Review Process and Timing for Grants

The RFA process, from topic development through award notification, is outlined below.

1. DRDC develops Requests for Applications (RFAs) in conjunction with the CDC/NCBDDD – December/January

Each year in the fall, the CDC/NCBDDD project officer responsible for the DRDC solicits new proposals from internal NCBDDD departments and teams. Once the initial proposals are received, NCBDDD staff then works with the DRDC PIs to finalize each new project description.

2. DRDC Announces New RFAs – mid-January

Sometime in January of each year, the DRDC distributes new RFAs nationally, by first posting them to our website here, and disseminating them broadly to partners, stakeholders, public health groups, research groups, and other interested parties.

3. Investigators Submit Applications in late February or early March.

To access the application instructions, click here.

4. DRDC Triage Panels conduct initial reviews – March/April

The DRDC’s Research Advisory Committee (RAC) and other subject matter experts are convened and put into Triage Panels to review and score the applications.  A single Triage Panel typically reviews all of the applications submitted for a particular RFA; but multiple panels are used for varying content areas.

Triage Panels consist of 3 – 5 members, depending on the number of applications, ensuring that each application will be reviewed by at least 3 independent panelists. Each panelist will privately score his/her assigned applications, using the Likert scale (1-5, whole numbers only: 1=superior, 2=very good, minor issues, 3=adequate, some concerns, 4=major issues, 5=poor) for four (4) equally weighted categories:

  • Responsiveness to the RFA/Significance/Innovation
  • Merit of the Methods, Approach
  • Evaluation Plan, and
  • Principal Investigator and Team’s ability to carry out the work

DRDC staff will calculate the Global Score for each application, which will be computed by averaging all of the individual category scores assigned by each reviewer for that application, and rounding to one decimal place. These will be used to eliminate low scoring applications.

5. DRDC Eliminates Low-scoring Applications and Submits Top 2 or 3 Proposals for each RFA to CDC – Late April

6. CDC/NCBDDD Conducts a Full Review of  DRDC-Submitted  Applications and Makes Funding Determinations – Late Summer

Applications will be evaluated for scientific and technical merit by an appropriate peer review group, in accordance with CDC peer review policy and procedures, using the stated review criteria outlined below.

As part of the scientific peer review, all applications will undergo a selection process in which all responsive applications will be discussed and assigned an overall impact/priority score; and all applications submitted for the CDC peer review will receive a written critique.

Applications will compete for available funds with all other recommended applications. The following will be considered in making funding decisions:

  • Scientific and technical merit of the proposed project as determined by scientific peer review.
  • Availability of funds.
  • Relevance of the proposed project to program priorities.

A. Review Criteria

Only the review criteria described below will be considered in the review process. As part of the CDC mission (, all applications submitted to the CDC in support of public health research are evaluated for scientific and technical merit through the CDC peer review system.

Overall Impact

Reviewers will provide an overall impact/priority score to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved, in consideration of the following review criteria and additional review criteria (as applicable for the project proposed).

Scored Review Criteria

Reviewers will consider each of the review criteria below in the determination of scientific merit, and give a separate score for each. An application does not need to be strong in all categories to be judged likely to have major scientific impact. For example, a project that by its nature is not innovative may be essential to advance a field.


Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field? If the aims of the project are achieved, how will scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice be improved? How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field?


Are the PD/PIs, collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If Early Stage Investigators or New Investigators, or in the early stages of independent careers, do they have appropriate experience and training? If established, have they demonstrated an ongoing record of accomplishments that have advanced their field(s)? If the project is collaborative or multi-PD/PI, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise; are their leadership approach, governance and organizational structure appropriate for the project?


Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions? Are the concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions novel to one field of research or novel in a broad sense? Is a refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions proposed?


Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project? Have the investigators presented strategies to ensure a robust and unbiased approach, as appropriate for the work proposed? Are potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success presented? If the project is in the early stages of development, will the strategy establish feasibility and will particularly risky aspects be managed? Have the investigators presented adequate plans to address relevant biological variables, such as sex, for studies in vertebrate animals or human subjects? If the project involves clinical research, are the plans for 1) protection of human subjects from research risks, and 2) inclusion of minorities and members of both sexes/genders, as well as the inclusion of children, justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed?


Will the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Are the institutional support, equipment and other physical resources available to the investigators adequate for the project proposed? Will the project benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, subject populations, or collaborative arrangements?

B. Additional Review Criteria

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will evaluate the following additional items while determining scientific and technical merit, and in providing an overall impact/priority score, but will not give separate scores for these items.

Protections for Human Subjects

Each application will be required to include a section that address the protection of human subjects (see instructions). If the research involves human subjects but does not involve one of the six categories of research that are exempt under 45 CFR Part 46, the committee will evaluate the justification for involvement of human subjects and the proposed protections from research risk relating to their participation a

If your proposed research involves the use of human data and/or biological specimens, you must provide a justification for your claim that no human subjects are involved in the Protection of Human Subjects section of the Research Plan.

Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Children

Each application will be required to include a section that address the inclusion of women, minorities and children (see instructions).

Resource/Data Sharing Plans

HHS/CDC policy requires that recipients of grant awards make research resources and data readily available for research purposes to qualified individuals within the scientific community after publication. Investigators responding to this funding opportunity should include a plan on sharing research resources and data (see instructions)..

Budget and Period of Support

Reviewers will consider whether the budget and the requested period of support are fully justified and reasonable in relation to the proposed research. The applicant can obtain guidance for completing a detailed budget and justification by reviewing the instructions on the PHS 398 forms webpage.

7. DRDC Notifies Applicants of the Results – September

Each September, DRDC will send official award notices regarding that year’s RFAs. DRDC will discuss the funding timeline, financial responsibilities, and research requirements with each newly funded PI. DRDC will also notify those investigators that are not funded. Each investigator that submitted a full application (regardless of whether they were funded) will receive their scores from the DRDC and any written summaries furnished by NCBDDD.

8. DRDC Issues Subcontracts (September 30) and Monitors Funded Projects – Ongoing

DRDC will facilitate kick-off calls between each PI and their team and the assigned project officer at NCBDDD. Additionally, the DRDC will monitor the completion of obtaining appropriate IRB documentation for each award, as appropriate, and will check-in approximately quarterly to keep abreast of progress. Formal progress reports will be due at least annually for all projects. DRDC will be responsible for collecting all progress reports and final reports and submitting them to the NCBDDD as directed.