NIH Peer Review: Challenges and Avenues for Reform
NBER Working Paper No. 18116
The National Institute of Health (NIH), through its extramural grant program, is the primary public funder of health-related research in the United States. Peer review at NIH is organized around the twin principles of investigator initiation and rigorous peer review, and this combination has long been a model that science funding agencies throughout the world seek to emulate. However, lean budgets and the rapidly changing ecosystem within which scientific inquiry takes place have led many to ask whether the peer-review practices inherited from the immediate post-war era are still well-suited to twenty first century realities. In this essay, we examine two salient issues: (1) the aging of the scientist population supported by NIH and (2) the innovativeness of the research supported by the institutes. We identify potential avenues for reform as well as a means for implementing and evaluating them.
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