Tips for Preparing Your Preliminary Application

As you begin to prepare your Advance-CTR preliminary application, take note of the following tips to get a better understanding of the Advance-CTR preliminary application process, and what you can do before you begin your application to be successful. 

Why We Have a Preliminary Application Process

Due to the high demand for pilot funding in Rhode Island, Advance-CTR requires all applicants to submit a one-page preliminary application for the Pilot Projects Program. After a review process by the program’s Steering Committee, select applicants are invited to submit a full application. See the RFA for more information about the review process. 

The preliminary application phase is a valuable part of the process for both applicants and reviewers. Applicants do not spend an undue amount of time preparing a full application, and selected applicants for a full application benefit from one-on-one support from Advance-CTR's Service Cores to strengthen their proposals ahead of submission. Screening also allows for a limited pool of full applications such that about 20% can expect to receive funding. Reviewers are able to dedicate more time for a thorough examination of each full proposal, and applicants are provided with quality feedback and opportunities for learning and improvement at the full proposal stage. 

What's the Goal?

In the preliminary application stage, Advance-CTR aims to: 

  • Determine whether the project's topic and approach are appropriate: Advance-CTR funds a range of projects across the translational spectrum. While the best science will be prioritized, special consideration is given to research that 1. Addresses the health priorities set forth by the Rhode Island Department of Health; 2. Incorporates community engagement approaches; 3. Involves big data; 4. Is focused on the opioid epidemic; 5. Employs a robust use of Advance-CTR's Service Cores; and 6. Is submitted by investigators from underrepresented minority groups, and/or are representative of Advance-CTR's five academic and hospital partners. 

  • Assess the eligibility of the PI: Please see the RFA for eligibility requirements. 

  • Assess the feasibility of the project: I.e. Can the study be done? Are there enough patients of the type being studied? Is the budget appropriate given the duration of the award? Your research question should be big enough to warrant the funds and protected time made available by the award, but it should not be impossible.  

  • Assess the likelihood of future funding: Advance-CTR is investing in YOU. It is our goal to help investigators launch successful, independent research careers. We want to see how the Pilot award will lead to extramural funding, discovery, and ultimately, translation to patients and/or communities in Rhode Island. Finally, your success is our success: Advance-CTR is funded by the National Institute for General Medical Science (NIGMS), and is required to report on all awardee products, which include extramural funding. 

What To Do Before You Begin Your Preliminary Application 

It may seem obvious, but many investigators neglect to do these basic first steps:

1. READ the instructions in the RFA.

2. FOLLOW the instructions. Be sure to include ALL requested information.

All of the information and guidance you need to submit a compelling preliminary application is in the RFA. We encourage you to thoroughly read the RFA and follow the instructions before you get started on your application. This will give you an edge over your peers and help prepare you for future submissions to the NIH and other funding organizations. 

How To Avoid the “Kiss of Death” 

Many investigators focus on their preliminary application, and neglect their biosketches. Your biosketch is also an important part of your application -- one that can strengthen or weaken the overall package reviewers see. Biosketches for all investigators and mentors on the project should reflect a willingness and ability to perform the proposed research, with at least one-to-two sentences in the personal statement addressing this. Avoid the "kiss of death" at all costs -- reviewers are all too familiar with biosketches that include personal statements intended for another grant application.