Opportunities through Pilot Coordination

1. Help applicants anticipate deadlines
2. Offer transparency in project selection
3. Reduce reviewer-fatigue
4. Promote scientific synergies and financial partnerships to extend programmatic reach and to support more investigators
5. Streamline application and review management

Why is coordination of pilots needed?

Our institution is very fortunate to have significant institutional support through multiple pilot funding opportunities – in the last year, there were more than 40 Requests for Applications (RFAs) at UAB. However, the quantity of these funding opportunities is effectively diluting their fundamental importance in enabling researchers to implement, pivot, collaborate and take risks. Investigators interested in pilot funding are not able to anticipate funding sources. And investigators serving as peer-reviewers are burdened with time consuming review requests throughout the year, reviewing the same science pitched to different RFAs

We, as research administrators, can help improve the landscape of pilots at UAB. By coordinating pilot funding opportunities, we can improve our programs’ values, help investigators’ ability to plan ahead and set the stage to better coordinate faculty peer-reviews. Beyond these benefits, inter-programmatic coordination and even co-sponsorship may occur. Working together, pilot programs will be able to point to financial leveraging that extends the impact of their investment and to expanding support to more investigators across the enterprise.

To meet the goal of coordinating pilot funding opportunities, the Office of Research (OoR) engaged the University-wide Interdisciplinary Research Centers (UWIRC) program to develop a strategy for collaboration. The Council of Center Administrators (CoCA) was instrumental in developing the process and platform to advance this goal. We have launched a pilot funding opportunities website hosted by the OoR, which serves as a UAB-wide resource for promoting pilot opportunities. We have also developed, tested and launched RED-ASSIST, a REDCap-based (RED) Application Submission System and Interface for Scholarly assessmenT (ASSIST), which enables receipt of pilot applications during established standing deadlines and streamlined management of the historically tedious review process.

The CoCA is dedicated to continuous improvement of this coordinated approach to most effectively support broad programmatic, applicant and reviewer efforts. This data-driven evaluation effort will enable ongoing refinement and adaptation to new opportunities in our commitment to advance rigorous, meritorious pilot and feasibility research.

How could this work for my program?

While coordination of pilots is important, coordination does not mean individual pilot programs lose control of their program or that unique attributes of a program are lost. Pilot programs at UAB are not all managed the same way and for very good reasons (sponsor requirements, expected application volume, review expectations, etc.). The infrastructure to support pilot coordination was designed with this in mind and with flexibility to accommodate specific programmatic needs.

Choosing a Due Date
Applications to your program will be due on established standing deadlines, which is fundamental to pilot coordination efforts. Some pilot programs are less constrained by timing and can quickly adapt to coordinated due dates; Other programs face additional administrative requirements (e.g., NIH prior approval, extramurally-defined budget periods) and may benefit from working backwards from their award start date to determine which of the standing deadlines may be best for their program.

One vs. two Stage Submissions
Pilot submission requirements vary program to program. If your program includes submission of a single application, that proposal would be due on a coordinated deadline. Should your program utilize a 2-stage application process, pre-applications (a.k.a., letters of intent) would be due on the established standing deadline, and the pilot program sets the subsequent Full-proposal deadline.

Application Review Formats
Pilot reviews also vary program to program – Some seek external, expert-level reviews with the goal of providing applicants with NIH-style feedback (i.e. long-form reviews). Others utilize a grant review committee to provide rankings of proposals and provide applicants minimal feedback (i.e. short-form reviews). A third approach utilizes a “study section” committee that discusses proposals verbally with no intention to supply applicants with feedback. Some programs use a combination of any of these styles. RED-ASSIST provides administrators the option of short- and/or long-form reviews or not utilizing web-based reviews at all.

Streamline your process
All pilots require administrative support – receiving applications, matching reviewers with applications, requesting reviews, tracking reviews and beyond. RED-ASSIST is a tool administrators can add to their toolbox when managing pilot programs as a way to avoid losing applications, missed reviews and misspelled names when using an email-based system for program administration. By providing email relief, RED-ASSIST can allow administrators to focus more time on leveraging their program, applications received and work towards reducing the review burden for our faculty.

What’s needed to get started?

Very little.

Please fill out the RED-ASSIST online sign-up (https://uab.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_4PLyPKfZy8PwzWt). After submitting the form, your pilot program will be promoted on the Office of Research’s pilot funding webpage and will enable management of applications in RED-ASSIST in approximately five business days. Sign up requires the following information:

  1. Contact Information
  2. Program Name
  3. Submission cycle(s)
  4. The website where your program is promoted (i.e. where your RFA is posted).
  5. Details regarding your program’s application and review formats
  6. An image that will accompany your program on the Office of Research’s pilot funding webpage.
  7. A copy of your RFA. It can be in draft form and will NOT be distributed. This is only needed to understand the general structure of your program so that the submission and review portal is built out to meet your program’s needs.

Should you have questions, please contact the Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..