Frequently Asked Questions

The same questions arise repeatedly, and applicants inadvertently fail to anticipate routine issues in grant preparation and the review process. There is no substitute for carefully reading over our instructions for each award type and the detailed instructions for preparing the application forms. Try to understand the criteria used by our peer review committees and advisory Council to evaluate your application. Have a colleague or friend read through your materials to get feedback on the overall, coherent presentation of your ideas and rationale for the research being proposed. Take the time to connect your research topic to the individual (patient) needs and the social/community impact of breast cancer.

Look though the following list of Qs and As and utilize the information to improve your chances of success. Don’t hesitate to contact the CBCRP staff by e-mail or phone to discuss your application questions.

Basic science topics, including: Biology of the Breast Cell (including tumor biology); Detection, Prognosis and Treatment; and Etiology and Prevention: contact Katherine McKenzie 510 987-9786, or Larry Fitzgerald 510 987-0712.
Community Research Collaboration (CRC) and social sciences, including: Community Impact; Health Policy and Health Services; Etiology and Prevention; Sociocultural, Behavioral, and Psychological Issues; Disparities research: contact Senaida Fernandez. 510 987-0491

Q. Are there any changes in the CBCRP application process for this year?
A. Yes, here are the key items:

  • IDEA and Translational Research Awards require submission of a Letter of Intent
  • (LOI).
  • IDEA–competitive renewals are available in 2011 for the last time. Only IDEA grants originating in 2009 (Cycle 15) are eligible to apply.
  • CBCRP is no longer offering Dissertation Awards and Postdoctoral Fellowships.
  • CBCRP Conference Awards have one submission deadline.

Q. Will CBCRP extend the submission deadline?
A. To be fair to all applicants we cannot extend these deadlines. We have adjusted the deadline time to be 3 PM (EST) which is Noon (Pacific time). Thus, applicants have time to contact proposalCENTRAL’s customer service, which is open until 5 PM (EST), to resolve any technical difficulties.

Q. Do I need to submit a “letter of intent” (LOI)?
A. LOIs are required for the IDEA, Translational Research Awards, and IDEA-competitive renewals.  LOIs are not required for the CRCs and Conference Awards. LOIs for the IDEA and Translational Research Award are evaluated by our council, so follow the format of the Project Summary in terms of length, content, and relevance to scoring criteria as detailed in the instruction PDF.

Q. What are the main problems you see in the on-line submission process through proposalCENTRAL?
A. Many applicants wait until the very last minute to complete their document uploads and submit. About 20% of our applications are submitted in the last two hours prior to the deadline, many in the last few minutes! Very large PDF files require time to upload due to inclusion of photos and complex graphics. Be sure to “validate” your application during the preparation process to determine any missing items, so these can be addressed in a timely fashion.

Q. What are the rules for application form text formatting and the use of “continuation pages” for the Research Plan?
A. Follow these guidelines for text formatting:
The Research Plan and all continuation pages must conform to the following four format requirements:
1. The height of the letters must not be smaller than 11 point; Times New Roman or Arial are the suggested fonts.
2. Type density, including characters and spaces, must be no more than 15 characters per inch (cpi).
3. No more than 6 lines of type within a vertical inch;
4. Page margins, in all directions, must be at least 0.5 inch.

Q. If I make a mistake in my proposalCENTRAL uploads and want to submit a replacement document, will CBCRP permit me to complete this?
A. Until you validate and submit your application, you can delete and replace any PDF uploads to your application without any special permission from proposalCENTRAL or CBCRP. If you have already submitted (i.e., hit the “submit” button and received a confirmation e-mail from proposalCENTRAL) prior to the deadline, then you can “un-submit” yourself in order to replace your uploaded documents. Be sure to submit again! After the deadline, you should immediately contact us and describe your problem. It is possible that we may extend your deadline to allow you to un-submit and replace a missing item. Alternatively, you could be required to e-mail the replacement PDF file to us, and we will arrange to have it replaced by proposalCENTRAL. Once the review process has begun, we cannot allow edits to your application. Publications or other additional data/information will not be allowed to be added to the application after the submission deadline.

Q. I already have (or previously received) a CBCRP award. May I apply for additional funding?
A. In general, a PI can receive additional CBCRP funding for new projects every year. It’s always best to contact us and discuss your situation prior to submitting an application.


Q. I'm not sure what type of project would qualify for an IDEA grant?
A. Ask yourself these questions. Do you have a new line of research without much preliminary data that has the potential to make a breakthrough, if successful? Are you employing a novel approach to an existing research question? Are you challenging an accepted paradigm? Can you place your project, if successful, on a "critical path" to translation and practical use? If you can answer "yes" to some or all of these questions, then you have a good starting point for an IDEA application. We are not interested in IDEA projects that: (1) propose incremental advances for the underlying topic, (2) duplicate the aims of completed or funded research to the PI derived from non-breast cancer studies without incorporating detailed breast cancer-specific justification, (3) overlap in topic and aims with current grant support to the applicant, or (4) represent portions of existing grants or are derived from cut-down larger, R01-type projects. Take a look at CBCRP-funded IDEA grants to get a sense of the types of projects we have funded in your research topic.

Q. What are you asking us to include for the "critical path" on the “Critical Path and Additional Criteria” application form?
A. First, read carefully through the form instructions and look through the examples provided. Are you more a "bench to bedside" (basic science/clinical) or more a "bench to trench" (community/population/policy/sociocultural) researcher? Then, consider where your project, if successful, would lead on a path to translation and practical application. Look back at your research topic from the perspectives of the social impact of the disease and the patient's needs. Consider the human issues (e.g., population disparities, the underserved, individuals at high risk, survivors facing disease recurrence, drugs that work for only a fraction of patients, detection methods that miss a substantial fraction of breast cancers) and trace a path back to your research project. Identify barriers that would prevent your research topic from advancing, and explain to the reviewers how you propose to tackle them with a new, innovative approach. Thus, provide a translational link (temporal sequence of steps) between your project and research topic that addresses specific patient and social needs relevant to breast cancer.

Q. My project does not deal with advocacy or the human issues of breast cancer. How do I discuss advocacy involvement and awareness of their concerns on “Additional Criteria” application form and the abstracts?
A. The CBCRP was founded in 1993 though the efforts of California breast cancer advocates, so this issue of connecting advocacy to research is important to us. Did you know that advocates participate in the peer review for all of our grant applications? Did you know that one-third of the membership of our advisory Council, who make funding recommendations, are advocates? Now that you know this, you should take the time to look at the advocacy/activist Web sites we list in the “Lay Abstract” instructions. You must have some creative thoughts on how your research might someday lead to a better treatment, make diagnosis more accurate, decrease the uncertainty of living with breast cancer, or give the physician/patient more options. It is better to address relevance to human issues thoughtfully, and not just mark it as "n/a" on the application forms. Our reviewers, especially advocates, feel that an "n/a" answer indicates that the PI does not care about the human issues associated with breast cancer. Try to avoid merely quoting breast cancer incidence and mortality statistics as a rationale of your project. Study the disease in depth, talk to advocates and other researchers, and develop a more detailed theme for the relevance of your project. Read through the instructions for the “Additional Criteria” form. The CBCRP's position is that all researchers would benefit from an awareness of advocacy concerns, and it is reasonable for even basic scientists to involve advocates in their research projects.


Q. Is it a problem that my research topic overlaps two CBCRP Priority Issues? How do I deal with this issue when submitting the application?
A. Having two Priority Issues represented in your application is not a problem. You do need to select the one (1) that best matches your research project and check the appropriate box on the “Program Responsiveness” form, and also in that proposalCENTRAL “abstracts page” at the bottom. If a second Priority Issue applies to your project, then discuss the reasons on the “Program Responsiveness” form. Look through our previously funded grants by priority issue on our Web site under Research Portfolio and compare them with your proposed project.

Q. May I apply for an IDEA “junior investigator” award if I am still employed as a postdoc?
A. No, you must have advanced in your career path (i.e., job title) past the postdoctoral level by the time the application is due on February 24, 2011.

Q. I'm a new faculty member and I can't decide whether I qualify for the "junior investigator" category of IDEA.
A. You need to have been an independent investigator (i.e., having separate space and a faculty-level appointment) for less than three years as of July 1, 2011 to qualify for the "junior investigator" category of IDEA.

Q. I'm finishing a postdoctoral fellowship and will continue to work in my former mentor's lab. Do I qualify for the "junior investigator" category of IDEA?
A. If your employment status is beyond postdoctoral fellow as of February 24, 2011 AND if your institution considers you to be qualified to submit grant applications as a "principal investigator" AND if you are ready to manage your own research project, then the answer is: yes. You also need to propose a new, innovative research project that is distinct from your mentor's exiting research and grant funding. Be sure to address these issues when filling out application form “Program Responsiveness”, and include your supervisor's name on the Appendix Cover List and upload his/her other support pages in the appendix.


Q. Do you require applicants to be US citizens or have permanent resident status?
A. No. Unlike the NIH we do not have these restrictions.

Q. I'm working in basic science, but can't decide whether my project fits under the “Biology of the Breast Cell” or “Etiology” priority areas.
A. Almost all basic science, tumor and cell biology applications should be submitted under Biology of the Breast Cell. Even though we list many basic science-oriented projects from 1995-2000 under Etiology on our Web site, we have refined the definitions of our Priority Issues and are currently placing basic science almost exclusively under Biology of the Breast Cell. The Etiology priority issue is appropriate for projects that focus more on the role of environmental (e.g., chemicals and external factors) and lifestyle (e.g., parity, exercise, obesity) factors that lead to developing or increasing risk for breast cancer.

Q. Is it a problem, if I submit two separate applications?
A. An investigator may submit more than one application, but each application must have unique specific aims. Our new policy on awarding new grants is: a PI is limited to one IDEA grant, one IDEA competitive renewal grant, one Translational Research Award, and one co-PI award as part of a CRC grant.


Q. I'm planning to work with a colleague on my application topic. Do I list this person as a Key Personnel, collaborator/consultant, or in some other way? How would I handle the budget and any indirect costs associated with collaboration?
A. Point 1- If the colleague will be working as a key player in the project, is in the same institution as you, is critical for completing a specific aim, and is more "day-to-day" in the project—then they are Listed as a Key Personnel on this form. You also need to upload their biosketch. They do not necessarily need to devote any specific %FTE to the grant, but if they do—then this support should be justified on the “Budget Justification” form. It is your option of whether they should be paid from the grant for this FTE. A letter of collaboration in the Appendix is also recommended.
Point 2- If your colleague is at another institution + they have a Key Personnel role + they are paid as part of the budget for personnel costs, supplies, travel, etc.— then their yearly budget totals (direct + indirect) are shown in the “Budget Summary” under “Consultant/Contract Costs.” In the Appendix provide a yearly breakdown of Personnel, Supplies, Travel, and other costs associated with the subcontract. If the institution submitting the application is a UC campus, then the subcontracted institution, if non-UC, can be paid Indirect Costs. Note: we will allow UC institutions to exceed the direct budget cap for the award type to account for any indirect costs associated with any non-UC subcontract. The non-UC subcontracted institution needs to include a “Budget Summary” in the appendix. Use this form to show the indirect costs associated with the sub-contracted institution. A letter of collaboration in the Appendix is recommended for subcontracts.
Point 3- If your collaborator merely supplies standard technical-type support, such as antibodies, gene constructs, a cell line, or a database access—then they should provide a letter of collaboration in the Appendix, but they do not need to be listed as a Key Personnel.

Q. Is it a problem if I submit an application using either Human or Vertebrate Subjects without having the institution approval documents in place?
A. You only need these approvals finalized once an offer of funding is made. However, if these approvals are not submitted with the application, then be sure to address the items listed in the instruction for “Human Subjects” and “Vertebrate Animals” forms.


Q. What's best to include in the appendix to support my research?
A. Keep it short by limiting the appendix to no more than 30-pages. The “Research Plan” needs to be self-contained and understandable without referring to the appendix. Use the appendix mainly for key supplemental information, a limited number of reprints of your publications, and the appropriate letters of collaboration. Most appendices submitted with applications are too extensive and, thus, do not serve to support the application. If the review committee feels that there are problems in the Research Plan, then the appendix will not solve the problem. Remember: we will not allow you to send us supplemental information after the application submission deadline.

Q. What are some application problems that are commonly revealed in the CBCRP peer review process?
A. For IDEAs, the applications often are either too closely associated with past or present projects by the PI or lack a central, testable hypothesis. Although we do not require applications to be "hypothesis-driven", reviewers often use the "fishing expedition" term when describing data gathering or correlative project. Be specific on explaining why the research is innovative and identify the "high risk/high" reward elements. We ask our reviewers to look for "cut down" R-01s, and obvious cut-and-paste text obtained from prior applications.
General advice: include a project summary or timeline at the end of the Research Plan, explain both the expected results and possible pitfalls in the research, and be sure all of the needed expertise for the project is accounted for in the biosketches of the Key Personnel, personnel descriptions in Budget Justification, background on the project, publications, or in letters from collaborators. Finally, we recommend identifying either the central hypothesis of the research or the key question being addressed both in the abstracts and first part of the Research Plan. Finally, applicants often neglect to discuss how the expected results will be interpreted or statistically analyzed. What will you know at the end of the proposed project that you didn’t know at the start?


Q. What are some problems applicants encounter in the programmatic review?
A. Sadly, many applicants do not take the time to study the process and understand what information is being asked from them when completing the application forms used for the programmatic review. First, applicants should read through the description of our funding process and the programmatic review criteria in the instructions for their specific award type. Familiarize yourself with the programmatic criteria and the application forms that address them. Some weaknesses we commonly see are: (i) lack of a lay language and a good presentation of the project in the “Lay Abstract”, (ii) no compelling statement why the application addresses the CBCRP priority issue or award type in the “Program Responsiveness” form, (iii) no thoughtful statements of how the project would address the issues of underserved populations, address advocacy concerns, or involve advocates (“Additional Criteria” and abstract forms), and (iv) how the project would add to the CBCRP portfolio (discuss on the “Distinction from Other Funding” form) The “Critical Path” for IDEA applications should be well thought out, provide good detail, and appeal to both scientific reviewers and our advisory Council members in the less “expertise-driven” programmatic review.

Q. My previous application was not funded. Should I prepare a “resubmission” (revision) or submit the 2010 application as "new"?
A. First, we only allow resubmissions for unfunded IDEA and Translational Research Award applications from the previous grant cycle. Next, if the 2011/Cycle 17 application is submitted as "revised", then the reviewers will be provided the previous application's evaluation summary document. You are allowed two (2) pages as part of the Research Plan to discuss the changes in the revised application and reply to the concerns of the previous reviewers. The additional 2-pages should go first, and these pages do not count towards the Research Plan page limit for the award type (e.g., for a revised IDEA you are allowed 2 pages for the reply to the previous review + 7 pages for the research plan + up to 3 pages for references).  So, you must: (i) address the main points of previous reviewers’ concerns, (ii) strengthen the problems that were associated with average scientific merit score scoring, and (iii) do some additional, developmental work on the project. If you can address all three of these points, then a revision is recommended. In contrast, if: (i) the previous evaluation critique was very negative, (ii) the scores low (below 6 average merit or below 5 in any of the components), and (iii) you decide to make changes to the specific aims—then a “new” submission is in order. Review committee members have excellent memories! So, if you submitted a previous application that was “not funded”, then you are advised to discuss this issue even when submitting the 2011 application as "new." In addition, reviewers will look at our CBCRP web site, and the grant listings/abstracts from other agencies (e.g., NIH, DOD-BCRP, and Komen) to see what you might have been funded for previously. If you appear to have worked for some time in the same topic as your proposed CBCRP application, then this might affect your "innovation" and "impact" scores. It is always best for you to fully explain to the reviewers the distinctions between the present application and your previous funding and publications in the “Research Plan” and “Distinction from Other Funding” forms.

Q. What final pieces of advice to you have to offer?
A. Read through our application instructions carefully. Pay special attention to the content of the Lay and Scientific abstracts. Don't be afraid to think outside the box. Have a colleague proofread your application prior to submission. Study and address the scoring criteria for your award type. Pay special attention to the programmatic review criteria. Be sure to submit the application by the deadline! If you have additional questions, then don't hesitate to contact us.