The Star-Friedman Challenge for Promising Scientific Research (formerly known as the Star Family Challenge for Promising Scientific Research) provides seed funding to interdisciplinary high-risk, high-impact projects in the life, physical, and social sciences. Early-stage projects that are unlikely to receive funding from traditional grant-making agencies are encouraged. Established in 2013 by a generous gift to Harvard University at the suggestion of James A. Star, AB (1983), the program expanded in the 2018-19 academic year through a gift from Joshua Friedman, AB (1976), MBA (1980), JD (1982) and Beth Friedman to invite proposal submissions from Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) in addition to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). Award recipients will present and discuss their projects with a range of scholars in multiple disciplines at a Challenge event on May 7, 2020, prior to receipt of funding.
Click here to read Dean Gay's announcement of the 2020 program.
Individual investigators may request up to $150,000 in direct costs; collaborative proposals involving funding to multiple independent investigators may request up to $300,000 in direct costs. Approximately five awards will be made annually.
This competition is open to ladder faculty members in the four participating schools (HMS, HSPH, FAS and SEAS). In HMS, this program is open to ladder faculty members (assistant professors, associate professors, and professors) who have primary appointments in the HMS basic and social science departments AND whose laboratories are located on the HMS Quadrangle. In HSPH, eligible PIs include primary Harvard Chan School ladder faculty whose research operation is based at the Harvard Chan School. To qualify for a collaborative award, a project must list at least two investigators who meet this eligibility criteria. For multi-investigator projects, separate budget requests should be submitted for each lab. Only investigators based at the four participating schools may request and administer this funding.
Please see a list of previous award recipients here.
Applications must be submitted through the Harvard University Funding Portal. To apply, please submit:
1. A one- to two-page proposal (one-inch margins, 11-point font or larger, PDF format) that briefly addresses the following in language accessible to a non-specialist audience:
- What questions are you trying to answer in this project? What problem are you addressing and why is it important?
- How will you approach the problem, and how does your approach differ from others? How does your experience enable you to approach the problem in an innovative way?
- What kind of impact could your project have? How will you measure results?
- Who will be involved in your project, and what resources will be required? Within your one- to two-page proposal narrative, please provide rough budget estimates for (a) personnel, (b) equipment, and (c) other. There is no prescribed format for presenting this information. For multi-investigator projects, separate budget requests should be submitted for each lab. Faculty are encouraged to work closely with their grant administrators to develop a budget. School assessments and/or indirect costs should not be included in the budget request (these will be accounted for at the time of award). Applicants may request funding to support any expenses related to the cost of performing research, over whatever time period makes the most sense. The committee will be looking to fund projects that can attain demonstrable results within one year. Longer-term projects will need to show milestones of success upon a one-year review. The funding period may begin as early as June 1, 2020.
2. A one-page appendix with graphics and/or references (optional, PDF format). This may be included in addition to the one- to two-page project proposal.
3. Applicants must also submit a two-page biosketch (PDF format). There is no prescribed format for presenting this information, though many applicants submit an abbreviated NIH biosketch or one that follows NSF’s format. In addition, applicants may submit a two-page biosketch for any collaborators involved in the project.
Applications will be evaluated for their significance, innovation, potential impact, interdisciplinarity, and the ability of the applicant or team of applicants to successfully carry out the project. Successful applications will clearly address these points in a manner accessible to the entire review committee, which draws its members from a broad range of disciplines. Highly technical proposals written for an audience of specialists are not likely to succeed in this competition.
Dr. Catherine Dulac, Higgins Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Lee and Ezpeleta Professor of Arts and Sciences, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, will chair the 2020 Review Committee. Other committee members represent a range of disciplines. These reviewers were selected for their broad perspective and demonstrated capability for evaluating work in multiple fields of study. Because of the diverse nature of this committee, project descriptions should be written in language accessible to reviewers from a wide variety of fields.
2020 Review Committee:
Catherine Dulac (Committee Chair), Higgins Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology; Lee and Ezpeleta Professor of Arts and Sciences; and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Cassandra Extavour, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Robin Lee, Professor of Economics, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Stephen Lory, Professor of Microbiology and Immunobiology, Harvard Medical School
Karin Öberg, Professor of Astronomy; Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Astronomy, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Leah Somerville, Professor of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Frans Spaepen, John C. and Helen F. Franklin Professor of Applied Physics, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Award recipients will be required to submit a one year progress report.
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