Posted on
October 14, 2022

Key Takeaways from the a2 Collective Webinar for a2 Pilot Awards Finalists


On Sept. 30, 2022, the a2 Collective hosted an informational webinar for applicants who advanced to Round 2 of the second annual a2 Pilot Awards competition, during which leadership from the AITCs and a2 Collective Coordinating Center provided the following best practices for the Round 2 application. A recording of the webinar is available on the a2 Collective YouTube channel. Please also visit our FAQ for updated guidance related specifically to Round 2 of the second annual a2 Pilot Awards competition.

Conflicts of Interest (COIs)

The AITCs recognize that some project teams may include Key Personnel or Other Significant Contributors at an AITC institution and, as such, require applicants to disclose potential COIs to manage evaluators who may be assigned to review and score applications. Because the AITCs may draw on evaluator resources from other AITC institutions, applicants are asked to disclose COIs at any institution affiliated with an AITC to ensure that COIs can be properly managed.

Specific Aims Page

The Specific Aims page is drawn from the NIH grant application process. Specific aims must be clearly articulated and easily measurable, as these will directly inform the AITC’s ability to determine if the proposed project can be effectively monitored throughout the project’s period of performance. Applicants are encouraged to research examples of specific aims that have been included as part of successful NIH grant applications.

Research Strategy Pages

Because applicants are limited to 3 pages for the Research Strategy section, the AITCs recommend that applicants use these pages to clearly demonstrate the proposed project’s significance, approach, and feasibility in ways that appeal to evaluators across a variety of disciplines. For projects that include human subjects research, the AITCs recommend that the Research Strategy pages briefly outline the traits of subjects who will be recruited; the estimated number of human subjects required; and where the human subjects will be recruited from. Full human subjects documentation (e.g., human subjects protection plan) is not required at this stage of the competition.

As the proposed project period can be no longer than 1 year, the AITCs have also underscored the need for the Research Strategy pages to demonstrate that the work is significant and can be completed in the allocated time frame. The AITCs encourage applicants to be realistic about what they can accomplish during the period of performance and use the Research Strategy pages to outline the project’s plan to achieve its stated aims.

Please note that materials of a marketing or outreach nature should not be included in the Research Strategy pages.

Optional Letters of Support and Citation Pages

The AITCs recommend that optional Letters of Support and Citations be used sparingly and strategically, with an emphasis that these supplemental materials should be used to strengthen the application by providing necessary information that is not requested as part of the base Invited Full (Round 2) Application.

For example, if an applicant intends to collaborate with an external clinical site or obtain secondary data from an external source, a Letter of Support can be included from a collaborator at the external site or source to demonstrate to the AITC that sufficient support is available from necessary collaborators.

Citations are optional and are most helpful when used to document the applicant’s prior work in the applicable field or to provide supporting evidence drawn from other relevant research.

Letters of Support and Citations are not subject to page limits.

Detailed Budget and Budget Justification

The Detailed Budget template form is identical to the form used by NIH and is available, along with an annotated budget form, in the Resources section of the a2 Pilot Awards website. Please see our FAQ page for additional guidance on completing the Detailed Budget. Additional guidance is available on the NIH grants website. As a reminder, there are costs associated with the use of many AITC resources; applicants must contact the AITC for a cost estimate to inform the Detailed Budget before submitting the Round 2 application.

The Budget Justification is required and provides AITCs with additional context on costs that are included in the Detailed Budget. A sample Budget Justification is available in our Resources section and additional samples are available online.

Human Subjects and Research Exemptions

The AITCs estimate that most projects will not be eligible for a human subjects research exemption. Junior and industry investigators are strongly encouraged to research NIH’s definitions of human subjects research before submitting their application to ensure they are providing the most accurate information possible to the AITCs and their evaluators. An NIH human subjects research website, which includes a human subjects decision tool resource, is available here.

Human subjects paperwork is not required as part of the a2 Pilot Awards application process but will be required of conditional awardees as part of the packet the AITC is required to submit to NIA for final approval prior to award. Additional inquiries about post-selection paperwork should be directed to the AITC.

AITC Office Hours

As each AITC has unique resources and interests, applicants are strongly encouraged to reach out to the AITC directly to speak more specifically about their projects before submitting the Round 2 application. Applicants should provide specific questions when requesting a meeting to ensure that AITCs can invite relevant Cores or contributors to attend one-on-one sessions. Please use the following contact information to direct specific inquiries to the relevant AITC.




For general questions about the application platform or submission process, please contact