institutions for the right to submit a proposal and hence had limited access to possible CIRM support.
To address this concern while keeping the number of proposals sent for full review manageable, CIRM established a pre-application procedure and eliminated the restriction on the number of applications that could be submitted from any single institution (CIRM, 2011d). The preapplication procedure is similar to a process used by a number of private foundations that provide support for biomedical research. Applicants are asked to provide a shortened version of their proposal through the CIRM website. CIRM staff evaluate these shortened proposals to ensure that they are in keeping with the RFA. Those deemed responsive to the RFA are then sent to three outside reviewers, who are also provided the RFA. Each reviewer is asked to evaluate the pre-application, indicating whether it should definitely, possibly, or definitely not be invited as a full proposal. Additionally, each reviewer is asked to identify proposals that are among the two to three best in the group being evaluated by that reviewer (each reviewer typically is given 10-25 pre-applications to consider). No written critique is requested of the evaluators. Using these initial external evaluations, CIRM staff determine which applicants will be invited to submit full proposals. Once invited, proposals must be based on the pre-application proposal that was submitted. There is no appeal process for pre-applications that are not invited for a full proposal submission (CIRM, 2011e).
After the pre-application process was piloted, applicants, reviewers, CIRM staff, and the ICOC board members were surveyed regarding its acceptability (CIRM, 2011e). As might be expected, applicants often expressed frustration that there was no feedback on why their pre-application was not selected to move forward. Additionally, in responses to the committee’s questionnaire,5 some principal investigators raised concern about whether a short proposal contains sufficient detail for an informed review (IOM, 2012d). On balance, however, there appeared to be overwhelming support for the pre-application process, especially in comparison with the previous model whereby there was a limit on the number of applications that could be submitted from any single institution (CIRM, 2011e). The committee agrees that, despite its limitations, the current pre-application procedure opens up the opportunity for CIRM funding to a broader cohort of investigators and is, in principle, an appropriate process. The committee recognizes the tension between providing applicants as much information as possible and not overburdening reviewers, and it suggests that CIRM consider ways of offering applicants more information on the shortcomings perceived in pre-applications that were not selected for further consideration.
5See Appendix B for a summary of the questionnaire responses.