Pre-Submission Grant Reviews are provided approximately 4-6 weeks before submission deadlines by CTSI's Integrating Special Populations (ISP) Program. Below are FAQs on the grant review services.

Who is eligible?

Postdocs and faculty (at any level) at UCLA Westwood, LA BioMed/Harbor-UCLA, Charles R. Drew University and Cedars-Sinai submitting a PCORI or NIH U01, K-level or R-level grant application involving special populations (i.e. children, geriatrics, and/or populations affected by health disparities).

Is this service free?

Yes, this is a free service (please refer to our eligibility criteria above). Recipients of CTSI services will receive brief online survey(s) for our annual NIH report obligations and to help us improve program services.

What about basic science grants? How do I know if my grant counts as "special populations"?

We coordinate grant reviews for basic science research grants that have a special-populations focus. By "special populations," we are referring to any of the following three groups: (1) pediatrics (children and adolescents), (2) older adults, and (3) populations affected by health disparities. Disparities occur across many dimensions, including race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, location, gender, disability status, and sexual orientation. Please contact Dr. Nathalie Vizueta (, 310-794-2744) if you have questions about eligibility.

What about small grants (i.e. R21)? What about foundation grants?

All NIH R-level grants including small grants such as an R03 or R21 are eligible. PCORI, U01 and NIH K-level grants are also eligible. Foundation grants are ineligible.

Are the grant studios for new grant applications only?

No, we coordinate grant studios for re-submissions as well. If you are requesting a grant studio for a re-submission, we ask that you provide the NIH summary statement (pink sheet) at the time of your request.

Who coordinates the grant studios?

The CTSI Integrating Special Populations program coordinates all aspects of the grant studio (i.e. securing the participation of grant reviewers, scheduling, etc).

What is the format?

The first half of the 60-min grant studio is structured similar to an NIH study section where your grant is discussed and scored. However, during the second half, participants will brainstorm suggestions to help you improve your grant application and you may ask any questions that you have. You may bring a tape recorder if you wish.

What feedback will I receive from grant reviewers?

You will receive in-person feedback in a mock study section. You will receive written and oral critiques plus suggestions for improving the grant. Grant reviewers provide BRIEF, written comments -- basically showing strengths and weaknesses along Significance, Investigators, Innovation, Approach, and Environment (and also an overall Impact score).

Besides the grant applicant, who attends the grant studio?

The mock study section is moderated by one of the program co-directors, either Dr. Peter Szilagyi (Pediatrics) or Dr. Catherine Sarkisian (Geriatrics), depending on the focus of the proposal. 2-3 grant reviewers (depending on expertise and scope of the grant proposal) additionally participate in the grant studio. Grant reviewers will join the meeting either in-person or by Webex conference call.

When/where is the grant studio held?

We recommend holding your grant studio at least 4-6 weeks prior to your NIH submission deadline so you have sufficient time to incorporate oral/written feedback received from the grant reviewers. We typically reserve a conference room in the Center for Health Sciences at UCLA for 60-minutes for the mock study section, and the meeting is moderated by one of the program directors to ensure efficiency and organization. For grant applicants located off-site at Cedars-Sinai, CDU, or LA BioMed, we can certainly consider having you join by teleconference call if your schedule prohibits you from joining in-person (recommended).

What materials will I need to provide grant reviewers?

For new grant applications, we ask that you provide your NIH biosketch and the scientific portion of your proposal (Specific Aims and Research Plan). For re-submissions, we ask that you additionally provide your responses to critiques received on the NIH summary statement. Please note that we typically like to give grant reviewers approximately  7-10 days to review your materials prior to your scheduled grant studio.

How do you select grant reviewers?

We use an in-house faculty expertise database comprised of program and non-program faculty in conjunction with NIH RePORTER to help inform prospective grant reviewers (and also ask grant applicants to suggest potential reviewers). We select 2-3 reviewers who have expertise in the research area and/or methodology that is the focus of the grant application. We also prioritize asking prospective grant reviewers who have prior experience participating in NIH study sections and/or have successfully obtained NIH or PCORI funding within the last 5 years.  For example, a list of our 2017 grant reviewers can be found here (this reflects the research focus/methodology of the grant proposals that we received in 2017).

Whom do I contact if I have questions or would like a grant studio?

If you are interested, or you have a mentee who may benefit, please contact Dr. Nathalie Vizueta (, phone: 310-794-2744).