NIH Prohibits Use of Generative AI in Peer Review Process

July 2023

On June 23, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued an update to existing policy regarding confidentiality and privacy in the peer review process to clarify that NIH peer reviewers are prohibited from using generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools in reviewing proposals.

“AI tools have no guarantee of where data are being sent, saved, viewed, or used in the future, and thus NIH is revising its Confidentiality Agreements for Peer Reviewers to clarify that reviewers are prohibited from using AI tools in analyzing and critiquing NIH grant applications and R&D contract proposals,” the NIH notice states. “Such actions violate NIH’s peer review confidentiality requirements.”

The December 2021 NIH notice, Maintaining Security and Confidentiality in NIH Peer Review: Rules, Responsibilities and Possible Consequences, states that NIH peer reviewers are prohibited from “disclosing, transmitting, or discussing the grant applications, R&D contract proposals, and associated confidential information with any other individual (including but not limited to colleagues, lab members, fellows, students, applicants, offerors or employees of an offeror), through any communication channel (including social media) except as authorized by the DFO or other designated NIH official.”

In a blog post, NIH officials expanded on the prohibition on using AI in peer review, noting that “no guarantee exists explaining where AI tools send, save, view, or use a grant application, contract proposal, or critique data at any time.”

Other scientific agencies, including the National Science Foundation, are also considering actions related to the use of AI as part of peer review, according to a July 14 article in Science.