Assignment of Application
What is a Scientific Review Officer (SRO)? SROs have multiple responsibilities including: analyzing the scientific content of grant applications; identifying the scientists invited to serve on review committees; assigning the applications each member will review; organizing and running peer-review meetings to assess grant applications; providing applicants with a succinct written summary statement explaining how the review committee viewed the applications.
Once you have submitted your application, it is then assigned to an NIH Institute or Center for potential funding, and to a review group in order for it to be assessed for its scientific merit.
Receipt and Referral
The Division of Receipt and Referral (DRR) in the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) assigns each application to a review group that has the expertise to evaluate the scientific and technical merit of the application and to one or more Institutes/Centers (ICs) for funding consideration. DRR consults with Institutes/Centers’ referral staff, Scientific Review Officers (SROs) and Integrated Review Group (IRG) Chiefs, and considers applicants’ requests to reach the most appropriate assignment. Additional information about this process at CSR may be found on their submission and assignment web page.
As noted above, applications submitted to the NIH receive two assignments through the CSR DRR:
- The first assignment (programmatic) is to an NIH Institute or Center.
- Programmatic assignment is based on the overall mission, specific mandates and interests of the Institute or Center.
- The assigned Institute or Center is responsible for the overall administration of applications, and will potentially provide funding, depending on review and other considerations.
- Once assigned to a specific Institute or Center, your application will also be assigned to a Program Officer within that Institute or Center (see Step 1 for details on the Program Officer's role).
- The second assignment (review) is to the review cluster as well as to a particular review committee that will review the application, either at CSR or within an Institute or Center. For example, some grant applications that are assigned to NIMH are reviewed by NIMH Peer Review Committees instead of CSR.
- Review assignment is based on the specific review guidelines for each scientific review committee.
- The review process involves assessment of the scientific and technical merits of the application, and assignment of a priority score.
Identifying the Most Appropriate Review Committee for Your Grant Application
While the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) or the NIMH Review Branch retains the responsibility for making the final determination concerning assignment of grant applications to a particular review committee, it is in your best interest to be familiar with the available choices and to express your opinion at the time of application submission (see cover letter section below).
To help identify the most appropriate review committee, look at the mission statements and recent rosters for each review committee. These can be found using the search feature or related links at:
One other type of review is the Special Emphasis Panel (SEP). These are special committees of experts that usually meet only once for the review of a specific set of applications. These types of applications may include: applications submitted in response to a specific Request for Applications (RFA); or applications for specific grant mechanisms that are submitted only once per year, among others. Because SEPs are set up on an as-needed basis, applicants cannot request a specific SEP. You can look for your assigned SEP and roster 30 days before the review on this list of SEPs. The SEP codes will have the prefixes "ZRG1" for CSR review or "ZMH1" for NIMH review. (Please note that ZMH1 SRC 99 is a holding code only for all review committees convened by NIMH, including those subsequently assigned to standing review committees or SEPs.)
Using a Cover Letter
Investigators may include a cover letter (for electronic submissions this is a PDF attachment) with their application. The cover letter can include suggestions for the appropriate Institute/Center assignment as well as suggested review group assignment. Use of the structured format described in the application instructions (PHS 398 instructions, section 3.1; SF 424 instructions, section 5.2) will aid in appropriate assignment of the application. The final determination regarding programmatic and review assignment rests with the Division of Receipt and Referral at CSR as well as staff at NIMH or other institutes, but requests made in the cover letters will be considered fully.
Checking on Final Assignment
Information on the final programmatic and review assignments can be found in the eRA Commons page related to the grant application several weeks after submission. If the information is not clear or there are questions about assignment, contact the peer review contact (if any) listed in the Funding Opportunity Announcement or the Division of Receipt and Referral at 301-435-0715.