Role of the Persian Gulf Veterans' Coordinating Board in Scientific Evaluation of Research Proposals and the Funding Recommendations Made by its Research Working Group

NSIAD-98-170R: Published: Aug 10, 1998. Publicly Released: Aug 10, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the: (1) role of the Persian Gulf Veterans' Coordinating Board's (PGVCB) Research Working Group (RWG) in assessing the scientific merit of applications for grants to conduct Persian Gulf War illness-related research; and (2) proposals that RWG recommended for funding, those it did not recommend, and the proposals for which funding was eventually announced.

GAO noted that: (1) PGVCB's RWG has not directly solicited or assessed the scientific merit of grant applications; (2) the RWG does not comment on draft solicitations, but it is the board's member agencies that solicit research proposals, assess their scientific merit with input from panels of experts, and award research grants; (3) after several solicitations issued by PGVCB's member agencies, a RWG subcommittee conducted a supplementary review of the proposals that an agency-sponsored expert panel had given scientific merit scores equal or superior to a specified level; (4) based on its review, the subcommittee made recommendations to the member agencies regarding which of the proposals should be funded; (5) of the 191 proposals submitted, RWG reviewed 73 that had received scientific review scores superior to a specific criterion, recommending that 38 should be funded; (6) the agencies eventually announced funding for 28 of these recommended proposals, with awards totalling about $24.4 million; and (7) the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) characterizes this amount as less than 25 percent of the total financial investment in research on Gulf War illnesses; the remaining 75 percent includes VA-sponsored projects and others that were not reviewed by RWG in the proposal stage as well as a few projects awarded funds after the close of GAO's review.

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