Hopefully readers of this blog know by now how crucial understanding your audience is in writing an effective and competitive proposal. Sitting on a study section can give new researchers the opportunity to better understand the review process and gain insight into how to effectively present their thoughts and ideas to study sections. Additionally, the process helps new researchers expand their professional networks and gain crucial professional critique-writing skills. But, just as with grants and data, it can be a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario. Just as you need data to get a grant, but you need a grant to get the data, how can you get the requisite experience of sitting on a study panel when you don’t have the experience of grant/research success?
The NIH Center for Scientific Review (i.e., the center that coordinates the reviews for the NIH and AHRQ) recognized the value of sitting on a review panel to early career researchers, and it offers the Early Career Reviewer Program to allow them to participate in the review process and gain these skills. I would encourage all early career researchers to explore this option for career development. For more information, visit the Early Career Reviewer Program website. An overview of the program is also available in the NIH video, Jumpstart Your Research Career with CSR’s Early Career Reviewer Program (below).