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Funding & Research

Clinical Research Skills Development
Core Specialized Centers of Clinically
Oriented Research (SCCOR)

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Institutes of Health

February 2002

The newly developed Specialized Centers of Clinically Oriented Research (SCCOR) program mechanism requires clinical and basic scientists with a broad range of skills to work together on a unified theme. It, therefore, presents a rich environment for young clinical investigators to be exposed to and develop additional research skills. The individual centers can be expected to include among their research staffs clinical personnel who are newly trained and relatively inexperienced in research. To assist the SCCOR grants in enhancing the developmental environment for their new clinical investigators, the NHLBI will permit applicants for a new SCCOR to request up to $100,000 in direct costs per year for a Clinical Research Skills Development Core. The objective of the Core is to support activities to assist new clinical investigators in progressing to more senior status by enhancing their research skills. This support is in addition to the usual cap on the SCCOR mechanism that is updated annually. A Clinical Research Skills Development Core is not required, however, and its absence will not disadvantage an applicant. The quality of the Clinical Research Skills Development Core, if proposed, will be evaluated based on the specific components listed below. The priority score on the Core will have no effect on the overall score of an application.

Developmental opportunities that provide experience with new technologies and skills are encouraged for inclusion in the Core. Innovative strategies should be proposed for cross-disciplinary career development to achieve the goal of exposing new clinical investigators to additional research techniques and opportunities. Examples include a program of seminars focusing on scientific topics that include an integration of basic and clinical studies or an "exchange" program wherein clinical investigators spend time in basic science labs. In addition to developing research skills, the Cores must ensure that the participating new clinical investigators receive the mentoring they need to foster their research careers. The Clinical Research Skills Development Core is intended for staff investigators with limited clinical research experience, including fellows and junior faculty members. Investigators who have had a previous K series award are not eligible to participate as new investigators under this program. The Core should also address other skills necessary for a successful research career, such as grant writing, ethical conduct of research, and clinical trial design.

If a Clinical Research Skills Development Core is proposed, it must be directed by an investigator with strong educational and mentoring credentials who will devote a minimum of 5 percent effort as its Leader. To facilitate mentoring and multidisciplinary developmental activities, active involvement by the principal investigator and other senior investigators within the SCCOR is strongly encouraged.

An application for a Clinical Research Skills Development Core will be evaluated in terms of its potential effectiveness in developing the skills and research capabilities of new clinical investigators as reflected in the following required elements of the application:

  1. A summary of the types of skills that would be developed and a description of proposed project-specific activities;
  2. A detailed discussion of how mentoring and the professional development of the new clinical investigators will be achieved, including their progression to more independent status;
  3. The credentials and track records of the Clinical Research Skills Development Core Leader, the Principal Investigator, and other participating senior staff in developing new investigators;
  4. A plan for coordinating the activities of participating senior investigators;
  5. A plan for monitoring the progress of the new clinical investigators;
  6. A description of existing opportunities within the applicant's institution for supporting investigator development and steps taken to avoid overlap with or duplication of these efforts; and
  7. 7. A detailed development plan for each proposed new investigator (or a representative plan and proposals for tailoring it to needs of multiple new investigators) including required course work and scientific enrichment activities such as special lectures, visiting scientist symposia, seminars, and workshops.

Costs allowable for inclusion within the $100,000 direct costs per year limit for the Clinical Research Skills Development Core include salary support for the Core Leader and other participating senior investigators and staff, travel costs for new investigators, supplies and equipment to be used in support of developmental activities, and costs for courses, seminars, workshops, and other activities directly related to the development plan. All costs requested in this Core must be justified with respect to developmental activities and may not be used to supplement the costs of research proposed in the rest of the SCCOR.

Since the Core is intended to serve new clinical investigators who occupy positions and receive salary support from the SCCOR grant, salary support for the new investigators is neither needed nor allowable as a Core cost. All new clinical investigators supported by the SCCOR grant should be eligible to participate in Core-sponsored activities so long as they have not attained independent status. However, attaining independent status should be an objective of the Core activities so participating new investigators should be encouraged to apply for either a Career Development Award, a patient-oriented regular research grant, or any other source of independent research or career development support. Although the participating new investigators will be expected to devote essentially full-time effort to research during this period, they may devote an appropriate percentage of their time to maintaining clinical skills.

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