2021 Career Development Award


The proposal must be submitted by 3 p.m. Central Time in ProposalCentral on the deadline date.

Success Rates

Statement of Purpose

Supports highly promising healthcare and academic professionals, in the early years of one’s first professional appointment, to explore innovative questions or pilot studies that will provide preliminary data and training necessary to assure the applicant’s future success as a research scientist.

The award will develop the research skills to support and greatly enhance the awardee’s chances to obtain and retain a high-quality career position.

Eligibility

At the time of application, the applicant must hold an MD, PhD, DO, DVM, DDS, or equivalent post-baccalaureate doctoral degree.

  • Postdoctoral fellows are eligible to apply and must have attained faculty appointment by the time of award activation.
  • The AHA will permit a Career Development Awardee to concurrently hold an NIH K award. if there is no budgetary overlap. NIH K99/R00 awardees may apply if they will be in the R00 stage of the award at time of AHA Career Development Award activation. 

    Additional considerations related to the NIH K99/R00 award mechanism:

  • Please note that holders of a K99/R00 cannot be in the K99 phase (non-permanent, training phase) and also hold an AHA Career Development Award (which requires holding of a permanent, non-trainee position).  If you have a K99/R00, AHA recommends you not apply for a Career Development Award until such time that you will be converting your K award to the R00 phase.
  • For those who concurrently apply for both a K99/R00 and an AHA Career Development Award and receive notification of funding for both, note that both awards cannot be accepted (see above). The decision of which to accept lies with the applicant. Some might choose to remain in their fellowship and accept the K99/R00; the awardee could then apply for an AHA Career Development Award when anticipating moving to the R00 phase.  lternatively, those who desire an earlier transition to a faculty position may instead elect to accept the AHA Career Development Award.

At the time of award activation:

  • An awardee must hold a faculty/staff position up to and including the rank of assistant professor (or equivalent).
  • No more than five years may have elapsed since the first faculty/staff appointment (after receipt of doctoral degree) at the assistant professor level or equivalent (including, but not limited to, instructor, research assistant professor, research scientist, staff scientist, etc.). If the candidate held the title of instructor during postdoctoral fellowship or residency years due to clinical or teaching responsibilities, that period of time does not count against the eligibility period for applying for the Career Development Award.
  • While no minimum percent effort is required, the applicant must demonstrate that adequate time will be devoted to ensuring successful completion of the project.

Requirements

Mentoring Team: The award requires, at a minimum, a primary mentor and a secondary mentor who will provide counsel and direction and scholarship oversight. Up to two additional mentors may be named to the mentoring team. A mentoring team approach with a committed lead mentor is an essential piece. Applicants should clearly define each person’s role as part of the mentoring team.

The primary and secondary mentors should have, most importantly, prior history of successfully mentoring early career investigators to independence, track records of high-quality investigation, academic accomplishment, and should be invested in the career progress of the early career scientist. The mentors’ primary function is to work with the applicant to develop the application and training plan, make necessary arrangements with the institution to conduct the proposed research work, enforce the appropriate timelines for accomplishment of the work, and guide the awardee toward a productive career in his/her chosen field.

  • One individual must be identified as the primary mentor who will assist in coordination of the candidate’s research. The primary mentor should be an active investigator in the area of the proposed research and be committed both to the applicant’s career development and the applicant’s research. The mentors must document the availability of dedicated sufficient research support (e.g. time and effort) and facilities for high-quality research.
  • At least one mentor must be from outside of the applicant’s institution or department.
  • One mentor should be committed to guiding the applicant’s future grant writing endeavors (such as, how to write an R01 or equivalent).

Career Development Plan (3 pages maximum): The applicant is required to submit a comprehensive career development plan that includes:

  • Primary career intention – AHA does not require this to be a traditional academic research or health profession track. For example, an applicant might wish to pursue a career in industry, technology, teaching, or public health, etc.
  • Long-term professional goals (such as positions desired or other specific professional goals, such as ‘write a book’).
  • Explicit short-term goals that contribute to long-term interests and the most important anticipated challenges that must be mitigated/overcome to reach these goals.
  • Timeline and 2-3 metrics that will define success in reaching each goal.
  • Describe training or experiences you will develop to contribute to and ensure that long term goals are achieved.
  • Describe which aspects of your current work/job will be delegated to others in order to accomplish the early career training and tasks necessary to achieve your goals.
  • Identify additional skills, knowledge or experience you will need to acquire that may directly or indirectly help you in your current job or future positions, and how you plan to ensure that this occurs.
  • Specifically delineate when and how progress assessments/checkpoints will occur, particularly with each member of your mentoring team (e.g., memos, phone calls, meetings) and what developmental activities will be completed or discussed at these times.
  • Provide letters of support from each mentoring team member that indicate he/she understands his/her role and commitment to you as the early career investigator.

Resources: While AHA does not endorse a particular resource, the following are offered for applicants’ reference:

Proposed Research Plan (10 pages maximum)

  1. Specific Aims
    Provide a clear, concise summary of the aims of the work proposed and its relationship to your long-term goals. State the hypothesis to be tested.
     
  2. Background and Significance
    Sketch the background leading to this application. Summarize important results outlined by others in the same field, critically evaluating existing knowledge. Identify gaps that this project is intended to fill.

    State concisely the importance and relevance of the research to cardiovascular or cerebrovascular function or disease, or to related fundamental problems. Also, it is incumbent upon the applicant to make a clear link between the project and the mission of the AHA. The significance section will be assessed in terms of potential impact on the AHA mission; this will be factored into the overall priority score as noted in the peer review criteria.
     
  3. Preliminary Studies
    Describe concisely previous work related to the proposed research by the applicant that will help to establish the experience and competence of the investigator to pursue the proposed project. Include pilot studies showing the work is feasible. (If none, so state.)
     
  4. Research Design and Methods
    Description of proposed tests, methods or procedures should be explicit, sufficiently detailed, and well defined to allow adequate evaluation of the approach to the problem. Describe any new methodology and its advantage over existing methodologies.

    Clearly describe overall design of the study, with careful consideration to statistical aspects of the approach, the adequacy of controls, and number of observations, as well as how results will be analyzed. Include details of any collaborative arrangements that have been made.

    Discuss the potential difficulties and limitations of the proposed procedures and alternative approaches to achieve the aims.

    Note: If a proposed research project involves human subjects, the population sampled shall be inclusive of the general population, of relevance to the scientific question posed, without restriction in regard to gender, race, age, and socioeconomic status. Proposals that intentionally restrict the population sampled must include a compelling scientific rationale for such research design. Be sure to address this topic.
     
  5. Ethical Aspects of the Proposed Research
    Describe any special consideration you have given to all ethical issues involved in your proposed investigations (biohazards or human subjects, etc.), identifying risks and management. Be sure to address this topic. If using animals, visit the Vertebrate Animal Subjects instructions. Discuss the nature of the informed consent that will be obtained if the research involves human subjects. If the proposed project involves no ethical questions, indicate "5: NONE".

Budget

$77,000 per year, including 10% institutional indirect costs.

The award may be used for salary and fringe benefits of the principal investigator, collaborating investigator(s), mentoring team members, and other participants with faculty appointments, consistent with percent effort, and for project-related expenses, such as salaries of technical personnel essential to the conduct of the project, supplies, equipment, computers/electronics, travel (including international travel), volunteer subject costs, and publication costs, etc.

Award Duration: Three years. non-renewable

Total Award Amount: $231,000

Restrictions

  • The applicant may submit only one Career Development Award application per deadline.
  • The applicant may not be a current or prior recipient of an AHA Scientist Development Grant (affiliate or association-wide).
  • The applicant may submit the same or similar application three times (the original plus two resubmissions). The same or similar application submitted the fourth time will be administratively withdrawn.
  • Strategically Focused Research Network personnel may hold individual AHA awards.
  • In limited cases, a delay of the award start date may be allowable up to six months.
  • A Career Development awardee may also hold an AHA Collaborative Sciences Award, Innovative Project Award, Transformational Project Award, and may be the program director or sponsor on an AHA Institutional Undergraduate Student Fellowship Program Award.

Peer Review Criteria

An applicant is prohibited from contacting AHA peer reviewers. This is a form of scientific misconduct and will result in removal of the application from funding consideration and institutional notification of misconduct.

No Letter of Intent is required nor accepted for Career Development Award applications.

To judge the merit of the application, reviewers will comment on the criteria below.
The applicant should fully address each of these in the proposal.

  1. Mentorship and Career Development Plan (1/3 of score)
  2. Research Plan – particularly significance of proposal and feasibility of approach (1/3 of score)
  3. Investigator and Environment (1/3 of score)

Mentorship and Career Development Plan (1/3 of score)

Mentoring Team

  1. Do the mentors have the experience to direct the proposed research training, as evidenced by a track record regarding productivity, funding and prior trainees?
  2. Does the primary mentor demonstrate familiarity with the applicant’s career and developmental goals and provide a comprehensive training plan that supports the applicant's progress towards his/her career development plan?
  3. Is an appropriate level of time, effort, funding and involvement proposed for the mentoring component?
  4. Is there a contingency plan for mentors, if they cannot fulfill their contract for mentorship to the early career investigator?

Career Development Plan

  1. Is the candidate’s career development plan, both during the award and afterwards, of high quality and sufficient feasibility?
  2. Do the structured activities meet the applicant’s long- and short-term career goals?
  3. Are appropriate timelines and metrics of success planned for the candidate’s progress?
  4. Is there a mitigation plan if timelines and metrics are not fulfilled on time?
  5. Is there a satisfactory and appropriate relationship of the proposal to the career development goals and the candidate’s previous experience?

Investigator and Environment (1/3 of score)

  • Investigator (applicant): Is the investigator appropriately trained, productive, and well suited to carry out this work? Is the work proposed appropriate to the experience level of the principal investigator (applicant) and other researchers? Does the investigative team bring complementary and integrated expertise to the project (if applicable)? Does the Investigator have a record of diligence, commitment, and productivity that warrant support as an early career investigator?

  • Environment: Does the environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Does the proposal benefit from unique features of the investigative environment, or subject populations, or employ useful collaborative arrangements? Is there evidence of institutional support as demonstrated in the department head letter? Does the mentoring team have experience and success mentoring early career investigators to independence?

Research Plan (1/3 of score)

  • Significance: Does this study address an important problem that is a barrier to a world of longer, healthier lives? If the aims of the application are achieved, how will scientific knowledge or clinical practice be advanced? What will be the effect of these studies on the concepts, methods and technologies that drive this field? How will the acquisition and analysis of data during this early career award facilitate the successful transition to independence of the early career investigator toward successful future funding and independence?

  • Approach: Are the conceptual framework, design, methods and analyses adequately developed, well integrated, well-reasoned and feasible (as determined by preliminary data) and appropriate to the aims of the proposal? The assessment of preliminary data should be put into perspective so that bold new ideas and risk-taking by beginning investigators are encouraged rather than stymied. Does the applicant acknowledge potential challenges and problem areas and consider alternative tactics and mitigation? Will the training and experience attained during this mentored project support and promote a pathway to becoming an independent investigator?

    For all applications that include vertebrate animals or human subjects, applicants must explain how relevant biological variables, such as sex and age, are factored into the research design, analysis and reporting. Furthermore, strong justification from the scientific literature, preliminary data, or other relevant considerations, must be provided for applications proposing to study only one sex or a specific age group.

  • Innovation: Is the proposal original and innovative? For example: Does the proposal challenge existing paradigms and address an innovative hypothesis or critical barrier to progress in the field? Does the proposal develop or employ novel concepts, approaches, methodologies, tools or technologies for this area?

  • Impact:  How does the training and experience supported by this award ensure that the early career investigator will progress to success in funding and independence as a career research investigator?

    How does the training and experience supported by this award ensure that the early career investigator will progress to success in funding and independence as a career research investigator?

    How effectively does the applicant describe for an audience without a science background how this proposal will impact the AHA’s mission? Consider the AHA’s Strategic Value Proposition that includes: addressing overall health and wellbeing, anchored in cardiovascular and brain health; focusing on breakthrough science and technology; changes in systems and policy; and engaging with individuals to transform communities. Does the science accelerate the discovery, interpretation and application of scientific knowledge to enhance and treat cardiovascular and/or cerebrovascular disease. Evaluation of this criterion should e influenced by the lay summary section of the application and any lay reviewers’ impressions.


Access the AHA Precision Medicine Platform for your Application

The AHA Precision Medicine Platform is creating a community of cloud-based tools and resources for all cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease researchers. Learn more about the platform (video). AHA awardees can have complimentary access to the Precision Medicine Platform to perform data analyses during the length of their AHA awards. Explore the capabilities of the platform (video).

The Precision Medicine Platform adheres to HIPAA (PDF) policy and is FedRAMP (PDF) compliant. Only the applicant and collaborators, co-investigators, or lab members are permitted access. The applicant is responsible for ensuring that all individuals with access to the workspace have the appropriate data access approvals.

To qualify for a complimentary Precision Medicine Platform workspace during the award, applicants must use a secure complimentary trial workspace on the Precision Medicine Platform to link preliminary data analyses and provide a description of the tools to be used in the workspace to analyze and visualize data. The workspace will only be available until the deadline for this AHA application. Data in the trial workspace will not be saved after the application deadline.

Register to obtain a 30-day trial workspace to use during the application period.  Once registered, go to the Search page, click Request Workspace, complete the form, and Submit. Note:  While the request form mentions billing, but there is no charge for use of the Precision Medicine Platform during the trial period. View detailed instructions and helpful information (PDF).