What’s in the Pipeline? PCORI’s Commitment to Broadening the Research Community

January 22, 2014 by Anne Beal, MD, MPH; Suzanne Schrandt, JD; Courtney Clyatt, MA

Courtney Clyatt headshotSuzanne Schrandt headshotAnne Beal headshotAt the core of PCORI’s approach to patient-centered outcomes research is our recognition that patients, caregivers, front-line clinicians, and many others across the healthcare community have an important part to play in the research process.

Yet, many of these individuals and the groups that represent them aren’t the “usual suspects” when it comes to research participation.

Map of the United States with the majority of the western region highlight in blue

PCORI approved 30 projects under the pilot phase of its Pipeline to Proposal award program.

So, based on an idea generated by patients at an October 2012 workshop, we created the Pipeline to Proposal Awards Initiative to provide training and support so that knowledgeable and passionate individuals and groups not usually involved in research will have a pathway to becoming active partners in the clinical comparative effectiveness research (CER) we fund.

We are targeting patients, clinicians, researchers, and others within the healthcare community who don’t have sufficient resources or experience with CER to organize teams, develop ideas, and prepare sophisticated proposals.

The Pipeline to Proposal Awards are part of a larger funding program known as the Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Awards.

Our goal is to establish diverse groups of interested individuals who are prepared to participate in, or even lead, studies that can help those at the center of clinical decision making—patients, their families and clinicians—make better-informed choices.

Building a Research Pipeline

We’re pleased to put real dollars behind the idea that patients suggested to us. We recently announced the first awards approved under the pilot phase of our Tier I Pipeline to Proposal Awards. From applications received in response to a solicitation in the 13 western US states, we chose to fund 30 proposals located in 10 states. This announcement generated excitement among the awardees, who are looking forward to a jumpstart in building a team and relationships to pursue their chosen healthcare topics.

Laura Thorngate box quoteThe Pipeline to Proposal Awards Initiative has three parts. Tier I Pipeline Awards provide seed money to encourage development of partnerships and maturation of ideas for health research projects among people who may not otherwise have opportunities to do so. Developed and launched in the US Western Region, Tier I will be expanded to include the rest of the states early in 2014. Tier II Pipeline Awards will support new or emerging research partnerships, the development of research infrastructure, and the generation of research questions and research priorities. Finally, Tier III Pipeline Awards will help established teams with research experience, as well as teams that have advanced through the pipeline, to submit research proposals that include strong patient engagement. Both the Tier II and Tier III programs will be launched later in 2014.

Taking the First Step

Because Pipeline awards are available to applicants who may have never before received research funding, we adapted our application process to be especially user-friendly and accessible to non-researchers. Application review panels made up of patients, researchers, and other stakeholders selected the pilot Tier I awardees. Each awardee will receive up to $15,000 over a nine-month period.

Christine Marchand box quoteThe first group of awardees includes patients, patient advocates, health care providers, and clinical researchers. Teams come from community health clinics, hospitals, and advocacy groups. The funded projects address issues ranging from preventing infant mortality to managing Alzheimer’s disease.

Nine Months and Many Objectives

Our overall aim for Tier 1 is to create cohesive units knowledgeable about patient-centered outcomes research and to help them prepare to become partners in patient-centered research. We give the awardees specific goals for their nine-month projects:

  • Build relationships with other individuals and groups interested in the issue or topic of concern. Activities may include holding workshops, conferences, and meetings and connecting in other ways with individuals and groups.
  • Create a communication plan. Activities may include setting up social media tools, using online forums, setting up a website with an inbox for receiving messages, and using various other Internet tools to connect community members.
  • Develop a governance or guidance structure, such as an advisory council, for making strategic decisions. Activities may include drafting a logic model or strategic plan and forming an advisory board or council.
  • Complete PCORI training, which will include information about how to engage patients and stakeholders in research projects.

Sandra Sundin quote boxWe have contracted with the Denver-based Colorado Foundation for Public Health and the Environment (CFPHE) to assist awardees in achieving these goals. That foundation will also serve as the intermediate funder for the pilot program and provide fiscal, programmatic, and operational services to the 30 awardees.

A Learning Organization

PCORI developed our Pipeline to Proposal Initiative, and the broader Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Awards, over months of careful consideration. We look forward to improving the initiative as we consider the experiences of the awardees and evaluate the program’s impact.

We see these awards as an investment in an important segment of the healthcare community, that is, the end users of research—patients and the people who care for them. While recognizing that researchers are an essential and valuable source of new questions and ideas for improving patient care and outcomes, PCORI and similar organizations also know that patients, front-line clinicians, and others have important and relevant research ideas to share. We’re confident that, with a little support, they can make a difference. We look forward to helping them do so.

Beal served as PCORI’s Deputy Executive Director and Chief Officer for Engagement from November 2011 – March 2014

Schrandt is PCORI’s Deputy Director of Patient Engagement

Clyatt is a Senior Program Associate in PCORI’s Engagement Program

2 Responses to“What’s in the Pipeline? PCORI’s Commitment to Broadening the Research Community”

  1. Steve Wilkins

    I submitted a proposal under the Pipeline Program and my proposal was not accepted. The rejection letter I received something saying that I would receive a summary of my proposal’s review/scoring with an eye toward understanding the proposal’s shortcomings. When might I expect to see that review?

    • PCORI

      Hello Steve –
      Thank you for you for following up. You should expect to receive feedback within 4-6 weeks of the award date, which was 12/23. Please let us know if you do not receive it within that timeline.


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