Grant Reviewing: Instructions on "Significance"

Sep 29 2017 Published by under Uncategorized

Here are the overall instructions on Significance:

If all the specific aims are achieved, what would the project contribute to this field and how significant/important is this contribution?

This is the question we are told to ask of each proposal. Here are the subpoints:

•Significance assumes success of the specific aims.

The likelihood of success is evaluated elsewhere. My reading of this is that NIH is trying to separate our assessment of (success) from (what happens if there is success).

•Premise pertains to the strength of the scientific foundation upon which the objectives of the study are built. Is the current project based on sound scientific knowledge or concepts?

Premise is one of the new criteria. When I've been on ad hoc, I've seen reviewers struggle with this. If a reviewer did NOT address premise, one SRO explicitly asked about it. This is not the same thing as a literature review. It is what are is assumed to be true in the proposal?

•Focus on the importance of the proposed work in the field, NOT the importance of the disease or condition (e.g., child obesity, probe development) being studied.

Again, I think NIH is trying to get away from comparing cancer to heart disease. This was not always true in the past. But, for most reviewers, you still need to make that case for bunny hopping.

•Direct relevance to human health is not required. Significance can be related to the basic/ fundamental, mechanistic, technological, translational, clinical and public health contributions.


I will include good & bad examples in next post.


2 responses so far

  • A Salty Scientist says:

    As a new criteria, I'm curious about reviewers' expectations for "premise." In terms of grantsmanship, should there be a separate sub-section on premise, or should it be woven into the background/significance sections? Have grant organization norms changed?

  • dr_mho says:

    The first paragraph of each of my grants starts with ... "The overall premise of our proposal is..." There is no reason not to feed your reviewers the information they need to write a fair and favorable critique.

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