• Guidelines and Recommendations for Writing a Letter of Intent

The Intuitive Foundation is committed to funding high quality research that will advance understanding related to robotic-assisted surgical procedures. Thus, the highest priority letters will be those that address novel, important questions in a methodologically sound, feasible manner. A successful Letter of Intent (LOI) will create a compelling argument for why the proposed research is important and novel. This can often be done by summarizing the current literature, identifying a gap in that literature, and explaining how your research will fill that gap. It will also establish the feasibility of the research. This includes the scope of the research, the expertise of the team, and institutional support. Successful LOI will address one of the Intuitive Foundation priority areas. It may help to consider the most common pitfalls. Unsuccessful applicants often:

  1. propose research that is not novel,
  2. do not have the relevant expertise on the project team to conduct the proposed research,
  3. present an experimental design lacking adequate statistical power to answer the questions posed, and
  4. propose research that is not feasible within the given time (1 year) and resources available ($60,000).

Be sure you fill out each section of the online application. Submissions that only refer the reviewer to an attached document may be returned to the author without review. Below are tips specific to each section of the LOI.

Title

It is more important to be clear and concrete, relating to the topic of your research, than it is to be creative.

Summary

Provide an overview of why your research is compelling and how it contributes to the broader surgical community. If your project were successful, what new insights would it provide beyond your local institution? If you are proposing a new technique or process, is it something that other institutions can easily adopt?

Description of Problem/Background

Make sure you address relevant literature and use that knowledge to describe what gap you will be filling with your proposed research. This section should justify why your research is important as well as demonstrate that it has not been sufficiently addressed by other researchers.

Hypothesis

Explicitly state your hypothesis, which should address the knowledge gap you identified in the Description of the Problem section as well as your proposed methods.

Summary of Planned Methods

Your data collection and analytic methods should generate data that fill the knowledge gap and allow you to test your hypothesis. Clearly state the study endpoint(s) as well as the rationale for your chosen study design. For example, if you plan to study how surgeon gender is associated with communication in the operating room during robotic-assisted procedures, you would ideally have a way of collecting intraoperative data directly from all surgical team members. You would also need to describe your methodology for transcribing, coding, or otherwise analyzing the team’s communication data. Stating that “the data will be analyzed to identify communication patterns” is insufficient.

State your sample size and justify this selection. Stating that “we will recruit as many participants as possible from our institution” is insufficient. Similarly, stating that “all residents will be invited to participate” is insufficient.

Perhaps the strongest justification for sample size arises from conducting a statistical power analysis, and Intuitive Foundation generally favors proposals that include a power analysis. Even if it is infeasible for your study to reach the exact sample size determined by the power analysis, you can use the power analysis to consider whether your study design is even plausible. For example, if a power analysis suggests you need to recruit 150 participants to demonstrate significant results, but you can only recruit 20 participants, you should strongly reconsider your study design.

Power analyses typically depend on preliminary data, but even if you do not have preliminary data from which to calculate your needed sample size, you can consult similar studies that have been done to find a comparable effect size that you can use to estimate your optimal sample size. For the hypothetical operating room communication study, you could estimate the effect size of the expected difference based on previously published studies in order to do a power analysis. Your endpoints could be the number and type of disruptive and constructive communications by surgeon gender. Consult a statistician if you need additional guidance on conducting a power analysis.

Impact

Clearly state what the overall impact of your study will be. What new knowledge will be generated, and how will that change practice beyond your institution? Will your findings be merely interesting, or will they produce insights that advance the field?

Capabilities

Clearly state the support you will have at your institution to conduct the proposed research. Describe the facilities and equipment provided by your institution as well as the capabilities of your research team. Confirm that you have sufficient access to data analysts, statisticians, and any other relevant experts.

Budget

In creating an appropriate budget, please be as realistic and reasonable as possible. Total budget cannot exceed $60,000, and the project must be completed within 12 months after initial funds are received. Note that Intuitive Foundation does not fund physician salaries. Hard equipment (such as computers) cannot exceed $5,000. Indirect costs for the proposed research cannot exceed 20% of the total requested budget. Indirect costs are often called facilities-and-administrative costs. These are expenses that are not directly associated with any one research project. Indirect costs can include items such as administrative expenses, facilities maintenance and building and equipment depreciation, among other things.

Additional documents

Please upload a PDF version of your LOI as well as documentation of your institution’s non-profit status. Note that documents exceeding the word count listed in the online application may not be read.

If you are at an institution within the United States, please upload your institution’s W9. If you are outside the United States, please upload a letter from your institution indicating that it is a non-profit institution. We will confirm non-profit equivalency prior to release of funds.

Additional documents that you may include, if you wish, are tables, figures, or videos that help explain your study

If you have any questions or would like to discuss your application with the Foundation, we’d love to hear from you. Please email grants@intuitive-foundation.org.