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CSR logo   Center for Scientific Review
Mission | Important Events | Director


The Center for Scientific Review (CSR):

  • Serves as the central receipt point for all research and training grant applications submitted to the NIH. Also receives some of the applications submitted to other components of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and refers them to these components;

  • Assigns all NIH applications to the appropriate institutes or centers for consideration for funding and also to the scientific review groups within CSR or other institutes or centers for review;

  • Provides the scientific merit review of most research grant and fellowship applications submitted to the NIH;

  • Provides staff support to the Office of the Director, NIH, in the formulation of grant and award policies and procedures; and

  • Assists other NIH components in providing information on the NIH peer review system and information about the research grant and fellowship application process and procedures to the scientific community, the Congress, other NIH staff, and the general public.

Important Events in CSR History

1944 - Public Health Service Act (P.L. 78-410, sec. 301, July 1) authorized the Surgeon General to "make grants-in-aid to universities, hospitals, laboratories, and other public or private institutions, and to individuals for such research projects as are recommended by the National Advisory Health Council, or, with respect to cancer, recommended by the National Advisory Cancer Council." The act also authorized the award of fellowships in the health sciences.

1946 - The Research Grants Office was established January 1 under authority of section 301 of the PHS act to administer a number of research projects transferred to PHS at the end of World War II and to operate a program of extramural research grants and fellowship awards. The office was elevated to division status at the end of 1946.

The Division of Research Grants (DRG) was responsible for operating and administering a program of extramural research and training through grants-in-aid of research in the biomedical and health-related sciences. DRG retained the operating responsibility until each successive institute was established and took over the programs in its categorical fields. NCI, which already ran an extramural research program on its own, continued to do so.

DRG was instructed by the National Advisory Health Council to establish study sections for scientific and technical review of research grant applications, and to explore neglected areas of research in the health sciences.

1958 - Responsibility for research grant and training programs in noncategorical areas, operated by the division since 1946, was transferred to the new Division of General Medical Sciences (DGMS). DRG then reorganized to concentrate on the review of research grant and fellowship applications, coordination of all extramural programs operated by the institutes and DGMS, and operation of the health research facilities program and grants management.

1961 - The Grants Associates Program began recruitment and training of professional staff for the extramural branches of all PHS granting divisions, with DRG serving as a primary training focus.

1962 - DRG was assigned overall responsibility for coordinating policies and practices for administration of grants and awards for all PHS extramural programs.

1965 - The Civil Rights Liaison Office was established.

1966 - DRG assumed additional responsibilities for review with the transfer from the institutes of the committee on scientific publications, the NCI collaborative research panel, the environmental sciences review committee and the review functions of six panels of the U.S.-Japan Cooperative Medical Science program.

1968 - DRG expanded the computer-based central data system, information for management planning analysis and coordination (IMPAC), to include the fellowship programs in addition to research, training grant, and research career award programs.

1969 - DRG became a part of the Office of the Associate Director for Extramural Research and Training. Grants management responsibilities were transferred to the Office of Financial Management in the Office of the Associate Director for Administration.

1970 - DRG coordinated the initial review of all FDA applications for research grants.

1971 - The computer retrieval of information on scientific projects (CRISP) system was designed to provide scientific and associated grant identification information.

1978 - The Extramural Associates Program was established under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (P.L. 91-648) to promote participation of ethnic minorities and women in NIH-supported research.

1983 - The Scientific Review Branch, Referral Branch, and Office of Research Manpower were consolidated into the Referral and Review Branch.

DRG became the central information source for the new Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Program and coordinated the scientific review of SBIR applications.

1995/96 – DRG moved from the Westwood Building, where it had been since 1965, to the Rockledge Center, located near the NIH campus in Bethesda. Most of the Information Systems Branch was transferred to the Office of Extramural Research in the Office of the Director, NIH.

1997 - Under a new Director, Dr. Ellie Ehrenfeld, DRG underwent a major reorganization and received a new name: the Center for Scientific Review (CSR). The name change reflected the Center's primary mission – scientific review of grant applications – and signaled an expanded focus on developing and implementing flexible and innovative ways for referral and scientific review. The Center was divided into three review divisions (Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms; Physiological Systems; and Clinical and Population-based Studies) plus the Division of Receipt and Referral; the Division of Management Services; the Office of Planning, Analysis, and Evaluation; and the Office of Outreach.

CSR also began a thorough examination of its Integrated Review Groups (IRGs) and their study sections. CSR received assistance from two types of external advisory groups that reported to the CSR Advisory Committee: (1) IRG working groups, which were established to evaluate individual IRGs (2) the Panel on Scientific Boundaries for Review (PSBR), which was established to assess the overall structure and function of the IRGs.

The review activities of the former ADAMHA Institutes (the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute of Mental Health) were being integrated into CSR.

1999 - The PSBR completed its Phase 1 report, which defined organizing principles for a rigorous yet fair review and provided recommendations for reconfiguring the IRGs. In addition, eight IRG Working Groups were developed or under development to assess current IRGs.

2000 - Phase 2 of the PSBR effort was initiated to implement the Panel's recommendations. A Study Section Boundary (SSB) Team of extramural scientists with a small number of NIH and CSR staff members was formed to design the first new IRG (Hematology). A 3-year plan was developed to initiate additional SSB Teams and complete the reorganization of the 24 IRGs proposed by PSBR.

A reviewer survey was distributed to all CSR review groups to assess reviewer satisfaction and workload burdens. Ninety percent of the respondents reported that they were at least "satisfied" with their service, and a majority of respondents reported that they were "very satisfied." Reviewers indicated that it takes an average of 30 hours to prepare an average of six written critiques and an additional 8 hours to prepare as a reader of approximately 2.5 applications.

2001 - Major strides were made in completing CSR evaluation and reorganization efforts. IRG Working Group reports for nearly all existing IRGs were completed. Three SSB Teams completed the design of their IRGs: Hematology; Biology of Development and Aging; Musculoskeletal, Oral and Skin Sciences; and Cardiovascular Sciences. SSB Teams were developed to design four additional IRGs.

The number of CSR study sections increased to 153 with the addition of new review groups in the areas of biomedical information science and technology development, epidemiology, muscle biology, and oncological sciences. CSR also developed 12 new study sections to review fellowship applications.

2002 - CSR further advanced its efforts to reorganize its IRGs. SSB Teams completed the design for 8 of the remaining 12 IRGs to be reorganized: (1) Bioengineering Sciences and Technologies; (2) Surgical Sciences, Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering; (3) Oncological Sciences; (4) Digestive Sciences; (5) Immunology; (6) Renal and Urological Sciences; (7) Endocrinology, Metabolism, Nutrition and Reproductive Sciences; and (8) Infectious Diseases and Microbiology.

Responding to the need to advance clinical research, CSR recruited a Special Advisor on Clinical Research Review, Dr. Theodore Kotchen, who is Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology and Associate Dean for Clinical Research at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Strides were made in using new technologies to enhance CSR reviews. All chartered study sections were given access to the Internet Assisted Peer Review System, which allows reviewers to post their critiques and later read the critiques posted by others in their study section. In addition, the vast majority of CSR reviewers were given CDs with electronic copies of the grant applications to be considered by their review panel. The CDs are easier to transport and are bookmarked for easy navigation.

2003 - Important milestones were reached in CSR's reorganization efforts. SSB teams completed their recommendations for the last IRGs to be designed: (1) Respiratory Sciences IRG; (2) Genes, Genomes and Genetics IRG, (3) Biological Chemistry and Macromolecular Biophysics IRG; and (4) Cell Biology IRG. CSR also implemented its first redesigned IRG—the Hematology IRG—and advanced efforts to implement other IRGs.

Dr. Ellie Ehrenfeld stepped down as CSR's Director. Dr. Elias Zerhouni appointed CSR's Deputy Director, Dr. Brent Stanfield, to be the new Acting Director.

A CSR-coordinated effort to develop new ways to encourage, review, and fund innovative research grant applications was advanced and incorporated into the NIH Director's Roadmap initiative.

CSR restructured its three review divisions into four new divisions: (1) Division of Biologic Basis of Disease, (2) Division of Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms, (3) Division of Physiology and Pathology, and (4) Division of Clinical and Population-Based Studies.

In an effort to make the review focus of study sections more transparent, CSR gave names to study sections that were previously designated by their IRG affiliation and a number.

The Internet Assisted Review system was built into IMPAC, the grants system used by NIH. Reviewers now access the system through the NIH Commons, the venue for electronic communications between NIH and its principal investigators.

Biographical Sketch of CSR Director, Ellie Ehrenfeld, Ph.D.

In January 1997, Dr. Ehrenfeld, former professor of molecular biology and biochemistry and dean of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, was sworn in as the ninth CSR director. She earned a B.A. degree, cum laude, in chemistry from Brandeis University, and a Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from the University of Florida.

She conducted postdoctoral research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the department of cell biology and subsequently served on the faculty there. In 1974 she became associate professor in the microbiology and biochemistry departments at the University of Utah College of Medicine, rising to the position of professor of biochemistry and cellular, viral and molecular biology. In 1992 she became dean of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, where she served until assuming her current post.

Dr. Ehrenfeld's studies of polio virus elucidated the mechanism of virus-induced inhibition of host cell protein synthesis and the role of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. This work and her studies of hepatitis A virus have direct impact on creation of new antiviral drugs and vaccines. Her research was supported continuously by NIH for 23 years and she was an NIH Merit awardee. She currently maintains her picornavirus research program in the intramural research program of the NIAID.

She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Bill Joklik Lectureship Award, American Society of Virology; Outstanding Professor Award, University of Utah School of Medicine; Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award; USPHS Career Development Award; honorary member, Association of Microbiology of Chile; and Merck Faculty Development Award.

Dr. Ehrenfeld has served as member or chair of many peer review committees: Genetic Basis of Disease Review Committee, NIH (chair); FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee; National Multiple Sclerosis Society Advisory Committee on Fundamental Research; Research Advisory Panel, U.S. Army Medical Research, WRAIR; experimental virology study section, NIH; and Microbiology Training Committee, NIGMS, NIH. She has also served on the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council; on the Board of Scientific Counselors, NIAID; as a consultant to the Immunopathology Laboratory, Scripps Institute for Medical Research; and on the editorial boards of virology and biological chemistry journals. She has authored or coauthored numerous books and scientific articles.

CSR Directors

In Office From
Cassius James Van Slyke
January 1946 December 1, 1959
David E. Price
1948 1950
Ernest M. Allen
1951 1960
Dale R. Lindsay
1960 1963
Eugene A. Confrey
October 1963 1969
Stephen P. Hatchett
1969 August 1976
Carl D. Douglass
August 1976 December 1985
Jerome G. Green
January 1986 June 1, 1995
Ellie Ehrenfeld
January 1997 September 30, 2003
Brent Stanfield (Acting)
October 1, 2003 present
This page was last reviewed on June 21, 2005 .

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