Researchers, Patients, and Stakeholders Evaluating Comparative-Effectiveness Research- A Mixed-Methods Study of the PCORI Reviewer Experience



The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) includes patients and stakeholders alongside scientists in reviewing research applications using unique review criteria including patient-centeredness and patient and/or stakeholder engagement. To support extension of this unique collaborative model to other funders, information from the reviewers on the review process is needed to understand how scientists and nonscientists evaluate research proposals together. Thus, this study aimed to describe reviewers’ perspectives of the interactions during the in-person review panel; to examine the value and challenges of including scientists, patients, and stakeholders together; and to understand the perceived importance of PCORI’s review criteria.


This study utilized anonymous, cross-sectional surveys (N = 925 respondents from 5 funding cycles: 470 scientists, 217 patients, 238 stakeholders; survey completion rates by cycle: 70–89%) and group interviews (N = 18).


Reviewers of all types describe PCORI Merit Review as respectful, balanced, and one of reciprocal influence among different reviewer types. Reviewers indicate strong support and value of input from all reviewer types, receptivity to input from others, and the panel chair’s incorporation of all views. Patients and stakeholders provide real-world perspectives on importance to patients, research partnership plans, and study feasibility. Challenges included concerns about a lack of technical expertise of patient/stakeholder reviewers and about scientists dominating conversations. The most important criterion for assigning final review scores was technical merit—either alone or in conjunction with patient-centeredness or patient/ stakeholder engagement.


PCORI Merit Reviewers’ self-reports indicate that the perspectives of different reviewer types are influential in panel discussions and Merit Review outcomes.


Laura P. Forsythe Lori B. Frank Rachel Hemphill A. Tsahai Tafari Victoria Szydlowski Michael Lauer Christine Goertz Steven Clauser

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