The Pilot Project Core identified and funded innovative pilot projects from junior investigators or from established investigators in a new area of cardiovascular biology. Also, Core members evaluated progress of projects and effectiveness of mentors to ensure that pilot grants fostered career development of investigators and strengthened the scientific infrastructure of the COBRE.
The COBRE Steering Committee reviewed the applications. The Committee met to conduct an NIH-style review session and reviewers assigned scores based on NIH-style criteria including significance, innovation, approach, investigator and environment. Research that would strengthen or complement existing research projects in the COBRE were given priority. A key issue was whether pilot funds were likely to enhance competitiveness for extramural funding. We considered candidates for the quality of their science and for their skills in communication and their leadership potential, which makes them attractive for promotion and for extramural funding. Written reviews from assigned reviewers, plus a summary from the primary reviewer, were assembled for each application.
Mentors were assigned to each recipient of a pilot project grant. Mentors and investigators met regularly in informal sessions. For formal assessment, six months after pilot funding began, investigators provided a two-page NIH-style progress report to their three mentors and to the Steering Committee. The three mentors, as a group, met with the investigator to review progress, provide scientific perspective, and identify further funding mechanisms. At the end of the project, each investigator submitted a final report. The report included scientific data, proposals submitted to other funding agencies, published papers, manuscripts submitted to journals, manuscripts in preparation, and abstracts submitted to meetings.