Frequently Asked Questions
- Why is the Department of Defense involved in funding this kind of research?
- Since the inception of each program, how much money has been allocated to the Department of Defense each year and overall for research?
- Who conducts the research supported by these funds?
- Who is a consumer?
- What is scientific peer review?
- What is programmatic review?
- In which review panels do consumers participate?
- Why does the CDMRP include Consumer Reviewers on their scientific peer review panels?
- Which Programs at CDMRP need consumer reviewers?
- How does the Department of Defense ensure minority consumer representation?
- If a consumer has a particular scientific expertise in a disease, will this individual be assigned to a panel that complements his or her training and experience?
- What are the benefits of having consumers participate in the peer and programmatic review processes?
- Do consumer reviewers have an opportunity to improve the review process?
- How has consumer participation in the Department of Defense peer review program influenced other funding agencies?
- How are consumers selected to participate in peer review?
- How many consumers sit on each peer review panel?
- What orientation is provided to consumers?
- What technical support is provided to consumers while reviewing research applications?
- How much time is involved in preparing for and attending the peer review meeting?
- How much travel is involved?
- Where are the peer review panel meetings held?
- Are consumers and other panel members compensated for the time spent preparing for and attending the peer review meeting?
- Are the consumer comments taken into consideration during the funding discussions?
- What information will a consumer reviewer encounter when reviewing a research application?
- What are the review criteria that consumers use to evaluate an application?
- What are some of the resources that consumer reviewers can consult while reading and reviewing research applications?
General Information about CDMRP
Role of Consumers as Reviewers
Why is the Department of Defense involved in funding this kind of research?
In 1992, a highly visible lobbying campaign by grassroots advocacy organizations, primarily the National Breast Cancer Coalition, increased awareness among policymakers of the need to expand funding for breast cancer research. These consumer groups emphasized the need to fund research in ways that were different from those employed by traditional medical research organizations such as the National Institutes of Health. In response, the United States Congress allocated specific funds for breast cancer research in the Department of Defense appropriations budget. The Department of Defense was chosen because of its long history in performing medical research studies and because its administrative structure was designed for flexible and quick responses to changing needs and priorities. The success of this effort has resulted in an increase in the number of disease research programs for which Congress has mandated funding through the Department of Defense.
Since the inception of each program, how much money has been allocated to the Department of Defense each year and overall for research?
To see a chart of the funding history of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, click here.
Who conducts the research supported by these funds?
Scientists and clinicians at major research institutions, universities, and medical centers in the United States and in foreign countries conduct the research supported by these funds. To search our awards database, click the following link, https://cdmrp.army.mil/search.aspx.
Who is a consumer?
For the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), a consumer may be a patient, survivor, family member, and/or caregiver of people living with a disease, injury or condition that is funded by a program. For a list of consumer specific program requirements, click here.
What is scientific peer review?
Scientific peer review is the first level of review for research applications. Scientific peer review panels for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs typically include a Chairperson, a range of 6 to 20 scientist reviewers (selected on the basis of relevant scientific expertise), and 2 to 4 Consumer Reviewers. The panel deliberates on and scores the scientific merit of each application based on specific evaluation criteria that are published in the program announcement. Scores and written comments (summary statements) from all panel members are presented for the second level of review, programmatic review (see FAQ6).
What is programmatic review?
Programmatic review follows peer review. Summary statements, with recommendations from the scientific peer review panels, are forwarded to a Programmatic Panel. The Programmatic Panel can range in size from 8 to 18 members and is comprised of scientists, clinicians and consumers. In contrast to peer review, where each application is evaluated solely on its individual scientific merit, programmatic review is a comparison-based process during which applications from multiple research areas compete in a common pool. The Programmatic Panel recommends funding of a broad portfolio of grants across all disciplines, based not only on their scientific or technical merit, but also on how well the research meets program missions and goals. The programmatic review criteria are published in the program announcement. The Programmatic Panel also discusses the vision and goals for each research program, recommending revisions of these annually or as needed.
In which review panels do consumers participate?
Consumer Reviewers participate in both peer review and programmatic review. Consumers sit on all panels along with scientists and have full voting member status.
Why does the CDMRP include Consumer Reviewers on their scientific peer review panels?
Participation of consumers leads to an expanded perspective by both scientists and consumers. Consumers keep the needs of the consumer community at the forefront of scientific discussions and scientists are reminded of the human dimension of the disease. There is improved understanding of the benefits and burdens imposed upon patients participating in research studies. Consumers bring back hope for a cure, better treatment, or quality of life for those living with their disease/injury/condition generated by their participation and understanding of the focus of the research that might be funded This results in increased awareness by consumers of the importance of research and a stronger relationship between the scientific community and the consumer community.
Which Programs at CDMRP need consumer reviewers?
All CDMRP programs are accepting applications for new consumer reviewers.
How does the Department of Defense ensure minority consumer representation?
The Department of Defense works to achieve a broad ethnic and cultural representation of Consumer Reviewers, reflective of the incidence of the target disease or condition on populations through a two-pronged approach of information dissemination and formal outreach. Recruitment materials are disseminated to consumer organizations, including minority consumer groups and formal outreach is implemented to such organizations as needed, to maximize potential for achieving equity among ethnic and cultural consumer representation on peer review panels.
If a consumer has a particular scientific expertise in a disease, will this individual be assigned to a panel that complements his or her training and experience?
Consumer reviewers serve as lay representatives. They are selected on the basis of their consumer advocacy and experience working with others affected. Therefore, consumer reviewers with scientific and technical expertise are assigned to a panel that is unrelated to their expertise as a general rule. Consumer reviewers representing the military are not required to be involved in advocacy efforts. Consumers with military experience and serving for military-focused programs bring expertise from both their military experience and their interaction with others who have similar illnesses or injuries. As a result, their panel assignments may complement their training and experience.
What are the benefits of having consumers participate in the peer and programmatic review processes?
Consumers' first-hand experience with a disease/injury/condition - augmented by the experiences of others from their community - provides a perspective that is complementary to the scientific expertise. This perspective helps scientists understand the human side of how research will impact the community. In addition, this perspective allows for funding recommendations that will reflect the concerns and needs of individuals, patients, the clinicians or healthcare team who treat them, caregivers, and families.
Do consumer reviewers have an opportunity to improve the review process?
The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs is committed to enhancing and improving the process of peer review and consumer participation. After every peer review meeting, comments are solicited from scientists and consumers in the form of a post-meeting online evaluation form. In addition, consumer reviewers come together at the end of the meeting to debrief on their experience and provide feedback on what would make the experience better. The feedback provides insight on how to best conduct and direct future reviews.
How has consumer participation in the Department of Defense peer review program influenced other funding agencies?
Other funding agencies have begun to involve consumer reviewers in their peer review programs. The Department of Defense has provided information on the logistics of consumer participation to other Federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute, as well as non-governmental funding organizations.
How are consumers selected to participate in peer review?
Consumer reviewer selection is accomplished through a three-step process. First, nominations/recommendations are solicited from disease/injury/condition-related advocacy organizations across the country and a variety of military facilities and organizations. These organizations/facilities may include support groups or those with educational outreach, health care, or policy-focused missions, as well as military and veteran organizations. Nominees are screened based on a letter of support (except active duty military personnel who may be recommended by their commanding officer), a resume, biosketch or CV, and a personal essay detailing the nominee's involvement in advocacy (as appropriate) and their efforts to increase their own scientific understanding of their condition/disease/injury. Consumer reviewers must represent the concerns of the community rather than individual interests.
Applications are reviewed by peer review program staff and evaluated in the following areas: advocacy (not applicable to military personnel on active duty), interest in science, communication skills, and participatory skills (click here for link to How You Are Evaluated ). The final step involves a brief telephone interview to ascertain a nominee's understanding of the peer review process, ability to speak and answer questions comfortably, and willingness to serve as a consumer reviewer. Once these steps are completed, interested consumers are scheduled for specific meeting dates. If more eligible consumers are identified than the program requires for that fiscal year, a selection of those eligible to serve is made based on several factors to best fill available positions and ensure representation of the community. Eligible consumers who are not selected are placed in a network of eligible candidates and may be selected to serve in the future.
How many consumers sit on each peer review panel?
In general, there are one to four consumers on each panel.
What orientation is provided to consumers?
Consumers are prepared for peer review in several ways. In general, each novice (new) consumer reviewer is paired with an experienced consumer reviewer. This mentor acts as a "buddy" to the novice, explaining the "ins and outs" of the pre-meeting work and the meeting processes and procedures. Orientation, training, and materials are provided for all consumer reviewers. These include online and live training presentations, a handbook that provides an overview of peer review, policies, procedures, and guidelines, as well as helpful advice gathered from experienced consumer reviewers on how to approach reviewing the applications. Prior to the panel meeting, consumers attend a brief orientation session on peer review where the program and peer review processes are discussed and where experienced consumer reviewers share their experiences.
What technical support is provided to consumers while reviewing research applications?
Before the peer review meeting, consumers work closely with the scientific panel manager assigned to their panel for help in understanding their assigned applications and in developing their written critiques. Scientific panel managers possess years of experience in peer review procedures and have a broad range of scientific, administrative, and technical support skills related to peer review. At the meeting, consumers are encouraged to ask the panel to explain scientific concepts with which they may be unfamiliar.
How much time is involved in preparing for and attending the peer review meeting?
Although application review time varies among consumer reviewers, in general it takes approximately 40 hours of pre-meeting preparation over a 4 to 6 week period. The pre-meeting preparation includes: registration, training, reviewing assigned applications, and writing comments for those applications. The peer review meeting may take place onsite or by teleconference, videoconference or online moderated discussions. An onsite peer review lasts approximately 2 to 3 days. Teleconference or videoconference panels generally meet over 1 to 3 afternoons.
How much travel is involved?
Meetings that are conducted onsite generally last from 2-3 days and require subsidized travel to the onsite venue. Consumer reviewers assigned to onsite panels are expected to travel to, and participate in, the entire meeting.
Where are the peer review panel meetings held?
Most peer review panels meet within the greater Washington, DC, area.
Are consumers and other panel members compensated for the time spent preparing for and attending the peer review meeting?
Panel members may be eligible to receive a small consultant’s fee that helps cover their time spent to prepare for and attend the meeting. In addition, the Department of Defense pays for travel, accommodations, and meals during the course of the meeting.
Are the consumer comments taken into consideration during the funding discussions?
Yes, as a member of the peer review panel, comments provided by consumer reviewers are reviewed alongside scientific reviewer comments. Additionally, consumers have full voting status on the panels.
What information will a consumer reviewer encounter when reviewing a research application?
The information a consumer reviewer will receive to review will vary based on the funding mechanism. Some typical documents included in a research application for review may include:
- Brief technical synopsis of the entire study being proposed (assumes that the reader has a strong technical understanding of the field, or performs research in the field)
- Describes specific aims of study
- Brief synopsis of the entire study being proposed (uses lay terms and is written so that people from a variety of backgrounds can understand it)
- Description of the ultimate vision for how the proposed work, if successful, will accelerate the eradication of the disease or treat the condition being studied
- Explains how the proposed research will have an impact on the concepts or methods that drive the particular field of research and the likelihood that a successful outcome to the research project will lead to practical applications in patients
- Description of how the expected results of the proposed work will contribute to the goals of decreasing the clinical impact of the disease/injury/condition
- Presents the ideas and reasoning behind the proposed work
- Cites and describes work of other researchers in this area
- Presents preliminary results, if any (may not be required; consult Program Announcement for the specific mechanism regarding this requirement)
Hypothesis or Objective
- Statement of question to be answered or the goals to be reached
- Describes the experimental design, methods, and analyses to be used, tools and equipment to be used, animal/human use, if any, and potential problem areas and alternative methods and approaches
Statement of Work
- Outlines tasks to be done (typically uses specific aims listed in technical abstract as major categories)
- Outlines expenditures such as salary, student support, materials and supplies, equipment, and travel
- Researchers' biosketches
- Letters of support from mentor and/or institution
- PI's relevant publications
- Description of research environment
What are the review criteria that consumers use to evaluate an application?
Review criteria are published for each award mechanism in the Program Announcement, but one key criterion that consumer reviewers are required to critique is "Impact" or the equivalent such as “Military Relevance and Impact” for awards with military-focused research. Investigators typically include an Impact Statement (or equivalent) with applications describing the potential impact of the proposed research for the scientific research community and/or for those affected by the disease/injury/condition. The requested content for the Impact Statement (or equivalent) will appear in each Program Announcement and might vary for different award mechanisms, so reviewers should read the Program Announcement to become familiar with what was expected from the investigators and what is expected of the reviewers.
What are some of the resources that consumer reviewers can consult while reading and reviewing research applications?
Below is a list of websites that consumer reviewers can consult to assist with understanding scientific applications:
- WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/ or MedicineNet.com http://www.medterms.com/script/main/alphaidx.asp?p=b_dict - definition of medical terms
- PubMed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=PubMed - database of scientific literature
- The Life Science Glossary: http://www.biochem.northwestern.edu/holmgren/Glossary/Definitions.html - glossary containing an extensive collection of developmental biology, genetic, cell biology, molecular biology, molecular genetic, and biochemistry definitions.
- Dictionary of Cancer Terms: http://www.cancer.gov/dictionary/
Environmental health terms: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/glossary.html
Vaccine glossary: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/about/terms/glossary.htm
- Genome Glossary: http://web.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/glossary
- NCI drug dictionary: http://www.cancer.gov/drugdictionary/
- Glossary of Statistical Terms: http://seer.cancer.gov/cgi-bin/glossary/glossary.pl
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Last updated Thursday, September 1, 2022