Case Studies

ProposalCentral Helps Melanoma Research Alliance Select the Right Researchers, Measure Impact.

While MRA is the largest non-profit funder of melanoma research, they run their operation in a very streamlined manner with a staff of just 10 people. ProposalCentral enables the team to efficiently manage all their grant-making operations—from program set up through peer-review to post-award impact analysis—without increasing overhead.

Melanoma is a deadly skin cancer of pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) was founded in 2007 by Debra and Leon Black when they were directly affected by the disease. MRA has been a ProposalCentral client since the foundation was established.

MRA’s mission is to end the suffering and death due to melanoma and they do this by funding academic research. MRA has awarded $131 million to 380 research programs since their inception. Annually, they award between $9 and $13 million which comes to approximately 40 grants awarded to faculty and trainees.

Kristen Mueller, PhD, is the Senior Director, Scientific Program of the Melanoma Research Alliance. An immunologist by training, Kristen joined the Melanoma Research Alliance in 2017 with more than 15 years of experience in biomedical research and scientific publishing. She currently oversees MRA’s research grants program, including the solicitation, peer review, and oversight of their funded programs.

Running A Great Peer Review Program

MRA receives around 150 to 200 applications a year through their annual RFP, and the peer review capabilities within ProposalCentral are an area the team relies on heavily year after year. MRA’s entire peer review process happens in ProposalCentral. Flagging of potential conflicts helps facilitate an efficient peer review process that reduces the time between application and award. Integrated collaboration features enable reviewers to discuss applications and collaborate virtually from within the platform—a far more efficient model than traditional email/shared file systems. Reviewers can vote on proposals within the product and MRA is automatically notified of scores submitted or any potential delays from committee members. “The entire review process happens through ProposalCentral. From collecting scores to reviewing comments, it is user-friendly,” said Dr. Mueller.

ProposalCentral is an excellent grants management system. It helps us select the best researchers to find a cure.

Kristen Mueller, PhD

Senior Director, Scientfic Program, Melanoma Research Alliance

Tracking Impact­—Making Connections

ProposalCentral’s capability to track grants over time is critical to MRA’s ultimate mission. “For MRA it’s important to understand what happened with the dollars we gave out. How did that really impact the research community? Were we part of the major findings in the last three years?,” said Dr. Mueller. Consequently, MRA has been an advocate for the adoption of Crossref and ORCID to identify the connections that exist across the flow of funds—from grant to awardee and beyond.

The ORCID connection inside ProposalCentral enables funders to gain visibility into research outcomes and to provide clear reporting to donors and boards. The goal is perfect transparency into funding impact and to empower grant makers to answer a common question, “What did researchers accomplish after receiving our grant?”

ORCID provides a persistent digital identifier (an ORCID ID) that each researcher gets to own and control, and that distinguishes that individual from every other researcher. An ORCID ID carries the researcher’s scientific contributions including grants received, publications, peer reviews, and more — culled from multiple research systems, publication platforms, and aggregation sites (like PubMed).

CrossRef provides a DOI registration service for grants, which provides a persistent public identifier for grants and associated metadata like citations for a publication. Having grant DOIs enables researchers to acknowledge a specific grant when publishing — rather than just the name of the funder. For grant makers and the research community this open information about award investment enables connections between funding and outputs.

Altum and its funders on ProposalCentral are at the forefront of this change. In 2020, Altum became a sponsoring partner of CrossRef, and built grant DOI registration into the ProposalCentral platform, enabling funding organizations to connect their grants easily and automatically with published outputs. In April 2021, the Melanoma Research Alliance became the first funder on ProposalCentral to register 100% of its grants with DOIs. For grant makers and the research community this open information about award investment enables connections between funding and outputs.

Melanoma Research Alliance

ProposalCentral Helps Melanoma Research Alliance Select the Right Researchers, Measure Impact.

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