Linking Early Neurodevelopment to Neural Circuit Outcomes RFA

The Linking Early Neurodevelopment to Neural Circuit Outcomes RFA aims to bridge the gap in our understanding of whether and how developmental phenotypes caused by autism risk gene mutation lead to altered circuit formation and function. We strongly encourage proposals involving close collaboration between investigators of diverse expertise, such as developmental neurobiologists and circuit neuroscientists, in order to convincingly demonstrate causal links between disparate phenotypes in the chosen model(s).

Applicants may request up to $300,000 per lab with a maximum total annual budget of $900,000, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, over a period of three (3) to four (4) years. To allow potential applicants sufficient time to identify appropriate collaborators and conceptualize their projects, we are publishing this RFA call now; we will begin accepting applications on June 11, 2024.

Application available
Important Dates
  • Application available
  • Informational session
  • Application deadline
  • Finalist presentations
    January 14, 15 or 16, 2025
  • Award notification
    March 2025
  • Award start date
    Awards may begin as early as June 1, 2025, but we encourage PIs to select a project start date that best accommodates the needs of their project. Funds are expected to be expended as requested during each annual budget period. Projects must begin on the first of the month.
Important Dates
  • Application available
  • Informational session
  • Application deadline
  • Finalist presentations
    January 14, 15 or 16, 2025
  • Award notification
    March 2025
  • Award start date
    Awards may begin as early as June 1, 2025, but we encourage PIs to select a project start date that best accommodates the needs of their project. Funds are expected to be expended as requested during each annual budget period. Projects must begin on the first of the month.
Contact Info
Read More
Important Dates
  • Application available
  • Informational session
  • Application deadline
  • Finalist presentations
    January 14, 15 or 16, 2025
  • Award notification
    March 2025
  • Award start date
    Awards may begin as early as June 1, 2025, but we encourage PIs to select a project start date that best accommodates the needs of their project. Funds are expected to be expended as requested during each annual budget period. Projects must begin on the first of the month.
Contact Info

SFARI Mission

The mission of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders by funding innovative research of the highest quality and relevance.

Background and Objective

The last decade has seen the discovery and functional annotation of numerous high-confidence autism spectrum disorder (ASD) risk genes1-3. In the time since, much effort has been dedicated to understanding how these genes impact nervous system development. A consensus has emerged that many genes implicated in ASD susceptibility impact early steps in neurodevelopment, such as the timing and execution of neural differentiation, migration and synaptogenesis, with such cellular phenotypes thought to be rooted in altered epigenomic and transcriptomic landscapes4-9.

In parallel, SFARI has invested in efforts to characterize the impact of ASD risk gene mutation on the neural circuits underlying ASD-relevant phenotypes, with notable advances made in understanding the contribution of peripheral and central circuits to ASD-related sensory atypicalities, motor phenotypes, sleep disruptions and social behavioral deficits, among other phenotypes10-13.

While progress has been made toward understanding early development and mature functional outcomes in isolation, studies causally linking disruptions of early neurodevelopment to alterations in ASD-relevant neural circuits remain rare. The objective of this RFA is to bridge this critical gap in our understanding of how developmental events impact later processes of circuit formation and function in ASD.

We envision that this RFA will bring together scientists of diverse expertise, such as developmental neurobiologists and circuit neuroscientists, to collaboratively conduct thorough characterizations of how early developmental events result in alterations to ASD-relevant neural circuitry in carefully chosen models.

Scientific Priorities and Scope

The Linking Early Neurodevelopment to Neural Circuit Outcomes RFA will support research that aims to directly connect neurodevelopmental changes to ASD-relevant circuit phenotypes in order to advance our understanding of how ASD risk genes contribute to the neurobiology of autism. We invite proposals that will elucidate the impact of well-defined developmental alterations on the structure, function and/or output of neural circuits relevant to ASD phenotypes. To this end, experimental endpoints need not be behavioral readouts, but should be phenotypes that would reasonably be expected to drive alterations in function at the organism level (e.g., changes in synaptic connectivity or plasticity, or altered local or mesoscale neural dynamics and/or coding, ideally assessed with cell-type specificity). To facilitate rigorous assessments of causality, we imagine that successful applications will connect phenotypes at adjacent biological scales (e.g., from neuronal migration defect to aberrant connectivity or from aberrant connectivity to altered neural dynamics), linking across as many levels of analysis as possible within the time and budget provided by the grant. Because the goal of this RFA is to establish causal links between temporally distant phenotypes, we encourage dense and/or longitudinal sampling whenever appropriate, in order to rigorously characterize the relative timing and stability of the phenotypes of interest.

Competitive applications will provide strong evidence in support of the chosen phenotypic starting point(s) in the form of published or high-quality preliminary data, as well as a statement of the direct relevance of the proposed work to ASD.

While we envision many successful projects will take a “forward” approach (starting with a developmental phenotype and following it to circuit function), we are open to considering proposals adopting a “reverse” approach (starting with a later-manifesting phenotype and working backward to uncover its developmental underpinnings), provided that the motivating phenotype is well established and that there is a specific and well-supported hypothesis regarding its potential developmental origin.

Whenever possible, we encourage applicants to demonstrate evolutionary conservation of their chosen phenotypes. We also encourage, but do not require, that studies consider convergence in the function of ASD risk genes within their proposed framework. Because the work supported by this RFA is likely to be time-intensive and highly mechanistic in nature, the choice of experimental model(s) and risk gene(s) must be well justified.

SFARI recognizes the critical contributions of in vitro systems such as organoids and slice preparations to our understanding of neurodevelopment and circuit function. While we are open to proposals utilizing such models, we feel that due to the inherent complexity of circuit formation and function in the intact nervous system, work in in vitro systems must be carefully justified and ideally accompanied by in vivo studies in order to achieve the goals of this RFA.

Collaboration Across Funded Groups

SFARI plans to facilitate coordination across projects funded through this RFA. While the details are yet to be determined, this may include periodic meetings among funded investigators to discuss challenges and share research findings. We hope that these serve as organic collaborative opportunities, with funded groups sharing protocols, data and reagents with other consortium members whenever applicable and with SFARI throughout the grant period. Adherence to an open-science ethos will be an important consideration in yearly assessments. Costs associated with attending any SFARI-initiated meetings will be covered separately by the Simons Foundation.

Level and Duration of Funding

Due to the multidisciplinary focus of this RFA, we strongly encourage collaborative applications involving multiple principal investigators (PIs); single PI applications will also be accepted. Each lab may request a maximum of $300,000, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for each year of funding over a period of three (3) to four (4) years, up to an annual maximum of $900,000. Allowable indirect costs to the primary institution for subcontracts are not included in the total budget threshold (see grant policies). We encourage investigators to take advantage of the flexibility in budget and duration, tailoring the scope of the award as appropriate for their specific aims. As with all SFARI-funded projects, it is at Simons Foundation’s discretion to modify final budgets as needed.

Recognizing that different stages of a project may have different personnel and financial requirements, the primary PI may adjust PI membership during the funding period to reflect scientific needs, with SFARI approval.

Progress will be critically evaluated at two (2) years before support for the remainder of the funding period will be approved, bearing in mind the potentially high-risk nature of the funded work. Adherence to an open-science ethos will be an important consideration in this assessment.

Please note that in the event of budgetary or other considerations, The Simons Foundation, Inc. reserves the right to refer an application that has advanced through scientific review to The Simons Foundation International, Ltd. (SFI) for consideration and funding, in which case SFI’s grant policies would apply.

Review Process

Applications will be evaluated by the SFARI science team, with a subset selected for further evaluation by an external review panel. Competitive applications will be invited to present their proposal via Zoom to the SFARI science team and invited scientists on January 14, 15 or 16, 2025.

Eligibility

All applicants and key collaborators must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree and have a faculty position or the equivalent at a college, university, medical school or other research facility.

SFARI recognizes the importance of diverse viewpoints for scientific advancement. As such, SFARI encourages the inclusion of researchers who span career stages and of groups historically underrepresented in science.

Applications may be submitted by domestic and foreign nonprofit organizations; public and private institutions, such as colleges, universities, hospitals, laboratories and units of state and local government; and eligible agencies of the federal government. There are no citizenship or country requirements.

Instructions for Submission

The deadline for application submission is 12:00 p.m. (noon) Eastern Time on Thursday, September 12, 2024.

Applications must be submitted via the Simons Award Manager (SAM). Please click on the Funding Opportunities icon and navigate to the Autism Research – “Development to Circuits” call. Click the Create Application button to begin. Applications should be started and submitted under the applicant’s own account in SAM.

Application templates will be available in SAM beginning on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. Applications will include a Specific Aims page and a 6-page Proposal Narrative. Up to 10 figures may be included separately and do not count towards the page limit.

Informational videos on submitting applications in SAM can be found here.

Informational Session for Potential Applicants

To answer questions about this RFA, SFARI will hold an informational Zoom meeting on June 25, 2024 at 12 p.m. EDT. Interested applicants can register here.

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Many of the greatest ideas and discoveries come from a diverse mix of minds, backgrounds and experiences. The Simons Foundation is committed to grantmaking that inspires and supports greater diversity and inclusiveness by cultivating a funding environment that ensures representation of all identities and differences and equitable access to information and resources for all applicants and grantees.

The Simons Foundation provides equal opportunities to all applicants for funding without regard to race, religion, color, age, sex, pregnancy, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic disposition, neurodiversity, disability, veteran status or any other protected category under federal, state and local law. We also fund programs directed at supporting scientists from disadvantaged backgrounds or underrepresented groups, often working closely with professional societies and other funding agencies.

 References

  1. Satterstrom, F. et al. Large-scale exome sequencing study implicates both developmental and functional changes in the neurobiology of autism. Cell. 180, 568-584 (2020). PubMed
  2. Fu, J. et al. Rare coding variation provides insight into the genetic architecture and phenotypic context of autism. Nat. Gen. 54, 1320-1331 (2022). PubMed
  3. Rolland, T. et al. Phenotypic effects of genetic variants associated with autism. Nat. Med. 29, 1671-1680 (2023). PubMed
  4. Schafer, S.T. et al. Pathological priming causes developmental gene network heterochronicity in autistic subject-derived neurons. Nat. Neurosci. 22, 243-255 (2019). PubMed
  5. Willsey, H.R. et al. Parallel in vivo analysis of large-effect autism genes implicates cortical neurogenesis and estrogen in risk and resilience. Neuron 109, 788-804 (2021). PubMed
  6. Paulsen, B. et al. Autism genes converge on asynchronous development of shared neuron classes. Nature 602, 268-273 (2022). PubMed
  7. Villa, C.E. et al. CHD8 haploinsufficiency links autism to transient alterations in excitatory and inhibitory trajectories. Cell Rep. 39, 110615 (2022). PubMed
  8. Li, C. et al. Single-cell brain organoid screening identifies developmental defects in autism. Nature 621, 373-380 (2023). PubMed
  9. Munz, M. et al. Pyramidal neurons form active, transient, multilayered circuits perturbed by autism-associated mutations at the inception of neocortex. Cell 186, 1930-1949 (2023). PubMed
  10. Golden, C. et al. Disrupted circuits in mouse models of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability. Curr. Opin. Meurobiol. 48, 106-112 (2017). PubMed
  11. Orefice, L. Peripheral somatosensory neuron dysfunction: emerging roles in autism spectrum disorders. Neuroscience 445, 120-129 (2020). PubMed
  12. Monday, H. et al. Circuit-level theories for sensory dysfunction in autism: convergence across mouse models. Front. Neurol. 14:1254297 (2023). PubMed
  13. Cording, K. and Bateup, H. Altered motor learning and coordination in mouse models of autism spectrum disorder. Front. Cell. Neurosci. 17:1270489 (2023). PubMed

Please find an extended list of literature describing early developmental phenotypes here.

Read More
Important Dates
  • Application available
  • Informational session
  • Application deadline
  • Finalist presentations
    January 14, 15 or 16, 2025
  • Award notification
    March 2025
  • Award start date
    Awards may begin as early as June 1, 2025, but we encourage PIs to select a project start date that best accommodates the needs of their project. Funds are expected to be expended as requested during each annual budget period. Projects must begin on the first of the month.
Contact Info

The deadline for application submission is Thursday, September 12, 2024, 12:00 p.m. (noon) Eastern Time

Applications must be submitted via the Simons Award Manager (SAM). Please click on the Funding Opportunities icon and navigate to the Autism Research – Development to Circuits call. Click the Create Application button to begin. Applications should be started and submitted under the applicant’s own account in SAM.

Please note that anyone submitting an application will be added to the SFARI newsletter mailing list.

Informational Session for Potential Applicants

The SFARI science team will hold an informational Zoom meeting on June 25, 2024 at 12:00 pm EDT. Interested applicants can register here.

Application Submission Instructions

To submit an application, the following sections must be completed in SAM:

  1. Proposal Tab:
    1. Applicant Details & Personal Data: Enter required fields. The PI may edit information via the Edit Profile button as needed.
    2. Academic Degrees: Click the Add/Modify Degree(s) button to provide this information.
    3. Application Details: Provide the project title, estimated start date, and end date. Hovering over the question mark icons will provide additional information on required fields. Available start dates can be as early as June 1, 2025. We encourage PIs to select a project start date that best accommodates the needs of the project. Projects must begin on the first of the month.
    4. Proposal – The following information/upload must be provided:
      1. SFARI Cohorts Data and/or Biospecimens: If there are SSC, Searchlight, SPARK or AIC samples or phenotypic data requested in the application, indicate accordingly.
      2. Specific Aims: Upload via template provided.
      3. Proposal Narrative: Upload via template provided, following the instructions on the template.
      4. Personnel Biosketches: Provide biosketches for all personnel on the project who contribute to the scientific development or execution of the project in a substantive, measurable way, whether or not they request salaries or compensation. This may include the PI, Co-Investigators, collaborators, postdoctoral research associates or equivalent employee positions. Upload using the template provided or using your NIH biosketch or NIH SciENcv.
      5. Resources and Research Environment: Upload via the template provided.
      6. Indicate the extent to which generative AI technology was used to develop your proposal.
    5. Data & Renewable Reagents: Indicate your plan for sharing data and renewable reagents (if applicable) by answering the provided questions.

    For multi-site applications (applications with multiple PIs at different institutions being paid separately):

    • The Spokesperson PI (main applicant PI):
      • Will complete the above questions.
      • Will generate a linked application for the multi-site PI by listing them as additional personnel. For more on how to generate a linked application, see “Instructions for Multiple PIs” in section 2.ii.1 below.
    • The Multi-site PI(s):
      • Will complete the additional linked application, which will include applicant details specific to the additional institution (other support, biosketches) and a budget for the additional institution.
      • Multi-site PIs do not need to complete:
        • specific aims page,
        • proposal narrative,
        • abstract, or
        • data and renewable reagents questions. This is because the Spokesperson PI’s application will submit these materials for the project as a whole.
  2. Contacts and Personnel Tab:
    1.  Institution Administrative Contacts: At least one institution Signing Official and one Financial Officer must be added to the Institution Administrative Contacts section before you will be able to submit your application.
    2.  Project Personnel: Please indicate all personnel on the proposed project. Please do not include the Spokesperson PI (main PI) in this section, because they will already automatically display in the budget. Project personnel include any other individuals who contribute to the scientific development or execution of a project in a substantive, measurable way, whether or not they request salaries or compensation. This may include co-investigators, collaborators, postdoctoral research associates or equivalent employee positions. Personnel can be added either with or without access to the application.
      1. Project personnel who will be named in the budget must be added to the Project Personnel section on this tab before they will display as available options in the budget module. This does not apply to TBD personnel.
      2. Instructions for Multiple PIs: The applicant PI will be the designated Spokesperson PI for the project. The Spokesperson PI will be responsible for directing the project and will coordinate all administrative deliverables.
        1. Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions that would like to be paid separately must list the additional PI(s) in the Project Personnel section and use the Application Role dropdown that indicates “Principal Investigator (Multi-Site).” This will generate a linked application that the additional PI and their institution must complete. Additional PIs will be notified via email that they have been invited to participate in a collaboration and will be able to access their application upon logging into SAM. Their application will include a budget and requires sign-off by a signing official from the additional PI’s institution. Additional PIs can work on their applications at the same time as the contact PI.
        2. Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions that would like to be paid directly by the main institution are considered subcontracts. Subcontract PIs should be listed in the Project Personnel section either with or without access.
          1. Subcontract PIs with access should be added using the Application Role dropdown that indicates “Subcontract Lead – With Application Access,” which will generate an email notification that they have been added to the application with access to view or edit the main or any subcontract budgets.
          2. Subcontract Leads without access should be added using the Application Role dropdown that indicates “Project Personnel (Including Subcontracts) – Without Application Access,” which will not notify the Subcontract PI and will not give them access. Instead, this allows the contact PI to fill out the subcontract budget on their behalf.
        3. Applications from multiple PIs at the same institution do not need to submit additional materials. Additional non-applicant PIs can be added to this section as “Project Personnel – With Access” or “Project Personnel (Including Subcontracts) – Without Application Access.” Under “add more details,” select the role “Non-Contact Principal Investigator.”
  3. Budget Tab: Click the Edit/Modify button to add a detailed budget. Any errors that must be corrected before submission will be displayed in red above the budget. If a budget has more than one period, using the “copy from previous period” functionality will copy items from the previous period into the current period.
    1. Subcontractor Budgets, including budgets with PIs from different institutions who would like to be paid directly by the main institution, will be visible once the Subcontract is added in the Contacts and Personnel tab as described above.
    2. Multi-site budgets from different institutions that would like to be paid separately will be visible on each PI’s individual application, but they will not be able to see any individual salary information. They will see an aggregated personnel total.
    3. Budget Considerations
      1. Personnel: Please note that there is no salary cap for PIs or other faculty on a Simons Foundation grant; however, the compensation is prorated according to the individual’s percent effort on the grant. There is no minimum percent effort required for PIs or other personnel on any SFARI award type, but it is expected that the PI will commit sufficient effort to this project to provide a leading intellectual and guiding role on the project. PIs committing less than 15 percent effort to their project should justify their effort level in detail. The Simons Foundation reserves the right to modify budgets when an application has been selected for an award (see grant policies).
      2. Indirect costs (IDCs): Indirect costs to the primary institution are limited to 20 percent of direct costs with the following exceptions: equipment, tuition and any portion of each subcontract in excess of $25,000. The primary institution may take indirect costs on the first $25,000 modified total direct costs of each subcontract. Indirect costs paid to a subcontractor may not exceed 20 percent of the modified total direct costs paid to the subcontractor.
      3. Equipment: The Simons Foundation will own equipment purchased with foundation grant funds with a unit cost of $50,000 or more. At the end of the grant funding period or in the case of grant termination for any reason, the foundation reserves the right to retain ownership or cede ownership to the PI’s institution. Equipment with a unit cost of less than $50,000 shall be the property of the institution.
      4. Biospecimens: If the proposal includes the use of SFARI Cohorts biospecimens (i.e., from the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC) or Simons Searchlight), the Simons Foundation will review the estimated cost based on the price list on SFARI.org. Biospecimen costs will be considered separately from other project costs. Enter the projected figure under “Other Expenses.” A description of use, including the number and type of biospecimens, should be included in the proposal narrative and budget justification. Biospecimen costs must be excluded from the IDC cost calculation: if they are calculated automatically, please manually exclude them from the IDC calculation.
      5. Budget Maximum: Please ensure that your budget does not exceed the annual maximum of $300,000 per lab (up to $900,000 annual total funding), over a period of three to four years. The maximum total budget for four years is $3,600,000. As with all Simons Foundation funded projects, it is at the foundation’s discretion to modify final budgets as needed. Recognizing that different stages of a project may have different personnel and financial requirements, the primary PI may adjust PI membership during the funding period to reflect scientific needs, with SFARI approval.
  4. Abstract and Keywords Tab: Enter your scientific abstract for a technical audience as text in this section. Do not exceed 500 words. (For multi-site applications, this tab is visible in the Spokesperson PI’s application only.)
  5. Publications & Other Support Tab:
    1. Publications: Publications can be added by clicking the ‘Assign publications for this proposal’ button. Note that publications will be used to determine conflicts of interest (COIs) for the review of your proposal; including a list of your publications over the last seven (7) years will expedite the review process.
    2. Other Support: Follow instructions for providing other support information for all key personnel on the project.
      1. If using a PDF upload, use the NSH, NIH or SciENcv format.
  6. Organization Assurances: Indicate if the application has organizational assurances, including IRB and/or IACUC. If so, click the “Add/Modify Assurances” button to add the assurance type, status, approval date, expiration date, and protocol number. There is a “pending” option for assurances that are in process, and to-be-determined dates can be left blank.
  7. Check Application Progress: Click the Check Application Progress button at the bottom of the screen to check for any missing required information or files. All missing required information will be listed at the top of the screen and must be corrected before the application can be submitted.
  8. Send for sign-off (one institution, or multiple institutions listed as subcontracts): When the application is complete, click on the “Send for sign-off” button to send to your signing official for signature. The Signing Official added to the application will see the application in the “Applications to Review” section when they log in and will be responsible for signing and submitting the application to the Simons Foundation.
  9. Send for signoff (multi-site applications paid separately): Multi-site applications for institutions paid separately have an additional step for final submission. Once all linked applications have been signed by each institution’s signing official as described above, the Spokesperson PI will receive a notification that the application package is ready for submission. The Spokesperson PI should click on “Submit Application Package” to finalize and submit the application package including all components from multiple sites.

Confirmation of submission: A confirmation page will appear once the application is successfully submitted. For non- multi-site applications, the Signing Official will see the confirmation page. For multi-site applications, the Spokesperson PI will see the confirmation page that the package has been submitted. Please note that you will not be able to submit an application if the deadline has passed.

Read More
Important Dates
  • Application available
  • Informational session
  • Application deadline
  • Finalist presentations
    January 14, 15 or 16, 2025
  • Award notification
    March 2025
  • Award start date
    Awards may begin as early as June 1, 2025, but we encourage PIs to select a project start date that best accommodates the needs of their project. Funds are expected to be expended as requested during each annual budget period. Projects must begin on the first of the month.
Contact Info
  • Eligibilityplus--large
      Am I eligible to be a Principal Investigator (PI) on a SFARI award?plus--large

      All applicants and key collaborators must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree and have a faculty position or the equivalent at a college, university, medical school or other research facility. Applications may be submitted by domestic and foreign nonprofit organizations; public and private institutions, such as colleges, universities, hospitals, laboratories and units of state and local government; and eligible agencies of the federal government. There are no citizenship or country requirements. See the Personnel FAQ section for more information on the responsibilities of a SFARI PI.

      PIs who do not have substantial experience with ASD participants should include a close collaborator with such expertise on their grant application (e.g., multi-PI application).

      Can postdoctoral associates apply as PIs?plus--large

      No, postdoctoral associates may not apply as PIs even if your institution is willing to submit an application on your behalf.

      Can foreign institutions apply for a grant?plus--large

      Yes, foreign institutions may apply. Please see our grant policies regarding international grants.

      I am a recipient of the SFARI Bridge to Independence (BTI) award. Am I eligible to apply as a PI to the Cross-Species Studies of ASD RFA?plus--large

      A SFARI policy change in effect since July 2022 now allows BTI awardees to apply as a PI to this RFA, as long as they meet all eligibility criteria outlined in the RFA.

  • Personnelplus--large
      What is the difference between a principal investigator (PI) and a co-investigator?plus--large

      Principal Investigator
      The individual(s) judged by the applicant organization to have the appropriate level of authority and responsibility to direct the project or program supported by the grant. All PIs must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree and have a faculty position or the equivalent at a college, university, medical school or other research facility. They are responsible and accountable to the applicant organization and SFARI for the proper conduct of the project or activity, including the submission of all required reports. They will act as the main point of contact for the foundation.

      Co-investigator
      An individual involved with the PI in the scientific development or execution of a project. The co-investigator must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent and be employed by, or affiliated with, the applicant/grantee organization or another organization participating in the project under a consortium agreement. A co-investigator is considered key personnel, but the Simons Foundation does not require a minimum effort from the co-investigator. The designation of a co-investigator, if applicable, does not affect the PI’s roles and responsibilities, nor is it a role implying multiple PIs.

      Is there a minimum percent effort for PIs or co-investigators?plus--large

      We seek applications from independent investigators who can devote a substantial portion of time to this effort. There is no minimum percent effort required for any personnel, but we expect personnel, in particular PIs and co-investigators, to have efforts that reflect their roles in the project.

      Can multiple PIs apply for a grant?plus--large

      Yes. Grants awarded through the Linking Early Neurodevelopment to Neural Circuit Outcomes RFA are intended to bring together scientists of diverse expertise. Multiple PIs share the authority and responsibility for leading and directing the project, intellectually and logistically. Each PI is responsible and accountable to the applicant organization or, as appropriate, to a collaborating organization, for the proper conduct of the project or program, including the submission of all required reports. The presence of more than one identified PI on an application or award diminishes neither the responsibility nor the accountability of any individual PI.

      PIs who do not have substantial experience working with ASD participants should include a close collaborator with such expertise on their grant application (e.g., multi-PI application).

      The first PI listed, under whose name the main proposal is submitted, will serve as the Spokesperson PI for administrative purposes. The Spokesperson PI must be affiliated with the institution submitting the application. The Spokesperson PI will be responsible for communication between SFARI and the rest of the leadership team.

      The role type “Co-PI” will not be used by SFARI.

      How do I designate multiple PIs on the application?plus--large

      Multiple PIs can be added under three scenarios: when they are from different institutions that would like to be paid separately, when they are from different institutions that would like to be paid directly by the main institution, and when they are from the same institution. Instructions for each scenario are below. Please also refer to the instructional videos, “Add contacts to an application,” “Generate collaboration and multi-site applications,” and “Add a subcontract budget to an application,” on our website.

      Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions that would like to be paid separately must list the additional PI(s) in the Project Personnel section and use the Application Role dropdown that indicates “Principal Investigator: Multi-Site.” This will generate a linked application that the additional PI and their institution must complete. Additional PIs will be notified via email that they have been invited to participate in a collaboration and will be able to access their application upon logging into SAM, which includes a budget and requires sign-off by a signing official from the individual PI’s institution. Additional PIs can work on their applications at the same time as the Spokesperson PI.

      Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions that would like to be paid directly by the main institution are considered subcontracts. Subcontract PIs should be listed in the Project Personnel section either with or without access to the application.

      1. Subcontract PIs with access should be added using the Application Role dropdown that indicates “Subcontract Lead – With Application Access,” which will generate an email notification that they have been added to the application with access to view or edit the main or any subcontract budgets.
      2. Subcontract Leads without access should be added using the Application Role dropdown that indicates “Project Personnel (Including Subcontracts) – Without Application Access,” which will not notify the Subcontract PI and will not allow them access. Instead, this allows the Spokesperson PI to fill out the subcontract budget on their behalf.

      Applications from multiple PIs at the same institution do not need to submit additional materials. Additional non-applicant PIs can be added to this section as “Project Personnel – With Access” or “Project Personnel (Including Subcontracts) – Without Application Access.” Under “add more details,” select the role “Non-Contact Principal Investigator.”

      As the Spokesperson PI, should I be listed as key personnel in the application in SAM under the Project Personnel section?plus--large

      Important: Please do not include the Spokesperson PI (main PI) in this section. Please list all other personnel, including any other individuals who contribute to the scientific development or execution of a project in a substantive, measurable way, whether or not they request salaries or compensation. This may include co-investigators, collaborators, postdoctoral research associates or equivalent employee positions.

      Where do I enter additional co-investigators and additional key personnel?plus--large

      You can save personnel details in the Project Personnel section on the Contacts and Personnel tab of the application.

      Can co-investigators and additional personnel be listed on multiple applications?plus--large

      Yes, co-investigators and additional personnel can be listed on multiple applications.

      Does the Simons Foundation require letters of support or collaboration?plus--large

      We do not require letters of support or letters of collaboration from co-investigators.

  • Submissionplus--large
      What is the submission schedule?plus--large

      The submission schedule is as follows:

      • June 11, 2024: RFA Opens
      • September 12, 2024, 12:00 p.m. (noon) ET: Full Application Submission Deadline
      Where do I submit the proposal?plus--large

      Applications must be submitted via the Simons Award Manager (SAM). Please click on the Funding Opportunities icon and navigate to the Autism Research – Development to Circuits call. Click the Create Application button to begin. Applications should be started and submitted under the applicant’s own account in SAM.

      How do I create an account in SAM?plus--large

      If you are applying to the Simons Foundation for the first time, please register in SAM before selecting “Apply now.” If you have a ProposalCentral (pC ) account, a profile was created for you in SAM using the email address associated with your pC account. Please select “Forgot Password?,” set a new password for your SAM account and then select “Apply now.”

      Can I email or mail a proposal?plus--large

      No, the Simons Foundation only accepts applications submitted online through Simons Award Manager (SAM).

      Can someone else (assistant, staff member, etc.) submit my application for me?plus--large

      Yes, adding a user to the Institution Administrative Contacts section of the application as an Institution Administrator will give them full access to edit an application and submit it for sign-off. To do so, the person who created the application would navigate to the contacts and personnel tab of the application. Under the Institution Administrative Contacts section, they would select the user and use the drop-down to indicate their role. If the user does not yet exist, click on the “create new institution official” button, and add the newly created user as an Institutional Administrator.

      Separately, to modify another user’s degrees, publications and other support, the user must add them to the Profile Access tab of their profile.

      Does the PI need to sign and submit the application?plus--large

      If one institution is included, or if multiple institutions are included but they are all paid directly by the main institution as subcontracts, only the Signing Official may sign and submit the application. When the application is complete, the PI will click on the “send for sign-off” button to send to their signing official for signature. Your signing official will see the application in the “Applications to Review” section when they log in and will be responsible for signing and submitting the application to the Simons Foundation.

      Multi-site applications for institutions paid separately have an additional step for final submission. Once all linked applications have been signed by each institution’s signing official as described above, the Spokesperson PI will receive a notification that the application is ready for submission. The Spokesperson PI should click on “Submit Application Package” to finalize and submit the application package including all components from multiple sites.

      Where is the Submit button?plus--large

      The Submit button is located at the bottom right of the screen. You will be unable to submit if you have not provided all the required information. If the submission deadline has NOT passed, use the Check Application Progress button to check for missing requirements. If the problem persists, please contact [email protected].

      If the deadline has passed, the submission period has closed, and you will not be able to submit.

      I get an error message citing a missing section when I try to submit.plus--large

      The Check Application Progress button reviews your application 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 [email protected].

      Are deadline times adjusted for time zones?plus--large

      No, please be advised that application deadlines on the application are in Eastern Time. We recommend registering early and submitting applications with ample time for corrections prior to the deadline hour. Site traffic can slow page-load times. The “Submit” button will not work after the deadline time has passed.

      Is there a confirmation email when I submit?plus--large

      A confirmation email is sent upon submission of the application. Make sure that spam filters allow emails from [email protected]. Additionally, the application will appear in the Submitted tab of the Applications in Progress table after submission.

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

      Before you can make changes to your submitted application, you must first contact the Simons Foundation. Please email [email protected]. Applications can only be changed prior to the deadline.

      The funding notification date has passed, and I haven’t received a notification. What is the status of my proposal?plus--large

      You should receive a notification during the month listed on the RFA’s important dates section. Please check your spam filter settings if you have not received a notification by then.

  • Proposalplus--large
      What should be included in the Specific Aims page?plus--large

      The Specific Aims page 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.

      What is the page limit for the Specific Aims page?plus--large

      The Specific Aims page should not exceed one (1) page of single-spaced, size 11 text, 0.5 margins.

      What is the page limit for the Proposal Narrative?plus--large

      Proposal Narratives should not exceed six (6) pages single-spaced, size 11 text, 0.5 margins. Figures, figure legends and references should follow the narrative text and will NOT count towards the page limit.

      How should the Proposal Narrative be organized?plus--large

      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, including data analysis plan
      • Pitfalls and alternative strategies
      • Project significance and
      • relevance to autism
      • Timeline and milestones

      As mentioned in the template available in SAM, while there is no need to provide a scholarly review of autism, please include a statement of the direct relevance of your proposed work to ASD. Please provide a persuasive justification of your chosen model system(s) and autism risk gene(s). Please also provide a project timeline and milestones to be considered when evaluating progress at the two (2)-year mark. For collaborative projects, please clearly describe the role of each group and how efforts will be coordinated across labs.

      SFARI considers the following information crucial for the evaluation of a project and encourages including the following details (where relevant):

      • Patient cohorts used (including source of participants, sample size and availability of genetic data). Applicants are strongly encouraged, but not required, to use SPARK or Simons Searchlight Research Match as part of their participation recruitment strategy.
      • Datasets or biospecimen collections to be used (including SFARI resources) and their availability
      • A statement on statistical power and analytical plan
      Are references, figures and figure legends included in the Proposal Narrative page limit? How should they be included?plus--large

      References, figures and figure legends are not included in the page limits for the Proposal Narrative, although we have a limit of five (5) figures (each fitting on a single page). 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. References should be in Journal of Neuroscience format, including full author list, title and a link. The Foundation does not require a minimum.

  • Budgetplus--large
      I plan to use SPARK or Simons Searchlight Research Match as part of my participant recruitment strategy. Do the services provided in this program include cost savings to my study team?plus--large

      Most likely. Research Match includes services for identifying and contacting participants on behalf of your study. As such, some study team costs which are typically budgeted to a PI’s grant may be reduced with the use of Research Match. Simons Foundation will work, as needed, with applicants selected for funding through this RFA to arrive at mutually agreeable budget terms.

      What do I do if there is a subcontract on the application?plus--large

      Applications with a subcontract (including additional PIs from institutions that will be paid directly by the Spokesperson PI’s institution) should review the instructional video, “Add a subcontract budget to an application,” on our website.

      What is the budget maximum? Are indirect costs included in the budget limits?plus--large

      Applicants may request an annual maximum of $300,000 per lab (up to $900,000 annual total funding), over a period of three to four years. The maximum total budget for four years is $3,600,000. The total budget maximum includes indirect costs. The total budget maximum does not include allowable indirect costs to the primary institution for subcontracts, or biospecimen costs.

      We encourage investigators to take advantage of the flexibility in budget and duration, tailoring the scope of the award as appropriate for their specific aims. As with all SFARI-funded projects, it is at Simons Foundation’s discretion to modify final budgets as needed. Recognizing that different stages of a project may have different personnel and financial requirements, the primary PI may adjust PI membership during the funding period to reflect scientific needs, with SFARI approval.

      Please note that indirect costs cannot be taken on tuition, equipment with a unit cost of more than $10,000, or SFARI Cohorts biospecimens.

      Do budget limits include the cost of purchasing Simons Simplex Collection (SSC) and Simons Searchlight biospecimens?plus--large

      No, SSC, Simons Searchlight and Autism Inpatient Collection (AIC) biospecimen costs are not included in the budget limit. Prices can be found on the price list on our website.

  • Accessing SFARI Cohorts Resources (i.e., SSC, Simons Searchlight, SPARK and AIC)plus--large
      How can I find out more about available data and biospecimens (where applicable) from the SSC, Simons Searchlight, SPARK, AIC and Autism BrainNet?plus--large

      You can access and request information about the SSC, Simons Searchlight, SPARK, AIC and Autism BrainNet on SFARI Base. If you do not have SFARI Base account, you must create one. If you have problems with the log in or have questions regarding the collections, please email [email protected].

      How can I apply to recruit SPARK or Simons Searchlight participants for my research studies?

      Researchers may submit an application on SFARI Base. The SPARK and Simons Searchlight Participant Access Committee considers applications on a quarterly basis, but applications may be submitted at any time. Please refer to the SPARK recruitment process document for more details and email [email protected]g with any questions.

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