Purpose We previously reported that National Institutes of Health (NIH) peer review outcomes in 2002 were slightly but significantly less favorable for grant applications for clinical research than for laboratory research. The present analysis was undertaken to determine if factors related to the review process might contribute to this difference.
Methods The impact of each of the following factors on median priority scores and funding rates for clinical and nonclinical R01 grant applications was evaluated: (1) the percentage of clinical applications assigned for review to a study section, (2) the requested direct costs, and (3) the clinical research experience of the reviewers.
Results Confirming our previous observation, in both 1994 and 2004, median priority scores and funding rates for R01 applications were less favorable for clinical research. In 1994, clinical applications did not fare as well in study sections reviewing relatively low percentages of clinical applications. This was not the case in 2004. Although requested direct costs were greater for clinical than for nonclinical R01 applications, median priority scores within each category were actually more favorable for applications requesting greater funding. Assignment of priority scores was not different for reviewers with or without experience conducting clinical research.
Conclusion These data do not support the hypothesis that the less favorable review outcomes for clinical applications are related to these review factors. We suggest that peer review outcomes for clinical research will benefit from the recent refinement of NIH review criteria, emphasizing the unique contributions of clinical investigation, and from increased training opportunities for clinical investigators.