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NCCIH Research Blog

Ever Thought About Being an NCCIH Peer Reviewer? Part I

November 29, 2022

Martina Schmidt, Ph.D.

Martina Schmidt, Ph.D.


Division of Extramural Activities

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) depends on the willingness of research scientists to participate as peer scientific reviewers of grant applications. We recruit a large number of reviewers from different scientific disciplines and backgrounds for this service, which is voluntary.

Peer review of grant applications is a fundamental part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants process. It helps ensure that the science we support is of the highest quality and that applications are evaluated in a fair, unbiased way. 

Generally, reviewers are scientists from outside NIH who are experts in the specific type of science proposed in the applications under review. To ensure well-balanced reviews, we seek diverse perspectives on our review panels in terms of reviewers’ career stage; type of institution and geographical location; populations studied; and racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. To meet all these needs, we recruit a large number of reviewers from different scientific disciplines and backgrounds. 

Often, we find that the many benefits of being an NCCIH peer reviewer are not well known. Consider, for example, that: 

  • Reviewers gain first-hand experience with the NIH review process. This gives them new perspectives about grant writing and study design, which can help them improve their own applications and more effectively mentor junior colleagues.
  • Reviewing helps them stay up to date in their fields, learn what’s happening in related areas of science, better understand NIH funding mechanisms, and connect with other investigators and NIH staff.
  • They are giving back to the scientific community. 
  • By participating in a review meeting, they may be able to submit their own grant application late, according to NIH policy.

A challenge for NCCIH is that we often receive applications on topics that only a few investigators are studying (or studied), given the breadth of topics in complementary and integrative health. Relatively few experts may be qualified, and among them, sometimes a potential reviewer has a conflict of interest (e.g., works at the same institution as, or has collaborated with, the applicant). 

In sum, the ongoing need for peer reviewers for NCCIH is significant. We depend on them to identify and fund the most impactful applications and are grateful for their service. If we invite you to be a peer reviewer, we hope you will consider that invitation. We also welcome volunteers; if you can offer your expertise, the Office of Scientific Review welcomes hearing from you. 

In Part II of this post, I will tell you more about how the peer review process works, what it’s like (it’s less time-consuming than you may think!), and volunteering. 

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