Study Sections: Know Your Place
The NIH loves to have its funded experts confer their vast knowledge on various new perspectives. After all, what is the point of all that investment without the benefit of leverage? In order to remove any barriers to expertise, there are deadline privileges that are associated with giving your time to the NIH; but there are separate classifications of study section servitude, and the benefits of each are directly proportional to the amount of time and effort given. This is extremely important because there is a common misconception that service on study section automatically lends the right to a late proposal review, but this is not so. Take a look at the difference and know where you qualify before you plan on adjusting your proposal timelines:
SINGLE STUDY SECTION SERVICE
The privilege that comes with serving on a single study section is that the NIH considers this service a reason why a late application might be accepted, provided that the service was conferred in the two months preceding or the two months following the deadline; that is, the NIH will take into account service on the section in deciding whether or not to accept the application for review. Specifically: recent temporary or ad hoc service by a PD/PI that required a commitment of time that could have been used to prepare an application may be an acceptable reason (examples include: serving on an NIH extramural review group, NIH Board of Scientific Counselors or an Advisory Board/Council). For the most recent clarifications on late submission policy and other reasons late submissions might be accepted, take a look at NOT-OD-15-039.
The important thing to note here is that a PI does not have an automatic right to acceptance for review after the deadline by virtue of participating on a study section. Any reasons for late submission must be in relation to the individual(s) with the PD/PI role on the application; if the NIH does not see a causal link, the application will likely be denied review.
Continuous submission allows members of standing committees (as opposed to temporary or ad hoc) and members with “substantial service” to submit proposals for standing deadlines when they are fully developed. Eligible for events for credit toward the continuous submission standard are membership in chartered standing study sections, NIH Boards of Scientific Counselors, NIH Advisory Boards or Councils, NIH Program Advisory Committees, and/or peer reviewers who have served as regular or temporary members six times in 18 months. You can check your eligibility by looking for your name on the list that is updated and posted on the standing Continuous Submission information page. You may also check your eligibility and meetings counted toward the 6/18 standard by logging into your eRACommons account, selecting the “Admin” tab, followed by the “Accounts” tab, and then searching your name. A table will appear that will indicate in a column called “CS Eligibility Details” whether you qualify for continuous submission:
Clicking on the “Yes” or “No” in the “CS Eligibility Details” column will give you details as to what was counted toward your eligibility, and what to do if any meetings are missing:
If you’re not sure whether you qualify for continuous submission, we can help you figure it out! Just remember: the NIH is under no obligation to review your submission if you submit late by reason of participation on a single study section, so don’t extend your timeline and create unnecessary stress!