Dissemination and Implementation Science Pilot Awards


The Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at the University of Pittsburgh is now seeking applications for Dissemination and Implementation Science Pilot Awards (DISPA). Dissemination research is defined as “the scientific study of targeted distribution of information and intervention materials to a specific public health or clinical practice audience. The intent is to understand how best to communicate and integrate knowledge and the associated evidence-based interventions.” (NIH 2021) Implementation research is defined as "the scientific study of the use of strategies to adopt and integrate evidence-based health interventions into clinical and community settings to improve individual outcomes and benefit population health.” (NIH 2021)

The goal of dissemination and implementation (D&I) research is to shorten the often-stated 17-year evidence to practice gap. More specifically, D&I research aims to translate evidence in ways that positively impact individuals and communities, and/or healthcare delivery, financing, or policy. Inherent in D&I research is a focus on ensuring equitable dissemination and implementation.


These pilot awards will support new or ongoing research that focuses on using dissemination and implementation research methods to support the adoption, implementation or maintenance of an evidence-based practice or program. Proposed research may be at earlier stages along the translational continuum if the focus is on designing or developing innovations with D&I in mind.

Investigators are also encouraged to consider their work in the context of health equity (e.g., including equity as an implementation outcome or metric; or focusing on expanding healthcare access for vulnerable populations).

Examples of projects that might fit this opportunity include:

  • Evaluating barriers to and facilitators of an evidence-based practice.
  • Adding a focus on implementation to an ongoing intervention development project.
  • Evaluating policy-level interventions to address system bias.
  • Designing a product with implementation or adoption in mind.
  • Engaging stakeholders to collaboratively develop implementation strategies that will support the adoption or maintenance of an evidence-based practice or program.
  • Engaging stakeholders to collaboratively develop dissemination strategies for study findings.
  • Pilot testing strategies to support equitable implementation of evidence-based practices or programs.
  • Comparing strategies to support dissemination of research findings across diverse communities.
  • Piloting the use of an implementation team that is constructed in a novel way.
  • Piloting novel evaluation measures or metrics relevant to implementation.

CTSI Assistance

Interested individuals may contact the IMPACT Core if they have questions concerning project ideas. The IMPACT (Implementation to Maximize Population and Community Translation) Core is a new core at the CTSI with an overall objective of accelerating translational research impact at the University of Pittsburgh. The IMPACT Core is comprised of research faculty and staff with unique expertise in designing research for impact and the science of implementation and dissemination of evidence-based practices. If you would like to meet with the IMPACT Core, please contact the CTSI Pilot Core at ctsipilots@pitt.edu.

Key Dates

Round 1 Submission Deadline:
Wednesday, August 11, 2021 by 11:59:59 p.m. EDT

Round 2 Submission Deadline:
Friday, October 8, 2021 by 11:59:59 p.m. EDT

Anticipated Start Date:
January 1, 2022

Notification to Advancing Investigators:
Friday, September 3, 2021

Notification to Awardees:
Monday, November 8, 2021

Funding Information

Award funding of up to $50,000 is available to cover direct costs. No indirect support will be provided. The award period is 12 months. The DISPA pilots do not have any mechanism for no-cost extensions; any funds that are not spent during the award period will be forfeited.

Before the start of the award period, awardees must provide documentation of all necessary regulatory approvals (IRB, IACUC, hSCRO, IBC, etc.). Once regulatory documentation is provided, awarded projects will undergo an administrative review from the National Center for Advancing Translation Science (NCATS) which is the NIH Institute that funds the University of Pittsburgh CTSI. Funding cannot begin until projects have been approved by NCATS. Because the NCATS review may take up to 30 days, applicants are strongly encouraged to have the necessary regulatory documents ready for submission.


The Principal Investigator must be a University of Pittsburgh faculty member; postdoctoral trainees and trainees in clinical training programs are not eligible to serve as PI. Faculty members on early-career training awards or clinical research scholars (i.e., recipients of K-series or similar career development grants) are eligible. New PIs are strongly encouraged to apply, but submissions from established investigators will be accepted if there is clear evidence that the pilot project represents a distinctly new direction from their previously funded work.

Study teams that involve cross-disciplinary collaborations are also strongly encouraged. Co-investigators may be from other universities; however, CTSI’s primary mission is to promote research at the University of Pittsburgh, so applicants should justify extensive off-campus collaboration. Partnerships with non-academic community partners are also acceptable.

Questions? Contact the CTSI Pilot Core at ctsipilots@pitt.edu

Submission Format and Requirements

Using the Powered by PInCh® Submission Platform

CTSI uses the Powered by PInCh® grant submission platform to collect and review all pilot project submissions. If applicants have not previously used this system, they should be aware that they will be required to create a new project before they are able to upload their PDF submission. Project creation should only take a few minutes and asks applicants to register their project in the system by providing the following information:

  • A title for their project (50-character limit)
  • A short description (200-character limit) of the project
  • A brief project summary (300-word limit) that should match the structured abstract provided in the Letter of Intent

These fields are used primarily for internal reference and can be edited after the project has been registered. 

If you have any questions while using the system or encounter any errors while submitting, please contact Will Hierholzer, CTSI Pilot Funding Core Administrator, at wih22@pitt.edu or 412-282-3845.

Round 1: Letter of Intent (LOI)

The LOI should be in the form of a single PDF document; please use Arial size 11 font with margins of 0.5 inches. All materials must be submitted before 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, August 11th, 2021. Additional or supplemental materials cannot be accepted after the deadline and will not be reviewed.

The LOI should include the following sections:

  • Study Title: Include the title of the proposal at the top of the page, along with the PI name, title and department, and contact email.
  • Structured Abstract (300-word limit): Please provide an overview of the study including, as applicable: a) Background and rationale for the study including the evidence-based program or practice of interest; b) Objectives; c) Design; d)Setting; e) Participants; f) Intervention or Implementation strategy; g) Outcomes/measures, the evidence-based practice of interest, and the general research approach.   
  • Path to impact plan (500-word limit, exclusive of the questions): Please address the following questions.
    • What is the overall health problem motivating my research?
      • Do health disparities currently exist within the area of my research and does my research contribute to reducing these disparities?
    • Who will be impacted by my research?
      • How will our team reflect, engage, and benefit these stakeholders?
      • Who is your implementation partner(s)?
      • Will my research impact any marginalized groups and will this impact be positive or negative?
    • What can my research change and what is the specific problem I will address?
      • Does the problem my research is addressing disproportionately affect marginalized groups and how does my research change this disproportionate rate of affect?
    • What is our hypothesized solution to the problem and how will my team work to address the problem?
      • What type of study will we conduct (include the stage of translation along the continuum)?
    • What do we plan to do to address health disparities within our research area?
      • Is our team representative of the population we’re working in?
      • Is our team multidisciplinary and ethnically/racially diverse?
      • Do our selected study participants represent the population?
    • How will our research ultimately contribute to improving the health of individuals, communities, and populations?
      • How will our research contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion and reducing disparities?
    • How will our project inform progression along the translational continuum?
  • Study Team: Please provide the names and affiliations of all members of the study team and a brief description of their roles (25-50 words per person). For more senior PIs, please indicate how the proposal represents a new direction. If including stakeholders, please describe them within your study team description.
  • Suggested Reviewers: To facilitate the final round of review, please suggest two to three Pitt faculty members, not from your department, who may be qualified to serve as scientific reviewers. Include the person’s name, title, department, and email addresses for each suggested reviewer.


Round 1: Review Criteria

The review of letters of intent will be conducted by the faculty and staff of CTSI. Proposals will be evaluated based on

  1. Alignment with D&I research and potential for impact.
  2. Innovation in least one of the following areas, depending on the focus of the project. A single submission does NOT need to have work in all four areas:
    • implementation
    • dissemination
    • team formation
    • evaluation
  3. Path to Impact Plan
  4. Responsiveness to addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion
  5. Strength of the study team

The results of this evaluation will determine which investigators will be invited to submit a full proposal for Round 2.

Round 2: Full Packet Submission

Applications should be in the form of a single PDF document; please use Arial size 11 font, with margins of 0.5 inches. All materials must be submitted before 11:59 p.m. on Friday, October 8th, 2021. Additional or supplemental materials cannot be accepted after the deadline and will not be reviewed.

Include the following sections, beginning each section on a new page:

  1. Project Overview (one page): The first page should include the following:
    • Project Title
    • PI Name and contact email
    • Scientific Abstract (250-word limit): Briefly summarize the proposed work.
  2. Research Plan (no more than five pages, including tables and figures): This section should include the following elements from a traditional NIH proposal to best allow reviewers to address the review criteria:
    • Specific Aims (1 page)
    • Significance (~1/2 page)
    • Innovation (~1/2 page)
    • Approach (~2 pages)
      • Stakeholders and plan for integration
    • Impact (~1/2 page)
      • How will our research ultimately contribute to improving the health of individuals, communities, and populations?
        • How will our research contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion and reducing disparities?
      • How will our project inform progression along the translational continuum?
  3. References (no page limit): Literature cited does not count toward the Research Plan's three-page limit.
  4. Budget with Budget Justification (no page limit): Use PHS 398 Form Page 4 and Page 5. The budget justification should include sufficient detail for reviewers to assess whether appropriate resources have been requested. 
    • Grant funds may NOT be budgeted for:
      • Salary support for the PI or faculty collaborators*
      • Effort for post-doctoral trainees or fellows
      • Routine office supplies or communication costs, including printing
      • Meals or travel, including to conferences, except as required to collect data
      • Professional education or training
      • Computers or audiovisual equipment (exceptions require clear justification)
      • Manuscript preparation and submission
      • Indirect costs​
        • * Effort is required of the principal investigator and must be reflected on the budget page. This effort should be cost shared by the department or other entity that will support such effort. Reviewers understand that this may be a very small proportion of effort given the size of this award, but will be cautious if investigators do not appear to have sufficient time to complete a project.
        • Any salary support requested in a submitted budget should reflect federal fringe benefit rates. If an award is made, a budget meeting will be held between principal investigators, their respective research administrators, and financial administrators from the CTSI. If necessary, adjustments to the requested budget will be made at that meeting.
  5. Proposal Timeline (up to half a page)Describe milestones and timeline for completion of the project. These milestones are critical for the pilot program, because all awards must be expended during the one-year award. The CTSI Pilot program does not have mechanisms to allow no-cost extensions. In the event an award is made, investigators should immediately confer with CTSI staff if any delay in initiation or completion of the project is anticipated.
  6. Human and/or Animal Subjects (no page limit)NIH supported pilot awards must address Protection of Human Subjects, Adequacy of Protection Against Risks, Data and Safety Monitoring Plans, Inclusion of Women and Minorities, and Inclusion of Children.
    • Human Research Protection Office (HRPO) approval is not required prior to submission. However, HRPO approval is required for all projects involving human subjects before NCATS will approve project funding. Likewise, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) must approve any projects involving animal subjects prior to final funding approval.
    • Applicants must describe any human and/or animal subject issues, as well as the sources of materials that will be obtained from human subjects. If human subjects are involved, provide a description of their involvement and characteristics, specific risks to subjects who participate, and protection against those risks. Reviewers may consider whether significant delays in approval are an anticipated barrier for project completion when selecting projects. Evidence of prior or ongoing HRPO / IACUC review is encouraged. Similarly, this section should discuss if other special regulatory approval is required prior to funding: Human Stem Cell Research Oversight (hSCRO), Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), Committee for Oversight of Research Involving the Dead (CORID), Radiation Safety Office (RSO), etc.
  7. NIH Biosketches (no page limit)Include biosketches for the Principal Investigator and key members of the research team. Use new biosketch format as of September 2020.
  8. Letters of Support (optional): Letters of support are not required, but are encouraged (e.g., advisory committee members and health system partners/organization collaborators).

Round 2: Review Criteria

It is a requirement that review of CTSI pilot proposals should address the NIH review criteria. Reviewers will score final applications on an NIH scale (1-9) in the domains of Significance, Investigators, Innovation, Approach, and Environment. Special emphasis will be given to a rating of the overall impact of the proposed project. Note that the review (based on the criteria below) will be adjusted to the pilot nature of the award.

NIH Review Criteria:

  • Overall Impact: The likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field.
  • Significance: Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field?
  • Investigators: Are the PD/PIs, collaborators, and other researchers well suited, sufficient, and able to conduct the project?
  • Innovation: Does the project shift current research or clinical practice paradigms, use novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions?
  • Approach: Are the strategies, methods, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project?
  • Environment: Are the personnel, equipment, and other physical resources available to the investigators to perform the proposed research within the time frame allotted?

Program-Specific Criteria:

  • IMPACT: Does the project indicate a clear path to impact?