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. 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), Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) 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 2022 event will take place in Spring 2022.
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 presentations for the public communication of their research at the annual Challenge event. Approximately five awards will be made annually.
This competition is open to ladder faculty members in the participating schools (HMS, HSDM, 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 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:
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?
- 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.
- 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 or NSF biosketch. In addition, applicants may submit a two-page biosketch for any collaborators involved in the project.
A detailed budget (PDF format). 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/financial 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 award period will begin on July 1, 2022. While this funding does not expire, the committee will be looking to support projects that can attain demonstrable results within one year. Longer-term projects will need to show milestones of success upon a one-year review.
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 2022 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.
2022 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
Jason Beckfield, Professor of Sociology, Faculty of Art and Sciences
Adam E. Cohen, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and of Physics, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Mark Fishman, Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Medical School
Peter Howley, Shattuck Professor of Pathological Anatomy, Harvard Medical School
Quan Lu, Professor of Environmental Genetics and Physiology, T. H. Chan School of Public Health
Elizabeth Phelps, Pershing Square Professor of Human Neuroscience, 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
Award recipients are requested to submit a one year progress report.
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