” It urges “the U.S. Congress and Administration to act as responsible and effective stewards of the scientific infrastructure and to continue to uphold the quality of our nation’s research enterprise by embracing the fundamental values that have supported its development and maintained its quality.”

Specifically, the petition encourages Congress and the Executive Branch to support:

  1. Scientific merit review (also called “peer review”) to judge the quality and relevance of research proposals without Congressional interference.
  2. Federal science funding agencies’ efforts to assure the quality of federally supported research and its applicability to agencies’ missions and priorities.
  3. Adherence to and promotion of the highest standards of scientific integrity and transparency in developing and making scientific data available to the public.

CPR member-organizations represent hundreds of thousands of scientists, physicians, health care providers, and patients who support federal investments in basic and applied biomedical, behavioral, social, and population science research.

The coalition will be accepting signatures for the foreseeable future. COSSA/CPR encourage you to read and sign the petition and share it with your colleagues, family, and friends.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 13), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Video Shares Insights into NIH Grant Application and Peer Review Process

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center for Scientific Review (CSR) recently posted a video compiling insights from individuals who have participated in the NIH’s peer review process, including peer reviewers, study section chairs, and NIH staff. The video is designed to guide applicants in planning and writing a competitive grant application, including writing the summary and specific aims sections of the application; explaining why the research is essential; and the importance of explaining proposed techniques, among other suggestions. The video is part of CSR’s Insider’s Guide to Peer Review for Applicants.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 12), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

CPR Briefing Highlights NIH Peer Review Process

September 22 CPR posterThe COSSA-led Coalition to Promote Research (CPR) recently organized its second congressional briefing of 2015 (see Update, March 24, 2015) designed to provide an overview of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) peer review process for congressional staff.

The briefing, NIH Priority Setting: How Peer Review Assists the NIH in Selecting the Best Science, highlighted the process used by the NIH’s Center for Scientific Review (CSR) with the help of scientific experts from around the country.  Briefing speakers included CSR director Richard Nakamura and Danielle Li of Harvard University.  Felice Levine, executive director of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), served as the moderator. (more…)

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Posted in Issue 18 (October 6), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

COSSA/CPR Sponsor “NIH 101” Congressional Briefing

yamamotoOn February 27, the COSSA-led Coalition to Promote Research (CPR) organized a Congressional briefing designed to provide an overview of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) peer review process and the types of grants funded by the agency.

The briefing’s speaker, Keith Yamamoto, vice chancellor for research and executive vice dean of the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, is a leading molecular biologist and has served on the NIH’s Center for Scientific Review’s advisory committee, as well as other NIH advisory panels and peer review committees. Using contemporary biology, Yamamoto discussed the NIH priority-setting process for determining research priorities as well as its methods for soliciting input from the scientific community and the public.

Yamamoto explained what he characterized as the complexities of peer review and the limits of knowledge; NIH peer review acknowledges and manages intrinsic conflicts of interests, operates on a massive scale across a broad scope, incorporates complex metrics for merit and success, and is imperfect, but continues to evolve and improve. “By any measure, NIH peer review is best,” Yamamoto concluded.

The American Psychological Association’s (APA) acting executive director for science, Howard Kurtzman, moderated the briefing, which was attended by more than 60 congressional staff members and representatives of organizations that support the NIH.

The briefing sponsors included the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, APA, Association of American Medical Colleges, Coalition for Life Sciences, CPR, COSSA, Population Association of America, and Research!America.

CPR is a coalition of national organizations committed to promoting public health, innovation and fundamental knowledge through scientific research. The organizations represent hundreds of thousands of scientists, physicians, health care providers, and patients who support federal investments in basic and applied biomedical and behavioral research.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 24), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Scientific Community Expresses Support for NIH and Its Peer Review Process

On December 2, the Coalition to Promote Research (CPR) sent letters to Congress expressing its “continued and strong support for the competitive peer review process used by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).” The letter, signed by 128 diverse organizations, noted that the scientific community is “extremely concerned about the recent criticism of the NIH’s funding decisions and the accompanying mischaracterization of NIH-supported research in the media and by some in Congress. The ongoing targeting of specific grants produces a chilling effect across the entire scientific community. These attacks inhibit the very scientific progress the critics claim to support. Our organizations strongly oppose these mischaracterizations and the associated undue criticism of the NIH peer review process.” (more…)

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Posted in Issue 22 (December 5), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

NIH Center for Scientific Review to Host Peer Review Webinars for New Grant Applicants

In early November, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center for Scientific Review (CSR) plans to host four Meet the Experts in NIH Peer Review webinars designed to provide new NIH grant applicants and other interested individuals with valuable insights into the submission and review processes. CSR is NIH’s gateway for grant applications and their review for scientific merit. It organizes the peer review groups, or study sections, that evaluate the majority of the research grant applications sent to the agency.

The webinars will address the various types of grant mechanisms supported by NIH: Academic Research Enhancement Awards (R15), Fellowship Awards, Small Business Grants (SBIR/STTR), and Research Project Grants also known as investigator-initiated awards (R01).

All of the webinar presentations will be given by CSR/NIH experts and will cover the following topics: the initial review of grant applications; application receipt and referral; how applications are reviewed; key aspects of the various types of applications; and information on the CSR’s Early Career Reviewer Program.

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Posted in Issue 18 (October 6), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

PCORI Seeks Public Comment on Draft Peer Review and Public Release Proposal

On September 15, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute’s (PCORI) Board of Governors approved the release of the Institute’s draft plan for peer review and public release of its research, Getting the Word Out: PCORI’s Proposal for Peer Review of Primary Research and Public Release of Research Findings. The Institute is seeking comments from the public on the proposal, which may be submitted on its website through November 7, 2014. PCORI will also hold a public forum to discuss the proposal on Monday, September 29 (the event will also be available as a webinar).

PCORI’s authorizing legislation mandates that the Institute ensure that all primary research is peer reviewed and release research findings to clinicians, patients, and the general public in a timely manner. The draft proposal combines these two responsibilities (meaning that findings will not be made public until they have undergone peer review). The proposed peer review process opts not to rely on scientific journals’ peer review, due to concerns about timeliness and the necessity of assessing researchers’ compliance with PCORI’s methodology standards. Instead, it proposes that PCORI coordinate the peer review of the research it funds.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

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