Review Criteria

Liz Zelinski
Former Reviewer and backup chair for NIH/ZRG F12A
Current member, NIA-S K award study section
13 November
K awards
• The objective of these programs is to bring
candidates to the point where they are able to
conduct their research independently and are
competitive for major grant support. Current NIH
policies require that, by the time of the award,
applicants must be U.S. citizens, non-citizen U.S.
nationals, or have been lawfully admitted for
permanent residence. Please note that this
requirement applies to all the mechanisms below,
EXCEPT the K99/R00.
K award wizard
Career Development Plan/Career Goals & Objectives
Research Plan
Mentor(s), Co-Mentor(s), Consultant(s), Collaborator(s)
Environment and Institutional Commitment to the Candidate
• Protection of Human Subjects/Animal Protection
• Inclusion of Women, Minorities, & Children
• Vertebrate Animals
• Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research
Applicant/Candidate: What
reviewers look for
• More is better:
– Refereed publications
– First-authored publications
– High-level journals
Evidence of leadership (K candidates)
Previous awards, especially national ones
Prior training “pedigree”
Letters that say “outstanding” or “one of the best ever”
How the previous training experience leads up to the
proposed research training
Mentoring team on K awards:
What reviewers look for
• A team with the “right” mix and number of
mentors, co-mentors and others as needed
• Evidence that the mentors read and critiqued
the proposal
• Current research support is available for
K01/08/23/25/99/R00 Plan/Goals:
What Reviewers look for
• Formal coursework relevant to meeting the goals and research plan;
informal mentoring/tutoring
• Discussion of regular attendance at appropriate local institutional
seminars and meetings, including grand rounds, lab groups
• Frequency and duration of meetings with mentoring team members
• Frequency of progress monitoring/including mention of remedial actions if
needed by the entire mentoring team
• Attendance at appropriate professional meetings, including presenting
• Formal training as appropriate in grant proposal development
• A timeline for goal based activities over the course of the award
• Specific benchmarks in the timeline (e.g., papers to be produced, R01
• Verification of plan details, especially mentoring activities in the mentors’
Research Plan for K awards: What
reviewers look for
• Likelihood that the work, if successful, will be
of high impact
• The research plan fits with the stated career
goals and training plan
• Timeline for completing the elements of the
research is appropriate given the training
needed and the workload of the research plan
K Environment and Commitment:
What Reviewers Look for
• Letter of support with the appropriate level of
commitment for the release time of the
• For junior applicants, a faculty appointment is
not contingent on obtaining a K award
• What institutional resources will be provided
(office space, clerical help, RA’s, statistical
consulting) to support the research
K: Budget and Period of Support
• Appropriateness of budget beyond the 75%
release time is evaluated
• Budget is similar to that of a smaller R01 with
travel, equipment, materials and supplies
Training in Responsible Conduct of
• 1) Format – the required formal of instruction, i.e., face-to-face
lectures, coursework, and/or real-time discussion groups (a plan
with only on-line instruction is not acceptable);
• 2) Subject Matter – the breadth of subject matter, e.g., conflict of
interest, authorship, data management, human subjects and animal
use, laboratory safety, research misconduct, research ethics;
• 3) Faculty Participation – the role of the sponsor(s) and other
faculty involvement in the fellow’s instruction;
• 4) Duration of Instruction – the number of contact hours of
instruction (at least eight contact hours are required)
• 5) Frequency of Instruction – instruction must occur during each
career stage and at least once every four years. Plans and past
record will be rated as ACCEPTABLE or UNACCEPTABLE, and the
summary statement will provide the consensus rating of the review
K01, K08, K23, K99/00 Review
• Reviewers will provide an overall impact score
to reflect their assessment of the likelihood
that the proposed career development and
research plan will enhance the candidate’s
potential for a productive, independent
scientific research career in a health related
field, taking into consideration the criteria
below in determining the overall impact score.
April 17 2014 guidelines
Process: NIA K study sections
• Reviewers are interdisciplinary researchers and the
study sections are broadly disciplinary
– NIA-S mostly social and psychological sciences
– NIA-N mostly neuroscience
– NIA-B mostly biological sciences
• Submission of reviews about 3 days before meeting
• All applications are reviewed; order varies with
availability of program officers to listen in
• Telephone reviews are allowed
• Reviewers get 5-10 applications to review; funding
mechanisms much more varied than CSR study section
fellowship groups
Review Discussion (10-15 min)
Chair asks the three reviewers to give their initial impact score
First reviewer gives a very brief summary of the elements of the training program;
there is a tendency to outline the research study part of it in a bit more detail.
Discusses the evaluative part of his or her review in the context of the summary
covering all the content elements, and then Human Subjects Protection, Women,
Minorities, Children comments.
Second reviewer: nonoverlapping comments only.
Third reviewer: anything else not discussed.
Discussion open to whole group.
Verbal summary by chair of the application: strengths & weaknesses.
Reviewers give their final impact scores (and will change their reviews to align with
the scores). The range of scores given is the general range for the study section
members to follow. If anyone want to score outside the range, they so indicate
and provide their rationale. They write it up for the review document.
Voting (on paper & online)
First reviewer is asked to comment on responsible conduct of research training
and appropriateness of budget (duration of award) for program staff. These are
not included in the voting.
Resubmissions after Review
• Introduction: Describe all responses to
reviewers, indicate how changes to
application will be identified (eg italics,
• Be as responsive as humanly possible
• More publications and coursework finished
• Fast turnaround but not too fast!

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