As Mark Twain may--or, according to some sources, may not--have said about the weather, everybody has grumbled for years that National Institutes of Health peer-review study sections are stacked against clinical research, but nobody ever does anything about it. Now, that's changing, along with a lot of other standard operating procedures in NIH's peer-review system.

NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR), which runs the panels that review about 70 percent of NIH grant applications, is about to try several new devices to shield clinical-research proposals from unfair competition with laboratory experiments in peer-review panels dominated by basic scientists.

By the end of this year, CSR Director Ellie Ehrenfeld plans to create two new "special emphasis panels" for proposed patient-oriented experiments in oncology and cardiology, and to test a variety of approaches for clinical proposals that still don't seem to fit anywhere.

NEW DIRECTION: Under Director Ellie Ehrenfeld, NIH's Center for...

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