As the agency overhauls its peer-review system, scientists assess the potential consequences.
The peer-review system at the National Institutes of Health is in the midst of a critical series of reforms that will alter the way study sections judge and score grant applications. For the first time, reviewers will be required to consider five explicit criteria in judging grants, and one criterion will have the effect of placing a premium on innovative science. But NIH director Harold Varmus rejected a controversial recommendation from an internal committee calling for each criterion to be scored separately, so reviewers will continue to assign a single global score to applications. Additional changes, planned for the next year or two, involve reorganizations of study sections and possibly more changes in scoring. Despite praise for the changes from most quarters, some researchers are concerned about the consequences of the reforms and the details of how they...

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