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Extramural Review Branch


The Extramural Review Branch is responsible for the initial scientific and technical merit review of grant applications and contract proposals submitted to NIMH. This first level of review is carried out by a Scientific Review Group (SRG, or study section) composed primarily of non-federal scientists who have expertise in relevant scientific disciplines and current research areas.  Each SRG is led by a Scientific Review Officer (SRO).  The SRO is an extramural staff scientist and the Designated Federal Official responsible for ensuring that each application receives an objective and fair initial peer review, and that all applicable laws, regulations, and policies are followed. 

Key Areas of Peer Review Activities

  • Provides policy direction and coordination for the planning and execution of the initial scientific and technical review of grant applications and contract proposals.
  • Maintains uniform policies and procedures governing the technical and scientific review of grant applications and contract proposals
  • Conducts peer review for applications and proposals that address NIMH-specific needs, i.e., research grants (R01, R03, R21, R33, R34, R61); program projects (P50), research career awards (K), fellowships (F31, F32), institutional training grants (T32) and contracts in response to NIMH-initiated RFAs, PAs, PARs, and RFPs.
  • Conducts review meetings under the charter of one NIMH standing committee, the Services Research Review Committee (SERV); or under Special Emphasis Panels (SEP) which are groups of reviewers who have been specifically invited to review groupings of applications (few to many) for which their expertise is needed.
  • Conducts initial planning for scientific peer review, including working with NIMH Program Staff in the development of funding opportunity announcements (FOA).
  • Maintains the core values of peer review  (expert assessment, transparency, impartiality, fairness, confidentiality, integrity, and efficiency).
  • Co-ordinates instructional pre-review meeting teleconferences with reviewers.
  • Formulates and guides peer review strategies for new or unusual FOAs.
  • Coordinates review activities with Office of Committee Management and Grants Management.
  • Coordinates grantsmanship/outreach seminars for the community.
  • Recruits and trains public participants to serve on NIMH Grant Reviews.
  • Serves as NIMH liaison for the NIH Review Policy Committee, Review User Group, and SRO Technical Competency Subcommittee.

Key Responsibilities of the Scientific Review Officer

The Scientific Review Officer works in partnership with NIMH staff and the scientific community to ensure that the SRG identifies the most meritorious science for funding.  SROs have multiple responsibilities including: analyzing the scientific content of grant applications and checking for completeness, documenting and managing conflicts of interest, and identify and recruiting reviewers to ensure that the SRG has all the needed expertise to evaluate the applications under review. In choosing reviewers the SRO must be able to recognize current trends in the field and ensure that the review panel reflects not only where the field is now but where it is going.  Before inviting a potential reviewer consideration is given to scientific excellence; respect in the scientific community; breadth of expertise; and fairness and evenhandedness in review.  In addition to these considerations, the SRO must ensure that ethnic, gender, and geographic diversity is maintained.  SROs are also responsible for assigning the applications to reviewers for critique preparation and assignment of scores, attending and overseeing administrative and regulatory aspects of peer review meetings, and preparing summary statements for all applications reviewed.

Branch Chief

Nicholas Gaiano, Ph.D
Chief, Extramural Review Branch
Division of Extramural Activities
National Institute of Mental Health
Neuroscience Center, Room 8131
6001 Executive Blvd
Bethesda, MD 20892
(301) 827-3420