The Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI) at the University of Vermont (UVM) was established in 2002 with the aim to reduce the incidence, morbidity, and mortality of cardiovascular diseases through improving prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. 10  The CVRI Board of Directors is composed of faculty members with long‐standing track records of success in cardiovascular research and medicine. One objective of the CVRI is to foster the career development of ECIs. Toward this end, it established the Early Career Advisory Committee (ECAC) composed of medical and PhD students, postdoctoral trainees, clinical residents, fellows, and assistant professors (within 5 years of appointment) from different areas of cardiovascular science. ECAC members are selected by the CVRI Board of Directors using a competitive application process. A CVRI board member serves as a faculty advisor to the ECAC by assisting the committee in designing and implementing programs that will benefit the UVM ECI community.

In 2018, the ECAC initiated an annual ECR award to provide small pilot awards of up to $10,000 over 12 months for research or career development projects. The ECAC designed the program, selection criteria, and application materials with assistance of the faculty advisor and received approval and funding from the CVRI Board of Directors. Figure 1 describes the program methods. The CVRI administrator advertised the funding announcement, received applications, and conducted a peer review session. The ECAC faculty advisor provided a 90‐min training session on how to conduct peer review, following the NIH study section methods and application rating scale. 11  The faculty advisor and chair of the ECAC then assigned two peer reviewers to each application, respecting declared conflicts of interest. Peer reviewers were ECAC members, excluding those who applied for a grant or had conflict of interest. Peer reviewers provided written critiques, assigned scores, and presented these to the ECI peer review panel using NIH study section methods. The faculty advisor, who had substantial experience in NIH study sections and a long track record of grant funding, served as the Scientific Review Officer at the meeting and answered questions about the process but did not participate in the critiques or discussion.

Early career research award timeline. CVRI, Cardiovascular Research Institute; CV, curriculum vitae; ECAC, Early Career Advisory Committee

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