Would you like to know what those evil reviewers are saying about your first RO1 submission? Want to learn what separates fundable and unfundable grant submissions? Apparently, there’s a program for that! The Early Career Reviewer Program recruits new principal investigators (PIs)(regardless of whether a researcher has ever received NIH funding) to join study sections relevant to their field and participate in the review process.
Oh to finally be a fly on the wall! Now, of course, the NIH is using this as an opportunity to train new reviewers and add to their rosters of potential study section members. However, this is an incredible opportunity for a new PI to learn how the grant review world works. It’s hard to learn all the best tips and tricks for getting a grant funded when you have no idea how grant review operates. Often when a new PI finally gets their first grant and invitation to serve on a study section, their first experience is transformative. Learning the politics and simple wording changes can have a huge impact on a future grant submission success.
It also puts new PIs in contact with Scientific Review Officers (SROs) in charge of each section. This personal connection is a huge networking coup! SROs are the grant mechanism gatekeepers, having a personal relationship with one will help you feel more comfortable coming to them with your questions while preparing your own submissions.
Justin Zhan, a computer science professor at North Carolina A&T State University, has found that since participating in the program last year he has gotten five of his proposals funded. While none are NIH grants, he feels that the general knowledge gained in the review session extend to grant writing as a whole.
Aside from bringing in researchers from major universities, this program aims to reach out to investigators from smaller, less funded universities and to improve the diversity among grant applicants. By reaching out to groups that have historically struggled to get funding, the NIH hopes to improve the success rate of minorities and those at teaching focused institutions.
There is only one early career reviewer allowed per section meeting so the program is competitive. Each early career reviewer is allowed to attend two sections, only one per year. So if you or someone you know is a new PI, reach out and get some grant review experience. Every bit of training can make a big difference in your success as an investigator.