Star-Friedman Challenge for Promising Scientific Research

Proposals for the 2021 cycle are due by 5:00pm EST on Monday, March 1, 2021. The application portal opens on January 19, 2021.

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  • Jerry X. Mitrovica, Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science, presents project at 2020 Challenge event.

  • William Allen, Junior Fellow, Harvard Society of Fellows, presents project at 2020 Challenge event.

  • Professor Taylor presents project at 2020 Challenge event.

  • David Williams, Florence Sprague Norman & Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health, presents at 2020 Challenge event.

  • George Church, Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics, presents project at 2020 Challenge event.

  • Suyang Xu, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, presents project at 2020 Challenge event.

  • Professor Francesca Dominici presents project at 2020 Challenge event.

  • Professor Conor Walsh tests fabric robotic exosuits on a treadmill in his lab.

    Professor Conor Walsh tests fabric robotic exosuits on a treadmill in his lab. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

  • Paola Arlotta, Prof. of Stem Cell and Regeneration Biology, works on brain development.

    Paola Arlotta, Prof. of Stem Cell and Regeneration Biology, works on brain development. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

  • Professor Benjamin de Bivort presents project.

    Professor Benjamin de Bivort presents project at 2019 Challenge event. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

  • Jenny Hoffman, Professor of Physics, presents at 2019 Star-Friedman Challenge event.

    Jenny Hoffman, Professor of Physics, presents at 2019 Star-Friedman Challenge event. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

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Program Description:

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. This program welcomes applications for both single- and multi-investigator projects from a broad range of fields and perspectives, with proposals focusing on pandemics encouraged in the 2021 cycle. 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). The Star-Friedman Challenge was previously supported by immediate-use funding; in 2020, the donors made generous new gifts to permanently endow the Challenge, ensuring that it can continue to support cutting-edge research at Harvard in perpetuity.

Each year, award recipients are invited to refine their projects and discuss their ideas with an interdisciplinary group of scholars at a Challenge event. The 2021 event will take place via Zoom on Wednesday, June 16, from 3:30 to 4:45 pm EDT and will feature Provost Alan Garber, FAS dean of science Chris Stubbs, Challenge faculty committee chair Catherine Dulac, and this year’s winning faculty. A recording of the 2020 Star-Friedman Challenge event is available for viewing.
Click here to read Dean Gay's announcement of the 2021 program.

 

The Challenge for Promising Scientific Research: a Retrospective

 

Award Information:


Ordinarily, awards will range from $80,000-$150,000. In truly exceptional circumstances, the committee may consider larger awards. Star-Friedman Challenge winners receive not only a monetary award, but access to resources at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning to support the development of both their visual and oral communication for the public communication of their research at the annual Challenge event. Approximately five awards will be made annually.

 

Eligibility Requirements:


This competition is open to ladder faculty members in the four participating schools (HMS, HSPH, FAS and SEAS). In HMS and HSDM, this program is open to ladder faculty members (assistant professors, associate professors, and professors) who have primary appointments in the basic and social science departments AND whose laboratories are located on the HMS Quadrangle or at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. 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.

 

Application Guidelines:


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, 2021.

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. 

Evaluation Criteria:

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 2021 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.

2021 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
Adam E. Cohen, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and of Physics, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Peter Howley, Shattuck Professor of Pathological Anatomy, Harvard Medical School
Robin Lee, Professor of Economics, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
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
Leslie Valiant, T. Jefferson Coolidge Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

One additional committee member to be named from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

                                                                        
Reporting Requirements:

Award recipients will be required to submit a one year progress report.

Questions?

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