Grant evaluation procedures 2012-2013

Experts Group on Neuroscience of the Chronic Disease Biology Task Force.

( Neuroscience Task Force for short).


Introduction and context

This document summarizes the procedures followed by the CDB/Neuroscience Task Force of the DBT in screening grant applications from July 2012 onwards.
This is an update of the versions from June 2010 and August 2011.

This process is designed to improve and speed up the review and feedback process. A key element of this is that PI presentations are no longer required. Instead there is a rigorous, multistage written review process, and extensive feedback goes to the PI in all cases.

Applicants are strongly advised to look at the FAQs and example proposals on this web site:

Please note that proposals having to do with drug development or natural products must adhere to special guidelines also on the same web site.

The Task Force has agreed the following general process for screening of its proposals. This was discussed in the July 2012 meeting of the Task Force, and is outlined here.

Grant review:
In response to Requests for Applications, or as part of the general grant submission process, grants are asssessed in the following way. Note that the Neuro TF no longer holds face-to-face presentations of grant proposals. A key goal in this process is that all applicants should get useful, timely and constructive feedback on their proposals. This should help them both with their proposed research and with the more effective framing of research questions.

1. Grant arrives at DBT in e-promis -> gets assigned to a TF -> gets sent to the Chair of the TF.
2. Chair examines grant for broad relevance to basic or applied neuroscience and assigns to a TF member with suitable expertise.
3. TF member examines grant to see if it is of sufficient quality to send out for review. If not, the TF member writes up a review report    his or herself, for taking up by the TF for consideration.
4. If the grant seems reasonable, the TF member suggests 3 or more reviewers.
5. Reviewers receive grant review request and send in their comments.
6. TF member digests comments preparatory to TF meeting
7. Two or more more times a year, the TF meets and decides on accumulated proposals.
    7a. Attendance at the TF meeting may be through videoconference, video phone call such as Skype, or teleconference facilities.
     7b. At least 6 weeks notice should be given before the TF meetings.
8. There are three decisions: accept, accept pending revision, and reject.
    Reject decisions may be final reject, or reject with resubmission possible, but this distinction is made only in the cover letter sent to the applicant.
9. If the decision is 'accept pending revision' (APR) then the revised proposal is seen again by the Chair.
    9a. If the Chair feels comfortable with the changes, then she/he may approve the proposal at this point.
    9b. The Chair may also delegate this decision to the TF member who originally handled the proposal.
    9c. In turn, the TF member may recommend approval at this point.
   9d. The TF member may also recommend that the proposal go out for re-review if the changes are substantial. Should this happen, then the TF member will have to examine the reviewer comments when they    come in, and then make a recommendation to the TF chair.
    9e. If the recommendation at this stage is to accept, then the TF chair may approve the proposal.
    9f. In other cases, TF member and chair    should work out the next step (such as further revision) consistent with rapid and correct handling of the proposal.
10. Once the grant is accepted, the DBT staff take it through the remaining process till funding.

At this point the assignment of TF members and reviewers is still done through emails to Dr. Garima Gupta, who is the Co-Member-Secretary & Convener of the TF. She will keep track of all this till it becomes integrated into epromis.


We have in the past had requests for re-examination of finally rejected proposals. Historically, these requests have failed upon re-review.

As such appeals entail a lot of additional work for the TF, the policy is that:
1. The appeal will be examined by the TF chair and any other members of the TF whom the chair feels are especially qualified. To avoid    issues of conflict of interest, the original TF member who handled the proposal will not be called upon.
2. Should the TF chair have handled the original proposal, then the co-chair will handle the appeal instead.
3. At this stage the TF chair and assigned members will decide whether the appeal may have merit. If not, they will frame a response to the applicant. If yes, they may send the proposal out for re-review.
4. Any such appeals must be expected to take at least 6 months.

Progress report.

Progress reports are dispatched to the TF member who originally coordinated the review process for the grant proposal. Note that again, these are not handled by face-to-face presentations.

1. The TF member should examine the report quickly, preferably within a week. We hope that in most cases the progress is at least good.
2. Upon receipt of a 'good' (or higher) rating, the DBT staff shall release the next cycle of funds. The staff shall also communicate the comments of the TF member back to the grant holder.
3. If the report itself, or the progress, are not satisfactory, then the TF member should make a recommendation to the TF chair about what to do. Typical actions include
    - Rewrite progress report
    - Provide essential additional data
    - Redesign proposal
    In all these cases, further funding is held up till the report is accepted.
4. In still more difficult situations the TF member should discuss with the chair about the next step.

Grants involving natural products or novel drug proposals Please see the detailed document at

The overview follows.
These guidelines are meant to improve the likelihood that projects planning  to do drug screening will succeed. Good projects should be designed with the full drug development process in mind, be aware of the competitive landscape, and should come with sufficient preliminary data to inspire confidence that the investigators will be able to carry out the project. While any given project is unlikely to be able to develop and fully characterize a new drug, it must be clear that the project is designed to accomplish a significant advance in a well-planned, stepwise portion of the overall drug development process. For example, we will not consider proposals that just aim to synthesize molecules without a thorough characterization of pharmacology.

Conflict of interest.

Conflict of interest may apply to Task Force functioning, to the review process, and to grant proposals. In all of these cases the primary step is to disclose and act upon the conflict of interest.
Any of the below situations is likely to constitute a conflict of interest, and must be reported and acted upon:
- Financial interest in proposal.
- Personal interest in proposal, such as family member or close friend.
- Institutional interest, such as a proposal by a colleague or collaborator.

Conflict of interest procedures for TF members:

1. Task Force members will step out of the room when their own or their institutional colleague's grants are being discussed.

2. Task Force members will not coordinate the review process for any grant on which they figure as PI, collaborator, or if they are an institutional colleague of the PI, or any other form of conflict of interest.

3. The Task Force chair will send his or her proposals to other committees.

4. The Task Force members shall disclose these or any other forms of conflict of interest with any proposal, and will recuse themselves from assessing such proposals.

Conflict of interest of reviewers:

1. Reviewers should never screen proposals from their own institution, of collaborators, or of a family member. Should such a request arrive, by error or ignorance, the reviewer should immediately decline the review and notify the DBT coordinator, Dr. Garima Gupta, about the source of conflict of interest.

2. Reviewers must state if they have any financial interest in the outcome of research in a grant proposal, in materials used in a grant proposal, or any other form of conflict of interest.

Conflict of interest of grant applicants

1. Applicants must state if they have any financial interest in the outcome of research in a grant proposal, in materials used in a grant proposal, or any other form of conflict of interest.

Ethical clearances

1. No grant will be funded till all applicable human ethical, animal ethical, and biosafety clearances have been documented.

2. Any proposal involving human subjects must show that the host institution has a bioethics and biosafety committee.

Research misconduct

1. Please see for details on research misconduct and its consequences.

2. The inclusion of plagiarized material in a grant proposal is grounds for summary rejection. Repeat offenders will be blacklisted.

Such material includes, but is not limited to, methods sections, data, literature reviews, figures, or other content lifted unattributed from published material or the web.

It is permissible to include small (typically one-sentence) quotations from other sources, provided they are indicated in quotes and the source is immediately attributed in the text of the grant. Inclusion of figures from other sources is discouraged, even with attribution.