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Deliberative Approaches: Patient and Consumer Input for Implementing Evidence-Based Health Care (R21)

Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions are derived from individual questions submitted to about the Request for Applications (RFA) HS-14-007: Deliberative Approaches: Patient and Consumer Input for Implementing Evidence-Based Health Care (R21) and are shared here for all potential applicants. We encourage applicants to review all replies and to monitor this site for newly added questions and answers.

Update: Direct questions about peer review of grant applications in response to this FOA to:

Kishena Wadhwani, PhD, MPH
Director, Division of Scientific Review
Office of Extramural Research, Education, and Priority Populations
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
Telephone: (301) 427-1556


A. Determining Suitability of the Theme, Projects, or Research Ideas for Submission
B. Budget

A. Determining Suitability of the Theme, Projects, or Research Ideas for Submission

Question A1: How can applicants determine if their planned approach is a good fit for this funding opportunity announcement (FOA)?

Answer A1: Applicants are strongly encouraged to read the FOA closely, including its explicitly stated objectives and review criteria; this is the best available guidance to potential applicants about the responsiveness of their planned research. Applicants should be aware that the determination of suitability and responsiveness of applications is within the purview and authority of the Special Emphasis Panel, not AHRQ.

Question A2: Can applicants discuss the scientific and research aspects of their proposals with AHRQ over the phone?

Answer A2: AHRQ appreciates all expressions of interest from prospective applicants. Applicants should read the FOA closely, including its review criteria; this is the best available guidance to potential applicants about the responsiveness of their planned research.

Applicants who have specific questions after reviewing the FOA can Email their questions to For reasons of equity and consistency, AHRQ scientific staff responds in writing to all inquiries. Wherever it is possible and appropriate, AHRQ will clarify common areas of uncertainty in a written and generalized format that is applicable for dissemination to other potential applicants, such as frequently asked questions. Telephone counseling on potential study ideas is discouraged in order to be equitable and avoid potential misdirection of applicants.

Question A3: The "Scored Review Criteria" section of the FOA includes the question "Does the project develop deliberative concepts, approaches, or methodologies?" Does this mean that the project must develop an additional new deliberative method?

Answer A3: No, it is not necessary to develop additional or new deliberative methods for the proposed project. The term "develop" is intended to mean "improve" or "make progress." It is also acceptable to employ a new method. The choice of method should be justified in either case.

Question A4: Should proposed projects limit deliberation to the lay public, or can deliberation include other stakeholders, such as clinicians?

Answer A4: The proposed deliberative projects should have the goal of obtaining input from patients or consumers, or the lay public more broadly. Other stakeholders can be included in proposed deliberation if the investigator is making the argument that their inclusion will improve the project's ability to obtain useful deliberative input. However, obtaining informed input solely from clinicians or other stakeholders is not the goal of this FOA.

Question A5: Is the evaluation of the deliberative event limited to quantitative methods, or are there situations in which a qualitative evaluation approach is acceptable?

Answer A5: The FOA does not proscribe the use of any particular methodological approach for assessing the impact and/or effectiveness of the proposed deliberative project. Please note that it will be the investigator's responsibility to justify the specific approach(es) chosen—whether they are qualitative or quantitative—and to convince a review committee of the appropriateness and rigor of chosen methods.

Question A6: Is a minimum of 8 hours of synchronous interaction for participants strictly required? Can applicants propose methods that involve shorter deliberative sessions?

Answer A6: The language of the FOA states that proposed methods should provide an opportunity for meaningful interaction and discussion—a minimum of 8 hours of synchronous interaction. This guidance is based on our estimate of the time and intensity needed to ensure that participants have ample opportunity to deliberate—to learn about the proposed topic and understand and consider a variety of perspectives. Applicants are advised to clearly justify any deviation from the guidance in the FOA, providing detailed rationale and specifically addressing how the method will ensure the opportunity for meaningful deliberation.

Question A7: If an application proposes a deliberative method that involves less than 8 hours, would that application be considered "not responsive"?

Answer A7: Deviation from guidance on specific research and/or methodological approaches does not in itself render an application "not responsive," as long as the proposed methods fully respond to the intention of the guidance. However, applicants are strongly advised to provide clear justification of choices with regard to the proposed methods, and particularly to justify any deviation from the guidance in the FOA, providing a detailed rationale.

Question A8: Does AHRQ identify clinical or organizational contexts that are of particular interest to this FOA?

Answer A8: AHRQ's Web site ( describes the Agency's priority populations and provides applicants with specific information on populations for which the Agency particularly encourages research. These include women, children, racial and ethnic minorities, populations with special health care needs (chronic illness, disabilities, and end of life care needs), the elderly, low-income, inner city, and rural populations. Applicants are encouraged to describe the involvement of these populations in their research and/or the anticipated impact on health care or health of these populations. AHRQ is not able to provide guidance regarding specific proposals, as the responsiveness of proposals is evaluated through a scientific peer review process.

Question A9: Can the deliberative activity include a break in the deliberative process—such as for food, overnight reflection, or even a few days of reflection—before bringing participants back for more deliberation, as long as there is at least 8 hours of deliberation?

Answer A9: There is no requirement in the FOA that deliberation occur during a single continuous session. Applicants should fully describe the structure of their deliberative process, addressing how this process will support meaningful interaction among participants.

Question A10: Where should the research elements in the FOA (pages 5–7) be addressed in the application?

Answer A10: The NIH PHS SF424 (R&R) Application Guide states that applications should include a section titled "Specific Aims and Research Strategy" in the Research Plan. The purpose of this section is to address the "Significance, Innovation, and Approach" of the Research Strategy.

Please note that the specific research elements listed on pages 5–7 in the FOA should be addressed within the "Approach" part of the application's Research Strategy.

Applicants are referred to the Scored Review Criteria (FOA Section V), which further elaborate on the Significance, Innovation, and Approach section for proposed projects, including instructions on addressing the research elements (FOA pages 5–7).

Question A11: Can applicants submit a request for comment on the relevance of specific proposed topics?

Answer A11: AHRQ cannot comment on whether specific topics are or are not responsive to this FOA, because that determination is under the authority of the Scientific Review Committee. We urge applicants to focus on the FOA language that guides the Scientific Review Committee, which states that proposed projects should obtain information that is "directly relevant to health care or health care research decision makers." Further, the FOA language asks that applicants fully explain the reasons that deliberative input—as opposed to focus groups or surveys—is required, and carefully outline the relevant, practical impact of the information obtained on a near-term decision.

Question A12: Regarding the evaluation of proposed projects, the FOA says, "At a minimum–unless justification is provided for a different type of evaluation–the evaluation should include the following: An assessment of knowledge…, attitudes, …self-perceived impact to be administered to a control group." How prescriptive is the requirement for a control group? Will reviewers be equally receptive to a high-quality design that is qualitative, or one that focuses on comparison of deliberations and does not involve controls?

Answer A12: The language in the FOA that states "unless justification is provided for a different type of evaluation" should be interpreted literally to indicate that applicants are not required to propose any specific type of evaluation for their project. Applicants are urged to describe and justify measures of a successful deliberation and provide careful justification for their chosen approach to evaluation.

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B. Budget

Question B1: Is it permissible to budget for coffee and other beverages for participants in proposed in-person deliberative sessions?

Answer B1: AHRQ grant funds cannot be used to pay for food or beverages. It is acceptable to use funds from other sources (i.e., other than AHRQ) to pay for food or beverages in an AHRQ-funded project.

Please note that if an applicant includes food or beverages in the budget for a proposed project, it will not affect the review and scoring of the proposal. However, if the project is funded, AHRQ must disallow these specific expenses and the grantee will not be able to rebudget the funds.

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Page last reviewed January 2014
Internet Citation: Deliberative Approaches: Patient and Consumer Input for Implementing Evidence-Based Health Care (R21): Frequently Asked Questions. January 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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