NIH Scores Are In! But what do they really mean?

If you submitted a proposal to NIH for the January 5, 2018 due date, odds are your results are now available. There are several possible outcomes. Review these possible outcomes to learn more about what your score might mean.

  • Not scored. Half of all proposals submitted do not receive a score. Sometimes referred to as “triaged,” these proposals simply were not found to be strong enough to be discussed among the full review panel. However, even unscored proposals will receive written summary statements that will include reviews from at least three reviewers. Use these comments to determine your next steps: resubmit, back to the drawing board, or move on to your next project.
  • Scored. The other half of proposals received will receive a score. Now, this is where things get tricky. Just receiving a score often is not enough to tell us if you will be funded or not. There are three possible types of scores:
    • Definitely fundable. These are very high scores (or in NIH, very low number), usually nearing 20. A score that would almost certainly be funded is a score of 23.
    • Definitely not fundable. These scores are very low scores (or in NIH, very high number), usually greater than 40. A score that would certainly not be funded is a score of 54. However, remembering that half of all proposals do not get scored, getting scored is a major accomplishment and the proposal most likely merits resubmission.
    • Maybe fundable, maybe not fundable. These are the hardest scores to interpret. There are many factors that come in to play that determine what scores are fundable and these factors vary depending on the Institute/Center considering the application for funding. Scores as high as 27 can be questionable for funding for some more competitive Institute/Centers while scores as low as 35 can be considered for funding in other Institutes/Center. Bottom line: this kind of score keeps you in limbo just a bit longer.

Remember that all proposals reviewed receive written Summary Statements. Once you receive your summary statements and review the comments carefully (and objectively!), reach out to the Program Manager to get some feedback on possible next steps for your technology. Program Managers are an excellent resource and are usually very accessible. Most importantly, don’t give up! Remember the award rates for SBIR/STTR are in the range of 12-15%. That means this is a highly competitive program—persistence pays off (and it pays in the form of non-dilutive funding).  Need help interpreting your score, reviewing Summary Statements or determining next steps?  Reach out today, we can help with that!

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