tom slick research awards in consciousness

About the awards

BrainStorm Neuroscience Pitch Competition is the vehicle used by the Mind Science Foundation to fund its Tom Slick Research Awards in Consciousness. The Foundation seeks to fund research that will lead to significant advancements in the science of consciousness and improvements in the health and well-being of humankind. Each year the Foundation distributes grants to eligible researchers seeking to expand knowledge in areas relating to human consciousness. Fields of inquiry include, but are not limited to: neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, physics, philosophy, biology, artificial intelligence, sleep and dream research, creativity/education, neuro-ethics, and experiential/subjective studies.

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

research funding opportunities

apply for an award


BrainStorm Neuroscience Pitch Competition is the vehicle used by the Mind Science Foundation to fund its Tom Slick Research Awards in Consciousness. The MSF has issued an open RFP for research proposals focused on original research, or the meaningful compilation and interpretation of existing research data, resulting in leading-edge developments in the science of consciousness. 

Fields of inquiry include, but are not limited to: neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, 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), who will be expected to make the “pitch” at the BrainStorm event itself. 

In addition to funding important research, one of the unique goals for MSF and BrainStorm event 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 the most intractable problems facing our species.

Formal submissions are initially reviewed by the MSF Science Committee to determine scientific merit and fit for our funding priorities. They are then sent for formal peer review. Proposals approved for second round consideration will be asked for a short video presentation that the Committee will evaluate to assess the presenter’s skills in verbally translating their work for a layperson. Our Committee will provide feedback on presentations and finalists will be offered coaching resources.

Following the video interview round, the finalists will be chosen for a formal presentation of their project with a short (5-7 minutes, strictly enforced) talk, or “pitch” to our donors at the October 15, 2019, BrainStorm event.

The BrainStorm event will include a fun and lively cocktail reception followed by “pitches” – presentations by each finalist. Each finalist will present a short talk (can include up to 7 slides) and the audience (made up of foundation donors) will cast their votes following the presentations. Each finalist will go home with at least $15,000, but the winning presenter will take the top prize of $30,000. There will be additional opportunities for donors to give over and above the original distributions so project creativity will be key to get donors engaged. If you are invited as a finalist, you are guaranteed a minimum of $15,000 in funding.


Investigators, Institution and Credentials

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 MSF communications (one paragraph).

Project Summary for the Lay Public

The MSF is an organization that seeks 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 the event that the proposal makes it to the final round, this summary will be used in MSF communications. This 1/2 page description should tell us your idea, the problem you are trying to solve, how it relates to consciousness, your unique solution and how MSF funds will help you succeed in your goals.

Research Strategy

Six-page description of the proposed research, in accordance with the NIH formatting guidelines. 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. (No Page Limit)


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. 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. (No 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.). (No Page Limit)

Evaluation Criteria

Awards will be made after peer review and review by the MSF Science Committee. Quality, originality, and relevance to the advancement of the science of consciousness 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 presentation at the final event, however, will be recorded and 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.

Submission and Awards

Submission Deadline – May 17, 2019 (due Friday night at 11:59 pm CST)

Peer Review – June and July 2019

Video Round Finalists Notified – June 28, 2019

Video submission deadline – July 26, 2019

Three Finalists Announced – August 16, 2019

Presentation Practice and Coaching – September 2019

Final Event – October 15, 2019


Completed proposals should be transmitted electronically to: Mindy Cohen, Program & Communications Director (mcohen@mindscience.org). For further information, don’t hesitate to reach out either by email or phone (210-821-6094).


  • Researchers will submit a formal proposal detailed above with a budget of $15,000, scalable to $30,000.
  • Finalists must be able to come to San Antonio to present at the final event on October 15, 2019. Travel, meals, and accommodations will be provided for you. Under special circumstances, and with prior approval of the MSF, funding may be available for a second individual to accompany you. Please make us aware of this request if you are selected for second round consideration. 
  • In addition to your formal “pitch” at the BrainStorm event, you will be invited to and expected to participate in media outreach in advance of the event itself, and during your stay in San Antonio. This is an opportunity to generate interest in your project in advance of the event itself.
  • Speakers’ presentations will be recorded and posted on our social media platforms. 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.
  • Speakers cannot read their talks. They can have slides to supplement but no more than 7, containing primarily pictures, easily understood graphics or video and not text.


  • Focus more time and energy on delivery, telling your story, and engaging the audience. Whereas the MSF Science Committee will determine the three finalists, donor votes will determine the overall winner.
  • Use emotion to drive your story. A little humor goes a long way. Tell a story (surprising, funny, or a unique anecdote) personalizing your journey.

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