Internal Deadline: Closed.
LOI: 30 days prior to application due date
External Deadline: February 10, 2025
Award Type: Grant
Estimated Number of Awards: The number of awards is contingent upon NIH appropriations and the submission of a sufficient number of meritorious applications.
The NIH Blueprint and BRAIN Initiative Institutes intend to commit $6 million in FY2025 and FY2026 to fund 12-15 awards over two receipt dates. Awards issued under this NOFO are contingent upon the availability of funds and the submission of a sufficient number of meritorious applications. Because the nature and scope of the proposed research education program will vary from application to application, it is anticipated that the size and duration of each award will also vary. The total amount awarded and the number of awards will depend upon the quality, duration and costs of the applications received.
Anticipated Award Amount: Although the size of award may vary with the scope of the research education program proposed and there are no specific budget limitations, the requested direct costs must be reasonable, well documented, fully justified and commensurate with the scope of the proposed program. The average cost per program is estimated between $300K – $400K.
Who May Serve as PI: This NOFO encourages multiple PD(s)/PI(s), particularly when each brings an Institutional type perspective and skill set that will enhance the research education program. The PD(s)/PI(s) must be able to provide both administrative and scientific leadership to the development and implementation of the proposed program. At least one of the PD(s)/PI(s) should be an investigator with an active research program in the biomedical sciences (e.g., as demonstrated by recent publications and current research support). Additional PD(s)/PI(s), including individuals with experience in the science of education, relevant social science disciplines, program evaluation, mentoring, diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) initiatives , or university administration may be included to achieve the program goals. Early stage investigators are eligible to serve as PD/PIs, as long as doing so will not detract from their research program and career advancement. Any of the PD(s)/PI(s) may serve as the contact PD/PI. The contact PD/PI is expected to have a full-time appointment at the applicant institution unless extremely well-justified. If the full-time status of the contact PD/PI changes after the award, the institution must obtain prior program approval to appoint a new PD/PI or request a deviation from the full-time rule. The PD(s)/PI(s) will be responsible for the selection and appointment of participants to the approved research education program, and for the overall direction, management, administration, and evaluation of the program. The PD(s)/PI(s) will be expected to monitor and assess the program and submit all documents and reports as required. The PD(s)/PI(s) have responsibility for the day-to-day administration of the program and are responsible for appointing members of the Advisory Committee (when applicable) and using their recommendations to determine the appropriate allotment of funds.
The selected faculty should be trained researchers in the biomedical sciences as demonstrated by recent publications and research support. When building a team of mentors, programs should include faculty who are committed to training, mentoring, fostering diversity, and providing supportive and inclusive research environments. Programs are encouraged to build a diverse team of preceptors/mentors that includes, for example, faculty at different career stages (i.e., early stage as well as senior faculty). Where feasible, the recruitment of women, individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, and individuals with disabilities as potential mentors is encouraged, given their ability to serve as role models. Faculty should come from a wide variety of neuroscience areas relevant to the NIH Blueprint and NIH BRAIN Initiative missions. Mentors must be committed to continue their involvement throughout the total period of the mentee’s participation in this award.
Process for Limited Submissions
PIs must submit their application as a Limited Submission through the Research Initiatives and Infrastructure (RII) Application Portal: https://rii.usc.edu/oor-portal/. Use the template provided here: RII Limited Submission Applicant Template
Materials to submit include:
- (1) Two-Page Proposal Summary (1” margins; single-spaced; standard font type, e.g. Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, or Georgia typeface; font size: 11 pt). Page limit includes references and illustrations. Pages that exceed the 2-page limit will be excluded from review. You must use the template linked above.
- (2) CV – (5 pages maximum)
Note: The portal requires information about the PIs in addition to department and contact information, including the 10-digit USC ID#, Gender, and Ethnicity. Please have this material prepared before beginning this application.
The overarching objective of this funding opportunity is to prepare individuals from diverse backgrounds, including those from groups underrepresented in the biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research workforce, to pursue further studies or careers in neuroscience research. To achieve this goal, the initiative will support two-year neuroscience research education experiences comprised of year-round authentic neuroscience research projects, research and career development, and establishment of professional networks, implemented through collaborative partnerships integrated across different educational institution types. Proposed program interventions in response to this NOFO should focus on asset models and leadership opportunities, rather than solely deficit models and remediation (recommendations from 2022 NINDS Transforming Mentorship, 2019 NINDS Pathways for Institutional Change Regarding Diversity and Inclusion, and 2017 NINDS Admission Strategies to Increase Diverse Neuroscience Trainees Workshops).
Participating components of the collaborative research education partnerships must include:
- One or more institutions that either: 1) have a historical and current mission to educate students from any of the populations that have been identified as underrepresented in biomedical research as defined by the National Science Foundation (NSF), see http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/) (i.e., African Americans or Blacks, Hispanic or Latino Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, U.S. Pacific Islanders, and persons with disabilities) or 2) have a documented track record of recruiting, training and/or educating, and graduating underrepresented students as defined by NSF (see above), which has resulted in a historically documented contribution by the institution to the national pool of graduates from underrepresented backgrounds who pursue biomedical research careers;
- A research-intensive institution, defined as having an existing neuroscience or neuroscience-related program and a significant number of potential mentors with NIH R01 or equivalent extramural research support;
- Formal alliances with one or more institutions with neuroscience-focused graduate research training programs that can provide summer research experiences for participating ENDURE students. Such institutions should hold NIH T32 research training grants, including T32 programs supported by the NIH Jointly Sponsored Institutional Predoctoral Training Programs in the Neurosciences (https://researchtraining.nih.gov/JSPTPN) or other competitively funded Ph.D. degree granting programs. Additional relevant neuroscience programs can be found by using the NIH RePORTER tool (https://reporter.nih.gov/). These alliances are expected to actively facilitate early communication and interaction among participating students and NIH neuroscience predoctoral program training directors. This establishment of neuroscience related “networks” is intended to actively facilitate participant’s transition from the undergraduate to the graduate school level.
To accomplish the stated over-arching goal, this NOFO will support creative educational activities with a primary focus on three areas:
- Research Experiences: The two-year program must include part-time authentic neuroscience research experiences in extramurally-funded laboratories during the academic year at the home institution or one of the partnering institutions.There must also be full-time summer neuroscience research experiences in laboratories that are part of a neuroscience-focused graduate research training program, such as an NIH Institutional Research Training predoctoral program (T32), and which may be located on or off-site of the partnering institutions. The academic year and summer research experiences across applicant institutions must be carefully monitored. Regularly-scheduled internal review and assessment should be made regarding the progressive scientific skill sets being developed through the research education experiences, the type of mentoring and supervision students are receiving, and the monitoring and evaluation plans for both the students and research mentors. Specific measurable research education objectives are to be determined by the applicant institutions. Examples of measurable objectives include: number of students matriculating through the research education programs and admitted to graduate programs in the neurosciences; improvement in students’ quantitative skills and academic achievement; and improvement in scientific writing and presentation skills.
- Mentoring Activities: Programs must provide students with outstanding mentoring and education in other critical skills such as leadership, grant and manuscript writing, and time management (Science of Effective Mentoring in STEMM). There should be dedicated efforts at providing not only technical expertise, but advice, insight, and professional career skills to students in the program.
NIH realizes that quality mentorship is critical to the recruitment and retention of scientists, including those from underrepresented backgrounds, and encourages program activities to improve the caliber of mentorship. As recommended in the 2018 NASEM report on graduate education, “modules for faculty to learn how to advise and mentor students from different backgrounds and to raise awareness and accountability about their role in changing the training and mentoring environment” should be a component of a well-designed program. For example, case-based scenarios may be used to educate mentors on various relevant ethical, professional and cultural issues facing students today, effective communication and mentoring compacts, and effective tools for mentors to address cultural awareness.The National Research Mentoring Network provides Mentor Training for Mentoring Undergraduate Students.
- Courses for Skills Development: Courses should be integrated across the partnering institutions and uniquely designed to increase undergraduate students’ interest in and preparation to enter Ph.D. degree programs in the neurosciences. Depending on the strength of the applicant institution, it is expected that academic and curriculum enhancement activities may vary in how they are formalized and integrated; various strategies, rooted in education research, may be utilized. These approaches may include, but are not limited to: core neuroscience coursework tailored to students’ backgrounds and needs; development of interdisciplinary or advanced courses with focus on inquiry-based learning or critical thinking and development of experimental rigor and quantitative skills to address neuroscience problems (as recommended in Developing a 21st Century Neuroscience Workforce); curriculum for specialized research techniques; collaborative learning experiences and group activities to convey the excitement and relevance of neuroscience to students; advisement regarding the number, level, and sequence of math and science courses that students should take to be competitive for graduate school programs in the neurosciences; seminars emphasizing scientific reading comprehension, writing, and oral presentation skills; and research career seminars to help prepare students for the transition from undergraduate to graduate school.
The proposed program needs to align with the neuroscience mission of the NIH Blueprint and/or BRAIN Initiative research areas and cannot have a general STEM focus. The NIH Blueprint and BRAIN Initiative will not support projects, regardless of the results of merit review, if they do not fulfill current programmatic priorities.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Blueprint for Neuroscience Research is a collaborative and coordinated effort across 14 institutes and centers that support research, research education, and research training with the goal of accelerating the pace of discovery in neuroscience research. By pooling resources and expertise, the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research can take advantage of economies of scale, confront challenges too large for any specific institute or center, and develop research tools and infrastructure that will serve the entire neuroscience community.
The NIH Blueprint seeks to provide educational opportunities and authentic neuroscience research experiences during the undergraduate stage to a diverse pool of individuals, including those from underrepresented groups, at varied institutions and educational settings across the country. By doing this, the NIH Blueprint strives to ensure that the future generation of neuroscience researchers draws from the entire pool of talented individuals, bringing different aptitudes, perspectives, creativity, and experiences to address complex scientific problems.
The NIH BRAIN Initiative is aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, will show how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. It is expected that the application of these new tools and technologies will ultimately lead to new ways to treat and prevent brain disorders.
Education to Advance the BRAIN Initiative
- According to the long-term scientific plan of the BRAIN Initiative, “training mechanisms will be required to successfully deploy the tools, technologies, and methods developed under the BRAIN Initiative to the neuroscience community?” (BRAIN 2025, p. 48). Thus, targeted research education programs can be invaluable to assuring wide dissemination of the skills and knowledge associated with developing and using tools and methods relevant to the research goals of the BRAIN Initiative.
- A major goal of the BRAIN Initiative is to attract new investigators to neuroscience from quantitative disciplines such as computer science, mathematics, physics, statistics, materials science, and engineering. Not only do educational short courses provide an effective approach to bring the scientific community up to a high level of understanding and productivity in a short period of time, but they also provide an excellent opportunity for cross-training of participants and facilitating potential collaborations among individuals from diverse scientific backgrounds. As such, plans to recruit participants with a broad array of scientific backgrounds to the proposed short courses are strongly encouraged.
- The BRAIN Initiative seeks to promote diversity in all supported programs and to enhance the participation of individuals from diverse backgrounds, including those from underrepresented groups, in BRAIN Initiative-funded awards.
Funded programs are expected to promote inclusive research environments (i.e., institutional and departmental environments where researchers from all backgrounds are and feel integrated into and supported by the biomedical research community). Research education programs may complement ongoing research training and education occurring at the applicant institution, but the proposed educational experiences must be distinct from those training and education programs currently receiving Federal support. R25 programs may augment institutional research training programs (e.g., T32, T90) but cannot be used to replace or circumvent Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) programs.
Visit our Institutionally Limited Submission webpage for more updates and other announcements.