On Contracts: Submitting a Responsive Application

April 8, 2014 by James Hulbert, Scott Solomon, MBA, Kara Odom Walker, MD, and Tsahai Tafari, PhD

During each of PCORI’s funding cycles, some applications regrettably don’t qualify for our Merit Review process because they do not meet programmatic or administrative requirements. As applicants for our Spring 2014 Cycle of awards complete their full applications, we want to point out the most common pitfalls.

infographic showing the top problems that disqualified applicants faces. It reads: 18 percent CER Exclusion, 6 percent CEA Inclusion, 3 percent CEA and CER exclusion, and 2 percent administrative noncomplianceAmong the 356 applications in the Winter 2014 Cycle, almost 10 percent were not considered for Merit Review because they did not comply with either programmatic or administrative considerations. The three most common reasons for disqualification (see figure) were:

  • Didn’t include comparative effectiveness research (CER)
  • Contained cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA)
  • Didn’t comply with administrative requirements (e.g., exceeded page limits, budget limits, or period of performance) 

We hate to see any applications fail to reach Merit Review. To help applicants succeed in the current award cycle, we provide the following guidance: 

  • State your intention to compare at least two alternative approaches, and describe how you plan to do so. Studies must be comparative. Many types of interventions can be tested, including specific drugs, devices, and procedures, as well as medical and assistive devices and technologies, diagnostic tests, behavioral changes, and a wide variety of strategies for improving delivery systems.
  • Make sure that proposed study outcomes related to healthcare resource cost or resources are acceptable for PCORI funding. We do not fund formal cost-effectiveness analysis measuring dollar-cost per quality-adjusted life-year. Nor do we fund comparisons that focus on the relative costs of care as the primary criterion for choosing between alternatives.
  • Ensure that all the required documents are complete and correctly uploaded into PCORI Online. We have updated the application guidelines to provide greater clarity on how to complete, assemble, file, and upload required application components. Check page limits closely before submitting the application. Page limits are stated in the application guidelines, application checklist, and the templates. Also, heed limits on project budget and period of performance. 

For the Spring 2014 Cycle, we won’t accept applications that are missing required documents or include templates not provided by PCORI (e.g., a budget submitted on another sponsor’s form). During the last review cycle, 17 percent of the submitted applications had problems that didn’t result in a rejection. These applications were either not formatted correctly or missing critical documents (e.g., budget justification, biosketches, dissemination plan).

For the current cycle, such problems may result in rejection of the application or leave reviewers without the information necessary to conduct a thorough evaluation. We don’t permit applicants to submit missing documents after the deadline. Using the application guidelines and templates for the current cycle will help ensure that you submit all the required documents in the correct format. 

Resources for Applicants
To help applicants submit a responsive application, we recently created the following resources in the Applicant Training section of the Funding Center:

As another resource for applicants, the PCORI Online System User Manuals provide step-by-step instructions. We have created a manual for each PFA, and they can be found within the Funding Center.  Click on the appropriate announcement, then scroll down to Applicant Resources.

Coming soon: on April 14, we plan to post short videos showing how to navigate PCORI Online. 

As you work on your full application, we encourage you to use all these resources and also refer to the guidance provided in the applicant templates, PFA, and application guidelines. If you have any questions along the way, please feel free to email us at pfa@pcori.org.

Remember, the deadline for the Spring 2014 Cycle is May 6 at 5:00 p.m. (ET). We wish you the best of luck in preparing your application, and we look forward to reviewing it.

James Hulbert headshotScott Solomon headshotKara Odom-Walker headshotTsahai Tafarir





Hulbert is PCORI’s Pre-Award Manger
Solomon is PCORI’s Director of Contracts Management
Walker is PCORI’s Deputy Chief Science Officer
Tafari is PCORI’s Senior Program Officer for Merit Review

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