Publications : 2018

Forsythe LP, Frank LB, Tafai TA, Cohen SS, Lauer M, Clauser S, Goertz C, Schrandt S. 2018. Unique review criteria and patient and stakeholder reviewers: Analysis of PCORI’s approach to research funding. Value in Health 21(10):1152–1160.



The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) uses a unique approach to Merit Review that includes patients and stakeholders as reviewers with scientists, and includes unique review criteria (patient-centeredness and active engagement of end users in the research).

This study assessed the extent to which different reviewer types influence review scores and funding outcomes, the emphasis placed on technical merit compared to other criteria by a multistakeholder panel, and the impact of the in-person discussion on agreement among different reviewer types.


Cross-sectional analysis of administrative data from PCORI online and in-person Merit Review (N = 1312 applications from the five funding cycles from November 2013 to August 2015). Linear and logistic regression models were used to analyze the data.


For all reviewer types, final review scores were associated with at least one review criterion score from each of the three reviewer types. The strongest predictor of final overall scores for all reviewer types was scientists’ prediscussion ratings of technical merit. All reviewers’ prediscussion ratings of the potential to improve health care and outcomes, and scientists’ ratings of technical merit and patient-centeredness, were associated with funding success. For each reviewer type, overall impact scores from the online scoring were changed on at least half of the applications at the in-person panel discussion. Score agreement across reviewer types was greater after panel discussion.


Scientist, patient, and stakeholder views all contribute to PCORI Merit Review of applications for research funding. Technical merit is critical to funding success but patient and stakeholder ratings of other criteria also influence application disposition.