Opening a Pipeline to Patient-Centered Research Proposals

October 15, 2013 by Suzanne Schrandt, JD

Suzanne Schrandt headshotWe at PCORI are committed to funding research guided by patients, caregivers, and the broader healthcare community. But in pursuing that mission, we face several challenges. Among them is how best to support the development of partnerships between researchers and patients and other healthcare stakeholders that will lead to proposals for patient-centered outcomes research.

A Path to Partnerships

We found a path to address this challenge through an idea suggested by participants at a workshop we held a year ago—our Pipeline to Proposal Award program, now a part of our Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Awards initiative. This program will not fund research directly but will instead build a national community of patients, other stakeholders, and researchers who have the expertise and passion to participate in patient-centered outcomes research, and it will encourage partnerships within that community that lead to high-quality research proposals.

Our first funding opportunity under the Pipeline to Proposal Awards program is the Tier I Pipeline Awards for the US Western Region (see map below). These awards for up to $15,000 focus on building the community of patients, stakeholders, and researchers who can participate in patient-centered outcomes research.

The Western Region states are  Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming are in blue and separated from the map

The Western Region states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. (click to enlarge)

These awards are open to any individual patient, other healthcare stakeholder, or researcher—or group of patients, stakeholders, or researchers—oriented around a particular health issue and interested in developing questions that can be addressed by comparative effectiveness research. They are targeted to those who are not currently eligible or equipped to apply for funding from most other research funding sources but want to build capacity to be able to apply. The approved use of these funds is limited to community and capacity building. An intermediate funder, the Colorado Foundation for Public Health and the Environment (CFPHE), will collaborate with us to manage these awards.

In early 2014, we will invite applications for Tier I Pipeline Awards in other areas of the country. We will also seek additional intermediate funders from across the country.

With the $15,000 awards give over nine months, Tier I awardees will be asked to:

  • Build relationships within communities that are based on shared interest among patients, health organizations, clinicians, and researchers.
  • Create structures (e.g., advisory councils) and communication strategies to connect community members.
  • Identify specific parties interested in research collaboration and development of a proposal for a partnership and infrastructure development project funded by a PCORI Tier II Pipeline Award (see below).

Summary of Funding Tiers Pipeline Project

More Award Opportunities to Come

The Tier I Pipeline Awards are the first step of a three-step program. We expect to release requests for proposals for the other steps early the next year. Tier II awards will focus on infrastructure development and strengthening partnerships between patients and other stakeholders and researchers. In Tier III awards, an established team of patients, other stakeholders, and researchers will be expected to draft high-quality patient-centered comparative effectiveness research proposals. For more information about the three tiers, see the diagram below.

The Pipeline Awards build upon one another—from Tier I to Tier II to Tier III. We expect that patients and other stakeholders who have not previously engaged in research will enter at Tier I and accelerate through the pipeline to Tier II and Tier III. However, applicants do not have to enter at Tier I if they meet all of the requirements for, and fit more logically into, Tier II or Tier III.

For Tier III awards, we will also welcome applications from partnerships that had previously submitted proposals to PCORI but were not successful. Such groups could use the Tier III funding to fine-tune their research proposal and more fully develop their plans to engage patients and stakeholders.

Investing in Engagement

Since PCORI was established, we have highlighted the value of including patients, their caregivers, and other stakeholders in the research process. We are excited to explore how a significant investment in engaging the patient community will lead to high-quality information that we all can use.

If you are a patient, caregiver, researcher, or other healthcare stakeholder with a compelling idea for a research project—or an important clinical issue that you would like to explore—consider applying for a Pipeline Award. For those of you in the Western Region, we hope you’ll consider responding to our current request for Tier I proposals. For those in other parts of the country, look for future funding opportunities to be announced through the Pipeline to Proposal Program.

For updates about our Engagement Awards and other opportunities to participate in our work, subscribe to our mailing list at In the meantime, we welcome your thoughts about this idea and all of our work. Please e-mail us at


Schrandt is PCORI’s Deputy Director of Patient Engagement.

16 Responses to“Opening a Pipeline to Patient-Centered Research Proposals”

  1. Barbara Lewis

    Thank you for launching this wonderful program. Is the application available?

  2. Ellen Barnett

    Must all awards involve a health care organization or could individuals and community organizations come together with a focus on prevention and health engagement ?

    • Communications

      Thank you so much for your question. Because this is an open funding opportunity, our practice is to collect all of the questions submitted to us and post answers on our website multiple times throughout the funding announcement period. We will post our first collection of questions and answers very soon.

  3. Danelle Callan

    Do you have an anticipated date for the next round or tier funding. We have a person who recieved one of the first round awards and is looking to appy for a tier 2 to continue developing her community partnerships and CER question. Do you know when the PFA’s might be announced or at least a month?

    • PCORI

      Thank you for your questions, Danelle. We expect to release the call for Tier II awards in mid-October 2014. As for your question about PFAs, the awardees for our Spring 2014 cycle will be announced in September 2014. More PFA information, including other key dates, can be found in our Funding Center.

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  5. Margaret

    Hi! Do you have any further information for when the Tier 1 Pipeline Awards will extend to the rest of the US? The only timeline i can find is “early 2014″. Thank you!

    • PCORI

      Margaret –
      We have been working with our Intermediate Funder, Colorado Foundation for Public Health and the Environment to refine the RFP, review, and awarding process. We expect to release the RFP for the next cycle of Tier I Awards in May, 2014.

      In order to stay informed of future PCORI funding opportunities you can visit to receive emailed announcements on PCORI activities, including funding announcements.

  6. Al Richmond

    Is there a geographic limitation for the next round of Phase I funding? Our organization is in NC and interested in the Pipeline Program.

    • PCORI

      Thank you for your question, Al. The next round of Tier I funding will be available in your region. Stay tuned. More information to come.

  7. Chris L

    We are in Massachusetts, will this region be included for the next round of phase 1/2 funding?

    • PCORI

      Thank you for your question, Christ. The next round of Tier I funding will span the whole country. More information to come.

  8. Deborah Morrison

    Is it correct that Tier II funding is/was only available to those who procured Tier I funding?

    • PCORI

      Thanks for your question, Deborah. We will be sharing news about this in the next month so please stay tuned.


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