Mentored Research Development Award Program (MRDA)

Goals & Background

The principal goal of the MRDA program is to improve the success rate for grant submissions by junior faculty. To accomplish this objective, MRDA recipients (MRDA Scholars) will work with their chosen mentor(s) to achieve milestones associated with the preparation of a targeted grant application. To assure highly-competitive grant submissions, MRDA Scholars will also take advantage of extensive ACCEL resources. These include grant writing workshops, peer mentoring groups, grant review sessions, support from the Professional Development Core (PD Core), and biostatistics and study design consultations with experts from the ACCEL Epi-Biostats Core.

MRDAs release awardees from significant non-research responsibilities (e.g., clinical work, teaching, administration) so that they can participate in defined activities associated with grant writing and submission. At the end of the MRDA period, awardees are required to submit a fully-developed grant proposal to one of the following mechanisms:

  1. IDeA Program Pilot Grants (e.g., CTR, COBRE, INBRE, CTSA);
  2. NIH; PCORI; AHRQ; other federal agency;
  3. A well-recognized grant-issuing foundation or organization (AHA, ACS, etc.)


The MRDA program supports junior faculty in their transition to research independence on a tenure or equivalent track. The candidate must be sponsored and supported by a senior investigator / mentor (called the Sponsoring Mentor here) who will act as their advocate and primary mentoring contact throughout the process.

The junior faculty applicant must:

  1. Hold a permanent faculty (e.g., tenure track) level position at CCHS, DSU, MUSC, or Nemours;
  2. Fulfill the criteria of NIH New Investigator

The junior faculty applicant cannot:

  1. Hold a concurrent IDeA Pilot Grant (note that individuals may submit both Pilot and MRDA requests, but if the Pilot Grant is awarded, the MRDA grant will be withdrawn);
  2. Have received a previous ACCEL MRDA – unless the applicant is pursuing funding for a new research grant opportunity and provides documentation that their previous MRDA was successful.

Support Provided

MRDAs offset a portion of non-research effort such as clinical, teaching, or administrative effort. MRDA Scholars receive coverage for up to 20% of their time over 6 months to work toward the goals of their award. The time covered by the MRDA can be spread over the entire 6 months (e.g., one day a week) or can be compressed into a shorter timeframe (e.g., five continuous weeks of effort). Although focused effort is often desirable for effective grant writing, it is likely that actual effort developing a grant application will vary across the timeframe covered and time should be flexibly allocated in a way that best suits the applicant, their Sponsoring Mentor, and their home Department/Division.

The ACCEL Program will provide half of the awardee’s salary up to the NIH salary cap for their approved research effort. For example, if an investigator is awarded an MRDA to cover 2 days a week (40% of their time) over three months to develop a PCORI grant application for 2019, their Division Chief or Department Chair would have to guarantee protection of that 40% time for the three months indicated. During the MRDA period, 20% of the MRDA recipient’s salary (up to the NIH salary cap) would be covered by the ACCEL Program with the remaining 20% of their protected time covered by the awardee’s home department or division.

In addition to the salary support for awardees, Sponsoring Mentors who fully participate in the program will have access to a small amount of funding (~$2,250) that can be requested for travel, education, or other activities / materials that support the broader goals of the ACCEL Program to increase clinical and translational research capacity at the participating institutions. Full mentor participation means that:

During the MRDA submission process, the Sponsoring Mentor will:

  1. Register on the ACCEL web site;
  2. Submit an online Mentoring Plan specific to the MRDA applicant;
  3. Upload a letter of support through the online submission interface;
  4. Assist the applicant with the preparation of an initial Individual Development Plan.

If the MRDA is awarded, the Sponsoring Mentor will:

  1. Complete an online survey detailing their position and experience;
  2. Assure the conditions of the submitted Mentoring Plan are met;
  3. Provide periodic online assessments of the MRDA recipient and their relationship with the mentor;
  4. Participate in your mentee’s Mentoring and Advisory Council (MAC) session and agree to act as a reviewer for a future MAC session.

Activities Covered

MRDAs are designed to support activities associated with writing and submitting highly competitive clinical and translational research grants. MRDAs are NOT intended to support research activities such as the purchase of supplies, enrollment of subjects, or prospective data acquisition. In particular, the MRDA program was designed to help clinicians and other junior faculty burdened by non-research duties to focus their efforts on preparing highly competitive grant submissions to support their research.

Examples of activities that are allowed under an MRDA include:

  1. Meet with mentors and collaborators;
  2. Participate in PD Core grant development workshops, peer group sessions, and mock study sections;
  3. Draft, refine, and finalize the specific aims and research strategy for a research grant submission;
  4. Complete analysis of existing data set and prepare figures for a research grant submission;
  5. Determine best research methods and alternative approaches for the targeted grant submission;
  6. Consult and collaborate with the ACCEL Epi-Biostats group to develop an effective study design and analytic approach for a research grant submission and an envisioned larger program of research;
  7. Draft documents for Institutional Review Board consideration;
  8. Respond to comments / suggestions from previous reviewers or from leaders in the field to whom a copy of your potential grant submission was sent for review.

Basic Application Requirements

A three page application must be submitted online by April 26, 2020. Submission requires registration on the ACCEL site. Applications should be prepared by mentee-mentor pairs and both the mentor and mentee will be evaluated as part of the review process. Applicants who have previously received an MRDA must provide documentation detailing the outcomes of their prior MRDA funding and explaining the need for additional support (please contact Erin Riegel for additional guidance).

Submission of applications is encouraged in advance of the April 26th deadline so that if the initial application is found to be incomplete or inconsistent with the intent of the MRDA program, the investigator will have time to update the proposal and resubmit by the April 26th deadline. Awarded MRDA Scholars will be announced no later than June 24, 2020.

Application Details

Applications may be no longer than 3 pages using 11pt Arial (or larger) font with 1/2 inch (or larger) margins. Applications must include the following sections:

  1. A Research Summary (~1½ page) including:
    1. Significance of the clinical/translational problem to be studied in the planned grant;
    2. Long-term research goals of the applicant;
    3. Potential impact of the line of research being developed by the applicant;
    4. Your rationale for choosing the research project that is the subject of your grant proposal;
    5. The specific target funding agency (e.g., ACCEL, NIH, NSF, AHA), funding mechanism (e.g., pilot grant, R21, CAREER Award, Grant-in-Aid), and grant submission deadline.
  2. An MRDA Plan (~¾ page) including:
    1. A specific description of the activities that will be undertaken during the MRDA;
    2. A list of resources readily available to the applcant to ensure attainment of the MRDA objectives, especially members of the mentoring team, collaborators, analytical tools, and grant readers/reviewers.
  3. A Timeline (~¾ page) including:
    1. The amount and duration of effort requested with justification for the time needed;
    2. A detailed timeline beginning with initiation of the MRDA work and ending with submission of the targeted grant listing the planned MRDA activities. Please provide details (for example, specify the frequency of meetings with your mentor, identify the block of time set aside for the first draft of the grant, time for review of that draft, a second block of time for grant revision, etc.)

Other Submission Requirements

  1. Completion of an online Individual Development Plan.
  2. Uploading of NIH-formatted Biosketches for the MRDA candidate, the sponsoring mentor, and any other mentors or collaborators who would play a significant role in accomplishing the goals of the MRDA.
  3. A detailed mentoring plan submitted by the sponsoring mentor through the online interface.
  4. A letter of support from the sponsoring mentor detailing their mentoring experience, the candidate’s potential, the existing mentoring relationship (if any), and specifics as to how and when the mentor will interact with the candidate during the MRDA funding period.
  5. A letter provided by the applicant’s Division Chief and/or Department Chair confirming support for the applicant’s participation in the MRDA program and providing assurance that the applicant will be released from clinical or other responsibilities for the amount of time and duration requested, consistent with the Timeline specified, should the MRDA application be approved. The letter must:
    1. acknowledge that, if awarded, the MRDA will be used to offset clinical or other non-research effort and will not be used to cover time already released for research, free time spent on research, or time spent on days off;
    2. clearly state the specify time release for the MRDA activities;
    3. indicate agreement to split the MRDA-associated salary costs with the ACCEL Program.
  6. Applicants who have received a previous MRDA must provide a Progress Report document detailing:
    1. the outcomes of their previous MRDA funding
    2. a detailed explanation of the need for additional MRDA support
  7. Prior to funding, all MRDA awardees and sponsoring mentors will sign a compact agreeing to:
    1. Adhere to the mentoring plan conditions;
    2. Protect the awardee’s research time based on the MRDA timeline proposed;
    3. Maintain communication with the PD Core. Note that in this regard, MRDA recipients will be assigned to a senior Mentoring Oversight Committee faculty member. This person will act as a resource for the MRDA recipient and their Sponsoring Mentor. They will provide linkages to the developing resources within the ACCEL Program and oversee the team’s progress in order to remove potential roadblocks and determine alternative strategies as needed.

Stages of the MRDA Review Process

  1. Administrative review of the application for completeness and consistency with the funding mechanism (PD Core Director’s Office)
  2. Review and ranking of the submitted information including review of the mentoring components and the merit of the proposal (Mentoring Oversight Committee).
  3. Final approval of ranked applications for funding (ACCEL Executive Committee).

Mentoring Component Review Criteria

The following criteria will be used to evaluate the mentoring components of the application:

  1. The sponsoring mentor’s level of experience and expertise to guide the MRDA Scholar in preparing a highly competitive grant submission of the type identified.
  2. The inclusion of additional mentors to augment the role of the sponsoring mentor as needed.
  3. The thoughtfulness and thoroughness of the mentoring plan and its potential to support the MRDA Scholar in the activities proposed for the MRDA period.
  4. The strength of the IDP provided.

Merit Review Criteria

The following criteria will be used to evaluate the merit of the proposal:

  1. The likelihood of the applicant’s success in competing for an external grant based on the Mentor’s assessment of the investigator’s research potential and a review of the application materials.
  2. Relevance of the envisioned grant proposal to the DE-CTR ACCEL mission. Although all meritorious applications will be considered for funding, in cases where multiple applications are ranked at the same level of merit, priority will be given to areas of emphasis defined by the DE-CTR ACCEL. Areas of high importance include:
    1. Rehabilitation
    2. Cancer
    3. Cardiovascular Diseases
    4. Stroke
    5. Obesity
    6. Women’s Health
    7. Infant Mortality
  3. The scope of the MRDA proposal and the likelihood of successfully accomplishing the proposed objectives.
  4. The availability of collaborators, core lab resources, analytical tools, and other relevant resources to support the applicant.
  5. The feasibility of the proposed timeline to produce a competitive submission.

Please note that priority will be given to those who have not previously been a recipient of an MRDA.

MRDA Submission and Review Timeline

  1. April 26, 2020: Proposals are due for Mentoring Oversight Committee review
  2. June 24, 2020: Awardees will be announced
  3. July 1, 2020: MRDA Scholars will be admitted to the MRDA program and may begin work as soon as activity numbers are assigned within their Office of Sponsored Projects
  4. July 2020 (specific date to be announced): Mandatory orientation for MRDA Scholars via Blue Jeans
  5. July 2020(specific dates to be arranged): Start of six session grant preparation class
  6. June 30, 2021: Work on all MRDAs must be completed

Comments or questions about the program?

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