July 21, 2022

ORWH’s Pearls of Wisdom series features Noni Byrnes, Ph.D., Director of the NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR). In this video clip, Dr. Byrnes advises to be proactive in your job search and “don’t undersell yourself or underestimate yourself.”  


As Director of CSR, Dr. Byrnes leads a staff of more than 500 scientific, support and contract personnel, and is responsible for overseeing most of the NIH peer review process. CSR handles the receipt and referral of all applications to NIH as well as those to other agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. CSR reviews about 75% of all NIH grant applications in more than 1300 review meetings per year.

Prior to being appointed Director, Dr. Byrnes served in a variety of roles at CSR in positions of increasing responsibility. She began as a Scientific Review Officer in 2000 in the Biological Chemistry and Macromolecular Biophysics Integrated Review Group (IRG). In 2006, she became Chief of the Cell Biology IRG and, in 2012, Director of the Division of Basic and Integrative Biological Sciences, where she oversaw more than 60 study sections in a range of different areas of basic science, including genomics; cell, developmental and structural biology; bioengineering; and basic cancer biology. In January 2018, she was appointed Acting Deputy Director, and in May 2018, she assumed the role of Acting Director of CSR, before being named CSR Director on February 14, 2019.

Dr. Byrnes brings to CSR her deep knowledge of NIH peer review, a history of engagement with the external scientific community in a broad variety of disciplines, and a track record of innovation and leading change. She has provided leadership and oversight of the peer review of several high-profile trans-NIH initiatives, such as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) Challenge Grants, the NIH Director’s Common Fund, and the All-of-Us (Precision Medicine) cohort initiative, among others. Under her leadership, CSR launched a new data-driven framework for the continuous evaluation of all its more than 170 study sections, using quantitative measures and expert input from stakeholders in the scientific community.

The Pearls of Wisdom online series of short videos aims to inspire, motivate, and inform women in the beginning or middle stages of their biomedical careers. Produced and funded by ORWH, it features prominent scientists and physicians at NIH and beyond—many from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups—sharing words of wisdom, perspectives, and advice to current and future women scientists. The video series is located on the NIH “Women in Science” website, which describes the history of the NIH Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers and provides information on supported programs, grants, career development resources, NIH diversity resources, and career flexibility initiatives.