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The NIH Center for Scientific Review Updates the Descriptions of its Chartered Review Panels


Notice Number: NOT-OD-09-027

Key Dates
Release Date: December 10, 2008

Issued by
Center for Scientific Review (CSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), (

CSR has updated the descriptions or guidelines of its study sections that applicants often use to suggest which CSR study section(s) might best review their applications. These changes only apply to CSR’s chartered study sections, and they do not apply to other study sections organized by CSR or the other NIH Institutes or Centers. The updated descriptions are available online at

CSR revised these study section descriptions in response to requests from study section chairs and other representatives of the scientific community who participated in recent evaluations of CSR’s review groups.These changes were designed to make CSR’s chartered study section descriptions more transparent and reflective of the types of applications actually reviewed by CSR study sections. The updated descriptions were also designed to be more user-friendly for applicants -particularly new applicants.

NIH encourages applicants to submit a cover letter with the irapplication to suggest which study section(s) they think could best review their applications. CSR cannot guarantee it will follow these suggestions, but it does so when appropriate and possible. Having applications reviewed by study sections with the needed experts help sensure the quality of NIH peer reviews and the identification of those projects most likely to advance science and health. More information on cover letters is available in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide for NIH and Other PHS Agencies:

The descriptions for chartered study sections now have the following format:

  • A one-paragraph overview of the scientific areas reviewed by the study section.
  • A bulleted list of the key specific topics.
  • Links to the membership roster and the three most recent meeting rosters of the review panel.
  • Links to related study sections that review similar areas of science.

CSR expects to update these descriptions at least every year or sooner if needed. Updated descriptions of recurring special emphasis panels will be produced early in 2009. Study section chairs will help revise these descriptions during biannual reviews of CSR Integrated Review Groups(IRGs).


The scientific boundaries and study section descriptions for CSR’s IRGs and their respective study sections were systematically rewritten between 2001 and 2004 as part of the Panel on Scientific Boundaries for Review initiative. Since then, science has evolved and CSR has updated the study section descriptions based on input from leaders of the scientific community who have participated in Open House Workshops, ongoing working groups to review study section performance, and biannual IRG evaluations. Based on more recent input, CSR took additional steps to improve its study section descriptions.  At a recent biannual IRG review, the study section chairs drafted study section descriptions in the new format. The chairs responded positively, and CSR decided to update and enhance all of its chartered study section descriptions.


Please direct specific questions about individual study section descriptions to the respective Scientific Review Officer (SRO) by using the meeting roster links on the study section pages, which can be found via the Review Group Description Web site:

CSR’s Division of Receipt and Referral can provide guidance on the process used to refer grant applications to IRGs. If you have questions about the assignment of your application to a CSR IRG, call the CSR Division of Receipt and Referral on 301-435-0715. General information on the application assignment and referral process is available on CSR’s Web site: