Grant Peer Review: Improving Inter-Rater Reliability with Training




Sattler, David N.
McKnight, Patrick E.
Naney, Linda
Mathis, Randy

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Public Library of Science


This study developed and evaluated a brief training program for grant reviewers that aimed to increase inter-rater reliability, rating scale knowledge, and effort to read the grant review criteria. Enhancing reviewer training may improve the reliability and accuracy of research grant proposal scoring and funding recommendations. Seventy-five Public Health professors from U.S. research universities watched the training video we produced and assigned scores to the National Institutes of Health scoring criteria proposal summary descriptions. For both novice and experienced reviewers, the training video increased scoring accuracy (the percentage of scores that reflect the true rating scale values), inter-rater reliability, and the amount of time reading the review criteria compared to the no video condition. The increase in reliability for experienced reviewers is notable because it is commonly assumed that reviewers—especially those with experience—have good understanding of the grant review rating scale. The findings suggest that both experienced and novice reviewers who had not received the type of training developed in this study may not have appropriate understanding of the definitions and meaning for each value of the rating scale and that experienced reviewers may overestimate their knowledge of the rating scale. The results underscore the benefits of and need for specialized peer reviewer training.



Research validity, Research grants, Peer review, Public and occupational health, Demography, Questionnaires, Sense of agency, Cognition


Sattler DN, McKnight PE, Naney L, Mathis R (2015) Grant Peer Review: Improving Inter-Rater Reliability with Training. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0130450. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0130450