Board of Scientific Counselors

The Scientific Director determines the schedule of lab reviews that allows each lab to be reviewed at least every four years. The exact date of the review is set approximately 6 months in advance. Review dates are determined by the Chair of the BSC based upon availability of the Laboratory Chief, Scientific Director and NIEHS Director.

Four to six months in advance, information on the individuals to be reviewed (i.e., individual staff profiles) is provided by the Laboratory Chief to the Office of the Scientific Director. This information is then sent to the Board Chair, who determines the need for ad hoc reviewers and proposes the names of candidate reviewers to the Scientific Director. The Office of the Scientific Director determines the availability and solicits the participation of the ad hocs on behalf of the Board Chair.

The BSC requires the following information:

  • A Laboratory/Branch Review book, provided one month in advance, that contains an overview of the Laboratory/Branch, research project summaries of the individuals under review and their CVs
  • Confidential summaries of research resources, provided two weeks in advance
  • Copies of the last BSC review, provided two weeks in advance through the Office of the Scientific Director (OSD)

The BSC review consists of:

  • An evening session with the Laboratory Chief, Program Director and Scientific Director prior to the review with the BSC
  • A formal overview presentation to the BSC by the Laboratory/Branch Chief
  • A research presentation by each independent investigator and appropriate staff scientist a poster session where junior staff (e.g., fellows, IRTAs, students) present their research
  • A closed session with the BSC, Scientific Director and Director to give a preliminary summary of the BSC review and evaluation
  • A written summary by the BSC that is provided within two months after the review. The written summary gives an evaluation of the overall Laboratory and of each investigator. Each investigator receives a copy of the report.
  • A written response by the Scientific Director addressing the recommendations in the final BSC report. Any individual scientist may submit his or her own response to the Board’s review directly to the Scientific Director. The Scientific Director may or may not include submitted responses with the formal response to the Board.

Note: At no time prior to the review date or prior to the Board’s completion of the written report should the investigators under review or anyone in their Laboratory/Branch contact any member of the BSC or ad hoc reviewers. Questions about the review process should be addressed only to the Scientific Director.

Responsibilities of Laboratory/Branch Under Review

Four to six months prior to a given review, the Chief of the Laboratory/Branch provides the following to the Office of the Scientific Director: a list of each scientist who will be making a presentation at the review, a copy of their website staff profiles and a draft review agenda indicating the order and title of staff presentations. This information is used to select ad hoc reviewers.

One month prior to the review, review books are sent to all Board members and ad hoc reviewers. Eight additional copies of the review packages are delivered to the Scientific Director one month before the review.

Six weeks prior to the review, the Laboratory/Branch Chief meets with the DIR Budget Officer to discuss the preparation of the confidential resources package. This package is sent from the OSD to reviewers two weeks before the meeting.

Three weeks prior to the review, the Laboratory/Branch contacts NIEHS Office Services to reserve poster boards for the poster display portion of the review and arranges to have the boards delivered to the Building 101 Conference Room or another agreed upon site. The staff must set-up the display by the Friday before the review. Posters announcing the Board Review are prepared and distributed by the Laboratory/Branch.

Guidelines for BSC Report

Review books consist of:

  • Cover
  • Roster of attending Board members and ad hoc reviewers
  • Meeting agenda
  • Summary of the organization of the Lab/Branch being reviewed, including its various sections
  • List of personnel, including their scientific specialty or area of expertise and type of appointment
  • Brief description of the Laboratory/Branch, including its mission and focus, accomplishments since its last BSC review and future directions

For each scientist being reviewed:

  • A progress report for each major research project since the last BSC review that contains:
    • A brief background discussion
    • The hypothesis tested or problem addressed
    • Approaches employed
    • Results and their significance (including relevance to the NIEHS mission)
    • Future directions/plans and justifications
    • Current CV and bibliography
    • Copies of three to five most important publications since the last review (may include “in press” articles)
  • A summary of mentorship activities, including:
    • Names of mentor’s three most recent trainees having completed training at NIEHS
    • Their current positions
    • Names of three other trainees and their current positions (if applicable)

Suggested Areas of Discussion by Laboratory/Branch Chief at Evening Session of BSC

  1. What is the purpose of the Laboratory/Branch?
  2. How does the Laboratory/Branch contribute to the mission of NIEHS?
  3. How does the Laboratory/Branch encourage interactions within the Laboratory and the institute?
  4. How does the Laboratory/Branch support training and mentoring?
  5. What are the impediments to research in the Laboratory/institute/NIH?
  6. Other issues that the Laboratory/Branch Chief wishes to raise.


The BSC advises the Scientific Director and action taken following the BSC review may be appealed only to the Scientific Director. A written appeal through the Laboratory/Branch Chief may be sent to the Scientific Director.

Tenure-track Investigators and the BSC Process

  • A formal review of each tenure-track investigator is conducted by the BSC approximately three years after the investigator’s original appointment.
  • The BSC can recommend that the candidate be continued in the tenure-track, removed from the track, or considered for early evaluation for tenure.
  • The BSC also identifies particular areas of strength and weakness of the candidate and suggests steps necessary to improve a candidate's research.
  • Recent (no more than two years old) BSC reviews that include a specific recommendation on tenure are required as part of the package considered by the NIEHS Committee on Promotions and Tenure at the time of tenure deliberations.