The SEC currently has 13 members. This year, the committee adopted something closer to an NIH study-section style format. The motivation was to lessen the heavy burden of two rounds of reviews. Unfortunately (for the reviewers), the large number of applications this year (47) resulted in more work than previous years.
The deadline for receipt of application is typically in mid-June (June 14 in 1996). These are divided among the 12 reviewers so that each reviews about half of the entire set. This results in each application having about 5 or 6 reviewers. The applications are received by reviewers within about ten days. They have until August 30 to return a list of priority scores and a brief rationale for the score of each grant. A top group of about seven applications is selected based strictly on the scoring. Each is then assigned to two reviewers.
In previous years, the second group of applications was reviewed by all the reviewers, who also received each other’s comments. A second round of scoring determined the three selected for funding, although this was not finally determined until the SEC’s deliberation at the annual meeting of the ASA. (Those not reaching the second round are notified by letter within about ten days). These are discussed at the Committee’s meeting on the Saturday preceding the annual ASA meeting. The winners, usually the top three scoring grants, are announced at the meeting of the Board of Directors within about four hours of the final determination. Feedback is sent to all investigators who request it.
It has been the practice that reviewers not review or score applications submitted from their home department even if they have no involvement with the study. There has not previously been a situation where a member of the SEC was involved in a specific grant. 1995 was an exception: the Chairman of the committee was a consultant to one of the applications. The committee felt that membership on the committee should not eliminate any member from eligibility for funding, as is the rule for NIH study sections. For federal grants, a committee person is not present when the grant is discussed. For the APSF, we wished to extend this further to ensure the strictest objectivity. The Chairman recused himself from the entire review process; Dr. Ira Rampil was appointed as interim chairman and made all determinations about selection of reviewers and other matters.