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Review process

Reviewers are selected on the basis of their demonstrated competence and achievement as independent scientific investigators in relevant disciplines. Quality of research, publications, research grants, professional service, and other scientific achievements and honors are considered in selecting members. Most members have served on other bodies that review research proposals, such as NIH study sections and review committees of foundations and major health voluntary associations. Other qualifications include professional commitment, integrity, and ability to work effectively in a group setting. TRDRP has selected only highly respected investigators to serve on study sections. At the same time, TRDRP strives to bring in new and first time reviewers when and where applicable.

Review committee chairs have, in addition to the above qualifications, substantial experience in both leadership roles (e.g., academic department head or section chief, or laboratory director) and research evaluation (e.g., service on NIH councils or advisory boards, editorships of scholarly journals).

Review committee members are chosen on an ad hoc basis and the specific individuals recruited for a given study section depend on the subject matter of the applications received in that cycle, i.e., review committees do not have a standing membership. Peer reviewers may serve a maximum of 4 consecutive years on one study section in the role of member. They must take a break in service of at least 2 consecutive years before being re-appointed. Peer reviewers may serve a maximum of 6 years on one study section in the role of member and chair. They must take a break in service of at least 2 consecutive years before being re-appointed.

Scientific merit score

TRDRP uses scientific merit categories and rating scale similar to the 1-9 scale used by NIH. Scientific merit scores are assigned by reviewers after evaluating applications in relation to the specific criteria described above. Consistent with the NIH review procedure, once an application has been evaluated according to the appropriate criteria, the reviewer must decide whether it is of sufficient quality to be assigned a scientific merit rating.

Scientific merit scores are assigned according to the following scale:

Score Descriptor Strengths/Weaknesses
1 Exceptional Extremely strong with negligible weaknesses
2 Outstanding Extremely strong with negligible weaknesses
3 Excellent Very strong with only some minor weaknesses
4 Very Good Strong but with numerous minor weaknesses
5 Good Strong with at least one moderate weakness
6 Satisfactory Some strengths but also some moderate weaknesses
7 Fair Some strengths but with at least one major weakness
8 Marginal A few strengths and a few major weaknesses
9 Poor Very few strengths and a few major weaknesses

 

Reviewers assign scores as whole numbers and base their rating on analysis of the proposed research in light of the review criteria. Reviewers are instructed to use the full range of scores. Applications are not compared with one another, but rather each is evaluated according to its potential for advancing the state of knowledge in its particular area.

In contrast to the NIH system, TRDRP will not defer review of applications pending receipt of additional information. That is, rather than categorize such applications as “Deferred,” missing critical information should be cited in the written review as a specific weakness and a merit score assigned based on the available information.