Bridge to Independence Award Program

SFARI is invested in supporting the next generation of top autism researchers. The Bridge to Independence Award program engages talented early-career scientists in autism research by facilitating their transition to research independence and providing grant funding at the start of their professorships at a U.S. or Canadian research institution.

Applications from groups that have been historically underrepresented or excluded in the biomedical workforce, including but not limited to racial and ethnic groups, sexual orientation and gender identities, individuals with mental/physical disabilities and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, are especially encouraged.

Request for applications (RFA) open each year and are aimed at Ph.D. and M.D.–holding scientists who are currently in training positions but intend to seek tenure-track research faculty positions during the upcoming academic year. Fellows receive a commitment of $495,000 over three years, activated upon assumption of a tenure-track professorship.

Maximum Budget

Over Three Years $495,000

Important Dates
  • proposalCENTRAL opens for LOIs
  • Letters of recommendation and LOIs due
  • BTI fellows notified of award
    July 2021
Maximum Budget

Over Three Years $495,000

Important Dates
  • proposalCENTRAL opens for LOIs
  • Letters of recommendation and LOIs due
  • BTI fellows notified of award
    July 2021
Contact Info

Background

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 developed the Bridge to Independence (BTI) Award program in 2015 in order to extend 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, numerous factors within the modern biomedical ecosystem have also made this transition one of the most vulnerable attrition points in the academic career pipeline1. The SFARI BTI Award program was created to help mitigate this systematic issue and to encourage continued excellence in the autism research field.

Program Overview

The BTI Award program engages talented early-career scientists in autism research by facilitating their transition to research independence and providing grant funding at the start of their professorships. The annual RFA is aimed at Ph.D. and M.D.–holding scientists who are currently in training positions but intend to seek tenure-track research faculty positions during the upcoming academic year. Fellows will receive a commitment of $495,000 over three years, activated upon assumption of a tenure-track research professorship at a U.S. or Canadian research institution.

Applications from groups that have been historically underrepresented or excluded in the biomedical workforce, including but not limited to racial and ethnic groups, sexual orientation and gender identities, individuals with mental/physical disabilities and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, are especially encouraged.

Importantly, although eligible applicants must be currently in a training position, the BTI Award itself is not a training fellowship but a research grant to newly appointed faculty. The program’s selection process is uniquely designed to enhance the BTI fellows’ job prospects by providing a letter that specifies SFARI financial commitment to the research project once the BTI fellow has secured a suitable faculty position. For more information on eligibility requirements and the funding process, see the RFA section.

The BTI Award program welcomes applications that span the breadth of science that SFARI normally supports, including genetics, molecular mechanisms, circuits and systems, and clinical science. For reference, please see the list of current BTI fellows and of all SFARI Investigators, as well our postings on SFARI scientific priorities.

While we encourage applications from scientists who are working on autism-related projects, we would like to stress that this award is also open to researchers who are not currently working on autism but who are interested in starting research projects in this area and who have expertise that could be brought to bear on this complex condition.

In addition to the monetary value of the grant, the BTI Award program provides opportunities for career development, including networking with other BTI fellows and senior investigators in the SFARI community, through the annual BTI fellows retreat and attendance at SFARI science meetings. The program also provides valuable support during the fellow’s transition process, including guidance during the job negotiation process.

Current Fellows

The program currently supports 31 fellows, many of whom have secured prestigious tenure-track faculty positions and are actively carrying out their SFARI research projects. For more information, see a list SFARI’s current BTI fellows, as well as SFARI Conversations with Seth Shipman (a 2017 BTI fellow) and Sung Han (a 2015 BTI fellow).

Simons Collaboration on the Global Brain BTI program

SFARI’s sister program at the Simons Foundation, the Simons Collaboration on the Global Brain (SCGB), is now offering its own Bridge to Independence Award. More information about the SCGB BTI program can be found here.

A chart of the differences between the SFARI and SCGB BTI programs can be found here (see Eligibility question 16).

References

  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The Next Generation of Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences Researchers: Breaking Through. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press (2018) Report
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Maximum Budget

Over Three Years $495,000

Important Dates
  • proposalCENTRAL opens for LOIs
  • Letters of recommendation and LOIs due
  • BTI fellows notified of award
    July 2021
Contact Info

Note to applicants: A summary of the presentation given by SFARI senior scientist Alice Luo Clayton at the SFARI Social: Bridge to Independence Award on January 13, 2021 can be found here.

Application Process

BTI grants are awarded through a multi-stage process. The first stage is a competitive process in which letters of intent (LOIs) are reviewed by the SFARI science team and an external scientific panel. BTI fellows are selected at the end of stage one. Upon notification, fellows have one to two years to secure a tenure-track professorship at an academic institution in the U.S. or Canada and submit an approval application. Review of the approval application is a non-competitive, internal process intended to confirm that the fellow has secured an academic research position and adequate institutional resources to accomplish the Bridge to Independence research proposal. After the Simons Foundation accepts the approval application, fellows will receive a commitment of $495,000 over three years, awarded through their faculty appointment institution.

Eligibility

  • 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. Given the profound impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the research community, the 2020 calendar year will not be counted towards the program’s postdoctoral term limits.
  • 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 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) 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 project grant (e.g., R01) or SFARI grant (e.g, Pilot, Research, and Targeted awards) as the principal investigator (PI).

    Conversely, evidence for independence, and therefore lack of eligibility, includes:

    • The applicant has a full-time faculty position. Exception: A clinician who holds a faculty member position in order to fulfill their clinical responsibilities but who does not hold an independent research faculty position may still be eligible. Such individuals should contact the foundation to confirm their eligibility prior to submitting their applications.
    • The applicant received a start-up package for support of the applicant’s independent research.
    • The applicant has research space dedicated to the applicant’s own research.
    • The applicant is eligible to apply for independent research funding as the PI of an NIH research project grant (e.g., R01) or SFARI grant (e.g, Pilot, Research, and Targeted awards).
  • Applicants must be actively seeking a tenure-track position at a U.S. or Canadian institution of higher education during the 2021-2022 academic year. Given the profound impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the faculty job market, SFARI will be quite flexible should a fellow’s job search require extending the timeline into the 2022-23 academic year.
  • Applicants are not eligible if they are recipients of other career development awards with similar budgetary scopes 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., recipients of K01 and K08)
    • Burroughs-Wellcome Career Award
    • American Academy of Neurology Career Development Award
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Hanna H. Gray Fellowship

    You are strongly encouraged to contact SFARI before applying if you believe your career development award is comparable to the BTI Award but it 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 sfarigrants@simonsfoundation.org before submitting an application.

Level and Duration of Funding

The principal investigator (PI) will receive research support at a fixed rate of $495,000 over three (3) years, including 20 percent for indirect costs (see SFARI policies). The award is administered through the institution at which the PI has a tenure-track faculty appointment. Funds may not be used toward the PI’s salary but may provide salary support for other laboratory personnel and other typical grant budget expenditures. Institutional start-up packages may not be reduced because of SFARI funding. SFARI will work with fellows and their potential faculty institutions to ensure that fellows receive start-up packages with sufficient institutional resources and academic privileges to complete the BTI grant.

Important dates

January 11, 2021: proposalCENTRAL opens for LOIs
April 12, 2021: Letters of recommendation and LOIs due
July 2021: BTI fellows notified of award

Instructions for submission

Letters of Intent
The deadline for receipt of the LOI is April 12, 2021. LOIs must be completed electronically and submitted using forms provided at proposalCENTRAL. 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.

LOIs should include the following (for more details, see the Instructions document, available for download in the “Download Templates and Instructions” section of proposalCENTRAL):

  1. Specific Aims Page: The Specific Aims Page should not exceed one (1) page and should be a summary of the proposed project focused on the research aims of the project, including a concise rationale for the hypothesis, description of preliminary data and experimental approach, and impact on autism research.
  2. The Proposal Narrative: This should be no more than three (3) pages long (NOT including references, tables and figures) and should be considered an expanded version of the Specific Aims Page and used to provide more detail on the following:
    1. Relevant scientific background
    2. Preliminary results when applicable
    3. Specific aims
    4. Experimental design
    5. Pitfalls and alternative strategies
    6. Project significance and relevance to autism
    7. Timeline and milestones
  3. Biosketch
  4. Overview of scientific interests and goals describing your future research program as an independent investigator and how autism science fits in with your intended research program. This should be no more than one (1) page.
  5. Letter from current institution officially confirming you are in a mentored training position (e.g., letter from department chair or grant office).
  6. Letters of recommendation (separate, blind submission; deadline April 12, 2021). Three (3) letters of recommendation are required 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. Confidential letters must be submitted through proposalCENTRAL (see instructions available for download in proposalCENTRAL).

LOIs are reviewed by the SFARI science team and competitive LOIs are further reviewed by an external scientific panel. Reviewers will weigh criteria related to the applicant’s scientific potential as an independent investigator and their ability to formulate an impactful, innovative and feasible autism research project.

Fellows

2021 BTI fellows will be notified of their status by July 2021. The notification letters will outline SFARI’s commitment to awarding the Bridge to Independence Award, contingent upon satisfactory fulfillment of the approval application. Upon notification, awardees have one to two years to secure a tenure-track faculty position and submit an approval application. Given the profound impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the faculty job market, SFARI will be quite flexible should a fellow’s job search require extending their timeline into the 2022-23 academic year. Nevertheless, all 2021 BTI fellows are expected to apply for positions during the 2021-2022 academic year. Once job negotiations develop, fellows are strongly encouraged to contact their SFARI science manager. SFARI will informally review job offer letters, and as appropriate, work with fellows and their potential faculty institutions to ensure that start-up packages provide sufficient institutional resources and academic privileges to complete the BTI grant.

Approval application

To activate their grant, fellows must submit an approval application, which includes the tenure-track faculty appointment offer letter with confirmed research startup package and laboratory space commitments. Other required documents include applicable updates to the proposal narrative, 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 internally with the intention of funding all fellows who have secured sufficient institutional resources and academic privileges to complete the BTI project. If these are deemed acceptable, a grant funding letter will be sent.

SFARI reserves the right to withhold grant support 1) if the fellow is unable to secure a tenure-track position at a suitable academic institution within one year of their award 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 fellow 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 fellows will occur only in rare instances. When appropriate, SFARI will work with fellows and their prospective institutions in developing mutually agreeable solutions.

Contacts

Scientific inquiries:
sciencerfa@simonsfoundation.org
646-654-0066

Administrative inquiries:
sfarigrants@simonsfoundation.org
646-654-0066

Simons collections inquiries:
collections@sfari.org
646-654-0066

proposalCENTRAL:
pcsupport@altum.com
800-875-2562

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proposalCENTRAL Logo

The Simons Foundation uses an electronic grants submission process. All interested grant applicants must submit their applications online through proposalCENTRAL.

Maximum Budget

Over Three Years $495,000

Important Dates
  • proposalCENTRAL opens for LOIs
  • Letters of recommendation and LOIs due
  • BTI fellows notified of award
    July 2021
Contact Info

The deadline for LOI submission is Monday, April 12, 2021 at 5 p.m. EST.

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.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 LOI template and the Principal Investigator (PI) biosketch template can be downloaded in the Templates & Instructions or the Attach LOI Documents 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 April 12, 2021): 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 click the “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, April 12, 2021, 5:00 p.m. EST. It is advised that applicants begin the online application at least three weeks prior to the April 12 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 LOI Documents: The following documents are to be uploaded in the Proposal Attachments section, where they are also available for download:
    • Specific Aims Page: The Specific Aims Page should not exceed one (1) page and should be a summary of the proposed project focused on the research aims of the project, including a concise rationale for the hypothesis, description of preliminary data and experimental approach, and impact on autism research.
    • Proposal Narrative: The Proposal Narrative should not exceed three (3) pages of single-spaced, size 11 text, 0.5 margins. The Proposal Narrative should be considered an expanded version of the Specific Aims Page and used to provide more detail on the following:
      • Relevant scientific background
      • Preliminary results when applicable
      • Specific aims
      • Experimental design
      • Pitfalls and alternative strategies
      • Project significance and relevance to autism
      • Timeline and milestones

      Figures, figure legends and references should follow the narrative text and will NOT count towards the page limit. References should be in Journal of Neuroscience format, including full author list, title and a link to PubMed. Figures are limited to 10, each fitting on a single page. Please attach them at the end of the three-page narrative in the same PDF file.

  • 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 three (3)-page limit will not be reviewed. No extensions will be given.

Contacts

Scientific inquiries:   sciencerfa@simonsfoundation.org   646-654-0066
Administrative inquiries:   sfarigrants@simonsfoundation.org   646-654-0066
Simons collections inquiries:   collections@sfari.org   646-654-0066
proposalCENTRAL:

 

  pcsupport@altum.com   800-875-2562
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Maximum Budget

Over Three Years $495,000

Important Dates
  • proposalCENTRAL opens for LOIs
  • Letters of recommendation and LOIs due
  • BTI fellows notified of award
    July 2021
Contact Info
  • Eligibilityplus--large
      I do not have a Ph.D. or M.D. yet, but I am currently pursuing one (e.g., I am a current graduate or medical student). Am I eligible?plus--large

      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.

      I have accepted a tenure-track faculty position but have not yet started. Am I still eligible?plus--large

      No. However, with approval of your faculty institution, you are eligible to
      apply for SFARI Pilot and Research awards, as well as targeted RFA programs. More information about these grant opportunities is available here.

      I hold a non-tenured faculty position (e.g., assistant or adjunct professor) at my institution. Am I eligible to apply?plus--large

      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?plus--large

      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 letter of intent (LOI).

      What is the difference between a non-independent and an independent position?plus--large

      As modified from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) 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 (PI).

      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 the applicant’s independent research.

      • The applicant has research space dedicated to the applicant’s own research.

      • The applicant is eligible to apply for an NIH or SFARI research grant as the PI.

      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?plus--large

      Clinicians who hold faculty positions in order to fulfill their clinical responsibilities may be eligible if and only if they do not hold independent research faculty positions. The foundation may require written confirmation of the distinction between the applicant’s clinical and research responsibilities. Please contact sfarigrants@simonsfoundation.org to confirm eligibility status prior to application submission.

      My current traineeship is at a non-U.S. academic institution; am I eligible to apply?plus--large

      Yes. However, your faculty position must be at a U.S. or Canadian institution for you to accept the award (see question 9).

      Does my faculty position need to be at a U.S. institution?plus--large

      Your faculty position must be at a U.S. or Canadian institution for you to accept the award. However, SFARI may approve, on a case-by-case basis, the use of funds at institutions outside of North America under exceptional circumstances.

      The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected my research productivity. Has SFARI implemented any special policies given these unprecedented times?plus--large

      Yes. SFARI recognizes both the professional and personal toll the pandemic has had on the research community. As such, the following exceptions have been made:

      • Mentored training term limits: The 2020 calendar year will not be counted toward the program’s postdoctoral term limits.
      • Timeline to secure a tenure-track faculty position: While all 2021 BTI fellows are still expected to apply for jobs during the 2021–2022 academic year, SFARI will be quite flexible should a fellow’s job search require extending the timeline into the 2022-2023 academic year.

      If you believe the pandemic’s impact on your circumstances warrant additional considerations from SFARI, please contact sfarigrants@simonsfoundation.org with the subject line “BTI RFA COVID Request.” All requests will be considered and approved on a case-by-case basis.

      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 were spent in clinical training or family responsibilities). Am I still eligible? plus--large

      Most likely, but your eligibility needs to be confirmed with SFARI staff before you apply. Please contact sfarigrants@simonsfoundation.org with the subject line “RFA Exemption Request” to confirm that you are eligible for exemption.

      See also our exception to the postdoctoral term limits due to the COVID-19 pandemic (question 11)

      It has been more than six (6) years since I earned my Ph.D. or M.D., but I changed fields of study during my postdoctoral training. Am I still eligible?plus--large

      An exception may be considered when a significant change in fields of study has occurred, such as moving from physical science to life science. Please contact sfarigrants@simonsfoundation.org with the subject line “RFA Exemption Request” to confirm that you are eligible for exemption.

      See also our exception to the postdoctoral term limits due to the COVID-19 pandemic (question 11)

      Is postdoctoral training a requirement to apply for the BTI award? plus--large

      No. However, a postdoctoral fellowship is often considered essential training in preparation for an independent research career and as such, the vast majority of competitive applicants have had substantive postdoctoral training. Nevertheless, SFARI acknowledges that some scientific fields (e.g. computer science) and some individuals may already be well placed to begin their professorships without having completed a postdoctoral fellowship. Our review criteria are focused on whether an applicant is currently poised to begin their independent careers, as evidenced by their scientific contributions and vision, and not based on whether the applicant has conducted postdoctoral training, per se.

      I am the recipient of a career development award with a similar budgetary scope to the SFARI Bridge to Independence (BTI) Award. Am I eligible?plus--large

      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 Career Award

      • American Academy of Neurology Career Development Award

      • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Hanna H. Gray Fellowship

      You are strongly encouraged to contact SFARI before applying if you believe your career development award is comparable to the BTI Award but it is not listed above.

      I noticed the Simons Collaboration on the Global Brain (SCGB) is also offering its own BTI Award. How are the SFARI and SCGB BTI Awards similar and different to each other, and may I apply to both?plus--large

      Below is a chart comparing the two programs. Candidates may apply to both programs; however, each application will be reviewed individually based on the program’s own selection process and criteria. As such, it is expected that applicants will tailor each research narrative to align with the respective SF program to which they are applying.

      If you have questions regarding about the suitability of your research narrative for the SFARI BTI program, please contact the Simons Foundation at sfarigrants@simonsfoundation.org.
       

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      SFARI SCGB
      Scientific Focus The SFARI BTI Award program welcomes applications that span the breadth of autism science that SFARI normally supports, including genetics, molecular mechanisms, circuits and systems, and clinical science.

      The award is also open to researchers who are not currently working on autism but who are interested in starting research projects in this area and have expertise that could be brought to bear on this complex condition.

      Please also see a listing of current BTI fellows, as well as research highlights from the 2019 fellows retreat.
      The Simons Collaboration on the
      Global Brain (SCGB) is dedicated to supporting advances in systems and computational neuroscience with the goal of expanding our understanding of the brain’s internal states. Through this effort, we seek to fund scientists doing work consistent with SCGB’s scientific mission, ideally investigating large-scale circuits at single-cell resolution to understand neural dynamics and coding.
      Eligibility Applicants must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree, and must be currently recognized by their institutions as holding a non-independent, mentored, training position.

      Applicants must have fewer than six (6) years of postdoctoral or otherwise mentored training. Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on early-career researchers, the 2020 calendar year will not be counted towards the postdoctoral term limits. Please see the 2021 SFARI BTI RFA for more information.
      Applicants must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree, and must be currently recognized by their institutions as holding a non-independent, mentored, training position.

      No limit on length of mentored training.
      Fellow Selection Process Internal review by the SFARI science team

      External review by a scientific panel

      No interviews
      Internal review by SCGB scientific staff

      Scientific review committee may include members of the SCGB executive committee

      Finalists invited for virtual interviews
      Transition timeline and criteria One to two years to secure a tenure-track faculty position at a U.S or Canadian academic institution

      SFARI will work with fellows and their potential faculty institutions to ensure that fellows receive start-up packages with sufficient institutional resources and academic privileges to complete the BTI grant. Activation of the BTI award is contingent upon SFARI approval. Please see the 2021 SFARI BTI RFA for more information.
      18 months (next job cycle) to secure a tenure-track faculty position, with no restriction on job location

      SCGB will work with fellows and their potential faculty institutions to ensure that fellows receive start-up packages with sufficient institutional resources and academic privileges to complete the BTI grant. Activation of the BTI award is contingent upon SCGB approval. Please see the SCGB BTI program for more information.
      RFA Timeline Open: January 11, 2021
      LOI Due: April 12, 2021
      Fellows Notified: July 2021
      Open: January 4, 2021
      Due: April 5, 2021
      Fellows Notified: July 2021
  • proposalCENTRAL Login Instructionsplus--large
      Where do I submit the letter of intent (LOI)?plus--large

      Applications are online and must be submitted online through proposalCENTRAL. New users first need to create a user account on proposalCENTRAL (https://proposalcentral.com/). For instructions on how to create a user account, please see question number 2 below.

      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 LOI is uploaded, you will be able to click on the “Submit” button to send.

      How do I create a proposalCENTRAL user account?plus--large

      Go to proposalCENTRAL and click “Create One Now” under “Need an account?” Fill in the required fields, check the boxes to agree to proposalCENTRAL’s terms of service and acceptable use policy, and then click “Save.”

  • Submission Instructions and LOI Requirementsplus--large
      Can I email or mail a Letter of Intent (LOIs)?plus--large

      No. The Simons Foundation only accepts applications submitted online through proprosalCENTRAL.

      Do I need to provide official documentation of my position as a mentored trainee?plus--large

      Yes. A letter from your institution (e.g., letter from department chair or grants office) officially confirming your status in a training position and
      specifying your designated mentor is a required document for the LOI.

      Does the Simons Foundation require letters of recommendation?plus--large

      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. In the only application, applicants should enter in the names and email addresses of three (3) individuals who will upload recommendations on the applicant’s behalf directly into proposalCENTRAL. An automated message will be sent by proposalCENTRAL to each of the referees providing their unique log-in information. Note: An individual submitting a reference is referred to as a “referee” in proposalCENTRAL.

      Letters of recommendation must be submitted with the application by Monday, April 12, 2021, 5:00 p.m. Eastern. It is advised that applicants begin the online application at least four (4) weeks prior to the 12 April deadline to ensure that letters of recommendation are submitted in time. Applicants will not be able to submit their LOI without the required references.

      Are references, figures and figure legends included in the narrative three (3)-page limit? How should they be included?plus--large

      No, references, figures and figure legends are not 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?plus--large

      “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 (3). 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?plus--large

      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?plus--large

      Once the 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 $495,000 over three (3) years, including 20 percent for indirect costs
      (see SFARI policies). The award is administered through the institution at which the PI has a tenure-track faculty appointment.

      What can funds be used for?plus--large

      It is expected that proposed budgets reflect the accurate proportion of resources (e.g., personnel, supplies, equipment, travel) needed to complete the SFARI-funded project. Funds may be used toward salary and tuition support for laboratory personnel but may not be used toward the PI’s salary. In addition, since it is expected that all awardees will receive institutional start-up packages, we strongly discourage budget allocations for general lab equipment, such as freezers and refrigerators. All budgets must be approved by SFARI before funding may begin. Institutional startup packages may not be reduced because of SFARI funding.

      Is validating my LOI the same as submitting it?plus--large

      No. Validating the LOI is a process that checks for errors and omissions and will alert you to missing requirements of your LOI. If the application is complete, you must then click “Submit.” You will receive an email within 10 minutes, and you should contact pcsupport@altum.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.plus--large

      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 pcsupport@altum.com.

      Where is the “Submit” button?plus--large

      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 your application is complete and you are unable to submit it, please contact pcsupport@altum.com.

      Can I make changes to the LOI once it has been submitted?plus--large

      You must contact the Simons Foundation prior to the April 12, 2020 deadline to un-submit your LOI. Please email sfarigrants@simonsfoundation.org or call 646-654-0066 if you would like to un-submit your proposal for any modifications.

      Will I receive a confirmation email when I submit?plus--large

      A confirmation email is sent upon submission of the LOI. Please contact pcsupport@altum.com if you submitted your LOI and have not received a confirmation email within 10 minutes. Make sure your spam filters allow emails from pcsupport@altum.com.

      How are BTI fellows selected?plus--large

      All LOIs 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 also outline an impactful, innovative and feasible autism study. Fellows will be chosen based on these criteria and the recommendations of our external scientific committee.

      When will applicants be notified of their BTI fellow status?plus--large

      Applicants will be notified of their status in July 2021.

      May I accept a position in the department where I conducted my mentored research?plus--large

      Fellows are encouraged (but not required) to apply for independent positions in different departments and institutions from where they conducted their mentored research. It is important for all fellows, but especially fellows who intend to stay at their mentoring institution for their independent role, to discuss their intentions with their SFARI science manager. Fellows who accept faculty positions at their mentoring institutions may be asked to submit a letter from their department chair outlining their commitment and plans for ensuring the fellow’s independence.

  • Approval Application Submissionplus--large
      I am a BTI fellow and am close to receiving a tenure-track faculty offer letter from a U.S. or Canadian academic institution. What do I do now?plus--large

      Contact your SFARI science manager, who will informally review your offer letter to flag any potential issues with activating the grant. As appropriate, SFARI will work with fellows and their potential faculty institutions to ensure that start-up packages provide sufficient institutional resources and academic privileges to complete the BTI project.

      Once you are within 2-3 months of beginning work on your BTI project, you must submit your award approval application in order to formally activate your BTI grant. To do this, you must submit the following documents 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—given the time lag between the initial submission of the fellow’s LOI and activation of the grant, SFARI allows the fellow to update their research proposal as long as the project remains within scope of the original proposal.

      • Updated biosketch for the PI

      • Current and pending support for the PI

      • Budget—BTI funds may not be used toward the PI’s salary or general lab equipment such as freezers and refrigerators.

      • 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

      SFARI reserves the right to withhold grant support 1) if the fellow is unable to secure a tenure-track position at a suitable academic institution within two years of their award 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 fellow 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 fellows will occur only in rare instances.

2020

Toni-Lee Sterley, Ph.D.

University of Calgary

Toni-Lee Sterley is a postdoctoral associate at the University of Calgary. She completed her doctoral training in the laboratory of Vivienne Russell at the University of Cape Town. Her doctoral thesis used rodent models to investigate the influences of early life stress and genetic predispositions in the development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or depression, specifically looking at roles for glutamatergic and GABAergic transmission in observed behavioral phenotypes.

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2019

Nicholas Frost, M.D., Ph.D.

University of California, San Francisco

Nicholas Frost is an adjunct clinical instructor at the University of California, San Francisco. He received his M.D. and Ph.D. at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. There, his thesis work in the laboratory of Thomas Blanpied focused on the regulation of actin polymerization within dendritic spines, utilizing super-resolution microscopy to track single molecules of polymerized actin moving within living neurons.

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J. Elliott Robinson, M.D., Ph.D.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

J. Elliott Robinson is a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology. He completed his M.D. and Ph.D. in the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. His doctoral dissertation work, which was co-advised by C.J. Malanga (UNC) and Markus Heilig (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), investigated how the A118G mu opioid receptor gene polymorphism moderates dopaminergic and behavioral responses to alcohol and abused opioids.

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Hume Stroud, Ph.D.

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Hume Stroud is a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School. He received his doctoral training in the laboratory of Steve Jacobsen at the University of California, Los Angeles. His work focused on the regulation of DNA replication and transposon silencing in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. For his postdoctoral training, Stroud went on to join the laboratory of Michael Greenberg at Harvard Medical School, where he utilized genomic approaches to understand the regulation and function of DNA methylation in neurons in the developing brain. Now, Stroud plans to study the unique regulation of DNMT3A in neurons and to test whether neurological disorders caused by mutations in DNMT3A are reversible.

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2018

2017

Ryan Doan, Ph.D.

Boston Children's Hospital

Ryan Doan is an Instructor at Boston Children's Hospital. Doan’s research focuses on the important issue of understanding why many individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders lack a genetic diagnosis, both in clinical and research settings. The overall aim of his laboratory is to develop and implement a streamlined approach combining evolutionary and human genetics to discover novel noncoding mutations that can be targeted in a clinical diagnostic setting.

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Rebecca Muhle, M.D., Ph.D.

Columbia University

Rebecca Muhle is American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry certified and has both a clinical and a research practice at Yale University, within the Yale Child Study Center. Muhle works with individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and uses animal and cellular model systems to uncover the biological changes that occur when genes associated with ASD are disrupted.

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2016

Sung Eun (Samuel) Kwon, Ph.D.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Sung Eun “Samuel” Kwon is an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Kwon focuses on cellular, molecular and circuit mechanisms underlying sensory cortical plasticity in both health and conditions of neurocognitive disorders using in vivo imaging, electrophysiology, opto- and pharmaco-genetics, and behavior in the mammalian brain.

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Tomasz Nowakowski, Ph.D.

University of California, San Francisco

Tomasz Nowakowski is an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Nowakowski pioneered the use of single cell RNA sequencing to study the heterogeneity of cellular populations in the developing brain. His research focuses on understanding how the human genome reproducibly generates diverse neuronal populations and how genome abnormalities affecting these developmental processes cause developmental neuropsychiatric disorders like autism.

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2015

Graham Diering, Ph.D.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Graham Diering is an assistant professor at University of Carolina, Chapel Hill. He studies the molecular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity, with a particular interest in sleep. Using mouse models of human disease as well as primary cultured neurons, Diering applies his work to understanding and treating neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and intellectual disability. He broadly studies biochemistry, pharmacology, animal behavior and genetics.

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