The core values of peer review drive the NIH to seek the highest level of ethical standards, and form the foundation for the laws, regulations, and policies that govern the NIH peer review process. The NIH peer review system is mandated by statute in accordance with section 492 of the Public Health Service Act and federal regulations governing "Scientific Peer Review of Research Grant Applications and Research and Development Contract Projects" (42 CFR Part 52h). NIH policy is intended to promote a process whereby grant applications submitted to the NIH are evaluated on the basis of a process that is fair, equitable, timely, and free of bias.
The first level of review is carried out by a Scientific Review Group (SRG) composed primarily of non-federal scientists who have expertise in relevant scientific disciplines and current research areas. These initial peer review meetings are administered by either the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) or one of the NIH ICs with funding authority, such as NINDS, as specified in the funding opportunity announcement. The second level of review is performed by Institute and Center (IC) National Advisory Councils or Boards. Councils are composed of both scientific and public representatives chosen for their expertise, interest, or activity in matters related to health and disease. Only applications that are recommended for approval by both the SRG and the Advisory Council may be recommended for funding. Final funding decisions are made by the IC Directors.