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Attention peer reviewers: Integrity and bias awareness training coming soon

Dr. Ramesh Vemuri
Ramesh VEMURI, Ph.D.,
Chief, Scientific Review Branch,
Scientific Review Branch (SRB)
Dr. Birgit Neuhuber
Birgit NEUHUBER, Ph.D.,
Deputy Chief, SRB,DEA,
Scientific Review Branch (SRB)

Peer review is at the heart of the NIH mission and the science we support. Ensuring consistent and fair review of all applications is key to identifying promising research and sustaining trust in the overall NIH grant process.

Reviewers play a critical role, and their words and actions help shape the culture of peer review. They must focus on the scientific/technical merit and rigor of an applicant’s proposed approach, without bias and with the utmost integrity.

Reviewer training requirements on the way

To help ensure that NIH grant applications receive fair and consistent reviews, the NIH Center for Scientific Review has developed and launched two self-paced online training modules for reviewers addressing integrity and bias awareness. This training will be mandatory effective early next year, ahead of the May 2024 council round. At that time, reviewers must complete both training modules before they can access their assigned applications/proposals.

But reviewers don’t have to wait! The NIA Scientific Review Branch urges current reviewers to take advantage of the option to voluntarily complete the training now, ahead of the January 2024 council round.

We understand that NIH/NIA reviewers’ time is precious. We strongly believe that both applicants and reviewers will appreciate the value of these materials to maintain review confidentiality, fairness, and integrity.

Train online at your own pace

The training modules are self-paced and take about 30 minutes each to complete. Reviewers can access the training through the NIH eRA Commons system. Once completed, the training does not need to be repeated for three years.

The two required trainings are:

  • Review Integrity Training, which models situations where integrity breaches can happen and provides tools for reviewers to properly respond.
  • Bias Awareness and Mitigation Training, which raises awareness of implicit bias in peer review through specific review scenarios that describe how reviewers can take action to mitigate bias.

More than 20,000 reviewers pilot tested the training materials across several review cycles, and we thank those who participated. The post-training survey results were overwhelmingly positive, indicating that reviewers found the modules effective and felt more able to identify and respond to both integrity and bias concerns.

If you have any concern or a question about possible violations of peer review integrity, please contact your scientific review officer, or refer to the NIH Guide Notice on integrity in review.

Reviewers: Thank you for all you do!

We understand the time and dedication required to be a peer reviewer, and we thank you for your efforts! We look forward to you completing the training as soon as you are able to and no later than the deadline. Effective for the May 2024 council round (peer review meetings in early 2024), reviewers who have not yet completed the trainings will not be able to access their assigned applications/proposals and will receive an email invitation with a link to finish the required training.

If you have questions, read the training’s Frequently Asked Questions, email (for technical problems), email Ramesh, or leave a comment below.

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