DOM Concept Reviews Help Faculty Achieve Grant Success

The Department of Medicine (DOM) Research Development Council (RDC) is dedicated to supporting investigators, particularly junior faculty. One of the most successful means by which the RDC does so is through concept reviews, a process by which grant applicants present their research to a panel of Duke science experts prior to submission. 

Over the last 18 months, 86% of concept review participants’ grants have subsequently been funded.

RDC concept reviews are led by Associate Director for Clinical Research Matthew Crowley, MD, associate professor in the division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Nutrition, and Associate Director for Basic/Translational Research, Xunrong Luo, MD, PhD, professor in the division of Nephrology.

“This is a tremendous but underutilized resource that exists within the DOM to provide high quality critical feedback through concept reviews prior to grant submission,” says Scott Palmer, MD, vice chair, research.  “I would encourage all faculty take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and thank Matt and Xunrong for leading the effort.”

Deepshikha Ashana, MD, MS, MBA, assistant professor in the division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, recently received a K23 Award to study how intensive care unit clinicians approach shared decision making with Black families of critically ill patients. She largely credits support from DOM resources like the concept review process for her win.

Ashana contacted Crowley and Saini Pillai, MBA, DOM senior program coordinator, three months before the sponsor deadline with an aims page. A month later they had assembled a group of 10 senior investigators and experienced mentors from across the DOM to provide personalized feedback.

“This was a fantastic opportunity to hear from experts outside my field who provided novel perspectives to strengthen my science,” Ashana says. “I found the key benefit of the concept review was allowing me to anticipate and craft responses to comments from study section reviewers. I would highly recommend that all DOM investigators build this resource into their grant writing timelines.”

Gayani Tillekeratne, MD, MSc, assistant professor in the division of Infectious Diseases, has found the concept review useful with an R01 grant application to develop a digitized, evidence-based algorithm for the improvement of diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia in Sri Lanka. She plans to conduct an interventional trial to determine the impact of the algorithm on antimicrobial use and clinical outcomes.

“Some {reviewers} worked directly in my area, and were able to provide suggestions regarding some of the finer points. Others were a bit more removed from my topic area, but their input was also extremely helpful regarding the overall scope and aims, she says “The feedback was thoughtful and constructive, and helped improve my final application. I was really grateful that so many busy people took the time to help me with this process.”

To arrange for a concept review, investigators should reach out to the RDC early in the process of developing a research grant. About six months in advance is the ideal time to do that, Crowley says.

A panel of experienced investigators from across the department and the School of Medicine is convened to review the proposal, focusing primarily the big picture science of the grant and the structure of the proposal in anticipation of the critique that an applicant may grant reviewers.

“It’s a great resource, very effective,” Crowley says. “More people should be using it. They're ideal for junior investigators submitting their first K or R grant, but anyone can benefit from the feedback. The more feedback you get on a grant, the more likely it is you'll anticipate reviewers’ critiques. The more eyes on the grant, the more successful you'll be.”

Please reach out to Saini Pillai, MBA for information about how to engage with RDC offerings, or to set up a concept review.