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UT BRAIN Reviewer and Scoring Instructions

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University of Texas System

Neuroscience & Neurotechnology Research Institute

Seed Grants (UT BRAIN)

Peer Review- 2015

Overview: The seed grant peer review process is administered by the UT System. The focus of review is specified in the Funding Opportunity Announcement that encourages trans-disciplinary inter- and intra-institutional collaborations across all UT System Component Institutions, see The electronic mail review process is modelled after the NIH peer review system that includes Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest rules. Reviewers will be selected from outside Texas.   All assigned reviewers will provide a written critique and a score, or acceptable/unacceptable/not applicable designation, for each review criteria. An overall impact score will be used to rank all applications. Ranked applications will be presented to the UT System Neuroscience and Neurotechnology Research Institute Advisory Board for approval.

Chair: Tom Jacobs, Ph.D., UT System Provides administrative oversight and serves as moderator of the discussion of scientific and technical merit of the applications under review.

Reviewers Selection: a broad expertise base may be required to cover the multidisciplinary scientific proposals. A pool of potential reviewers will be identified through 1) applicant suggestions for national experts without conflict or previous collaborations/publications within the past 48 months and 2) experts identified using the proposalCENTRAL software tool, Uber Research.

Reviewer’s Responsibilities:

  • Declare Conflicts of Interest with specific applications following UTS guidance; (see NIH COI Decision Charts).
  • Sign confidentiality agreement
  • Prepare a written critique for each application assigned, based on review criteria and judgment of merit.
  • Assign a numerical score, to each scored review criterion and an overall impact score. Also, provide an acceptable/unacceptable/not applicable designation for each of the additional review criteria (see Review Criteria at a Glance).
  • Make recommendations concerning the scientific and technical merit of applications under review, in the form of final written comments and numerical scores.
  • Make recommendations concerning protections for human subjects; inclusion of women, minorities, and children in clinical research; welfare of vertebrate animals; and other areas as applicable to the application (see guidance for reviewers on Human Subjects Protection and Inclusion, Human Embryonic Stem Cells, and Vertebrate Animals).
  • Make recommendations concerning appropriateness of budget requests (see Budget Information for Reviewers).



The goal of peer review for proposals submitted to the UT BRAIN Seed Grant FOA is to evaluate applications for scientific and technical merit, and trans-disciplinary inter- and intra-institutional collaborations for research projects proposing new technologies and novel approaches, techniques and concepts in the early stage of development that have the potential for significant impact on neuroscience. For example, addressing the priorities of the White House BRAIN Initiative identified in the NIH BRAIN 2025 report. The following criteria will be used:

Overall Impact. Reviewers will provide an overall impact score to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, influence on the research field(s) involved and the potential to provide leverage for extramural support, in consideration of the following review criteria.

Scored Review Criteria. Reviewers will consider each of the review criteria below in the determination of scientific and technical merit, and give a separate score for each. An application does not need to be strong in all categories to be judged likely to have major scientific impact. For example, a project that by its nature is not innovative may be essential to advance a field.

Significance. Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field? If the aims of the project are achieved, how will scientific knowledge, and/or technical capability be improved? How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, or technologies that drive this field?  Does the application present an accurate assessment of the state-of-the-art?  Does the application propose new technology development that will be significant to the field?  Do the overall goals of the planning effort represent a significant step forward?  Will the goals adequately prepare the investigators to develop and use the proposed breakthrough innovation and/or technology to advance our understanding of previously inaccessible regions and processes in the brain?

Investigator(s).  Does the proposed research establish new collaborative relationships? Are the PIs, collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If in the early stages of independent careers, do the PI/Co-I(s) have appropriate experience and training? If established, have they demonstrated an ongoing record of accomplishments that have advanced their field(s)? Do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise?

Innovation. Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies or instrumentation? Are the concepts, approaches or methodologies or instrumentation novel to one field of research or novel in a broad sense? Is a refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies or instrumentation proposed?

Approach. Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project? Are potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success presented? In the early stages of development, will the strategy establish feasibility and will particularly risky aspects be managed? Is there a clear description of the team effort for integrating all the necessary components of the specific innovation or technology development? Are the goals for this research effort appropriate? If preliminary data are presented, do they support the proposed approach? 

Additional Review Criteria. As applicable to the project proposed, reviewers will evaluate the following additional items while determining scientific and technical merit and in providing an acceptable/unacceptable/not applicable designation, but will not give separate scores for these items.

Environment (Facilities, Equipment & Resources)
Protections for Human Subjects
Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Children
Vertebrate Animals

Seed Grant Scoring

Scoring will follow the NIH guidance. A 9-point rating scale (1 = exceptional; 9 = poor) for all applications will be used; the same scale is used for overall impact scores and for criterion scores (see below). (NOT-OD-09-024)

Each reviewer assigned to an application gives a separate score for each of the four review criteria (i.e., Significance, Investigator(s), Innovation, and Approach for seed grants) and an acceptable/unacceptable/not applicable designation for Additional Review Criteria. For all applications the individual scores of the assigned reviewers for these criteria are reported to the applicant.

In addition, each reviewer assigned to an application gives an overall impact score for that application. Each member's score reflects his/her evaluation of the overall impact that the project is likely to have on the research field(s) involved, rather than being a calculation of the reviewer's scores for each criterion.

The final overall impact score for each application is determined by calculating the mean score from all assigned reviewer’s impact scores, and multiplying the average by 10; the final overall impact score is reported on the summary statement. Thus, the final overall impact scores range from 10 (high impact) through 90 (low impact).  










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