Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ., 21 May 2003
Vol. 2003, Issue 20, p. nw71
[DOI: 10.1126/sageke.2003.20.nw71]


Open for Business

NIH study sections devoted to the biology of aging are ready to take grant applications

Mary Beckman;2003/20/nw71

Key Words: National Institute on Aging • NIA

Like Little Orphan Annie, who eventually gets adopted by Daddy Warbucks, research proposals on the biology of aging have finally found a home. With the appointment of a chief to administer them, two new National Institutes of Health (NIH) study sections are now up and running and are accepting applications for the June-July review cycle.

NIH study sections are the heart of the peer-review process for grants. Scientists applying for funding from the various agencies at NIH send proposals to the NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR), which assigns the proposals to review groups called study sections that specialize in particular areas but aren't aligned with any particular institute. After the study-section panels score the applications, the proposals are sent to the institutes, which make the final award decisions. In the past, CSR scattered grants for aging-related research among many different study sections, and reviewers frequently had little knowledge of the field.

The push for biology of aging study sections began several years ago (see "Get Some Glasses, Ump!"). The endeavor has culminated in two new aging-related study sections: a basic science section called Cellular Mechanisms in Aging and Development (CMAD) and a section for applied research called Aging Systems and Geriatrics (ASG). Because development and aging overlap in various areas--chromosome dynamics, cell death, and cellular signaling, among others--NIH administrators placed the two study sections into an "integrated review group," a cluster of study sections centered on a general scientific theme. The resulting Biology of Development and Aging (BDA) Integrated Review Group contains two developmental biology sections as well as the aging ones, as its name implies.

On 6 May, the director of CSR, Ellie Ehrenfeld, announced that Sherry Dupere (pronounced "du pair") will administrate the BDA Integrated Review Group, distributing the proposals to BDA's study sections.

Dupere's previous position as chief of the former Cell Development and Function #5 study section (which is one of the two developmental biology study sections and is now called DEV-2) exposed her to many proposals on the cellular and molecular aspects of aging and senescence. She says the new review group is "giving the field of aging a chance to grow and thrive."

Currently, she is recruiting researchers to serve on the review panels. Provisional rosters of section reviewers are posted at BDA's Web site (CMAD; ASG) and will be updated as people come on board, she says.

"It's a major step forward" for research on aging, says pathophysiologist Jeffrey Halter of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who has sought funding from NIH for such projects. Because of the lack of expertise on aging in study sections, he says, investigators sometimes had to be covert about including proposal ideas on the subject or risk being "inappropriately criticized." Now, "people will be able to put down ideas about aging research in more up-front ways." With a place of its own, research on aging can now concentrate on maturing.

--Mary Beckman

May 21, 2003 Citation: M. Beckman, Open for Business. Sci. SAGE KE 2003, nw71 (21 May 2003);2003/20/nw71

Science of Aging Knowledge Environment. ISSN 1539-6150