The Scientific Review Branch is responsible for the initial scientific and technical merit review of grant applications and contract proposals submitted to NIAMS. 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 NIAMS-specific needs, i.e., research grants, centers, research career awards, institutional training grants, pre-award applications, and contracts in response to NIAMS-initiated RFAs and PARs.
  • Conducts review of career awards and clinical trials under the charter of two standing committees: the AMS Committee, which reviews training awards, and the AMSC committee, which reviews NIAMS clinical trial applications. Applications are also reviewed in Special Emphasis Panels (SEP) which are one-time review meetings convened to review applications submitted in response to special funding opportunities. Outside, non-federal experts are recruited to serve as reviewers for these meetings.
  • Conducts initial planning for scientific peer review, including working with NIAMS program staff in the development of Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA).
  • Maintains the core values of peer review (expert assessment, transparency, impartiality, fairness, confidentiality, security, integrity, and efficiency).
  • Co-ordinates instructional pre-review meeting teleconferences with reviewers.
  • Formulates and guides peer review strategies for new or unusual FOAs.
  • Recruits and trains patient participants to serve on NIAMS AMSC study section (clinical trials).
  • Serves as NIAMS liaison for the NIH Review Policy Committee (RPC) and Review User Group (RPC subcommittee).

Key Responsibilities of the Scientific Review Officer

The SRO works in partnership with NIAMS 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 identifying 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 racial/ethnic, gender, and geographic diversity are maintained. SROs are also responsible for assigning the applications to reviewers for critique preparation and assignment of scores, training the reviewers, overseeing the administrative and regulatory aspects of peer review meetings, and preparing summary statements for all applications reviewed.

Last Updated: March 2021