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 Biostatistic Epidemiology and Research Design (BERD) 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, ISPCTN);
  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that individuals may submit both Pilot and MRDA requests, but if the Pilot Grant is awarded, the MRDA grant will be withdrawn);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 support clinical and academic investigators to offset a portion of non-research effort such as clinical, teaching, or administrative effort.

Clinical 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.

For clinicians, 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 a MRDA to cover 2 days a week (40% of their time) over three months to develop a PCORI grant application for 2020, 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.

MRDAs can also support academic investigators with scientific or engineering backgrounds who are seeking to develop clinical and translational research proposals. Investigators must be the PI for the envisioned grant proposal and must identify a targeted grant submission. MRDAs for academic investigators cover expenses for up to 10% faculty buyout time or to provide release from one course during one semester. In addition, academic investigators can request additional funds to cover costs up to $3,000 related to increasing the competitiveness of the grant proposal they are writing such as pilot data analysis or travel to meet with mentors or collaborators regarding the grant proposal.

In addition to the 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:

  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 their 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 new research activities such as the 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 pilot data 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 BERD Core 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 one page letter of intent must be submitted by April 24, 2020 (emailed to This letter should: 1) state the targeted funding mechanism (including due date); 2) provide an overview of the research to be proposed; 3) identify the Sponsoring Mentor and mentoring team; and, 4) name the individual who will release the MRDA Scholar from clinical or other responsibilities if the MRDA is awarded. This letter will be used to assign appropriate reviewers and ensure eligibility. You will not receive feedback and will only be contacted if there are questions/concerns.

Then, a full three page application is due by May 15, 2020 (submitted online at 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 May 15 deadline (by May 1) 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 May 15 deadline. Awarded MRDA Scholars will be announced no later than July 1, 2020 and the start date for funding will be no earlier than August 17, 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 (~2 pages) including:
    1. Background and significance of the clinical/translational problem to be studied in the planned grant and a draft of your specific aims;
    2. Overview of the methodology to be used;
    3. Long-term research goals and potential impact of the line of research being developed by the applicant;
    4. 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 (~2/3rd 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 applicant to ensure attainment of the MRDA objectives, especially members of the mentoring team, collaborators, analytical tools, and grant readers/reviewers.
  3. A Timeline (~1/3rd 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. Submissions for this call should have start dates on or after July 1, 2020. 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 (IDP) then click on JIN Individual Development Plan folder or go to
  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. These Biosketches MUST be in the current NIH format and the Biosketches of the mentors should describe their experiences as mentors and why they are appropriate mentors for this applicant and this research plan. To obtain the most up to date NIH Biosketch form, visit
  3. A detailed mentoring plan submitted by the sponsoring mentor through the online interface then click on Mentoring Plan folder or go to NOTE: Previously submitted mentoring plans can be retrieved and updated for new mentees (contact Erin at for details).
  4. A letter of support from the sponsoring mentor detailing 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 specific 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 (e.g., grant funding, publications, presentations)
    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.

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 the traditional priority areas of Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Stroke, Big Data, Obesity, Women’s Health, and Infant Mortality. We also encourage submissions describing Community Engagement Research and/or addressing Social Determinants of Health, Health Disparities/Equity, and Substance Use (e.g., the Opioid Epidemic). ACCEL has recently identified three additional areas of high importance including Rehabilitation, Preventive Care, and Behavioral and Mental Health.
  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

Due DateAction
April 24, 2020 Letter of Intent due
May 15, 2020 Proposals are due for Mentoring Oversight Committee review
July 1, 2020 Funding decisions will be made by the Steering Committee and awardees will be announced
August 17, 2020 MRDA Scholars will be admitted to the MRDA program and may begin work
(Specific date to be announced) Mandatory orientation for MRDA Scholars via Blue Jeans
(Specific dates to be arranged) Start of six session grant preparation class
June 30, 2021Work on all MRDAs must be completed

Comments or questions about the program?

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