With between 1,600 and 1,800 grant applications received annually by the American Cancer Society, but funding available for only around 300, how does the Society determine which studies to support? It’s an extensive process dependent on renowned medical professionals, research scholars and stakeholders volunteering precious time. Innumerable breakthroughs achieved – and 47 Nobel Prize winners funded to date – prove that every dollar is maximized to help save lives from cancer.

research funding infographic

Step 1: Researchers Submit Grant Applications to the American Cancer Society

Most Society support goes to researchers, including: post-doctoral fellows (researchers with graduate degrees who are training in another scientist’s lab), mentored clinicians at the faculty level who are training as researchers, and young scientists embarking on an independent career. The Society also funds health professional training grants.

Applicants must detail (a) their education, training and experience; (b) the proposed research/methodology; (c) its implications for prevention, diagnosis and/or treatment; and (d) the ability of their institution’s resources to support the project, including equipment and space.

Step 2: Applications are Assigned to Peer Review Committees

Each application (typically 25 pages plus appendices) is assigned to one of 20 Peer Review Committees based on the field of study. Committees include 12 to 25 members, mostly researchers and physicians, sometimes health professionals, and one or two stakeholders – laypeople with a personal interest in research. Reviewers evaluate 6 to 10 applications.

Step 3: Peer Reviewers Analyze and Rank Applications

Each application is independently analyzed and ranked by two peer reviewers. (A third reviewer is added to resolve any disagreements.) Next, using an online management system, all reviewers prepare a detailed critique of their assigned applications so that applicants can benefit from the review process.

Step 4: Committees Meet to Make Funding Recommendations

Committee members participate in a review session to further evaluate each application and to reach a consensus about its merit. Each application is then given a score to indicate funding priority. Committees also identify all grants they believe should be approved for funding.

Step 5: Council for Extramural Grants Awards Funding

The Council for Extramural Grants reviews the recommendations of all 20 Peer Review Committees and makes the final determination in awarding grants and allocating funds. This committee is comprised of 24 individuals who have previously served as peer reviewers.

Step 6: Approved, but Unfunded Grants Tagged “Pay-If”

Due to the high volume of submissions, the Society approves more applications than it is able to fund. These are tagged “Pay-If.” The Society will seek additional donors to fund these grants.

This graphic originally appeared in the Fall-Winter 2013 Edition of Triumph magazine, published by Pace Communications and the American Cancer Society. Reprinted with permission.

RESEARCHERS AND HEALTH PROFESSIONALS: Learn how to apply for an American Cancer Society grant.