Environmental Factor, June 2008, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Pilot Special Emphasis Panel to Review New Applications
By Donald Schneider, Dennis Lang and Pat Mastin
NIEHS grant applications submitted in June 2008 may be eligible for review by a new pilot special emphasis panel (SEP) recently approved by the NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR).
In February of this year, the CSR announced the establishment of an SEP to be called "Systemic Injury by Environmental Exposure (SIEE)." SIEE reviews will begin with applications submitted in June 2008 and will continue for three review cycles into 2009, after which the performance of the SEP will be critically reviewed. In its announcement, CSR emphasized that this is a pilot SEP.
The purpose of this new temporary study section is to review applications related to the pharmacological and toxicological mechanisms whereby xenobiotics (including toxicants, alcohol, drugs, biopharmaceuticals, phytochemicals and other non-drug chemicals) affect distinct organ systems, other than the digestive and nervous systems - including cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, hematopoietic, renal, respiratory/pulmonary, immune, endocrine and reproductive systems. Other covered areas are skin, oral, dental and craniofacial tissues, pregnancy and development. Applications addressing the effects of xenobiotics at the multi-organ level may also be considered.
In 2005, the CSR completed an NIH-wide restructuring of Integrated Review Groups and Study Sections, based on the scientific boundaries report, to make the review system more organ- and disease-centered. The new structure eliminated some study sections that had historically focused on areas of research related to the mission of NIEHS, including Alcohol and Toxicology 1 and 4 (ALTX-1 and ALTX-4). Applications that would have gone to these study sections were assigned instead to organ-specific study sections. The result was the dispersal of NIEHS applications to a larger number of study sections. This dispersal in turn led to a larger number of NIEHS applications that were reviewed in study sections in which only a very few NIEHS applications were being reviewed - so-called "orphan" applications. The formation of the new pilot SIEE SEP should help to remedy this situation.
There is no guarantee or expectation that SIEE will transition into a permanent Study Section. Its continuation will depend in large part on how many applications are assigned to SIEE, the review outcomes and feedback obtained from reviewers and applicants. Researchers submitting applications in the scientific areas listed above are encouraged to request assignment to SIEE.
More information about SIEE can be found at the SIEE Web site. If you have questions, you may contact Scientific Review Officer Patricia Greenwel, Ph.D.
(Don Schneider, Ph.D., is the director of the NIH Center for Scientific Review's Division of Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms. Dennis Lang, Ph.D., is the acting director of the Division of Extramural Research and Training. As chief of the DERT Cellular, Organ and Systems Pathobiology Branch, Pat Mastin, Ph.D., oversees the development and administration of a program of research and training grants, fellowships, contracts, and cooperative agreements that address the pathobiology and the pathophysiology of environmental diseases and dysfunction.)