Picking up the Pace on Our Path to Focused Research Funding

March 6, 2013 by Kara Odom Walker, MD, MPH, MSHS, and Joe Selby, MD, MPH

Many of PCORI’s stakeholders have been asking when we’ll start zeroing in on specific comparative effectiveness research topics for funding.  So we’re pleased to tell you that that time is now, starting with a series of workgroups that will help us identify key research questions in five high-impact topic areas.

As we said in our National Priorities for Research and Research Agenda, we’ve always believed both broad and targeted approaches to research funding will be important for getting to the questions and answers that matter most to patients, caregivers, clinicians and other stakeholders.  So we began developing a targeted approach at the same time we issued our first broad funding solicitations in May 2012. Our broad approach starts with questions posed mainly by the research community. The targeted process starts by soliciting research questions more directly from patients and other stakeholders via our website, and through workshops, roundtables and other channels of engagement with the many communities interested in our work.  This culminates in a research prioritization process conducted through multi-stakeholder Advisory Panels that we’re now establishing.

Jump-starting the targeted funding process

Our targeted approach will let us concentrate more resources in a specific area if that’s what we find is needed. But because we knew this model would take time to put into place, we jump-started the process by identifying research topics and questions prioritized highly by previous stakeholder-vetted efforts, including those by the Institute of Medicine, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, National Institutes of Health, American Nurses Association and Friends of Cancer Research.  We wound up with five areas to be considered for funding announcements:

  • Treatment Options for Severe Asthma in African-Americans and Hispanics/Latinos
  • Treatment Options for Uterine Fibroids
  • Preventing Injuries from Falls in the Elderly
  • Treatment Options for Back Pain
  • Obesity Treatment Options in Diverse Populations
Asthma Workgroup Participants

Researchers, patients and other stakeholders attend asthma ad hoc workgroup meeting.

On March 1, we took the next step – convening the first of five ad hoc multi-stakeholder workgroups to help us identify the most critical research questions in each topic area, starting with severe asthma. We followed with the treatment options for uterine fibroids workgroup on March 5. 

In coming weeks, the remaining workgroups will each meet once in day-long sessions. These meetings are open to the public via webinar and anyone with an interest in a topic can provide comment and suggestions prior to and for two weeks after each group meets, through our website and email.  Read more here about how we picked the topics and workgroups and find out here how to provide input on any of the topics.

Asthma Workgroup Materials

Workgroup participants review evidence of information gaps.

Once all input is in hand, our staff will review it and make recommendations to our Board about the specific questions that should be developed into PCORI Funding Announcements.  We anticipate that funding announcements would then be released by mid-year for those topics the Board approves.

Looking to the longer-term

At the same time, our longer-term “topic generation and research prioritization” process continues.   We are sifting through additional research topics submitted by patients and other stakeholders to come up with more critical research questions to be considered by our advisory panels. We’ve established four such panels so far. Three are associated with our national research priorities — Assessment of Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment Options, Improving Healthcare Systems and Addressing Disparities – and the fourth will focus on Patient Engagement.  We’ll establish additional panels in the future.

We’ve just started reviewing the applications we’ve received from the 1,021 people interested in serving on these panels. We’ll spend the next few weeks preparing invitations and convene those panels for the first time April 19-20. We hope to be able to issues the first funding announcements resulting from this process by the end of this year.

We hope you will help us as we move toward developing and releasing our first targeted funding announcements by joining our ad hoc workgroups via webinar and providing questions and comments online or by email. We hope you’ll guide us further as we convene our advisory panels and move toward developing and releasing additional targeted funding announcements. And, as always, we welcome your general comments about our work and how we might do it better.

Joe Selby, MD, MPH, is PCORI’s Executive Director

Kara Odom Walker, MD, MPH, MSHS, is a PCORI Program Officer

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