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Elife. 2016 Feb 16;5. pii: e13323. doi: 10.7554/eLife.13323.

NIH peer review percentile scores are poorly predictive of grant productivity.

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Departments of Laboratory Medicine and Microbiology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, United States.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, United States.
Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, United States.


Peer review is widely used to assess grant applications so that the highest ranked applications can be funded. A number of studies have questioned the ability of peer review panels to predict the productivity of applications, but a recent analysis of grants funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US found that the percentile scores awarded by peer review panels correlated with productivity as measured by citations of grant-supported publications. Here, based on a re-analysis of these data for the 102,740 funded grants with percentile scores of 20 or better, we report that these percentile scores are a poor discriminator of productivity. This underscores the limitations of peer review as a means of assessing grant applications in an era when typical success rates are often as low as about 10%.


grants; human biology; medicine; national institute of health; none; peer review; policy; research funding

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