Next Steps in the Research Grant Process

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Kim McCleary

By K. Kimberly McCleary
President & CEO of the Solve ME/CFS Initiative from 1991-2013

We did it! Collectively we raised more than $1 million for an expanded CFS research program, surpassing our goal in the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the Association’s history. Thank you for supporting this effort with your gifts and your enthusiasm. See the story “Research Campaign Reaches $1 Million Goal!” in this issue of the CFIDSLink.

In another milestone for our research program, Suzanne Vernon, PhD, the Association’s scientific director, recently led a series of 21 conference calls to evaluate the scientific merit of the research proposals we received in response to our Request for Applications (RFA) issued spring of 2008. As part of our heightened scientific review process, more than 40 experts from across the U.S., Canada and Europe provided detailed written comments and participated in discussions about the strengths and weaknesses of specific scientific factors in each proposal they were asked to consider.

Suzanne and I were very, very impressed with the thoroughness and thoughtfulness these reviewers reflected in their written and verbal comments. Some experts were selected for their knowledge of a particular technique being proposed or for their experience in a certain field of research, even if they knew little about CFS. We were particularly gratified by the statements made by these reviewers

about the new interest they had in CFS as a result of being part of our review process. We hope that this stimulates their thinking and engages their deeper involvement in the pursuit of scientific advances.

The top-scoring proposals are now being evaluated by a subcommittee of our Board of Directors for strategic merit: how well they meet the program priorities announced in the RFA; how likely it is the studies will yield a meaningful result; how well the proposed research will fill gaps in the existing knowledge base; how likely it is that it will be able to secure larger funding sources; and which of the proposals is likely to resonate with our supporters. As a nonprofit organization whose research program is supported entirely by the CFS community, we feel these factors warrant special consideration if we are to sustain your trust.

After the strategic review is completed, the Board’s Executive Committee will consider both sets of input in making final funding decisions about all 21 proposals. The number of grants approved for funding will depend upon how many achieve the rigorous standards of scientific and strategic merit we’ve established, and how much money has been received for the portion of the funds allocated to directly supporting grants. Right now we anticipate funding five-seven new studies and will announce the successful grants before the end of the year.

But the work doesn’t stop there. Although our focus this year has certainly been on expanding our research program, all the work of the Association is vital to making continued progress. Please help support education, public policy and research with your gift. In this time of economic uncertainty, we’re grateful for donations of any size to fuel these programs.

We all extend our deep appreciation for helping us achieve this milestone.

October 10, 2008