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NIH Asks the SMRB To Examine its Review and Award Process

Legislative Update
June 10, 2013

Left to right: NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky with Lawrence Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., the NIH Principal Deputy Director at the June 4 meeting
Left to right: NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky with Lawrence Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., the NIH Principal Deputy Director at the June 4 meeting
At the June 4, 2013, meeting of the National Institutes of Health’s Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB)-which was created by the NIH Reform Act of 2006 to make recommendations on NIH structure and management-Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D. presented a new charge to the group: examine the NIH review and award process. In noting that the NIH two-tier system [scientific peer review and Institute and Center (I/C) programmatic review] is the foundation on which the agency’s funding of extramural research is based, and since the majority of the NIH budget goes to extramural research grants, NIH believes it is vital that it continue to innovate and optimize the process by which grant applications are submitted, reviewed, processed, and awarded. NIH has asked the SMRB to consider how it can:
  • Streamline the grant-making process and shorten the length of time from application to allocation of funds.

  • Address the administrative burden on applicants and their institutions, scientific reviewers, Advisory Council members, and NIH staff while maintaining a high quality review process.
NIH asked that the SMRB’s Working Group identify any fundamental principles that underpin any recommended changes to the process; provide a comprehensive analysis of each step in the process; and recommend strategies and options for improving the process, as well as the rationale for the recommendations.

The majority of the meeting was spent on a previous charge, made by Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. in July 2012, that the SMRB identify appropriate parameters and approaches for assessing and communicating the value of biomedical research supported by the NIH. A series of panels addressed various metrics for assessing the value of biomedical research, including new medical interventions and treatments, public health outcomes, and broader societal impacts.

Previous SMRB Working Groups have addressed such issues as: I/C consolidation, the Intramural Program and Clinical Center, Translational Medicine and Therapeutics (recommendations from which resulted in NIH’s creation of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, NCATS), and how NIH manages the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.