Public Health Trans-Disciplinary Collaboration Pilot Awards

Introduction & Overview

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) at the University of Pittsburgh seek applications for the Public Health Trans-Disciplinary Collaboration Pilot Awards. These awards support collaborations between GSPH faculty and School of Medicine (SOM) faculty.

The two priority areas for these awards are a) climate change and health and b) precision public health. Climate change impacts human health and disease by affecting the social and environmental determinants of health1. Per WHO, “climate-sensitive health risks are disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, including women, children, ethnic minorities, poor communities, migrants or displaced persons, older populations, and those with underlying health conditions.” Precision public health has been defined as: “the application and combination of new and existing technologies, which more precisely describe and analyze individuals and their environment over the life course, to tailor preventive interventions for at-risk groups and improve the overall health of the population.”Proposals outside of these priority areas are not eligible for funding through this mechanism.

The goal of this program is to establish and strengthen collaborations between GSPH and SOM faculty members. Funded projects can target vulnerable communities locally, regionally, and globally, and are expected to involve trans-disciplinary collaborations between at least one GSPH investigator and one SOM investigator. Projects must be new efforts that have not been previously funded.

Examples of projects might include but are not limited to the following:

  • A community-based assessment of health literacy regarding climate change
  • An analysis of EHR to assess local changes in acute respiratory diseases in children with asthma
  • An intervention to provide seniors with medication disposal bags and reduce misuse
  • A neighborhood initiative to support use of local green space and increase physical activity
  • An evaluation of climate change readiness among local first responders and Emergency Departments
  • The role of climate change (e.g. floods, heat) in exacerbating vector borne-, and non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
  • Using “big data” to predictively model how vulnerable populations, especially those with existing health burdens (e.g. HIV, NCDs), are impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, or are at cumulative risk for both public health threats
  • Public health genetics or population genomics approaches to address key adverse health outcomes (e.g. CVD, cancer, dementia) using a life course, multigenerational strategy.

Key Dates

Round 1 LOI Submission Deadline:
Friday, December 10, 2021 by 11:59:59 p.m. EDT

Round 1 Notification to Advancing Projects:
Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Round 2 Full Proposal Submission Deadline:
Friday, January 21, 2021 by 11:59:59 p.m. EDT (by invitation)

Round 2 Notification:
Friday, February 25, 2022

Earliest Anticipated Start Date:
March 1, 2022 (award must start within 3 months of notification)

Funding Information

Applicants can request up to $40,000 in direct costs, with a maximum funding period of one year. Five awards are anticipated.

Funding cannot start until all necessary regulatory approvals have been received (IRB, hSCRO, IBC, CORID, IACUC). Projects must start within 3 months of Notification of Award. Projects that do not start within 3 months will be forfeited. The earliest 12-month funding cycle will run from March 1, 2022-February 28, 2023no extensions of this award period beyond 12 months will be made.

CTSI pilots do not have any mechanism for no-cost extensions; any funds that are not used during the award period will be forfeited.

New collaborations between the two Co-PIs are eligible for $5,000 in bonus funding. New collaborations are defined as having no previous shared publications or grant funding.


This pilot project is focused on fostering trans-disciplinary collaborations between GSPH and SOM. As such, each project should have at least two investigators:

  • Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI): one co-PI must be a faculty member at GSPH (primary appointment)
  • Co-Principal Investigator: the second co-PI must be a faculty member at SOM (primary appointment)
  • Other Co-Investigators (Co-Is) from GSPH and/or SOM may be included but are not required.

Submissions should clearly describe the role of each investigator, with sufficient detail for reviewers to identify that both will have an active role in the research. The Co-PIs must be University of Pittsburgh faculty members from GSPH and SOM. Postdoctoral trainees and trainees in clinical training programs are not eligible to serve as PI but are encouraged to be members of the study team. 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 and early career investigators are strongly encouraged and favored, 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 strongly encouraged. Partnerships with non-academic community partners are acceptable.

Submission and Review Information

Applications will be evaluated in two rounds: (1) a brief letter of intent, and (2) a full application.

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 (500-word limit) that should match the abstract and scope of work 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 CTSI Pilot Funding Core at

Round 1: Letter of Intent (LOI)

Submit a letter of intent that summarizes the proposed research. Each submission must include the following sections:

  1. Study Title: Include the title of the proposal at the top of the page, along with the two co-PIs’ names and contact emails.
  2. Abstract/Scope of Work (500-word limit): Provide a high-level overview of the project and the proposed work.
  3. Study Team: Provide the names and affiliations of all members of the study team and a brief description of their roles (25-50 words per person
  4. Suggested Reviewers: To facilitate the second round of review, please suggest two Pitt/UPMC faculty members to potentially serve as non-conflicted scientific reviewers. For each suggested reviewer, list their name, title, department, and contact email.

Letters of Intent should be in the form of a single PDF document. The font should not be smaller than Arial 11; margins must be no smaller than 0.5 inches. All materials must be uploaded to the Powered by PInCh® website by 11:59:59 PM on Friday, December 10, 2021. Additional or supplemental materials cannot be accepted after the deadline and will not be reviewed.

Round 1: Review Criteria

The review of letters of intent will be conducted by the faculty and staff of CTSI and GSPH. Proposals will primarily be evaluated based on responsiveness to the funding opportunity announcement, as well as the overall scientific impact of the proposed work. The results of this evaluation will determine which investigators will be invited to submit a full proposal for the second round.

Round 2: Full Application

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, January 21, 2022. Additional or supplemental materials cannot be accepted after the deadline and will not be reviewed.

Applications must include the following sections. Please start each new section on a new page.

  • Cover Sheet (one page): Include the following details:
    • Project Title
    • Names, titles, affiliations and preferred contact email for the:
      • Co-Principal Investigators (faculty members)
    • Scientific Abstract (maximum 250 words): Summarize your proposal
  • Research Plan (maximum five pages including tables/figures): Please follow the traditional NIH proposal format addressing the following:
    • Specific Aims
    • Significance
    • Innovation
    • Approach
    • Future Impact: A well-defined path from the pilot to future larger research efforts (maximum 250 words)
  • References (no page limit): Literature cited does not count toward the five-page limit for the Research Plan.

  • Budget with Justification (no page limit): Use PHS 398 Forms Pages 4 and 5. The budget justification should include sufficient detail for reviewers to assess whether appropriate resources have been requested.
    • An additional page should be included for the budget justification. All pieces of equipment, including any type of computer or related device, must be explicitly justified as critical to the performance of the proposed research. Any salary requested should include non-federal fringe benefit rates.
    • Grant funds may not be budgeted for:
      • Salary support for the PI or faculty collaborators*
      • 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
  • New Collaboration Bonus Award: Proposals that are eligible for the $5,000 new collaboration bonus award should submit a budget for $45,000. The determination of eligibility will be made after the final review. If teams are selected for funding but are determined not to be eligible, the final budget will be adjusted to $40,000.

*Effort is required of the Principal Investigators and must be reflected on the budget page, cost-shared by the respective departments. 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. Please note, an applicant who is currently the recipient of a mentored career development award (e.g., K12, K23, etc.) or a foundation-supported career development award may subsume the effort devoted to the project under the career development award if the project proposed is consistent with the career development award.

Any salary support requested in a submitted budget should reflect University of Pittsburgh’s fringe benefit rates for non-federally funded projects ( 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, minor adjustments to the requested budget will be made at that meeting.

  • Proposal Timeline (one 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.

  • Human and/or Animal Subjects (no page limit): 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 project funding may begin. Although animal research is expected to be rare in this program, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) must approve any projects involving animal subjects prior to final funding approval.
    • In this section, 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.
  • NIH Biosketches (no page limit): Include biosketches (either March 2020 or January 2022 format) of no more than 5 pages each for the Principal Investigators and for any other investigator whose expertise will be critical for successful completion of the project. The personal statement in any biographical sketch should be appropriate for the project proposed in the application.

  • 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

Review of the pilot proposals will use the NIH review criteria and Program-specific criteria to evaluate the scientific merit and transdisciplinary nature of the project. 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: Scientific Merit

  • 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 by using 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: Transdisciplinary Nature

Reviewers will evaluate the following item while determining scientific and technical merit, and in providing an overall impact score, but will not give a separate score for it.

  • Is the project trans-disciplinary?

Transdisciplinary research is defined as research that involves scientists from multiple disciplines working interactively on a common problem to develop novel cross-disciplinary methods, insights and research approaches that would not have occurred with a traditional uni-disciplinary investigation.3

It is expected that applicants will develop collaborative translational/transdisciplinary approaches that blend the unique skills of specific members of the team to address a significant question.

CTSI Assistance (Optional)

Research facilitators at CTSI are available to assist investigator at any stage of a project ( Facilitators can advise on finding collaborators, regulatory issues, human research protection, other required approvals, and research design or conduct.

Limited statistical consulting on projects is available from CTSI (

  2. “Editorial: Precision Public Health” in Frontiers in Public Health, 2018,