Pilot & Feasibility Program Application Process

As described below, a two-phased application process is used to select the most meritorious projects. This encourages participation without placing an undue burden on either the applicants or the Review Committee.  

Initial Review

In the first phase of the review, applicants provide a 1-2 page description/outline of their proposal. This will include: 1) the central hypothesis, 2) the specific aims, 3) statement of impact and significance for HRFD disease research, 4) a brief summary of the approaches and anticipated core and center resource usage.  A detailed budget, NIH biosketch, and other support page are also requested.

These preliminary proposals will be assessed by a panel of reviewers with expertise in related content. Emphasis will be placed on scientific merit, innovation, qualifications of the investigator, utilization of Core resources and services and the potential for obtaining extramural funding (e.g., NIH). Outstanding applications will be selected from the first level pool for development of a full proposal. Renewal applicants requesting a second year of support are automatically included in the group for second level review.

Second level review

For the second phase of the application process, applicants prepare a 6-page NIH-style proposal in accordance with the new NIH guidelines. Detailed budgets, human subjects, and vertebrate animal use sections (not included in the page limits) must be provided as part of the full application.  Each of the P & F proposals will be reviewed by three scientists with the appropriate expertise in scientific content and the absence of real or perceived conflicts of interest.

Each reviewer will provide a score using the 1-9 point scale and a NIH-style written critique.  The critiques will be distributed to the review committee and the proposals will be discussed in an NIH style study section to establish a final score. The major review criteria are: 1) scientific impact on the HRFD field, 2) innovation, 3) relevance to the mission of the HRFDCC, 4) investigator and research environment, and 5) the likelihood that pilot funding will lead to extramural funding.  Proposals that foster collaborations with the Center or Center Members will be advantaged. Two Pilot Studies of $40,000 each will be funded from the HRFDCC each year, with third and fourth ranked proposals designated as alternates.

The reviewers and as appropriate, the statistical consultant(s), will provide a written review of the strengths and weaknesses of each application, as well as recommendations for improvement.  Each critique will be returned to the applicant. The Director will also provide an opportunity for all non-funded investigators to meet and discuss the merits of their proposal.  The P&F program and our peer review process are intended not only to identify the most meritorious proposals, but also to help enhance the scientific quality of applications not selected for funding. 

Handling of Indirect Costs

A major strength of the UAB HRFDCC P&F program is our record of supporting exceptional junior investigators regardless of their institutional affiliation. In fact, the Center has funded more Pilots from outside the UAB/MUSC/CN network than from within.  This greatly expands the potential for outstanding projects from which to select.  An issue with this approach is the eroding effects of indirect costs (IDC) for the receiving investigator.  To comply with the new A-81 Uniform Guidance, the HRFDCC P&F program will pay the awardee institution federally negotiated F&A rate on the each pilot award.  The Center has included IDC rates into the P and F program such that the full $40,000 will be directed toward the research.

For more information on the Pilot & Feasibility program or Pilot Voucher program application process please contact Dr. Mark Bevensee (bevensee@uab.edu)