Rapid Start Funding Program


HSR&D Pain/Opioid CORE - 2023 Rapid Start Funding Opportunity

The mission of the Pain/Opioid CORE is to enhance collaboration and accelerate health services research related to pain (especially nondrug interventions for chronic pain), opioid prescribing, and opioid use disorder. 

Purpose: The purpose of the Pain/Opioid CORE Rapid Start program is to support health services research in priority areas within pain and/or opioid research. We will fund projects of up to one year that are consistent with CORE priorities and are likely to meaningfully inform future applications for funding as a VA study (e.g., IIR, Service- Directed Research, QUERI project) or answer priority questions (secondary analysis). Priority will be given to projects of high relevance to pain and/or opioid research as defined by two recent HSR&D State of the Art Conferences on nonpharmacologic treatment and opioids and partner priorities and determined to have a high likelihood of future HSR&D funding or have a significant health services or healthcare delivery focus.

We are interested in:

  • Investigators currently working in the pain and/or opioid area
  • Applications from early career investigators that support VA HSR&D career development applications or other submissions that focus on Veteran populations
  • Applications from investigators new to pain and/or opioid research who plan future work in this area
  • Applications that promote collaborations with clinical and/or operational partners on topics that are a high priority for them
  • Secondary analyses of previously collected data

Priorities: A detailed listing of priorities from the HSR&D State of the Art Conferences on Nonpharmacologic Therapies and Opioids and CORE Operational Partners’ priorities can be found in provided citations below. A summary of our priorities can also be reviewed under the Priorities tab on our website. 


  • Submission Deadline: February 28, 2023 at 11:59 PM PST
  • Notification of Funding: Late May/Early June 2023
  • Estimated Start Date: Projects will need IRB approval before funds will be released, estimated release date is October 1, 2023.
  • Project Duration: Projects should be completed within 1 year of award

    Expand all


    We encourage all investigators proposing pilot studies to review the article “Pilot Studies: Common Uses and Misuses” from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Proposals that include pilot RCTs should consider the items described in this reference when proposing their study. All proposals containing qualitative analyses should include a least one investigator with qualitative methods expertise.


    • Principal investigator (PI) must have a minimum 5/8ths VA appointment (eligible for VA funding as PI).
    • If the applicant is a fellow, a mentor with a 5/8ths VA appointment must serve as the PI.
    • Study team must include at least one currently HSR&D, RR&D or CSR&D-funded investigator who has meaningful scientific involvement in the proposed project.


    • Project budgets can range from $10,000 to $30,000. Requests for budget waivers of up to $50,000 may be allowed in some circumstances but must be approved prior to the submission deadline.
    • Allowable Costs: PI effort, personnel (e.g., research assistant, project coordinator, statistician), supplies or other items that can be obtained within the 1-year time frame. External contracts not already in place will typically not be feasible to initiate within the 1-year time period. Hiring new personnel and acquiring IT will not be feasible in the 1-year time frame and should not be requested.

    Application/Review Process

    Proposals must be emailed as a single PDF document, including the required cover sheet, to the Pain/Opioid CORE at [email protected]. Proposals not submitted as a single PDF will not be accepted. 

    Proposals will be reviewed by the CORE PIs, Leadership Committee, and other Subject-Matter Experts. Applicants may be invited to present their project, respond to reviewer questions about the proposed study, or make revisions. Scoring will be based on the following modified HSR&D criteria:

    • Significance: Scientific quality and potential outcome of the study to strengthen the evidence for a larger project or ensure its feasibility. Preliminary data are expected to clarify the likelihood that a full-scale project will be successful. Does the proposed work have the potential to have a substantial impact on advancing health and health care of Veterans?
    • Feasibility: Likelihood that the project can be completed in the one-year time frame.
    • Approach: Appropriateness of the research design and specific methods to the stated objectives of the study. The research plan should be well-reasoned and feasible to complete in one year within the budgetary limits. Is the approach the best way to advance science in this area? Are methods adequate to answer the stated research question?
    • Relevance to CORE priorities: Does the study advance knowledge in an area identified as a Pain/Opioid CORE priority area?
    • Investigator/Project Team Qualifications: Do the PI and research team have the necessary knowledge and background for the project?
    • Preference Points: Awarded to early career investigators (more information in FAQs) and investigators not located at HSR&D Centers of Innovation with evidence of sufficient support and/or mentorship to complete the project.

    Submission Requirements

    Proposals should be submitted as a single PDF proposal, including the cover sheet, containing the following:

    • Pain/Opioid CORE Rapid Start Funding Proposal cover sheet, including proposal title, PI and Co-Investigator names and affiliations (VA and non-VA), and PI's VA 8ths
    • Specific Aims (up to ½ page)
    • Summary of Project (approximately 2 pages)
      • Background & Significance including statement of why the proposed work is consistent with CORE priorities. (up to ½ page)
      • Methods
      • Timeline / Milestones
      • Specific Plans for Submission of IIR or Other Project (including timeline)
    • IRB status (new submission required, modification to existing project required, application/modification submitted, or approved) and IRB Timeline (in 1 sentence)
    • Budget and brief budget justification (up to ½ page)
    • References
    • Biosketches and Other Support forms of PI and Co-Investigators
    • For early career investigators, a letter of support must be included from a senior co-investigator/mentor providing guidance on the proposed project (up to 1 page).

    Award Requirements

    • Studies will need to have initial IRB approval before funds will be released. Funds are anticipated to be released October 1, 2023. 
    • Awardees will be invited to present their proposal to the Pain/Opioid CORE Veteran Engagement Panel (VEP) for feedback on one or more aspects of their proposed project.
    • Awardees will be encouraged to present their works-in-progress and/or completed work in relevant pain and/or opioid related seminar series (e.g., VA Spotlight on Pain Management, Medication Addiction Treatment in the VA (MAT-VA)/SUD Journal Club, SCOUTT Initiative, etc.)
    • Awardees will provide CORE leadership with:
      • Quarterly updates (templated form) summarizing activities and progress
      • A final report (1-2 paragraphs) summarizing study results and impacts within 3 months of the study end date
      • Acknowledgement of Pain/Opioid CORE Rapid Start Funding in all publications and/or presentations stemming from the award
      • Notification of future grant applications and awards informed by CORE starter funds

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How do I know if I am qualified to serve as PI of a Pain/Opioid CORE Rapid Start proposal?

    • All study PIs must have a minimum of 5/8ths VA time. At least one PI on the proposal must have appropriate standing to accept research funding at their facility. Please check with your local Research Office if you are unsure if you can accept funding. Junior investigators who are unable to accept independent research funding (i.e., fellows) are eligible to identify themselves as the Mentored PI of the proposal while listing a senior investigator as a Mentoring Co-PI who will serve as the project's contact PI.

    I was previously awarded a Pain/Opioid CORE Rapid Start Funding award as a PI. Am I eligible to apply for a second award?

    • Applicants may not have two active rapid start awards as PI/mPI at the same time. Previous awardees are eligible to apply for a second Rapid Start Funding award if they have fully completed their previously awarded project. Previous awardees are eligible to serve as co-investigators on additional proposals. 

    Are multiple principle investigators allowed on a proposal?

    • Yes, proposals may include multiple PIs. However, the proposal should clearly outline how each PI's contributions are needed to complete the proposed research. A single contact PI should be clearly identified.

    How can I find out more information on whether my idea for a proposal is health services research that aligns with the Pain/Opioid CORE's funding priorities?

    • In general, all proposals should fit VA HSR&D's definition of health services research (https://www.hsrd.research.va.gov/funding/what-is-hsr-cfm) and align with the priorities of VA HSR&D and the Pain/Opioid CORE. A listing of priorities from the HSR&D State of the Art Conferences on Nonpharmacologic Therapies and Opioids can be found in the citations above. The Pain/Opioid CORE's research priorities are also summarized on our website under Priorities

    Can Rapid Start Funding be used to fund a study team member on an IPA?

    • Funds distributed from the Pain/Opioid CORE may be used to support members of the study team external to the VA on an IPA. Local rules and regulations must be followed regarding IPAs. Please contact your Research Office for additional questions about IPAs and to discuss feasibility of one-year support funding the individual IPA.

    Who is considered an early-career investigator?

    • Broadly, all trainees are considered early career investigators. More specifically, applicants without previously awarded funding beyond local funding (i.e., Locally Initiated Projects) and applicants on an active career development award are considered early career investigators by the Pain/Opioid CORE. 

    Is a mentor letter required with my submission? 

    • If you are an early career investigator, a mentor letter is required with your submission. Please see the decision aid above for more information or when a mentor letter is required.

    What format is acceptable for submitted biosketches? 

    What are "Other Support" forms?

    • Other Support forms outline additional current or pending resources (including financial support) available to study investigators during the award period. Applicants should use the NIH format, with more information available at https://grants.nih.gov/grants/forms/othersupport.htm. If an investigator does not have other research support, please include a single page in your submission indicating so. 

    Can a non-VA trainee currently working with VA investigators submit a proposal?

    • Generally, no, since all identified PIs must have a minimum of 5/8ths VA time. VA investigators may submit a proposal with co-investigators that have less than 5/8ths VA time.

    I'm a VA clinician new to research, with facility support to conduct the proposed research. Am I eligible to apply?

    • Yes, we encourage interest and proposals from VA clinicians who are new to research. Your study team should include at least one current VA-funded investigator with meaningful scientific involvement in the proposal.

    I have questions about mentoring. Is there someone I can contact at the Pain/Opioid CORE for more information on mentoring in pain/opioid research?

    • A high priority of the Pain/Opioid CORE is to facilitate career development of early career investigators and investigators new to pain or opioid-related research through collaboration and professional development activities. For more information on the Pain/Opioid CORE's mentor and career development opportunities, please email [email protected]

    How will I know that my proposal was received by the Pain/Opioid CORE?

    • You will receive an email confirming receipt within 1-2 business days of submission.

    Contact Information

    For questions about the 2023 Rapid Start Funding Opportunity, or to be added to the Pain/Opioid CORE mailing list, please contact Kathryn LaChappelle, MPH at [email protected].

    State of the Art Conferences Informing Funding Priorities

    1. Becker, W.C., Krebs, E.E., Edmond, S.N. et al. A Research Agenda for Advancing Strategies to Improve Opioid Safety: Findings from a VHA State of the Art Conference. J Gen Intern Med. 35, 978–982 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-020-06260-9
    2. Becker, W.C., DeBar, L.L., Heapy, A.A. et al. A Research Agenda for Advancing Non-pharmacological Management of Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain: Findings from a VHA State-of-the-art Conference. J Gen Intern Med. 33, 11–15 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-018-4345-6