Proposals sought for collaborative University-community planning grants and small pilot studies

The Community-Engaged Research Core of Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute is currently accepting proposals for planning grants to be awarded to faculty/community-based organization teams.

These grants are intended to build capacity for externally funded research that seeks to address important community-identified research questions.

These grants generally support meetings to discuss mutual interests, develop research questions, identify leaders, conduct literature reviews and collect pilot data.

A team must include, at a minimum, one Penn State faculty researcher and one community-based organization leader as co-principal investigators.

In the proposal, the team should describe its preliminary research question, the work to be accomplished during the planning period, anticipated outcome(s) and deliverables and preliminary ideas for seeking future external funding.

The two-page narrative should briefly describe how the team members’ expertise/experience/constituencies will address the specified research question. In addition, the team must provide a budget and budget justification.
Planning grants range from $500-$5,000. Funds are allocated for a 6-12 month period.

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RFP Details: University-Community Planning Grants

How to Submit Expand answer

Include the application information described below, saved as a single PDF, and email it to

Proposals must be single-spaced, a minimum of 12-point Times New Roman font, left-aligned with one-inch margins. The description for the first seven items cannot exceed two pages. Members of review committees do not have specific expertise; proposals should be written for a broad academic audience. Do not include appendices.

If proposed research will involve either primary data collection or the use of secondary data, investigators are expected to prepare and submit the appropriate requests for IRB approval of research involving human or animal participants (whichever is appropriate to the project).

The proposal should be sent as one document including letters of support. Proposals that do not conform to guidelines will be returned.

  1. Title of proposal
  2. Three to five descriptive keywords
  3. Specific aims/purpose: Describe the specific aims of the proposal. Priority will be given to projects designed to build collaborations involving new cross-sector (University/community-based organization) teams whose research is aimed at attracting external funding. Describe why planning grant funds are necessary for these activities.
  4. Background/significance: Provide a brief description (e.g., paragraph) explaining the background/significance and premise of the project. Make sure to cite appropriate research evidence.
  5. Team formation: Briefly describe why this community-based organization and this researcher (the co-principal investigators) have formed a partnership. Describe how the research question will advance knowledge relevant for the community-based organization mission and the scientific evidence base.
  6. Description of activities/methods: Briefly summarize the project activities (e.g., meeting goals, learning objectives) and/or study methods (e.g., target population, measures, procedures).
  7. Timeline: Describe the anticipated timeline to accomplish the goals of the proposal. Timeline may be extended at the project team’s request.
  8. Training: All study team members must complete the training program titled Community-Partnered Research Ethics Training and Certification (CPRET). This training is intended for community partners who are actively involved in research with human subjects to learn about conducting research that is ethical and safe. It ensures that community partners have a basic understanding of the following topics:
    • Introduction to research and the purpose of research
    • Understanding specific case scenarios related to research ethics and conduct when working
    • Brief history of research and the development of research ethics principles
    • Overview of IRB and regulations for research and protection of human subjects
    • Definitions and rules of research conduct
  9. Budget and justification: Provide an itemized budget and budget justification that includes salaries, fringes and other expenses. Exclude fringes for faculty; include fringes for staff and students. Expenditures for food should be kept to a minimum. Provide appropriate justification for budget items. Also, provide name and phone number of community-based organization agency budget coordinator.
  10. Investigator information: Identify the co-principal investigators, any additional collaborating investigators and the departments or agencies they represent. Contact information should be included for all investigators. Follow this format:
    • Faculty co-principal investigator:
      Tenure Track – Yes/No; if yes, please include tenure home department
    • Community-based co-principal investigator:
  11. Memorandum of understanding: The academic co-principal investigator and the community partner co-principal investigator should outline agreed-upon roles and responsibilities and related sharing of resources must be submitted prior to the release of any grant funds.
  12. Resources to consider for proposal:
    • Community Engagement Studios
    • Consultation with core faculty
  13. Letters of support from all collaborators: Collaborating investigators and community partners should indicate their support of the project by writing letters of support; these letters should be emailed to the co-principal investigators and be attached to the final submitted proposal.
  14. Academic (NIH/NSF) or professional biosketch or resume/CV for both co-principal investigators and any member on the research team
How Funds May Be Used Expand answer

These funds can be used for:

  • Development of cross-sector research partnerships aimed at helping community-based organizations engage in and use research to fulfill their organization’s mission
  • Development of new, innovative research projects aimed at attracting external funding
  • Creation of cross-sector networking groups
  • Support for meetings (including travel)
  • Graduate assistant time
  • Paying outside consultants
  • Small pilot studies

These funds cannot be used for:

  • Expenditures generally made by departments and colleges (e.g., travel to professional conferences, seed money for an individual project)
  • Delivery of outreach programs or services
  • Student projects (masters, dissertation research)
  • Publication costs
  • Computers and/or electronic devices unless demonstrated to be vital and specific to the research project; applicants must describe a plan/use for these devices once the study ends

Requests for funds for meals and snacks should be kept to a minimum.

Criteria for Review Expand answer
  • Priority is placed on new University/community-based organization partnerships
  • Proposal should include a well-articulated plan of activities
  • Proposal should demonstrate a plan for meaningful input from both community-based organizations and faculty co-principal investigators
  • Proposal should provide strong evidence for access to the population of interest
  • Proposal should make a clear contribution to science
Project Reports Expand answer

Investigators are expected to provide an annual project status update and a brief (one-page) final report upon project completion. These efforts allow the Clinical and Translational Science Institute to track and report outcomes and monitor the successfulness of its planning grant program.

To make changes to the project team, description, design or budget during the course of the project, send a request to

Scholars Symposium Expand answer

Those awarded pilot funds will be considered “Better Together Scholars” and may be asked to present research results and/or experience at future community-awareness events.

Award Process Expand answer
  • Sept. 6, 2019: Planning grant deadline
  • Sept. 30, 2019: Decision date for planning grants
  • Oct. 7, 2019: Disbursement of funds
  • May 29, 2020: Deadline for expenditure of funds
  • Sept. 15, 2020: Final report due

For Details

For details on this opportunity, email Martha E. Wadsworth, PhD, co-director, Community-Engaged Research Core, Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and professor of psychology, at

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