Institutes and Research Divisions
Division of Research Grants


The Division of Research Grants (DRG): 1) serves as the central receipt point for most research grant and training applications submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and makes initial referral to the various DHHS components; 2) assigns all NIH applications to the appropriate institutes or centers and also to the scientific review groups within DRG or the other institutes or centers; 3) provides the scientific merit review of most research grant and fellowship applications submitted to the NIH; 4) provides staff support to the Office of the Director, NIH, in the formulation of grant and award policies and procedures; and 5) assists other NIH components in providing and disseminating data on the intramural and extramural NIH programs, 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 DRG 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 Public Health Service Act to administer a number of research projects transferred to PHS from the Office of Scientific Research and Development at the end of 1945. The office was elevated to division status at end of 1946.

DRG was assigned responsibility for operating and administering a program of extramural research and training through grants-in-aid of research in the biomedical and health-related sciences (with the exception of cancer research programs operated by NCI). DRG retained the operating responsibility until each successive institute was established and took over the programs in its categorical fields.

The division was instructed by 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.

1947--Assigned responsibility for development and administration of the research fellowships program, DRG was renamed Division of Research Grants and Fellowships.

A Central Qualifications Board was formally established August 14 to coordinate review of fellowship applications.

1949--Authority was delegated to DRG May 17 to make awards, and set stipends, allowances, and travel for PHS research fellows (section 202 of the PHS act as amended).

1950--Title was changed back to Division of Research Grants with no change in functions.

1953--A research documentation section was created for the collection, storage, and retrieval of scientific information resulting from the research grants program.

DRG was awarded the Albert Lasker Award “for outstanding administration of a research grants program, enabling thousands of capable scientists in hundreds of institutions to contribute knowledge substantially advancing the Nation's health.”

1956--A Health Research Facilities Branch was established to operate the construction program authorized in the Health Research Facilities Act (P.L. 84-835).

1957--The Grants Review Branch was established to coordinate activities of the 27 study sections then in existence.

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.

Following the transfer, the DRG reorganized to concentrate on 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.

1959--The Statistics and Analysis Branch was established.

1961--To develop and support independent investigators of high competence, the Research Career Program was initiated. A Career Development Review Branch was established.

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

The Research Grants Index was published for the first time.

1962--DRG was assigned overall responsibility for coordinating policies and practices for administration of grants and awards for all PHS extramural programs. An interbureau advisory committee was created to coordinate the programs and to assist the division.

A Policy and Procedure Office, was established in the Office of the Chief to coordinate the review, development, and implementation of PHS policies on grants and awards. Health Research Facilities was transferred to the new Division of Research Facilities and Resources.

1963--Codification of PHS policies and regulations led to the publication of a grants manual.

1964--A DRG newsletter was initiated. Three associate chiefs were added to strengthen management in scientific evaluation, technical communications, analyses of extramural programs, statistical interpretations of grant support, and staff training and orientation.

1965--The Civil Rights Liaison Office was established.

The grants manual was replaced by the “Policy Statement and Guide to Operating Procedures for Research Grants.”

DRG expanded its data processing services to include computer-preparation of notices-of-awards and approval lists for research grants.

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.

DRG recommended an increase in the responsibility of grantee institutions for scientific and administrative management of research projects approved by the Surgeon General to over 40 additional institutions for 2 years.

The Surgeon General issued the policy and procedure on clinical research and investigations involving human subjects in February. Expanded in July, it required institution-wide assurances to be coordinated and reviewed by DRG. Assurances from most major grantees were received and accepted.

DRG expanded its computerized central data system to include training grants and research career awards in an analogous pattern for research grants, and set up a computer-based record for trainees on training grants and biographical records for research career awardees.

DRG established a general systems research section and research operations support section under the associate director for research analysis and evaluation. The NIH Central Scientific Classification System for research grants was installed.

1967--An Institutional Relations Office was established.

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 function was transferred to the Office of Financial Management in the Office of the Associate Director for Administration.

DRG assumed responsibility for preparation of “Notice of NIH Conferences.”

1970--DRG assumed initial review of all FDA applications for research grants. The Research Analysis and Evaluation Office was given branch status with expanded responsibilities as principal staff resource to DRG and NIH program officials in the analysis and evaluation of the NIH extramural programs.

Responsibility for review of fellowship applications was passed to supporting institutes and divisions.

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

Study sections were assigned responsibility for initial review of all new RCDA applications.

1972--An Office of Associate Director for Scientific Review was established to coordinate all DRG activities that impinge on the review process and to assist ICD's in devising most effective methods for review of new special emphasis programs.

The Administrative Branch was established incorporating duties of the Internal Operations Branch and other related functions.

The institutional relations section was elevated to branch status.

The Statistics and Analysis Branch was reorganized into special projects and surveys section, reports and data evaluation section, and an Office of Systems Planning in the Office of the Chief.

1973--The Career Development Review Branch was abolished. An Office of Research Manpower was established. Grantee institutions were requested to establish central control offices for distribution of research grant applications to their investigators.

1974--The first receipt date for new individual and institutional postdoctoral research fellowship awards was scheduled for February 1. Review of individual fellowship award applications was assigned to the study sections.

Research Grants Review Branch was abolished. Scientific Review Branch and Referral Branch were established. Institutional Relations Branch was transferred from DRG to the immediate Office of the Director, NIH, and renamed the Office for Protection From Research Risks.

DRG was assigned responsibility for conducting an ongoing inventory of clinical trials supported by grants and contracts, and NIH intramural research investigators.

1975--Study sections were assigned responsibility for considering animal welfare in review of grant and contract applications with special attention to the department's Principles for the Use of Laboratory Animals.

DRG developed a computerized tracking system to identify research involving human subjects and to assure compliance by grantee investigators with departmental policy concerning protection of human subjects.

The single review section in the Scientific Review Branch was replaced by four review sections--biomedical sciences, clinical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and specials--under the immediate Office of the Chief.

1976--A new review cycle was established on January 1 for grant and award applications to conform with the new Federal fiscal year (October 1-September 30).

1978--The behavioral and social sciences review section was changed to behavioral and neurosciences review section.

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.

1979--DRG chartered four new study sections: biochemical endocrinology, chemical pathology, diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine, and mammalian genetics.

The grants peer review study team published phase II of the report to the director, NIH. Over 3,000 copies were mailed to those who participated in the opinion poll.

An NIH review scientist registry and consultant file was officially initiated.

1980--DRG was directed to discontinue use of normalized rating scores after the May/June council round.

1981--Eight new study sections were chartered: behavioral and neurosciences, behavioral medicine, biomedical sciences, bio-organic and natural products chemistry, clinical sciences, experimental cardiovascular sciences, experimental immunology, and physical biochemistry.

A Scientific Review Branch reorganization established three additional review sections: biological sciences, manpower, and physiological sciences.

1982--The hearing research study section was chartered.

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

As a result of the congressionally mandated Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Program, DRG's responsibilities increased. DRG was the central information source for the small business community, provided the scientific merit review of SBIR applications, and established an SBIR database for statistical studies and future mailings.

The respiratory and applied physiology study section was chartered.

1984--The Research Analysis and Evaluation Branch was abolished. A position of assistant director for special projects was established. The neurology C study section was established.

1985--The reproductive endocrinology study section was chartered.

1986--A DRG study section seminar series was established, whereby section members give scientific presentations of general interest to NIH.

The metabolic pathology study section was chartered.

1987--The Referral and Review Branch was reorganized the manpower review section was dissolved, and the fellowship and some other study sections were redistributed. The nursing research study section was chartered. The Reviewers Reserve, a pool of experienced, precertified reviewers, was developed and is managed by DRG. The division's 40th year was commemorated and the division participated in the NIH centennial celebration.

1988--The Statistics and Analysis Branch was reorganized and named the Information Systems Branch. The review sections in the Referral and Review Branch were reorganized with the addition of the immunology, virology and pathology review section and the redistribution of several study sections.

1989/90--The DRG advisory committee was established as a council of experts outside the NIH to advise DRG on policies and procedures.

Ten new study sections were chartered: AIDS and related research (7; genome; international and cooperative projects; and physiological sciences. AIDS and fellowship applications were given expedited review.

A local area network (LAN) was implemented to link the DRG personal computers to each other and to the main NIH computer system. Four videotapes were made on the NIH peer review system and application process and DRG.

1991/92--The lung biology and pathology study section and the behavioral and neurosciences special emphasis panel were established and chartered. The Information Systems Branch was reorganized into the data management and control section, information systems management section, networking and telecommunications section, research documentation section, systems analysis section, and statistics, analysis and evaluation section.

DRG was instrumental in enabling the “NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts” to be distributed electronically to over 275 research institutions, and the division also developed a computer system to enable the public to receive NIH program guidelines and division publications electronically.

The visual sciences C study section was chartered.

The Westwood Building library, managed by DRG staff, was established.

1993/94--The NIH Grant Line, a computer bulletin board, providing information on NIH extramural program guidelines, was expanded to include new grants and awards and membership rosters of study sections.

CRISP, designed in 1971 to furnish scientific grant information, was issued on CD-ROM and through the Gopher system via Internet.

The division developed and manages the revised “NIH Consultant File” to identify potential peer reviewers.

1995/96--DRG relocated from the Westwood Building where they had been since 1965, to the Rockledge Centre, located near the NIH Campus in Bethesda.

The division developed DART (Division Application Review Tracker), an automated tracking system enabling users to view and manage grant application data through the peer review process.

The 50th Anniversary of DRG and peer review was celebrated with a symposium: “Past, Present and Future of Peer Review.”

Most of the Information Systems Branch was transferred to the Office of Extramural Research in the Office of the Director, NIH.


Director's of DRG

NameDate of Birth Dates of Office
Cassius James Van Slyke1900 January 1946Dec. 1, 1959
David E. PriceJuly 5, 191419481950
Ernest M. AllenDec. 1, 190419511960
Dale R. LindsayAug. 9, 191319601963
Eugene A. ConfreyApr. 6, 1922 October 19631969
Stephen P. HatchettJune 30, 1915 1969August 1976
Carl D. Douglass1928August 1976December 1985
Jerome G. GreenJune 20, 1929 January 1986June 1, 1995
Ellie EhrenfeldMarch 1, 1942 January 1997.........................

Biographical Sketch of DRG 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 DRG 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 poliovirus 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 the creation of new antiviral drugs and vaccines. Her research has been supported continuously by the NIH for 23 years, and she was an NIH Merit awardee.

She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Bill Joklik Lectureship Award, American Society of Virology; the Outstanding Professor Award, University of Utah School of Medicine; Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award; U.S.P.H.S. Career Development Award; Honorary Member, Association of Microbiology of Chile; and the 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, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; Experimental Virology Study Section, NIH; and Microbiology Training Committee, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIH. She has also served on the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council; on the Board of Scientific Counselors, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; 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.


DRG Study Sections

The following review groups evaluate research grant applications. Their dates of establishment are denoted in parentheses.

AIDS and Related Research IRG (1994)

AIDS and Related Research-1-7 (1990)

Biobehavioral and Social Sciences IRG (1994)

Behavioral Medicine (1980)
Biopsychology (1978)
Human Development and Aging-1, 2 (1981) & 3 (1983)
Social Science and Population (1977)

Biochemical Sciences IRG (1994)

Biochemistry (1951)
Medical Biochemistry (1990)
Pathobiochemistry (1982)
Physiological Chemistry (1959)
Special Study Section-2 (1976)
Special Study Section-6 (1976)

Biophysical and Chemical Sciences IRG (1994)

Bio-organic & Natural Products Chemistry (1980)
Biophysical Chemistry (1981)
Medicinal Chemistry (1981)
Metallobiochemisrty (1980)
Molecular and Cellular Biophysics (1982)
Physical Biochemistry (1980)
Special Study Section-Z (1976)

Cardiovascular Sciences IRG (1994)

Cardiovascular (1990)
Cardiovascular and Renal (1973)
Experimental Cardiovascular Sciences (1980)
Hematology-1&2 (1982)
Pathology A (1961)
Pharmacology (1972)

Cell Development and Function IRG (1994)

Biological Sciences-2 (1989)
Cellular Biology and Physiology-1&2 (1983)
Molecular Cytology (1975)
Human Embryology and Development-2 (1991)
International and Cooperative Projects (1989)
Molecular Biology (1967)
Special Study Section-Y (1976)

Endocrinology & Reproductive Sciences IRG (1994)

Biochemical Endocrinology (1979)
Endocrinology (1951)
Human Embryology & Development-1 (1991)
Reproductive Biology (1965)
Reproductive Endocrinology (1985)

Genetic Sciences IRG (1994)

Biological Sciences-1(1989)
Genetics (1958)
Genome (1990)
Mammalian Genetics (1979)

Health Promotion & Disease Prevention IRG (1994)

Epidemiology & Disease Control-1 & 2 (1987)
Nursing Research (1987)
Alcohol and Toxicology 1, 2, 3 & 4 (1997)

Immunological Sciences IRG (1994)

Allergy and Immunology (1967)
Experimental Immunology (1980)
Immunobiology (1967)
Immunological Sciences (1975)
Special Study Section-4 (1976)

Infectious Diseases & Microbiology IRG (1994)

Bacteriology and Mycology-1 & 2 (1986)
Experimental Virology (1975)
Microbial Physiology and Genetics-1 & 2 (1982)
Tropical Medicine and Parasitology (1959)
Virology (1969)

Musculoskeletal & Dental Sciences IRG (1994)

General Medicine-A1 (1983)
General Medicine-B (1965)
Geriatrics & Rehabilitation Medicine (1997)
Oral Biology and Medicine -1 and -2 (1984)
Orthopedics and Musculoskeletal (1981)
Special Study Section-5 (1976)

Neurological Sciences IRG (1994)

Neurological Sciences-1&2 (1984)
Neurological Sciences-3 (1997)
Neurology-A (1962)
Neurology-B1& B2 (1962)
Neurology-C (1984)

Nutritional and Metabolic Sciences IRG (1994)

General Medicine-A2 (1983)
Metabolism (1959)
Nutrition (1959)

Oncological Sciences IRG (1994)

Chemical Pathology (1979)
Experimental Therapeutics-1 & 2 (1985)
Metabolic Pathology (1986)
Pathology-B (1961)
Radiation (1955)
Special Study Section-1 (1976)

Pathophysiological Sciences IRG (1994)

Lung Biology and Pathology (1991)
Physiology (1946)
Respiratory and Applied Physiology (1983)
Special Study Section-3 (1976)

Sensory Sciences IRG (1994)

Sensory Disorders and Language (1962)
Hearing Research (1982) Visual Sciences A (1962), B (1972) & C (1991)

Surgery, Radiology, & Bioengineering IRG (1994)

Diagnostic Imaging (1997)
Diagnostic Radiology (1987)
Surgery, Anesthesiology, and Trauma (1977)
Surgery & Bioengineering (1977)
Special Study Section 7 - 9 (1976)
Special Study Section W (1976)