KL2 Scholar Selection Process

**Calls for applications to the KL2 Scholar Program generally occur every 2 to 3 years. Please refer to the CTSI website homepage for announcements.**

Qualified applicants should have recently completed doctoral-level training (Ph.D., M.D., D.O.) or postdoctoral fellowships; are appointed as Penn State faculty; are U.S. Citizens or permanent residents and commencing translational, behavioral, clinical and/or other health services research

Candidates holding an M.D., D.O., or doctoral degree in nursing or other clinical or scientific doctoral degree, who are committed to focusing their career on clinical and translational research, and who have demonstrated excellence in scholarship will qualify to competitively apply to become CTSI KL2 Scholars.

Candidates will submit the following:

  • Application cover page
  • National Institutes of Health biosketch
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • 8-12 page proposal, summarizing his/her research and research training plan

Selection Criteria: 
The goal of the KL2 Program is to select candidates who, with proper career development and clinical and/or translational research training, have the potential to become independently funded, successful and ethical clinical and translational investigators.  Selection decisions will be based on the strength of the research and career development training plan submitted by the prospective trainee, the potential of the applicant, the multidisciplinarity of the training environment, the success and track record of the Lead Mentor or co-mentor in mentoring previous junior faculty members and other trainees, and diversity issues. This is a career development award and emphasis is placed heavily on a fully developed training plan including training goals, procedures, description of the roles of each mentor and plans for mentoring interactions.

KL2 Review Process: 

The candidates are evaluated by a review committee selected by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Executive Committee. Criteria include overall scholarly excellence as defined by written statements, letters of recommendation and record of productivity. Clear delineation of career/research goals and a strong commitment to interdisciplinary research is essential. Applicants are reviewed by the selection committee and scored in accordance with the National Institutes of Health system of 1-9. A list of applicants is circulated in advance of the meeting to allow reviewers to identify any applications in conflict.

NIH scale

Each applicant has a primary and secondary reviewer who is asked to write a one page review and complete a scoring sheet in advance of the meeting. All reviews are submitted a minimum of one week prior to the meeting so all committee members can review. Recommendations for funding are made to the Clinical and Translational Science Executive Committee who make the final decision. The formal offer of a position in the program is dependent upon the candidate’s department chair committing to protecting 75% effort for research during the course of the scholar’s support by the KL2 Award. In general, 2 years of funding will be awarded and a competitive application process is required in order to apply for an additional year if needed by the scholar.

Core Review Criteria: 

There are 5 core review criteria each scored (1-9) and weighed separately on the score sheet.  The criteria are:

  1. Candidate
  2. Training/Career Development Plan
  3. Research Plan
  4. Qualifications of Mentor and Co-mentor(s)
  5. Environment


  • Does the candidate have the potential to develop as an independent researcher focusing on patient oriented research?
  • Is the candidate’s academic, clinical and research (if relevant) record of high quality?
  • Is there evidence of the candidate’s commitment to meeting the program objectives to become an independent researcher focusing on patient oriented research?
  • Do the letters of reference attest to the ability of the applicant to become an independent investigator?

Career Development Plan

  • What is the likelihood that the plan will contribute substantially to the scientific development of the candidate leading to scientific independence?
  • Is the candidate’s prior training and research experience appropriate for this award?
  • Are the goals and scope of the training plan and the stated training and research objectives appropriate in view of the candidate’s prior experience?
  • Are the content and duration of didactic research activities during the award clearly stated and appropriate?
  • Are there adequate plans for evaluating the candidate’s research and career development progress?

Research Plan  

  • Are the proposed research question, design, and methodology of significant scientific and technical merit?
  • Is the research plan relevant to the candidate’s research career objectives focusing on patient-oriented research?
  • Is the plan for developing and enhancing the candidate’s research skills appropriate and adequate?
  • If applicable are there adequate plans for data and safety monitoring of clinical trials?

Mentor (s)

  • Are the mentor’s research qualifications in the area of the proposed patient-oriented research appropriate?
  • Is there adequate description of the quality of the extent of the mentor’s proposed role in providing guidance and advice to the candidate?
  • Is there evidence of the mentor’s previous experience in fostering the development of independent investigators?
  • Is there evidence of previous research productivity and peer-reviewed support focusing on patient oriented (clinical/translational) research?
  • Is there active/pending support that is appropriate and adequate for the proposed research project?

Environment and Departmental/Institutional Commitment

  • Is there clear commitment of the sponsoring department/division to ensure that a minimum of 75% of the candidate’s efforts will be directly devoted to the research described in the application with the remaining per cent effort devoted to an appropriate balance of teaching, administrative and clinical responsibilities (as applicable).
  • Is the departmental/divisional commitment to the career development of the applicant particularly strong?
  • Are the research facilities, resources (including faculty capable of productive collaboration with the applicant), and training opportunities adequate and appropriate?
  • Is the environment for scientific and professional development of the candidate of high quality?

Additional review criteria (not scored)

Protection of Human Subjects.   For research that involves human subjects that does not meet one of the 6 exemption criteria listed under 45 CFR Part 46, the committee will evaluate the justification for the use of human subjects and the proposed protections from research risk relating to their participation according to the following five review criteria: 1) risks to human subjects; 2) adequacy of protection against risk; 3) potential benefit to the subjects and others; 4) importance of the knowledge to be gained and, 5) data and safety monitoring for clinical trials.

Inclusion of Underrepresented Minorities/Gender/Children.  For research that involves human subjects: Does the proposal include plans for inclusion of underrepresented minorities, both sexes, as well as the inclusion of children as participants, justified in terms of the proposed scientific goals and research strategy?

Enhanced Review Criteria: 

Overall impact.  Reviewers will provide an OVERALL IMPACT SCORE to reflect their overall assessment of the application and enthusiasm for the application.  The overall impact score will be based on the following criteria with the weights as follows:

a)      Potential of the candidate to become a successful and externally funded clinical investigator (~25% weight)

b)      Qualifications and commitment of the lead mentor/mentoring team (~25% weight): successful investigator, externally funded, prior successful history of trainees). In keeping with the desire of the Penn State CTSI to foster multidisciplinary approaches to team science through the development of translational research clusters, it is important to convey sufficient information regarding the research environment.

Strength of the Research (25%) and Training (25%) Plans)  The training plan should describe didactic work and mentored clinical research training.  The hypothesis-driven research proposal can be evaluated using the NIH scale for the areas of Significance, Innovation and Approach.   PLEASE NOTE THAT THE OVERALL IMPACT SCORE IS NOT NECESSARILY AN AVERAGE OF THE SCORES FOR THE 5 CORE CRITERIA.  The overall impact score will be used to compare the applications.

Conflict of Interest Review Criteria: 

The KL2 reviewers will not review an application or participate in the ranking of any proposal in which the applicant or mentor is in their department or for any application in which the reviewer would serve as a mentor, advisor or collaborator or if the reviewer has provided advice for the applicant in preparing the application.  For submissions from the Departments of Medicine, Pediatrics or Surgery we are using the same criteria but based on Division rather than Department.

Plan for Recruitment and Retention of Underrepresented Minorities, Women and those with Disabilities

The KL2 program is committed to meeting the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences goal and that of Pennsylvania State University to increase the participation of women and individuals from ethnic or racial groups underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences.  Such groups include American Indian or Alaska native, Asian, Black or African-American, Hispanic or Latino, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.  Applications from women and minority candidates are encouraged.  In addition, accommodations will be made to assist any individuals with disabilities so those persons who are qualified applicants can complete the program.