PCORI Releases Draft Research Priorities for Public Comment

Health Highlights

On January 6, 2022, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) released its Proposed Research Agenda, linked to its newly adopted National Priorities for Health that was developed during a comprehensive strategic planning process. The PCORI Research Agenda will guide the work of the agency in the coming decade and frame areas of investment that it intends to make to advance patient-centered comparative clinical effectiveness research.

PCORI describes how the National Priorities for Health and the Research Agenda relate:

The National Priorities for Health are long-term goals; PCORI will make progress toward these goals by funding CER and other strategies (e.g., infrastructure building, stakeholder engagement, and dissemination and implementation). The Research Agenda provides the framework for achieving progress on the National Priorities for Health specifically through the strategy of funding CER and supports PCORI’s unique space in the health research landscape. It endeavors to inform a portfolio of patient-centered research that addresses current unmet information needs of patients, their caregivers, clinicians, purchasers, payers, health researchers, and other healthcare system stakeholders in making personalized healthcare decisions across a wide range of conditions and treatments.

PCORI is now accepting public comments on the Proposed Agenda through the end of January 2022. The proposed agenda includes the following broad areas of research that may be the focus of the agency’s efforts in the coming years and the focus of its investments in research projects and research infrastructure, nationally:

1. Fund research that fills patient- and stakeholder-prioritized evidence gaps and is representative of diverse patient populations and settings

2. Fund research that aims to achieve health equity and eliminate health and health care disparities

3. Fund research that builds the evidence base for emerging interventions by leveraging the full range of data resources and partnerships

4. Fund research that examines the diverse burdens and clinical and economic impacts important to patients and other stakeholders

5. Fund research that focuses on health promotion and illness prevention by addressing health drivers that occur where people live, work, learn and play

6. Fund research that integrates implementation science and that advances approaches for communicating evidence so the public can access, understand and act on research findings

Importantly, these research areas intersect with priorities that were recently included in the 2021-2025 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Strategic Plan, representing another significant funding agency with a focus on disease prevention and health promotion, public health, social drivers of health and health equity.

The scale of PCORI’s investment via funding opportunities for academic health centers and other biomedical research organizations is significant. In 2021, PCORI funded $482 million1 in research projects and research infrastructure through various funding opportunities. That number is expected to grow over the next ten years.

The emerging PCORI Research Agenda, paired with the focus areas noted in the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan, call for academic health centers and research-intensive organizations to position their teams of researchers to engage in research that aims to improve overall population health, advance the science of prevention, understand and develop interventions in the social drivers of health, and meaningfully address deeply embedded health inequities. Research-intensive organizations should take heed of both agencies’ calls for action and position themselves to be partners with both and secure funding for research projects that link to each. There are five simple steps academic health centers and research-intensive organizations should be taking to be successful as a partner to PCORI and to take advantage of emerging funding opportunities:

1. Consider submitting comments to help shape the final PCORI Research Agenda. The agency is seeking comment from external stakeholders through the end of 2022 prior to finalizing its agenda. Submissions are welcome via the PCORI website.

2. Ensure tracking mechanisms are in place to identify funding opportunities that the organization is best positioned to apply for. Most academic health centers and research-intensive organizations have business development teams that regularly search for funding opportunities and pair to research teams; these resources should be engaged with PCORI as the research agenda and linked funding opportunities are released.

3. Evaluate the organization’s current research portfolio and identify current areas that intersect with the proposed and ultimately the final PCORI research agenda. Organizations should evaluate their current research portfolio and base of researchers and consider where the organization is best positioned to build successful funding applications. Planning for and investing internally in capabilities and teams prior to funding announcements can improve chances of funding success.   

4. Evaluate internal capacity to execute on studies in the broad areas PCORI has defined. Organizations should ensure that they have in place sufficient tools, infrastructure and expertise to apply for funding opportunities in these areas, including data assets and data science capabilities, clinical trial expertise, and scientific methods/statistical expertise. These capabilities are essential to the kinds of research likely to be funded by PCORI.

5. Ensure community engagement mechanisms are in place. Much of PCORI’s proposed research agenda will require organizations to partner with their communities. This is an area where many academic centers and research-intensive organizations have struggled. Organizations should think creatively about how to build connections with community organizations and members to ensure they are active partners in the design and execution of a research agenda aimed at improving community-level health outcomes and health equity.

1 PCORI 2020 Annual Report.



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