How an AHA Research Award is Given


American Heart Association research awards are limited to non-profit institutions, such as medical, osteopathic and dental schools, veterinary schools, schools of public health, pharmacy schools, nursing schools, universities and colleges, public and voluntary hospitals and others that can demonstrate the ability to conduct the proposed research. Funding is prohibited at non-U.S. institutions.

Proposals are not accepted for funding to be administered through any federal institution or work to be performed by a federal employee, except for Veterans Administration employees.

The process for applying is via ProposalCentral, a Web-based electronic system. ProposalCentral is available 24/7 with internet connection and is used by:

  • Researchers who want to apply for funding
  • Peer Reviewers and Lay Reviewers (if appropriate) to review and evaluate proposals and to participate in virtual meetings
  • Grants Officers to manage pre-award administration
  • Fiscal Officers to manage post-award administration

Program Promotion

The AHA publicizes funding opportunities in a variety of ways.

  • Posting requests for proposals (RFPs) on the AHA application information Web page
  • E-mail campaigns to medical schools, universities and hospitals, individuals with AHA accounts in ProposalCentral, and AHA professional members
  • Social media posts, ads and blogs
  • Exchange e-mails with other societies/organizations
  • Handouts and exhibits at AHA and other organizations’ conferences
  • Notices in association and professional journals
  • Promotion by  regional office staff and volunteers and by word of mouth
  • Monthly publication of the Research Insider

Proposal Submission

Interested researchers should first review policies governing all AHA research awards and program descriptions for eligibility requirements and restrictions.

To be considered, a research proposal must be structured according to the scientific method. This implies that the principal investigator has formed a hypothesis and developed methods to test the hypothesis. It further implies that the investigator will acquire evidence to support or reject the hypothesis and publish the results.

Peer Review Process

When a proposal is submitted to the American Heart Association, it is assigned to a peer review committee based on the award type and the applicant’s science classification and keyword (two) choices. The peer review committee chairperson confirms that the proposal and study section science match.

Three scientists and lay reviewers (if appropriate) from the peer review committee each provide an independent, in-depth review. Assignment of a proposal to reviewers is based on their knowledge of the science and methods contained in the proposal. Each peer review committee member is assigned a limited number of proposals for in-depth review. All peer review committee members can access all proposals in their committee (if not in conflict) and are encouraged to review them to prepare for the peer review committee meeting. Prior to a peer review committee meeting, reviewers provide a preliminary score to the proposals which they were assigned an in-depth review.

The ProposalCentral system allows for nearly all peer review meetings to be conducted virtually, however some meetings may be conducted face-to-face. During the meeting, the merit of each proposal is evaluated, as follows:

  • Each of the three peer review committee experts assigned to in-depth review presents an analysis of the proposal. If assigned, a lay reviewer provides a modified review.
  • All committee members discuss the scientific merit.
  • Each committee member privately assigns a score from 1-9 – whole number only. A score of 1 is best. 
  • The individual merit scores are averaged into an overall value. Then all proposals from a particular peer review committee are ranked in order of merit.

When a committee member has a conflict of interest, such as a professional or personal relationship with an applicant or those who work at the same institution

  1. Member leaves the room if the discussion is taking place in person, or
  2. Their access to the system and the conversation are blocked during virtual meetings. 

A member who is in conflict cannot view the proposal, does not participate in its evaluation and cannot provide a score.

Illustration of the text on this page.

Funding Decisions

The AHA Research Committee approves funding allocations prior to the start of a fiscal year. After proposals are reviewed and scored, rank-ordered lists from each study section are inter-digitated into one rank-ordered list. The Funding Subcommittee of the AHA Research Committee allocates funds across the various programs to achieve the Association’s pre-determined goals for balancing available funds. Proposals are funded according to their rank order to ensure that the most promising and meritorious are supported. 

 

Award Activation and Management

Applicants who are to receive awards are notified by e-mail and the process of award activation begins. This includes an agreement with the American Heart Association that they will complete the proposed research --  the legal contract between the association and the institution receiving funds on behalf of a principal investigator. Association awards are administered through the institution (typically a university or medical school) where the awardee works. The institution is responsible for seeing that the research is properly conducted. Awardees must submit annual progress and expenditure reports to the AHA.

Awardees who receive overlapping funding for the same project from another source (such as the National Institutes of Health) must choose between awards. 

American Heart Association awards staff, in consultation with research volunteers, monitor the award progress, which may last one to five years, depending on the program. They process change requests, such as re-budgeting project personnel changes. Each year the principal investigator submits a report of scientific progress. The institution’s fiscal officer submits an expenditures report documenting how the association’s funding was spent. Expenditure reports are audited by AHA staff.

During the period for which the award is funded, the investigator conducts research according to the plan outlined in the research proposal. The awardee usually publishes articles in scientific journals or makes presentations at scientific meetings describing the results of the research.

At the end of the award, principal investigators are asked to complete a survey documenting their career progress and productivity during the American Heart Association award. Measures include academic promotion, additional funding obtained and publications produced.

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