Director, Merit Review

    • Washington, DC

Department: Merit Review

Reports to: Chief Program Support Officer

Position Summary

As Director of Merit Review, you will report to the Chief Program Support Officer and oversee a team of nine to ensure high quality and comprehensive scientific and technical review of applications submitted for funding. You will manage a portfolio of 300-400 applications per year, across 3-4 different funding cycles.

The majority of your time will be internally focused, supporting your team in developing optimal models for an array of funding vehicles and funding application cycles. You will evaluate our current merit review processes to ensure the integrity of the process is maintained, all requirements are value-added, implementing process improvement initiatives where needed to balance speed with accountability and improving our ability to meet programmatic needs with processes that are rigorous yet efficient. About 15 percent of your time will be externally focused, liaising with nonprofit healthcare funding partners on best practices as well as to reach out to the research communities to promote understanding of PCORI's merit review process.

As an organization leader, you will function as the department's primary forward and strategic thinker, managing all aspects of our merit review activities and serving as an advisor to the Chief Program Support Officer and other members of the senior staff. Through your continuous dialogue and strong relationships with colleagues across PCORI, you will support new initiatives by adapting the merit review process, where applicable, to meet programmatic needs. Through your external work with sector peers and the research communities, you will ensure PCORI is a leading voice and innovator in the nonprofit health research funding sector.

This role requires you to thoughtfully manage, mentor, and organize our merit review process and department. Success depends on your ability to create an environment of trust and respect, evaluate current processes, and put in place standard business procedures and efficiencies that are understood and used by all. Your ability to interact and confidently engage with others is essential.

Duties and Responsibilities


  • Lead the development and implementation of the merit review strategy and create multi-year strategic goals that align with PCORI's broader strategic plan and priorities.
  • Identify ways to track department progress in achieving goals, proactively report on progress, and adjust associated strategies and processes, as appropriate.
  • Provide expert guidance and leadership to cross-functional interactions with Programs, IT, Administrative Services, and other departments to ensure the successful execution of all merit review activities.

Visibility in Sector
  • Build and maintain strategic relationships with other nonprofit health research funders, leading experts, and other stakeholders.
  • Represent PCORI at relevant sector events, including the research communities, and promote our unique patient-centered approach to merit review.

  • Lead the identification, formulation, revision, and implementation of PCORI policies and procedures relating to merit review activities.

Department Oversight and Management
  • Oversee a highly effective team – 9 full-time staff members, including 1 assistant director, 6 merit review officers, and 2 program assistants – to ensure the successful administration of the full merit review process in compliance with internal policies and PCORI's policies for awardees. This includes, but is not limited to, developing the annual merit review timeline in close collaboration with key staff members in programs; overseeing all aspects of recruitment and training of patients, stakeholders, and scientists as merit reviewers; helping prepare pre-and post-review documents and materials for use by applicants, reviewers and programs; and implementing the merit review work plan.
  • Develop, manage, and maintain the Merit Review department annual operating budget of $2 million.
  • Oversee the review of an annual funding application volume of about 300 with multiple funding announcements and funding cycles.
  • Oversee all Merit Review procurement activities for meeting or consulting services.
  • Interact regularly with all members of the Merit Review team (including staff, interns, and third-party workers), members of the PCORI senior staff, other department directors, merit reviewers (current and prospective), and external stakeholders/sector leaders.

Incumbent(s) in this position may be required to perform other duties and special assignments not specifically stated above.

Statements outlined in this section are designated as essential job functions in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

*PCORI Staff Conflict of Interest Statement - No PCORI employee can receive a direct financial benefit from a healthcare related organization during the course of his/her employment with PCORI.

PCORI conducts background checks on all applicants.

PCORI is an equal opportunity employer committed to cultural diversity in the workplace.

Required Experience
  • Doctorate or professional degree (e.g., Ph.D., ScD, MD, DrPH) in a relevant field desirable.
  • Minimum ten years of experience in research review and management, proven leadership in research program administration, scientific project management, or a specific area of knowledge, preferably in a nonprofit health research funding environment.
  • Demonstrated experience in effectively managing staff and leading teams in a collaborative environment.
  • Sound judgment and maturity, exemplified by consistent professionalism in working with individuals at all levels, both internally and externally.

To Apply:

Simply email your resume to Aileen Hedden at with "PCORI –Director, Merit Review #2019-2529 SA" as the subject of the email. Please include your resume as a Word or PDF attachment to the email and paste your cover letter in the body of your email.

Job Location Washington, District of Columbia, United States
Position Type Full-Time/Regular

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