On Contracts: What’s New and Improved in PCORI’s Latest Cycle of Research Funding

February 5, 2014 by Kara Odom Walker, MD, MPH, MSHS, Scott Solomon, MBA, MSE, and James Hulbert

James Hulbert headshotScott Solomon headshotKara Odom Walker headshot

At PCORI, we think of ourselves as a “learning” institution, regularly seeking to improve the way we do our work in response to internal review and external feedback. So, with this week’s release of our latest round of funding announcements, a combination of broad and targeted calls for proposals, we’re pleased to tell you about a range of improvements in our submission process –many based on suggestions from applicants like you.

After each funding cycle, we survey applicants on our submission process. To date, we’ve surveyed nearly 6,000 applicants to our PCORI Funding Announcements (PFAs), seeking feedback on how we can improve the submission process and their experience with PCORI. Improvements previously based on that feedback include:

  • Offering the opportunity to contact a Program Officer and our Helpdesk staff by phone versus by email only.
  • Removing restrictions on the number of times an application can be resubmitted.
  • Reformatting the research strategy for ease of writing.
  • Removing the per annum budget cap to an overall project-period cap to allow greater flexibility in budgeting.
  • Streamlining and clarifying merit review criteria.

This time out is no different. If you’re applying for any of the $200 million in research funding opportunities we’re making available in our latest cycle, you’ll notice the following changes in the submission process:

Programmatic improvements:

  • Greater clarity on the types of studies we are and are not seeking.
  • A letter of intent (LOI) screening process for the Improving Methods for Conducting Patient-Centered Outcomes Research and Improving Healthcare Systems PFAs, as well as for our targeted PFAs. We hope this will reduce applicant burden by inviting only authors of responsive proposals to submit full applications.
  • New guidance on how to note adherence to PCORIs Methodology Standards within the research plan.
  • New requirements on how to outline plans for patient and other stakeholder engagement throughout the research process and resources to help applicants develop such plans.

Administrative improvements:

  • Revised our application guidelines and templates to provide more instruction on how to complete each section.
  • Updated the application checklists with guidance on how to save, label, and upload attachments to the PCORI Online application system.
  • Updated budget templates to allow easier completion and entry into PCORI Online.

Provided increased budget caps or new funding for the following broad PFAs:

  • Assessment of Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options
    • Increased maximum project budget from $1.5 million to $2 million to allow for larger studies.
  • Improving Healthcare Systems
    • Additional funding of up to $5 million for large studies.
  • Improving Methods for Conducting Patient-Centered Outcomes Research
    • Additional funding of up to $500K to support Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) studies.

As you begin your application, please thoroughly review the funding announcement, application guidelines, and application templates—and be sure to use the new materials and not documents from previous cycles. Note that resubmitted applications will need to adhere to the new process.

If you have programmatic questions as you begin your LOI, feel free to contact us by email at pfa@pcori.org, call us at 202-627-1884, or request a phone meeting with a Program Officer by completing our online inquiry form. All administrative and technical questions can be directed to our helpdesk at pfa@pcori.org.

Our Spring 2014 Funding Cycle includes calls for proposed studies aligned with our five broad National Priorities for Research, targeted announcements in the areas of transitional care and obesity, and a new initiative to fund a series of large pragmatic clinical studies. It’s an exciting mix of opportunities to produce evidence designed to help patients and those who care for them make better-informed health and healthcare decisions.

We hope you’ll take a look at these latest funding announcements and consider applying.  And if you do, we encourage you to share your feedback on your experience once you receive the survey. Of course, you can email us anytime with feedback at pfa@pcori.org. We count on your input to help us as we continue to improve the way we serve current and potential applicants.

Odom Walker is PCORI’s Deputy Chief Science Officer

Solomon is PCORI’s Director, Contracts Management

Hulbert is PCORI’s Pre-Award Manager

3 Responses to“On Contracts: What’s New and Improved in PCORI’s Latest Cycle of Research Funding”

  1. Janet Hahn

    I really like these improvements and appreciate the dexterity of your organization. In the past, after submitting an LOI, I decided not to apply because I felt I had not fully engaged stakeholders. Your new information is helpful. I also think more opportunities for staff interaction will enhance the process. I may have the opportunity to review PCORI applications and am sure the process will be enhanced by these improvements. Most importantly, we will move more efficiently to very useful, patient-centered, results.

  2. Charlie Young

    Hi, will you accept applications from overseas or do you only fund US-based research programmes?


    • PCORI

      Yes. Foreign organizations and nondomestic components of organizations based in the United States may apply; their applications should clearly demonstrate the benefits of their research to the US healthcare system and US patient-centered research. Refer to the application guidelines for guidance when developing a budget.


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