- proposalCENTRAL opens for first-stage proposals
- Letters of recommendation and First-stage proposals due
- Finalists notified
- Approval Application submission (rolling basis)
- Funding begins (rolling basis)
SFARI Grant Programs
The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) seeks to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders by funding innovative research of the highest quality and relevance.
Rationale and overview
The autism research community has expanded substantially in recent years and SFARI has contributed to this change by attracting outstanding established scientists to the field of autism. In order to sustain this level of scientific excellence in future years, SFARI is extending our support to promising early-career investigators. One of the most salient milestones in a scientific career is the transition from formal mentorship to an independent position. Unfortunately, this transition has become increasingly tenuous in recent years, in part because of the decreasing number of tenure-track faculty positions, compounded by the increasing number of Ph.D. graduates and postgraduate traineeships1. SFARI created the Bridge to Independence Award program to address this issue and to encourage continued excellence in the autism research field.
Grants awarded through the Bridge to Independence Award program are intended to invest in the next generation of top autism investigators by identifying talented early-career scientists interested in autism research and facilitating their transition to an independent research career. This request for applications (RFA) is aimed at senior postdoctoral fellows who intend to seek tenure-track faculty positions during the 2017–18 academic year. Successful applicants will be notified that they are finalists in the Bridge to Independence Award program and will have one year to submit an approval application, which includes confirmation of a tenure-track professorship at a U.S. academic institution, review of the institution’s research environment and resources, and institutional signoff. After the Simons Foundation accepts the approval application, the finalist will become a grantee and receive a commitment of $150,000 per year over three years, awarded through their faculty appointment institution.
The application process will proceed in two stages. In the first stage, Ph.D. or M.D. applicants currently in mentored training positions (and ideally in laboratories currently pursuing autism-relevant studies) must submit an autism-relevant research project; such a proposal should describe the studies that an applicant plans to pursue once they have attained an independent, tenure-track faculty position at an academic institution.
Competitive proposals will be reviewed by an external scientific panel. Reviewers will weigh criteria related to the applicant’s scientific potential (as assessed by the applicant’s scientific publication record, previous support and letters of recommendation) and ability to formulate an impactful, innovative and feasible autism research project.
Top applicants will be notified of their finalist status, at which time they have up to one year to secure a tenure-track position at a U.S. academic institution. To proceed from the finalist to grantee stage, finalists must submit an approval application. This application includes a copy of their faculty appointment letter and other documentation to assure the foundation that adequate institutional support is in place for successful completion of the autism-relevant research project. The quality of the approval application will be evaluated internally, but the intent is to fund all finalists who retain their commitment to pursuing autism-relevant, high-quality scientific investigations. Once SFARI has accepted the approval application, the Bridge to Independence Award will be awarded and the funding initiated.
- Applicants must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree
- Applicants must have fewer than six (6) years of postdoctoral or otherwise mentored training.
- Applicants must be currently in non-independent, mentored, training positions, as recognized by their institution. The following guidelines should be used to distinguish independent from non-independent positions (modified from NIH’s K99/R00 Program Announcement eligibility section):Evidence for non-independence may include:
– The applicant’s research is entirely funded by another investigator’s grants.
– The applicant’s research is conducted entirely in another investigator’s assigned space.
– According to institutional policy, the applicant is not allowed to submit an application for an NIH research grant (e.g., R01) or SFARI grant (e.g, Explorer, Pilot, Research, and Targeted awards.)
- Applicants must be actively seeking a tenure-track position at a U.S. institution of higher education during 2017-18 academic year.
- Applicants are not eligible if they are recipients of other career development awards with similar budgetary scope as the SFARI Bridge to Independence award. These include, but are not limited to:
– NIH K99/R00 (please note that other K awardees may be eligible, e.g., K01 and K08)
– Burroughs-Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists
– American Academy of Neurology Career Development Award
– Howard Hughes Medical Institute Hanna H. Gray fellowship. You are strongly encouraged to contact SFARI prior to grant submission if you believe your career development award is comparable to the BTI award but is not listed above.
- Applicants must not have accepted a formal offer for a tenure-track faculty position.
- There are no citizenship requirements.
All potential applicants with questions about eligibility are strongly encouraged to contact SFARI at email@example.com before submitting an application.
Level and duration of funding
The principal investigator (PI) will receive research support at a fixed rate of $150,000 per year, including 20 percent for indirect costs (see SFARI policies), for up to three (3) years. The award is administered through the institution at which the PI has a tenured faculty appointment. Finalists may defer submission of their approval application for up to one year after receiving their finalist notification in order to secure their faculty position. Funds may not be used toward the PI’s salary but may provide salary support for other laboratory personnel. Institutional start-up packages may not be reduced because of SFARI funding.
|1 June 2017:||proposalCENTRAL opens for first-stage proposals|
|7 August 2017:||Letters of recommendation and First-stage proposals due|
|20 November 2017:||Finalists notified|
|1 December 2017 – 1 December 2018:||Approval Application submission (rolling basis)|
|1 January 2018 – 1 December 2019:||Funding begins (rolling basis)*|
*Note: Funding begins within one year of the award letter date.
Instructions for submission
The deadline for receipt of the first-stage proposal is 7 August 2017. First-stage proposals must be completed electronically and submitted using forms provided at http://proposalcentral.altum.com/. Please log in as an applicant, go to the “Grant Opportunities” tab, scroll to “Simons Foundation” and click “Apply Now” for the “SFARI Bridge to Independence Award” program.
First-stage proposals require the submission of a letter of intent and should include the following (for more details, see the Instructions document, available for download in the “Download Templates and Instructions” section of proposalCENTRAL):
- The research proposal should be no more than six (6) pages long (including references, tables and figures) and should include the research project’s specific aims, significance, experimental approach, innovation and potential impact on autism research.
- Overview of scientific interests and goals—up to one (1)-page overview of your future research program as an independent investigator and how autism science fits in with your intended research program
- Letter from current institution officially confirming you are in a mentored training position (e.g., letter from department chair or grant office)
- Letters of recommendation (separate, blind submission; deadline 7 August 2017): Three letters of recommendation from current or former mentors, or other senior scientists who have substantial familiarity with your scientific career thus far are required. At least one letter of recommendation must be from a current or former scientific mentor. Confidential letters must be submitted through proposalCENTRAL (see instructions available for download in proposalCENTRAL).
Successful applicants will be deemed finalists and notified of their status by 20 November 2017. The finalist notification letters will outline SFARI’s commitment to awarding the Bridge to Independence Award, contingent upon satisfactory fulfillment of the approval application. Once notified, finalists have up to one year to secure a tenure-track faculty position and submit an approval application.
Most notably, the Approval Application must include the tenure-track faculty appointment offer letter with confirmed research start-up package and laboratory space commitments. Other required documents include applicable updates to the research proposal, biosketch, current and pending support, budget, budget justification, research environment and resources, renewable reagents and data-sharing plan, and signature page.
SFARI will review these documents and, if deemed acceptable, an award letter will be sent. SFARI recognizes that there may be a time lag in setting up a new laboratory, so awardees may delay their grant activation for up to one year after receipt of the award letter.
SFARI reserves the right to withhold grant support 1) if the applicant is unable to secure a tenure-track position at a suitable academic institution within one year of their finalist notification letter, 2) if an institutional environment is deemed inadequate by SFARI to support successful completion of the research project, 3) if the revised and updated research plan is not considered adequate, or 4) if the applicant is unable to fulfill the responsibilities of the PI for other reasons. Such instances will be handled on a case-by-case basis. It is our intention that withholding grant support from finalists will occur only in rare instances. When appropriate, SFARI will work with finalists and their prospective institutions in developing mutually agreeable solutions.
Simons collections inquiries:
1. Biomedical research workforce working group report, National Institutes of Health (2012) PDF
The Simons Foundation uses an electronic grants submission process. All interested grant applicants must submit their applications online through proposalCENTRAL
- proposalCENTRAL opens for first-stage proposals
- Letters of recommendation and First-stage proposals due
- Finalists notified
- Approval Application submission (rolling basis)
- Funding begins (rolling basis)
SFARI Grant Programs
Bridge to Independence Award Request for Applications Instructions for First-Stage Proposal Submission
The deadline for application submission is Monday, 7 August 2017 at 5 p.m. EDT.
Accessing the Letter of Intent Application in proposalCENTRAL:
Prospective applicants must submit a letter of intent (LOI) using the LOI application via proposalCENTRAL (pC). To start an application in pC, users must first login to their pC account.
If You Need to Create a New Account in pC
To create a new account, go to https://proposalcentral.altum.com/ (pC) and click CREATE ONE NOW under APPLICATION LOGIN. Fill in the required fields, check the boxes to agree to pC’s Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy and then click SAVE. For the next steps, see the If You Have an Existing Account in pC section below.
If You Have an Existing Account in pC
For all users with a pC account, log in under APPLICATION LOGIN at https://proposalcentral.altum.com/ and select CREATE NEW PROPOSAL or click on the GRANT OPPORTUNITIES tab. Scroll down to SIMONS FOUNDATION and then click APPLY NOW for the Simons Foundation Autsm Research Initiative – Bridge to Independence Award in order to start the proposal and access the templates. After all sections are completed, you will be able to click on the SUBMIT button.
LOI Requirements and Submission Instructions
To submit a first-stage proposal, the following proposalCENTRAL sections must be completed:
- Title Page: Enter proposal title in this section.
- Download Templates & Instructions: The first-stage proposal template and the Principal Investigator (PI) biosketch template can be downloaded in the Templates & Instructions or the Attach First Stage Proposal sections. Attachments can be submitted only as PDF files in the Proposal Attachments section.
- Enable Other Users to Access this Proposal: This section allows you to give other users access to your grant application. When you give a person access to your grant application, you can give them one of three levels of permission. These include View, Edit and Administrator.
- Applicant/PI: Enter the name of the PI for the proposed funding here. While the PI does not need to submit the application him/herself, this section must be filled in for the intended PI for proper proposal tracking and review.
- Organization/Institution: Enter PI’s institution.
- Letters of recommendation (separate, blind submission; deadline 7 August 2017): Three letters of recommendation from current or former mentors, or other senior scientists who have substantial familiarity with your scientific career thus far. At least one letter of recommendation must be from a current or former scientific mentor. The applicant CANNOT submit the letters of recommendation directly. Note: Individuals submitting references are referred to as “referee” in proposalCENTRAL.
In this section, you will be able to list the referees who will submit letters of recommendation on your behalf through our confidential submission process. To enter the referees:
- Enter and confirm the email address of the referee you have chosen in the text box provided and clickthe “Add” button.
- A small pop-up window will open, prompting you for the referee’s first and last name. If the referee is already registered in proposalCENTRAL, the name will automatically display in the window.
- Enter the referee’s full name and click the “Send Email” button, then click ”Close Window.”
- An email will be sent to the referee from proposalCENTRAL requesting a confidential letter of recommendation. The email will include instructions, the referee’s proposalCENTRAL account information, and a link for the referee to upload the completed letter of recommendation directly to your grant application.
- To ensure confidentiality, you will not have access to these letters. Once the email is sent, the referee’s name and contact information will appear under the “Letters of Recommendation” section in your application. The referee information is displayed in the table (i.e., name, email address, date/time email was sent, etc.). You can refer to this table to check on the status of the letters that have been uploaded to your application. When each of the letters is uploaded, the status will display as “Submitted.”
- Repeat this process for each referee you wish to add. You will NOT be able to submit your application until three referees are uploaded.
- Letters of recommendation must be submitted by Monday, 7 August 2017, 5:00 p.m. EDT. It is advised that applicants begin the online application at least three weeks prior to the August 7 deadline for letters of recommendation. Applicants will not be able to submit their proposal without the required references.
NOTE: The referee will not have access to any portion of your grant application in the upload process.
- Attach first-stage proposal: The following documents are to be uploaded in the Proposal Attachments section, where they are also available for download:
- Research Proposal: The research proposal should be no more than six (6) pages long (including references, tables and figures) and should include:
- Proposed research project (including specific aims, significance, experimental approach, innovation and potential impact on autism research).
- Biographical sketch: Please upload biosketch of PI.
- Overview of scientific interests and goals. up to one (1)-page overview of your future research program as an independent investigator and how autism science fits in with your intended research program.
- Letter from current institution officially confirming you are in a mentored training position (e.g., letter from department chair or grant office).
- Validate: You must click the “Validate” button below to check for any missing required information or files. All missing required information will be listed on the screen. Please correct any missing information before proceeding to the next step.
- Submit: You will be unable to submit if you have not provided all the required information. Any missing information will be listed on the screen. If your submission is successful, you will receive a confirmation message on the screen and a confirmation email will be sent to the applicant.
Please note that research proposals exceeding the six (6)-page limit will not be reviewed. No extensions will be given.
|Simons collections inquiries:||firstname.lastname@example.org||646-654-0066|
I do not have a Ph.D. or M.D. yet, but I am currently pursuing one (e.g., current graduate or medical student). Am I eligible?
No. Applicants must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree. Please note that the foundation does not consider a Doctor of Psychology degree (e.g., Psy.D.) as equivalent to a Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D).
Are newly appointed tenure-track faculty eligible?
I have accepted a tenure-track faculty position but have not yet started. Am I still eligible?
No. However, with approval of your faculty institution, you are eligible to apply for SFARI Explorer, Pilot and Research Awards, as well as targeted RFA programs. For more information on these programs, please visit: /funding-opportunities/grants.
I hold a non-tenured faculty position (e.g., assistant or adjunct professor) at my institution. Am I eligible to apply?
No. However, exceptions are made for clinical faculty members who do not hold an independent research faculty position (see question 8).
I have a Ph.D. (or equivalent research doctorate degree) but do not have the title of ‘postdoctoral fellow.’ Am I eligible to apply?
You are eligible only if your institutional title is the equivalent of ‘postdoctoral fellow’ — in other words, if you are considered to be in a non-independent training position with a designated mentor. Confirmation of your training status (e.g., letter from the department chair) is required for the first- stage proposal.
What is the difference between a non-independent and an independent position?
As modified from the National Institutes of Health K99/R00 program announcement, evidence for non-independence may include documentation that:
- The applicant’s research is entirely funded by another investigator’s grants.
- The applicant’s research is conducted entirely in another investigator’s assigned space.
- According to institutional policy, the applicant is not allowed to submit an application for an NIH research grant (e.g., R01) or SFARI grant as the principal investigator.
Conversely, independence, and therefore lack of eligibility, is indicated by any of the following:
- The applicant has a full-time faculty position.
- The applicant received a startup package for support of his/her independent research.
- The applicant has research space dedicated to his/her own research.
- The applicant is eligible to apply for an NIH or SFARI research grant as the principal investigator.
I am the recipient of a career development award with a similar budgetary scope as the SFARI Bridge to Independence Award. Am I eligible?
No. These awards include, but are not limited to:
- NIH K99/R00 (please note that other K awardees may be eligible, e.g., recipients of K01 and K08)
- Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists
- American Academy of Neurology Career Development Award
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute Hanna H. Gray fellowship
You are strongly encouraged to contact SFARI prior to grant submission if you believe your career development award is comparable to the BTI award but is not listed above.
I am a clinician (M.D., D.D.S., D.V.M. or other licensed professional) but do not have a postdoctoral fellow position. Am I eligible to apply?
A clinician who holds a faculty position in order to fulfill his/her clinical responsibilities may be eligible if and only if he/she does not hold an independent research faculty position. The foundation may require written confirmation of the distinction between the applicant’s clinical and research responsibilities. Please contact email@example.com to confirm eligibility status prior to application submission.
My current traineeship is at a non-U.S. academic institution; am I eligible to apply?
Yes, but your faculty position must be at a U.S. institution for you to accept the grant award (see question 10).
Does my faculty position need to be at a U.S. institution?
Yes, your faculty position must be at a U.S. institution for you to accept the grant award. However, SFARI will approve the use of funds at non-U.S. institutions under exceptional circumstances.
I am not a U.S. citizen. Am I eligible to apply?
Yes. U.S. citizenship is not required.
It has been more than six (6) years since I earned my Ph.D. or M.D., but I have had fewer than six (6) years of actual postdoctoral training (e.g., intervening years spent in clinical training or family responsibilities). Am I still eligible?
Most likely, but your eligibility needs to be confirmed with SFARI staff before you apply. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “RFA Exemption Request” to confirm that you are eligible for exemption.
Where do I submit the first-stage proposal?
Applications are online and must be submitted online through proposalCENTRAL. New users first need to create a user account on proposalCENTRAL (https://proposalcentral.altum.com/). For instructions on how to create a user account, please see question number 14.
For all users, log in and select “Create New Proposal” or click on the “Grant Opportunities” tab. Filter the Grant Maker by “Simons Foundation” and click on “Apply Now” next to the “Bridge to Independence Award Request for Applications” program. After all sections are completed and your first-stage proposal PDF is uploaded, you will be able to click on the “Submit” button to send.
How do I create a proposalCENTRAL user account?
Go to https://proposalcentral.altum.com/ and click “Create One Now” under “First Time Users.” Fill in the required fields, check the boxes to agree to proposalCENTRAL’s “Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy” and then click “Save.”
Can I email or mail a first-stage proposal?
No. The Simons Foundation only accepts applications submitted online through http://proposalcentral.altum.com/.
What is the difference between the letter of intent (LOI) and first-stage proposal?
For the purposes of this RFA, the terms “letter of intent (LOI)” and “first-stage proposal” are used interchangeably. When you log in to proposalCENTRAL, you will see “LOI” noted throughout the first-stage proposal.
Do I need to provide official documentation of my position as a mentored trainee?
Yes. A letter from your institution (e.g., letter from department chair or grant office) officially confirming your status in a training position and specifying your designated mentor is a required document for the first-stage proposal.
Does the Simons Foundation require letters of recommendation?
Yes. The foundation requires three (3) letters of recommendation from current or former mentors, or from other senior scientists who have substantial familiarity with your scientific career thus far. At least one (1) letter of recommendation must be from a current or former scientific mentor.
Confidential letters must be submitted through proposalCENTRAL. The applicant CANNOT submit the letters of recommendation directly. Applicants will enter in the online application the name and email address of three (3) individuals who will upload recommendations on their behalf directly into proposalCENTRAL. An automated message will be sent by proposalCENTRAL to each of the referees listed with their unique log-in information. Note: Individuals submitting references are referred to as “referee” in proposalCENTRAL.
Letters of recommendation must be submitted by Monday, 7 August 2017, 5:00 p.m Eastern, with the application. It is advised that applicants begin the online application at least four (4) weeks prior to the 7 August deadline for letters of recommendation. Applicants will not be able to submit their proposal without the required references.
Do I need approval from the grants office at my institution to submit my first-stage proposal?
No. Institutional sign-off is not required.
Are references, figures and figure legends included in the narrative six (6)-page limit? How should they be included?
Yes, references, figures and figure legends are included in the page limit for the research proposal. Please attach them at the end of the narrative in the same PDF file. The Simons Foundation’s preference is for figures to follow the narrative rather than be embedded in the text.
What can I include in the appendix?
“In-press” papers can be included as well as any papers that you consider essential for the work of the review committee (not more than three ). Any other material should be included, if possible, in the narrative.
If you have video attachments for your proposal, please upload them as an appendix (all file types are accepted). All appendix documents should be uploaded in the “Proposal Attachments” section of the application.
May SFARI funds go toward providing clinical services or conducting a clinical trial?
No. Proposals for clinical “efficacy” trials are not allowed. Funds may only be used toward a research project.
What is the funding period? When will funding begin?
Once the grant award letter has been sent, funding may begin on the first of the month, up to one (1) year after the award letter has been sent. The principal investigator (PI) will receive research support at a fixed rate of $150,000 per year, including 20 percent for indirect costs (see SFARI policies), for up to three (3) years. The award is administered through the institution at which the PI has a tenured faculty appointment.
What can funds be used for?
Funds may be used toward travel, supplies, equipment and any other necessary expenses for the fulfillment of the research project, including salary and tuition support for laboratory personnel. Funds may not be used toward the PI’s salary. Institutional startup packages may not be reduced because of SFARI funding.
Is validating my proposal the same as submitting it?
No. “Validating” the proposal checks for errors and omissions and will alert you to missing requirements of your first-stage proposal. If the application is complete, you must then click “Submit.” You will receive an email within 10 minutes and should contact email@example.com if you do not receive confirmation and do not see your proposal in the “Submitted” tab or with the status changed to “Submitted.”
I get an error message citing a missing section when I try to submit.
The “Validate” button reviews your proposal for missing sections. The submission instructions list the required sections and attachments. You must complete the missing sections listed. If you are still receiving error messages after completing and saving the indicated sections, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where is the “Submit” button?
The “Submit” button is located in the last section of the proposal. You will be unable to submit if you have not provided all the required information. If the problem persists, please contact email@example.com.
Can I make changes to the first-stage proposal once it has been submitted?
You must contact the Simons Foundation prior to the 7 August 2017 deadline to un-submit your first- stage proposal. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-654-0066 if you would like to un-submit your proposal for any modifications.
- Is there a confirmation email when I submit?
How are finalists selected?
All first-stage proposals will receive scientific review by our internal science team. Competitive proposals will receive additional review by an external scientific committee. The applicant’s potential promise as an independent investigator and commitment to autism research will be the strongest factors. However, the proposal must still outline an impactful, innovative and feasible autism study. Finalists will be chosen based on these criteria and the recommendations of our external scientific committee.
When will applicants be notified of their finalist status?
Applicants will be notified of their status in late November.
I am a finalist and have received a tenure-track faculty offer letter from a U.S. academic institution. What do I do now?
You must submit your award approval documents. To do this, the following documents must be submitted through your appointment institution, using proposalCENTRAL:
- Copy of tenure-track faculty appointment letter with confirmed research start-up package and laboratory space commitments
- Updated research proposal
- Updated biosketch for the PI
- Current and pending support for the PI
- Budget—funds may not be used toward the PI’s salary but may provide salary support for other research personnel
- Budget justification
- Research environment and resources—investigators should demonstrate access to appropriate facilities and resources for successful completion of the proposed research grant
- Data-sharing plan
- Signature page with institutional approval
How soon must a SFARI grant be activated once finalists receive award letters?
Within one (1) year.
- I do not have a Ph.D. or M.D. yet, but I am currently pursuing one (e.g., current graduate or medical student). Am I eligible?
Sung Han is an assistant professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. His lab is interested in dissecting neural circuits that transmit aversive sensory signals to the brain.
Jason Yi is an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. His laboratory is broadly interested in the molecular pathways that shape nervous system development and function, with the ultimate goal of understanding how dysfunction in these pathways contributes to disease.
Renata Batista-Brito is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University. She is interested in understanding how the postnatal development of inhibition shapes the way sensory information is represented in the mature brain and is altered in autism spectrum disorders.