The IMAT Program attempts to ensure a certain degree of transparency and accountability throughout the technology development process. These actions not only increase the probability of success for the individual investigator but also ensure the responsible use and stewardship of public funds. Varying degrees of accountability are built into the IMAT application, management, and award processes as described below:
Application and Review Phase:
Innovation, Novelty, and Significance Statement
In order to ensure concordance with the stated objectives of the IMAT Program in recruiting only the most innovative and highly transformative technologies in multiple disciplines, all applicants to the program are required to address the following questions in their submitted applications:
- How is the [proposed] project potentially transformative and why may it be expected to produce an unusually high impact on biomedical research and technologies?
- What are the pioneering approaches for which the potential for groundbreaking or paradigm-shifting results compensates and justifies any associated risks?
- What concrete evidence can be provided to substantiate the claim of innovativeness?
Benchmarks and Demonstration of Progress
All exploratory/pilot-phase applications submitted to the IMAT Program are required to contain quantitative milestones as benchmarks for progress. Other than being a requirement for submission, such milestones are also utilized in the evaluation of the technical and scientific merits associated with the application. Inclusion of milestones serves two purposes: 1) it increases the probability of the accomplishment of the application’s specific aims, and 2) serves as a benchmark of progress for transition to the next stage of technical development (e.g. transition from proof-of-principle to feasibility or developmental phase).
Milestones must be well described, quantitative, and scientifically justified. Specific aims are not regarded as milestones (unless they include quantitative end points). The specific aims describe the goals and intended path of the research while quantitative milestones are a way of determining whether an applicant has successfully reached the specified goals. Milestones are required to be clearly stated and presented in a quantitative manner, such as numerical specifications of sensitivity and specificity or a count of some desired or newly discovered molecule, etc.
An application lacking quantitative milestones as determined by the NCI program staff may be returned to the applicant without review.
Responsiveness of Applications
Commensurate with the IMAT Program’s continual programmatic evolution, all applications submitted to the program since 2003 are initially screened by program staff for responsiveness. Such an examination ensures that all applications submitted to, reviewed by, and potentially funded under the IMAT Program are in-line with objectives for which the program was founded and the larger technology development objectives of the National Cancer Institute. Review of responsiveness by program staff in no way represents an attempt to evaluate the science proposed in a given application. Rather, such a review is made to ensure consistency with program objectives, observance of NIH policies pertaining to research project grants, and the responsible use of public funds. The process also serves to notify non-responsive applicants as early in the application process as possible so that they may submit their applications to other, more appropriate solicitations with minimal loss of time and resources.
Post-Application and Award Phase:
Communication of Relevant Results
Communication of relevant results related to IMAT technology-development grants have been communicated via various publications in peer-reviewed academic journals, acquisition of patents or patent applications, and/or various technology transfer activities. In addition to such activities, an annual meeting of all IMAT-funded Principal Investigators is held in the Fall of each year as a means of providing an open forum by which to hold fruitful discussions, stimulate collaborations, and discuss significant progress and results. All IMAT-funded principal investigators are asked to attend the meeting and to communicate the relevant results from their work in the form of either an oral presentation or poster session. Keynote speakers representing established and well-known experts in the field of biomedical and/or industrial technology development are also invited to attend. All applicants to the program are asked to appropriately budget for the cost of attendance in their research project grant applications. The meeting has traditionally been held on the East and West coasts of the United States on an alternating, yearly basis.
All IMAT awardees are required to submit a Non-Competing Continuation Grant Progress Report (PHS 2590) annually and financial statements as required in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
A final progress report, invention statement, and Financial Status Report are required when an award is relinquished when a recipient changes institutions or when an award is terminated.
Reporting requirements are meant to promote transparency and communication between IMAT awardees and program staff.
In 2006, the IMAT Program, with authorization from the NCI Executive Committee, commissioned an external program-wide outcomes evaluation in order to assess the program’s progress toward meeting its stated objectives, ensure transparency, and assess areas in need of improvement. The evaluation was preceded by a comprehensive feasibility study performed by a third-party (ORC Macro / Macro International) in order to more effectively inform the development of an appropriate and meaningful evaluation structure and construct. The outcome evaluation itself was conducted by a second external entity (SAIC). Results of both the feasibility study and outcome evaluation were presented to members of the NCI Executive Committee as well as the National Cancer Institute’s external Board of Scientific Advisors (BSA). The evaluation provided an assessment of the program’s progress and laid the groundwork for its continued future successes in keeping the forefront of cancer research moving forward. Some of the program’s achievements that were highlighted in the evaluation can be found by viewing the Outputs, Achievements, and Accountability section of this website.