Grant Opportunities: ABMS Research and Education Foundation

Congratulations to those who received grants in 2024! We are grateful to all of the applicants for your time and thoughtful submissions.

In 2023, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Research and Education Foundation (REF) invited grant proposals under two themes: General Certification (funded by the ABMS REF) and Diagnostic Excellence Through Certification (funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation). The grants will be awarded in June 2024.

Download grant information[PDF]. A recording of the Nov. 30 informational webinar is also available.

Two Themes

General Certification

The General Certification theme, funded by ABMS, supports investigator-driven proposals that come under the broad umbrella of the ABMS mission.

These projects may span the full range of the ABMS mission and are not limited to any one area or topic. The independent investigator, who is usually outside the direct Member Board community (e.g., not a paid or volunteer agent of ABMS, ABMS Member Boards, or ABMS Associate Members), consults with one or more ABMS Member Boards to develop the project; the investigator submits the proposal directly to the REF. Guidance for developing research topics (e.g., the impact of board certification on public health and health care disparities; assessing and improving equity in assessment) is included in the application materials.

In 2024, grants of up to $75,000 will be awarded in this category. These grants are for up to two years.

Diagnostic Excellence Through Certification

The Diagnostic Excellence Through Certification theme is funded principally by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

These proposals address improving the core medical activity of diagnosis as it touches on initial and continuing certification, also known as maintenance of certification. The independent investigator collaborates with an ABMS Member Board, which submits the proposal directly to the REF.

Grant applications should be aligned with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Diagnostic Excellence Initiative, which seeks to strengthen accountability for diagnostic excellence, support growth and capacity of the field, and assess the potential for new technologies to improve diagnostic performance.

Priority will be given to proposals that develop innovative systems of assessment or new measures and systems of measurement for diagnostic performance. Guidance for developing research topics (e.g., interaction of artificial intelligence and the diagnostician; overdiagnosis and physician assessment) is included in the application materials.

In 2024, three $100,000 grants will be awarded in this theme. These grants are for up to two years.

If the theme you would like to address is not on this list and you feel it is aligned with the mission of ABMS and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, please contact Rachel Knapp at ABMS to arrange a time for discussion.

Eligibility [read more ... ]

The ABMS REF invites applications from researchers at health systems and universities, as well as from other organizations whose mission intersects meaningfully with the ABMS mission.

For the General Certification theme, ABMS Member Boards may apply for funding only in collaboration with a principal investigator from outside the ABMS community (e.g., not a paid or volunteer agent of ABMS, ABMS Member Boards, or ABMS Associate Members).

For the Diagnostic Excellence Through Certification theme, both external and ABMS Member Board investigators are invited to apply. Current ABMS Visiting Scholars and alumni are encouraged to apply. Applicants’ primary appointment must be at a U.S. institution.

Collaboration with ABMS Member Boards ...

The application process for the two themes differs in how ABMS Member Boards are involved. For both themes, collaboration and/or consultation with Member Boards is encouraged.

The full proposals for both themes will be adjudicated by an advisory group of senior researchers largely from outside the ABMS community (e.g., not a paid or volunteer agent of ABMS, ABMS Member Boards, or ABMS Associate Members). Conflict of interest will be managed to ensure unbiased adjudication.

Under both themes, the proposals will be judged on scientific merit without preference for the type of originating institution or investigator.

General Certification theme: At the LOI stage, the independent investigators meet with and discuss their proposal with at least one representative from the most relevant ABMS Member Board(s). The optimal timing for the Member Board consultation is after the research team has been assembled and draft research objectives developed, but before the full LOI is written.

Feedback from this conversation should be incorporated into the LOI at the discretion of the independent investigators.

The Member Board plays a consultative role with the investigator and, if the proposal is moved on to the full proposal phase, will provide one additional round of written feedback. The feedback is formative and does not require direct response and is not used in adjudication of the grant. This allows full independence for the investigator to put forth novel and ground-breaking ideas while having the benefit of the Member Board’s deep experience with certification.

The optimal timing for the Member Board consultation would be after the research team is assembled and draft research objectives are developed but before the full LOI is written.

Diagnostic Excellence Through Certification theme: For this theme, the investigator will designate a “most relevant Member Board” to which the submitted LOI(s) will be sent for pre-screening and comment by the Member Board. Unlike the General Certification theme, these Member Board comments will be used in the adjudication of the LOIs by the Adjudication Committee.

Independent investigators are encouraged to contact the Member Board ahead of submitting their proposal. Member Board investigators are encouraged to apply as well under this theme.

Adjudication Procedure ...

The grants will be peer-reviewed by experts drawn from the broader health profession education-research community and will have patient representation.

Grants will be scored on the following criteria:

  • Relevance to the ABMS Mission (listed above)
  • Novelty and importance of the research conceptualization and question
  • Research methods
  • Research team
  • Potential significance

The important question will be, “At the end of the project, what will we have learned about board certification?”

Application Format ...

The application will consist of two phases: a Letter of Intent (LOI) phase and a full proposal. ABMS anticipates asking about 15 LOI applicants to submit full proposals with a plan to fund up to eight.

  • The LOI will be no more than three pages plus supplementary materials.
  • The full proposal, for those invited to submit one, should be no more than 10 pages plus supplementary materials.
  • Details can be found in the application materials.
Important Dates ...
  • LOI Submission Deadline: Jan 30, 2024
  • LOI Notifications: March 1
  • Full Submission Deadline: May 1
  • Full Submission Notification: June 15
  • Start of Grant Project: Sept 1
  • End of Grant Period: June 30, 2026
  • Dissemination of study results: Fall 2026
Expectations of Grant Recipients ...
  • Submit completed IRB to ABMS within three months after initial fund distribution
  • Responsible stewardship of ABMS funding
  • Full compliance with institutional ethics and conflict of interest procedures
  • Attendance at a virtual meeting of grantees held annually
  • Final report submitted to ABMS
  • Presentation of study findings at the ABMS meeting held annually in September
  • Submission of findings for publication
Frequently Asked Questions ...

Does the Grant Program distinguish between “Program Evaluation” and “Research” in prioritizing applications?

Program evaluation and research, although similar in many aspects, serve different purposes and follow different guidelines.

Research, in the context of social sciences, is a systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. It aims to establish facts, reach new conclusions, or discover and develop theories by analyzing patterns within a population or phenomenon. The main objective is to create new, generalizable knowledge that contributes to a broader understanding of some phenomenon or structure.

On the other hand, program evaluation is a systematic method for collecting, analyzing, and using information to answer questions about specific projects, policies, and programs, particularly about their effectiveness and efficiency. In contrast to research, its primary goal is not to generalize findings to other populations or settings, but to improve the specific program under scrutiny. Evaluations are often used to guide local decision-making, policy formation, and program improvement.

From the point of view of the Grant Program, we will evaluate the degree to which a program evaluation is limited by its context-specificity in informing broader conclusions. A well-done program evaluation that convinces the reviewer that it can rise above the local context to make a significant contribution to existing scholarship will be well received.

Are particular research methods preferred?

No. The emphasis is on the research question and how the methods allow the investigators to answer the question. We anticipate a broad range of research methods in the grant portfolio and will have assembled the adjudication committee in consequence.

Will investigators have access to ABMS data?

Diplomate data is held by each of the individual boards. Part of the idea behind having the investigator teams consult with individual boards is to see whether there is a collaborative opportunity for using existing data for research collaboration. This will be governed by Data Use Agreements.

Can the research funds be used for the development of commercial products or services?

No. This program is intended to further research in support of the ABMS mission, and not for product development. A successful grant project outcome would support a research program that might eventually lead to successful educational applications.

ABMS REF Grant Application Materials flyer thumbnail

2023–2024 Grant Program Description

For more information on the application process, download a detailed description of grants.[PDF]


If you have any questions about the grant program, please contact Rachel Knapp at ABMS.