Brain Injury Research Grant Reviewer

I was very fortunate to be a participant in the Department Of Defense grant review process. Congress allocated special funding for research into Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome TBI/PTSD for our troops in 2007. I participated in three of the four sessions from Nov. 2007 through Jan. 2008. The funds have recently all been awarded.

Researchers from around the world were invited to submit research proposals for projects that would lead to better identification, treatment, and rehabilitation from TBI/PTSD.

I felt a little intimidated as I read through some of the proposals that could be very technical and very dense coupled with the fact that I was going to have to read my reviews aloud in the meeting rooms filled with top experts from around the globe on brain injury.

When I filled out my reviews online before the actual meetings the submission software does not allow you to see what the principal and secondary reviewers have written until after you submit your own review. I would cross my fingers and hope I was not totally out in left field on a review. Luckily,or should I say amazingly, my reviews were almost always consistent with the experts.

I did have some disagreements with others regarding scores but after the discussions at the meetings the group usually reached a consensus on the scoring. Anyone disagreeing was welcome to write the reasons for their dissent. The scores for all of the projects from the groups went to a next level review where the funding was awarded.

AIBS managed the process and did a very good job. Staff from the military were there to oversee the proceedings. I am very thankful to all of the experts who served as reviewers and to the researchers who took the time to submit proposals, all with the goal of helping brain injury and PTSD victims. I am hoping this research leads to improved care for all brain injured people. Below is the press release regarding the panels.

Press Release Re: Consumer Participation on Scientific Peer Review Panels

For Immediate Release


TBI advocate Ernie Szabo, Director of The Brain Injury Recovery Network, recently participated in the evaluation of TBI focused research proposals submitted to the 2007 DoD PTSD/TBI Research Program. As a consumer reviewer, Mr. Szabo was a full voting member, along with prominent scientists, at meetings to determine the scientific merit of these proposals.

Consumer reviewers are asked to represent the collective view of TBI survivors, patients, and family members when they prepare comments on the impact of the research on issues such as injury prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, and quality of life after treatment. Mr. Szabo was one of nine consumer advocates who participated in the January 2008 peer review meetings and provided comments and scores for over 100 research proposals.

Commenting on his role as a consumer reviewer, Ernie Szabo said that “We at the Brain Injury Recovery Network are very proud to be able to provide additional support for our troops who have suffered brain injuries. This was my third peer review session for this research funding program and I was impressed each time with the professionalism and dedication of the expert reviewers and very excited at the novel and innovative research projects that were proposed by some of the top experts on TBI in the world.”

“This research funding Congress has allocated offers a major influx of research dollars into one of the cruelest and most debilitating of injuries in TBI. As a parent of a daughter who suffered a very severe TBI, I can say first-hand that this injury changes the lives of its victims and their families forever. We are very hopeful that the research projects to be funded under this program will result in improvements in diagnosis, acute treatment, and long term rehabilitation for those suffering from brain injuries. Advances in care for TBI victims should provide positive benefits for both military and civilian TBI victims.”

Consumer advocates and scientists have worked together in this unique partnership to evaluate the scientific merit of research proposals for the DoD since 1995. To date, over 900 consumer reviewers have served on research panels alongside scientists in the review process. Colonel Janet R Harris, Director of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, expressed her appreciation for the consumer advocates’ perspective in the scientific review sessions. “They have provided valuable insight into funding decisions and helped the scientists understand the consumers’ perspective of innovative research.”

More information about the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs is available at the Website:

Attached is a recent digital photograph provided that may be used in conjunction with this press release. The picture is of Mr. Szabo assisting his daughter, Ashleigh, in her therapy session as she works towards recovery.

Ernie and Ashleigh Szabo
840 Central Ave. Carlisle, OH 45005

Media Contacts:
Gail Whitehead, Public Affairs, 301 619 7783

Ernie Szabo, The Brain Injury Recovery Network, 877-810-2100

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