When patients and their families need help following a diagnosis or throughout treatment, the Meso Foundation is there for them – day or night.
But getting patients and their families through the immediate treatment is only one side of tackling this disease. At the Meso Foundation, we believe that research into new treatments is fundamental to eradicating mesothelioma and the suffering caused by it. In fact, our mission statement emphasizes that the Foundation must “fund the highest quality and most promising meso research projects from around the world through rigorous peer review.”
Yesterday, the Meso Foundation released the important news that, this year, researchers from across the world submitted 48 proposals for funding (22 applications were from international applicants). In the next week, we will divide the number of submitted proposals among our Science Advisory Board (SAB) members and assign approximately 7 to 10 proposals to each reviewer, and 2 to 3 reviewers to each proposal.
Our SAB is made up of scientists and doctors from around the world, who have devoted their lifework to researching mesothelioma, making them the peers of our applicants, thus making our review a peer review.
We placed the adjective “rigorous” into the sentence describing our peer review, because it truly is. The review process consists of scoring and critiquing each and every application submitted. Below are a few examples of the detailed questions each reviewer is asked when reviewing a proposal.
- Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field?
- How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field?
- Are the PD/PIs, collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project?
- Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions?
- Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project?
- Will the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success?
The reviewers must then score each proposal according to these questions, on a scale of 9 to 1, with 1 being the highest possible score. In September, these scores will be collected and the proposals ranked accordingly. Only the top half of the total number of proposals will pass this stage and move to the next, where they will be scrutinized further in depth.
At this point, we select SAB members who are experts in the fields of those applicants whose projects have advanced. This ensures that the proposals are evaluated by someone who can speak to the plausibility and soundness of the hypothesis submitted, which, in turn, ensures that our funding be awarded to the most promising projects.
Following the second round, the proposals are once again scored and ranked. Based on this line-up, each remaining application is opened for discussion by the entire SAB. We hold a conference-call in November to facilitate this discussion and we come away with a solid list of top 10 projects. This list is presented in January to the Board of Directors, which selects proposals for funding. This decision is based on the critiques and ranking received from the SAB, and the financial capability of the Foundation.
At the end of this process, an approved application will have moved through three review cycles, be assessed by no less than 6 SAB members, be scrutinized by at least one expert within its specific field, and approved by the two governing bodies of the organization.
This is, no doubt, a relatively long and labor-intensive process, but it is a necessary one to make sure that the limited funds available for research are spent responsibly only on the most promising and the highest quality studies. As a nonprofit organization, we have an obligation to our patients, constituents and donors to make the most of their donations and support, and with this review model, we believe to fulfill and exceed all expectations.