The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is seeking to fund studies that build an evidence base on engagement in research, including:

  • Measures to capture structure/context, process, and outcomes of engagement in research
  • Techniques that lead to effective engagement in research
  • How these techniques should be modified and resourced for different contexts, settings, and communities to ensure equity in engagement and research
  • How engagement supports successful research, thereby advancing PCORI’s National Priorities for Health

Over the past decade, by requiring the engagement of patients and other stakeholders, PCORI has transformed how research is conducted. Such engagement is defined as the meaningful involvement and partnership of stakeholders throughout the research process—from planning to conducting the study, to ultimately disseminating study results.

Much has been learned about engagement from PCORI’s investments, yet significant evidence gaps remain. There is presently no consensus on how to define or measure engagement, and there has been little systematic study of which engagement techniques are most effective. Methods for engaging and facilitating the inclusion of historically underrepresented populations as study partners is a further critical gap.

After 10 years of funding engaged research, PCORI has learned that engagement is a complex intervention, and there is not yet an in-depth understanding of how engagement in research produces its effects. Consistent with complex health intervention frameworks and the Donabedian Structure/Context-Process-Outcomes framework, studies must first define the activities and behaviors that engagement entails—and measure them—to understand which components predict success and the causal mechanisms underlying them.

Research Initiative Highlights

PCORI’s initial PFA on the Science of Engagement will solicit applications that focus on:

  • Development and/or validation of measures to capture structure/context, process, and outcomes of engagement, for both stakeholders and investigators
  • Development and testing of engagement techniques to generate evidence on the most effective engagement approaches, particularly for underrepresented populations, and how effectiveness varies by context 

Initial funding will primarily focus on measure development and/or validation, particularly rapid measure development, leveraging opportunities to support teams that have already begun measure development work. Applicants can also validate or adapt preexisting measures created for this or different contexts (e.g., community-based participatory research, engagement in healthcare delivery). A smaller number of early awards will test engagement techniques using a combination of limited existing validated measures of engagement and measures of other research outcomes (e.g., participant recruitment and retention; diversity, equity, and inclusion outcomes). PCORI anticipates multiple funding cycles for this initiative, with the focus of subsequent PFAs to be updated as the evidence base grows.

Applicants can visit PCORI’s Help Center for additional Science of Engagement PFA resources.

Science of Engagement PFA

Key Dates

Online System Opens
Applicant Town Hall
View Event
Letter of Intent Deadline
Application Deadline
Merit Review
Awards Announced
July 2023
Earliest Start Date
August 2023

Funds and Project Period

Funds Available Up To

$4.5 million

- Rapid Measurement Studies: Up to $1.5 million
- Development and Testing of Engagement Approaches: Up to $3 million
Total Direct Costs
- Rapid Measurement Studies: Up to $500,000
- Development and Testing of Engagement Approaches: Up to $1.5 million
Maximum Project Period
- Rapid Measurement Studies: Up to 24 months (2 years)
- Development and Testing of Engagement Approaches: Up to 3 years


Award Types