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APPLY FOR

BRAINSTORM NEUROSCIENCE
PITCH COMPETITION™

about our funding

Apply BrainStorm Neuroscience Pitch Competition is the vehicle used by Mind Science to fund early-career researchers teamed with senior primary investigators, working on pilot studies to help them obtain grants for further research, with an additional strategic goal designed to incentivize the building of skills in translating complex neuroscience for a general audience.

We believe providing opportunities for early-career scientists to fund their work, and hone their communications skills is critical to the advancement of science and a powerful counterweight to anti-science sentiment prevalent in some sectors.

BrainStorm is also a powerful educational opportunity for our audience of lay people as they learn – directly from researchers during their pitches – the intricacies of brain function, and how their research projects can harness the power of the brain to improve treatment of neurological deficits as well as optimize the human experience.

Specifically, Mind Science seeks to fund research that will lead to significant advancements in the science of consciousness and/or improvements in the health and well-being of humankind. Fields of inquiry include, but are not limited to: neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, resiliency, physics, philosophy, biology, artificial intelligence, sleep and dream research, creativity, education, neuro-ethics, and experiential/subjective studies.

PLEASE NOTE:  Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, plans are being made for a virtual Competition in fall 2021. Details are included in the 2021 RFP.

For further information on funding opportunities, please contact Mindy Cohen at mcohen@mindscience.org.

research funding opportunities

apply for funding

BACKGROUND

About Mind Science
Our founder, Texas oilman and philanthropist Tom Slick, Jr., was a man of science and an enthusiastic proponent of world peace. He believed the fruit of basic research in physical science, life science, and the “mind sciences” would improve human lives and in turn lead to world peace. To achieve his vision, Slick created three nonprofit research institutes – in 1941 the organization which would become the Texas Biomedical Research Institute; in 1947 the Southwest Research Institute; in 1958 the Mind Science Foundation – before he died in a plane crash in 1962 at the age of 46.

As a private foundation with a modest endowment, Mind Science has always sought to leverage its resources to pursue what Tom Slick called the “vast potential of the human mind”, using the scientific method. We believe the study of human consciousness that leads to improvements to the health and well-being of humankind, is the best way to honor his intent. We are committed to finding novel ways in which to do so.

We understand we can have the biggest impact on the field with a focus on contributing to the pipeline of researchers, beginning with high school students and on through early-career neuroscientists. We strongly believe providing opportunities for young scientists to fund their work, and hone their communications skills is critical to the advancement of science and a powerful counterweight to anti-science sentiment prevalent in some sectors.

About BrainStorm Neuroscience Pitch Competition
We have chosen the “pitch” model for research funding because of its audience participation format, which emphasizes the importance of the pitch presenter’s excellent communication of important scientific work to the lay audience, who then cast their votes for best pitch and the grand prize of $30,000. Finalists reaching the pitch competition are guaranteed $15,000 in funding.

The Competition has a specific focus on funding for early-career researchers teamed with senior primary investigators, working on pilot studies to help them obtain grants for further research, with an additional strategic goal designed to incentivize the building of skills in translating complex neuroscience for a general audience. We firmly believe that if a scientist can answer the “so what” question about their work, the layperson’s scientific literacy is increased, and they can make a direct connection between your basic research and the potential for solutions to come of some of the most intractable problems facing our species.

Because of the strategic goals for BrainStorm, proposals MUST include the participation of an early career scientist (e.g., graduate student, post-doc, etc.), who will be expected to present in the research team’s final pitch video.

APPLICATION PROCESS

PLEASE NOTE: Due to the ongoing pandemic, the live portion of the Pitch Competition will be held virtually as restrictions are still in place for gathering in groups. In its place, the general public will cast votes online to determine the winner. For a look at the BrainStorm 2019 live Competition event please click here. For a look at the BrainStorm 2020 Competition please click here.

Mind Science has issued an open RFP for research proposals focused on original research, or the meaningful compilation and interpretation of existing research data, resulting in significant advancements in the science of consciousness and/or improvements in the health and well-being of humankind.

Fields of inquiry include, but are not limited to: neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, resiliency, physics, philosophy, biology, artificial intelligence, sleep and dream research, creativity, education, neuro-ethics, and experiential/subjective studies.

Proposals MUST include the participation of an early career scientist (e.g., graduate student, post-doc, etc.), who will be expected to present in the research team’s final pre-recorded pitch video for the general public who will cast votes online to determine the winner.

In addition to funding important research, one of the unique goals for Mind Science and the BrainStorm Competition is to encourage and equip researchers to excel in translating their work for a general audience. If a scientist can answer the “so what” question about their work, the layperson’s scientific literacy is increased, and they can make a direct connection between your basic research and the potential for solutions to come of some of the most intractable problems facing our species.

Formal submissions are initially reviewed by the Mind Science Scientific Advisory Committee to determine scientific merit and fit for our funding priorities. Proposals advancing to the second round will be sent for formal peer review, and the research team will be asked to submit a short video presentation (5-7 minutes) by the early-career member of your team that the Committee will evaluate to assess the presenter’s skills in verbally translating their work for a layperson. This video does not need to be highly produced, as the Committee will grade it on content and the ability to communicate your work to a lay audience – not the production value.

Proposals advancing to the final round of competition will receive feedback on their presentations and will be offered coaching resources in preparation for the final pre-recorded pitch video for the general public who will cast votes online to determine the winner. The final pitch will be a 7-10 minute (10-minute limit strictly enforced) pre-recorded video, which can include up to 7 slides. The winner will be announced on October 20, 2021. Excellent, creative storytelling is key to engaging voters.

Each finalist will leave the Competition with at least $15,000, but the winning presenter will take the top prize of $30,000. If you are invited as a finalist, you are guaranteed a minimum of $15,000 in funding.

FORMAL PROPOSAL FORMAT

Project Title, Investigators, Institution, and Credentials
Project title, names of the Principal Investigator(s) and Co-investigator(s), with institutional affiliation, contact info, CV for each investigator. (No Page Limit) In addition, in the event your proposal is chosen as a finalist, we will need a summary of your credentials including links for biographical websites, social media, awards won, and previous talks given to use in Mind Science communications. (One paragraph)

Project Summary for the Lay Public
Mind Science has a philanthropic goal to increase the scientific literacy of the lay public and therefore requests a description of the proposed research that succinctly states the major aspects of the proposed project in a way that is understandable by a variety of audiences. In short, write your project summary as if you were explaining it to 8th graders. Avoid jargon. It should not exceed 2-3 concise paragraphs. In the event that the proposal makes it to the final round, this summary will be used in Mind Science communications. It is critical that the description should directly answer the “So What” question: why is your research important? In explaining your idea, and the problem you are trying to solve, how does it relate to consciousness and/or how will your unique approach lead to improvements to the health and well-being of humankind? (1/2 page)

Research Strategy
Six-nine page description of the proposed research, in accordance with the NIH formatting guidelines. If your project includes human subjects please include a contingency plan in case of delays due to Covid-19 restrictions. This section should include: Specific Aims (1 page), Significance/Background (1 to 2 pages), Innovation (1/2 to 1 page), Approach (3 to 4 pages), Risk and Limitations (1/2 page), and Timeline (1/4 page).

IRB Protocol
In the event your proposal is chosen as a finalist, an IRB or equivalent institutional approval protocol for experiments involving human or animal subjects will be required.

Please indicate current IRB status:
• In place;
• Under review; or
• Still to be submitted to Institutional Review Board.

Please note: Funds will not be disbursed without an IRB or equivalent institutional approval protocol for experiments involving human or animal subjects. IRBs must be submitted to mcohen@mindscience.org within 60 days of being notified of finalist status. (No page limit)

References
References should be listed in order of appearance. (No page limit)

Budget and Justification
The purpose of this section is to present and justify expenses required to achieve the project aims and objectives, and to indicate other significant ($50,000+) sources of funding. The budget is $15,000, scalable to $30,000. Also, include what you add to your project to make it more robust if you had an extra $15,000. (One page limit)

Deliverable Product
Statement of deliverable product (i.e. publishable article, data as the basis for a publishable book, pilot data for subsequent funding by NIH, NIMH, or similar funding entities, etc.). (1/2 page limit)

Evaluation Criteria
Awards will be made after peer review and review by the Mind Science Scientific Advisory Committee. Quality, originality, and relevance to the advancement of the science of consciousness and/or improvement of the health and well-being of humankind will be key factors in the evaluation process. It is important to note that proposals will be reviewed by both scientific and non-scientific professionals. Awards will be reviewed free of bias. Each section of the proposal will be scored based on the NIH scoring system. All proposals and results of peer and science committee review will be kept confidential. The content of your final pitch video presentation, however, will be presented online.

Use of Funds and Restrictions
Research funds are restricted to actual costs, with no more than 5% indirect costs. Actual costs may include salaries for staff/assistants and salary supplements for Co-Investigators. Under special circumstances related to the goals of the research, salary supplement for Principal Investigators may also be appropriate.

Period of Performance
The period of performance (term of the award) is 12 months, beginning with the first of the month following the date of award. We realize, especially during the current pandemic, that circumstances may arise which delay previously anticipated progress. In this case, awardees are encouraged to communicate with the Foundation as soon as possible to make alternate arrangements satisfactory to the researcher and the Foundation.

Submission
Completed proposals should be transmitted electronically as one file in PDF format by 11:59 pm CST on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 to: mcohen@mindscience.org (Mindy Cohen, Program and Communications Director). For further information, don’t hesitate to reach out either by email or phone (210.821.6094). Please note: all deadlines are firm, and proposals must be completed and submitted in full, in accordance with the RFP, with all sections addressed, and in the order they are listed on the RFP.

Checklist of proposal sections, in order
Project Title, Investigators, Institution, and Credentials (No page limit)
Project Summary for the Lay Public (1/2 page)
Research Strategy (not to exceed 9 pages total)
     Specific Aims (1 page)
     Significance/Background (1 to 2 pages)
     Innovation (1/2 to 1 page)
     Approach (3 to 4 pages)
     Risk and Limitations (1/2 page)
     Timeline (1/4 page)
IRB Protocol (No page limit)
References (No page Limit)
Budget and Justification (One page limit)
Deliverable Product (1/2 page limit)

Submission and Awards Calendar
RFP issued – March 3, 2021
Submission Deadline – May 5, 2021
Video Round Finalists Notified – Late May 2021
Peer Review – June and July 2021
Video submission deadline – July 28, 2021
Three Finalists Notified – Late August 2021
Presentation Practice and Coaching – September 2021
BrainStorm Neuroscience Pitch Competition Winner Announced – October 20, 2021

 

IMPORTANT NOTES/HELPFUL HINTS

Pending circumstances relative to the pandemic as Fall approaches, it may be possible for finalists to travel to San Antonio for a small, socially distanced reception with our top donors, where we will announce the winners live via social media. This will not be a requirement of finalists but will be a way for this year’s finalists to enjoy more of the traditional BrainStorm experience. 

It is understood that the early-career research member of your team will present in the team’s final pre-recorded pitch video for the general public who will cast votes online to determine the winner.

Speakers’ final presentations will be posted on our social media platforms and YouTube channel. Please take care when deciding what pieces of your story you want to share if you have proprietary information.

Speakers may not have a commercial agenda. Your project could result in a product to be developed but we don’t want solely product pitches. No political or religious agenda.

In second round and finalist videos, speakers can include slides to supplement, but no more than 7, containing primarily pictures, easily understood graphics or video and judicious use of text.

Focus more time and energy on delivery, telling your story, and engaging the audience. Avoid jargon and data-heavy slides. Whereas the Mind Science Scientific Advisory Committee will determine the three finalists, the general public will cast votes online to determine the winner of the additional $15,000 (for a total award of $30,000).

Use emotion to drive your story. A little humor goes a long way. If applicable, tell a story (surprising, funny, or a unique anecdote) personalizing your journey.

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