Improving K, R, and F series grant submissions since 2014

The ICTS hosts NIH Mock Study Sections, designed to simulate an actual NIH study section, through the Research Development Program. These review sessions for clinical and translational R, K, and F series grant applications are held twice annually, in Spring and Winter. The purpose of this program is to increase the likelihood of grant funding success by providing comprehensive, study section-like feedback to applicants on their complete grant application prior to grant submission.

Spring Cycle

Date:April 10, 2024
Time: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Location: Zoom Virtual Meeting (Invitation only)
CycleNIH Deadline LOI deadline* Grant material deadline*NIH Mock Study Section
SpringJune 2024February 1, 2024February 29, 2024 April 10, 2024
Winter February 2025TBDTBDTBD

* Materials must be submitted by provided link when LOI is accepted; due 5 PM CT

In the MSS, designated co-chairs manage the discussion and three faculty reviewers discuss their feedback on the individual grant application. Initial scores are given prior to the discussion, and final scores are given after the panel discussion is complete in accordance with the NIH or other funding agency scoring procedures. The entire review committee scores each individual application; written feedback is assembled as a Summary Statement and released to applicants prior to the NIH grant deadline. This unique experience helps applicants better understand how their grant applications are reviewed by the NIH, which ultimately boosts the quality of grant submissions.

To date, over 40% of participants that have submitted their applications to the NIH have been funded.

Observers are encouraged to attend the Mock Study Section to get a better understanding of the review process and to gain insight into how reviewers evaluate applications.

Service Eligibility

The NIH Mock Study Section is available to all ICTS members regardless of career stage or partner affiliation. Register now if you are not an ICTS member.

Request Service

Complete the REDCap Letter of Intent material to request review in the Mock Study Section. The deadline for submission of LOI for the Spring cycle is February 1, 2024. Letters of Intent must be received prior to 5 PM CT to be eligible. The MSS Program Committee will determine eligibility and fit within the scope of the MSS review. Applicants will be informed on or before February 8, 2024. If accepted, the applicant will receive a link to submit their single pdf grant. Submit the LOI early and concentrate on drafting the grant.

Mandatory note for applicants

Our definition of clinical and translational research aligns with the NIH definition that includes: (1) Patient-oriented research, (2) Epidemiologic and behavioral studies and (3) Outcomes research and health services research. Patient-oriented research is research conducted with human subjects (or on material of human origin such as tissues, specimens and cognitive phenomena) for which an investigator (or colleague) directly interacts with human subjects. This area of research includes: 1) mechanisms of human disease; 2) therapeutic interventions; 3) clinical trials; and 4) the development of new technologies. Excluded from this definition are in vitro studies that utilize human tissues but do not deal directly with patients. In other words, patient-oriented research is research in which it is necessary to know the identity of the patients from whom the cells or tissues under study are derived. Pre-clinical research, connecting the basic science of disease with human medicine, is not reviewed by the CTS NIH MSS. Your proposal must align with NIH CTS research.

Submit Materials

The deadline for submission of grant materials for review by the MSS in the Spring cycle is February 29, 2024 ( 5 PM CST).

All grant materials must be submitted by 5 PM CT with the provided link in the acceptance email.

Grant materials are due roughly 1 month before the MSS to allow time for in-depth review by members of the Study Section and preparation of review materials. Applicants can expect to receive the Summary Statement feedback within 2 weeks of the mock session (about 5 weeks prior to the NIH deadline).

For the most beneficial review by the Mock Study Section, applicants should make their proposals as complete as possible and adhere to NIH guidelines for the specific application. Mandatory proposal content required for participation is noted below.

These new Mandatory Requirements now reflect our definition of clinical and translational science (CTS) and clarifies that the ICTS NIH MSS will review this type of application. Pre-clinical and basic research will not be reviewed by this mechanism.


Submit Review Materials:

  • Applicant submits REDCap LOI form with grant aims, by 5:00 PM CT
  • If accepted, applicant submits full grant application through link by 5:00 PM CT
  • Grant distributed by administration for review

Mock Study Section Review:

  • Grant is initially scored and reviewed by three study section members
  • Entire panel discusses the proposal
  • Co-chair summarized the discussion and reviewers revisit scores
  • Entire panel completes score sheet
  • Observers/applicant can attend to learn the process and hear grant discussion

Summary Statement – Feedback:

  • Administration compiles written critiques
  • Co-chair summarizes discussion
  • Feedback returned to applicant ~7 working days after session
Resources and Tools

The Research Development Program identifies and develops various tools, templates and resources to help investigators writing K, R, or F series grants. The material in this segment provides convenient access to a few of these resources and templates.


The quality of the feedback was excellent. I received very detailed, specific critiques that were addressable and overall it was a truly positive experience.

As a young investigator applicant, the critiques were extremely helpful. It was a very positive and reassuring process with constructive feedback from reviewers experienced with the Mock Study Section.

Eye-opening experience! I had no idea how in-depth these reviews can be.

I learned two important points for improving my grant: 1) power calculations need details and 2) training and career development grants need specific language and plan for future R01.

The NIH MSS was fundamental in the success of my first R01 application. Watching the dynamics helped me focus my application on essential domains that are evaluated by reviewers.

The high quality of reviewer you get for these study sections is incredible. Department chairs and division chiefs invest their time and commitment to these sessions and my own K award application benefited tremendously.

As a reviewer, I loved it! It was a great opportunity to read and discuss diverse proposals and provide feedback to colleagues in advance of submission.

It was very useful to hear the NIH critique process. Understanding what reviewers are looking for and seeing potential weaknesses upfront will help me improve my grant.

As an applicant, the entire process was smooth. Everything necessary for the submission was clear from the start on the website. I liked that the administrators were able to accommodate the time of my grant review with my clinical responsibilities. Thanks!


For queries or to attend as an observer, contact

Betsy Keath, PhD, Director

Jennifer Harlow, Research Center Program Manager