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About Research


F.A.Q. About Society- Funded MS Research
Introduction | Funding | Decisions/Oversight | Programs | Focus | Philosophies
Intriguing Leads | Progressive MS | Discoveries We’ve Made | Progress

How does the Society decide which direction we should be taking in research?

Strategic research decisions at the Society are made through a process of consensus building among members of expert international volunteer advisory committees and specially constituted or commissioned groups engaged for such purposes.


The Society’s Research Programs Advisory Committee is charged with ongoing review of the state of MS research and
recommending areas for new focus or changed emphasis. Over the past 20 years, the Society has also conducted strategic
reviews through which we gather broad thinking and perspective from advisors on the highest priority areas for support, on gaps that may exist, and on allocation of relatively limited funds among many research program options and directions. These reviews, including an Institute of Medicine review commissioned by the Society, have resulted in changes in program directions, new targeted research areas, and new programs.


Why is Research Funded Through the Home Office, Instead of Through Individual Society Chapters?

The Society established its centralized peer-review system to ensure that every penny of the research money is spent on MS investigations that have the greatest chances of success. That means the grantees have been deemed by their peers to have the ideas, skills, talent and technical and institutional support to carry out their important work.


The centralized peer-review system ensures that funds are allocated to the best projects, without geographic bias. This means that no matter where in the U.S. or other parts of the world Society research is taking place, donors and Society members from every chapter can be assured that their contributions are funding the best MS research around the world research that is the most likely to result in solutions that will end the devastating effects of MS.


Who Decides What Research Gets Funded?

The Society receives some 450 proposals annually from researchers who hope to explore particular aspects of multiple sclerosis. These proposals are reviewed by volunteer panels who help determine the scientific merit of research proposals and their relevance to the problems of MS. These panels include some 75 leading scientists, physicians and other professionals from virtually every field related to MS, who volunteer over 2,000 hours each year to carefully evaluate the quality, relevance and budget of each proposal.


Panelists review proposals for their scientific merit and relevance to MS, the novelty of their ideas, experience and productivity of the applicants, collaborators and institutional environment. The proposals are ranked in order of priority to be recommended for funding. The senior oversight committee (Research Programs Advisory Committee) reviews the results of the other committees’ recommendations, and also helps to develop policy and set priorities for the research program.


In addition to its standing review committees, the Society frequently convenes special task forces and other committees to focus on emerging research trends and to help steer our research efforts in new directions. Click here for a list of peer reviewers.


How Does the Society Ensure Fair Grant Reviews?

Because of the very specialized and technical aspects of research proposals, the Society relies on the peer review process and takes pains to find knowledgeable and fair reviewers. In addition, steps are taken to eliminate potential conflicts of interest. For example, panel members annually certify their adherence to the Society’s “Conflict of Interest and Disclosure Policies,” and individual panel members do not rate proposals from any investigators at their own institutions. Panelists are required to leave the room when such proposals are discussed and rated by other reviewers.


What are Some Reasons for Rejecting a Research Proposal?

There are many potential reasons a research proposal may be rejected by peer reviewers, and every applicant gets written comments on problems, as well as suggestions on how to improve the proposal. Some typical problems may include:


        the experimental design would not provide the answers the applicant suggests;

        lack of preliminary data to suggest the experiments may work;

        proposed experiments have already been done or are being pursued by others;

        the question being asked is not clearly defined in terms of its importance and relevance to MS;

        insufficient experience, knowledge of field, equipment, institutional support or collaborators for the proposed project.


What Happens After Peer Reviewers Make Their Recommendations?

The advisory panels pass on their recommendations to the Research Programs Advisory Committee for further deliberation. Final recommendations are made to the President and CEO.


Projections of Society income and research programs expenditures dictate the number of proposals that can be committed for funding. Funding commitments are made according to rank assigned during the review process.


How Does the Society Keep Track of Researchers’ Progress?

The staff of the Research & Clinical Programs Department of the Home Office closely monitors efforts of investigators funded by the Society through required annual progress and financial reports. Researchers are required to state their step-by-step plans at the outset of their projects, and to detail the strides taken in each step at annual intervals.


In addition, if grantees return to the National MS Society requesting continuing support, our peer review panels scrutinize their proposals for evidence that significant headway was made during the previous grant period.


Research progress is also monitored by direct interaction with grantees, by reviewing major scientific journals where findings are published, and by staff attendance at scientific conferences, where researchers report findings to their peers.