Understanding and Supporting Individuals with ASD

Request for Pilot Project Proposals

Proposals are invited for pilot research projects aimed at furthering our understanding and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We seek interdisciplinary Penn State teams to develop novel translational research programs from discovery-oriented research to dissemination and implementation science.

We are interested in applications that:

  • Build collaborations involving new interdisciplinary teams whose research is aimed at attracting external funding;
  • Develop collaborations that involve junior and senior faculty (associate professors can serve in either role depending on their experiences)
  • Develop or further cross-department/college/campus collaborations
  • Propose novel research, including high-risk, high-reward and transformative, proof of concept projects that provide preliminary data necessary for external funding.

Priority will be given to projects that make a convincing case for how they can advance solutions for underserved segments of the ASD population (e.g. adolescents, young, midlife and older adults, individuals with co-occurring intellectual disabilities and/or complex communication needs, individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds). Thematic priorities for this seed funding include: furthering our understanding of core deficits and associated features of ASD; exploring treatment or interventions that maximize health and wellness outcomes; and supporting greater and more meaningful community participation for those living with ASD. Novel applications of technology to realize these priorities are of particular interest.

Eligibility

All Penn State faculty members (tenured, tenure track, fixed term, and clinicians) who hold an appointment at any Penn State location are eligible to submit a seed grant proposal as a Principal Investigator (PI) of an interdisciplinary research team. Single investigator proposals will not be considered. Community organizations, state agencies, and investigators from other institutions may be collaborators, but not PIs. Investigators may be the lead or co-PI on only one proposal; however, investigators may serve as a collaborator on up to two proposals. Collaborators from other institutions also may be included, but given our goal of building new Penn State teams, the team must include Penn State faculty.

Funding Availability and Timeline

At least $100,000 of funding is available through this seed grant solicitation via the SSRI’s Level 1 and Level 2 mechanisms (see below).

Level 1 applications can be submitted at any time using the guidelines and Submission Form below, sending as one PDF document to ssri-seed-grant@psu.edu.

Level 2 applications occur in two steps according to the following timeline:

  • Letters of intent (LOI) to submit a Level 2 application are due on August 1, 2019 and should be sent as one PDF document to ssri-seed-grant@psu.edu. The Level 2 LOI consists of an abstract of up to 250 words that summarizes the study aims, methods, and how the project can realize the objectives of this funding and includes a list of team members with a brief statement of each member’s project role.
  • Level 2 Pre-Proposals are due on September 15, 2019 and should be sent as one PDF document to ssri-seed-grant@psu.edu. The Level 2 Pre-Proposal consists of a brief background section, significant aims and objectives, as well as a brief description of methods, anticipated outcomes, and fit with the identified thematic priorities. Roles of team members should be further clarified at this stage. There is a 2 page limit to this pre-proposal. Teams will be invited to submit full Level 2 proposals that conform to guidelines below based on the perceived potential of these pre-proposals.

Examples of successful Level 1 and Level 2 proposals can be found below.

 

LEVEL 1 PROPOSALS

The Level 1 funding mechanism is designed primarily to assist PSU faculty to form interdisciplinary research teams directed at pursuing external funding by supporting team meetings to discuss mutual interests, develop research questions, identify leaders, conduct literature reviews, and collect pilot data. Although external collaborators may be included, our focus is on developing ongoing PSU teams. For this reason team leaders should be tenure track or research faculty with continuing appointments.

  • Level 1 proposals range from $500-$5,000
  • Level 1 proposals are limited to 2 pages plus support materials
  • The SSRI Director and Associate Directors, relevant college Associate Deans and content experts will review these proposals
  • Funds are allocated for a 6-12 month period

Level 1 funds are intended to provide support for:

  • Creation of interdisciplinary teams
  • Development of new, innovative interdisciplinary research projects
  • Support for meetings (including travel)
  • Graduate assistant time
  • Paying outside consultants
  • Small pilot studies

Level 1 funds are NOT intended to support:

  • Expenditures generally made by departments and colleges (e.g., travel to professional conferences, seed money for an individual project; software and computers)
  • Delivery of outreach programs or services
  • Requests for funds for meals and snacks should be kept to a minimum
  • Student projects (masters, dissertation research)

Criteria for Review

  • Priority is placed on new ideas that involve cross-department/college/campus (interdisciplinary) collaboration
  • A well-articulated plan of activities
  • Teams comprised of investigators who range in seniority and experience
  • Proposals must provide strong evidence for access to the population of interest for human subjects research and access to necessary data sets for secondary analysis proposals; when relevant, investigators are expected to submit the appropriate requests for IRB approval of research
  • Promise of the research to lead eventually to external funding to address the identified thematic priorities.

Structure and Submission of Proposals

Proposals must be submitted as one document via email to ssri-seed-grant@psu.edu. To complete your proposal submission, you must download, complete, and email the form below:

Proposal Submission Form (doc)

Project Reports

Investigators are expected to provide an annual project status update and a brief (one page) final report upon completing the project. These efforts allow us to track and report outcomes as well as monitor the successfulness of our seed grant program.

If you need to make changes to the project team, description, design, or budget during the course of your projects, please send a request to ssri-seed-grant@psu.edu with the details of these changes.

Example of a Successful SSRI Level 1 Proposal

  • David Proctor, PI, Professor of Kinesiology, College of Health and Human Development: Acute Vasoprotective Effects of Nitrate-rich Beetroot Juice. Collaborating investigators are: Penny Kris-Etherton, Professor of Nutritional Sciences; Ann Skulas-Ray, Post-doctoral Fellow, Nutritional Sciences; Laura Klein, Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health; and Courtney Whetzel, Research Associate, Healthy Aging Center all in the College of Health and Human Development.

Questions? Contact Michael Murray, MD, Director of Division of Autism Services, Department of Psychiatry at mmurray2@psu.edu.

 

LEVEL 2 PROPOSALS

The Level 2 mechanism is designed to assist PSU faculty to advance their research by securing extramural funding. Although research teams can include students, post docs, faculty from other institutions and other external collaborators, our goal is to support interdisciplinary teams comprised of Penn State faculty and researchers. For this reason team leaders should be tenure track or research faculty with continuing appointments.

  • Level 2 funding is designed to support research projects with specific research questions, a well-conceived theoretical basis, an identified team of Penn State faculty collaborators, and the potential to gain external funding
  • Level 2 proposals are between $5,000 and $25,000
  • For projects greater than $25,000, please consult with the SSRI Associate Director or Director
  • The SSRI Director, Associate Directors, relevant college Associate Deans and researchers with relevant expertise review Level 2 proposals
  • Funds are allocated for a 12-24 month period

Level 2 funding support will be provided for:

  • Innovative interdisciplinary research, training, and integrated research-outreach projects that involve collaborations among Penn State faculty
  • Costs for student wages; pilot data collection; data analyses
  • Innovative workgroups or conferences that might include outside speakers and consultants. Note: The SSRI supports conferences only when they are specifically designed to enhance faculty expertise, thereby leading to new funded research. Proposals for conferences must indicate the expected date and specify that other sources of conference funding have already been explored.
  • Travel, consultants, graduate student time, or hourly support of activities
    • Note: special guidelines for international travel
      • Funds will be provided for only one investigator
      • Funds will not be provided for graduate students
      • Proposals must include a letter of support from the international collaborator(s) outlining his/her role in the project
  • Faculty salary up to $8000; summer funding for faculty will not be provided.

Level 2 funds are NOT intended to support:

  • Student (masters, dissertation research) or post-doctoral projects
  • New or ongoing projects of individual faculty or any on-going programs or research activities
  • Delivery of outreach programs or services
  • Funding for the kinds of activities supported by departments and colleges (travel to conferences, seed money for an individual's project, computer or software purchase, etc.)
  • Summer salaries
  • Projects involving a Penn State faculty member and external collaborators only; our goal is to build and support Penn State teams

Criteria for Review

  • Priority is placed on new ideas for projects that involve cross-department/college/campus (interdisciplinary) connections among Penn State faculty
  • A well-articulated plan of activities
  • Teams comprised of investigators who range in seniority and experience
  • Proposals must include a specific product (e.g., external grant proposal; workshop and conference; or training activities) and a timeline for its attainment
  • Proposals must make a clear contribution to understanding and/or supporting individuals with ASD
  • For human subjects research, proposals must provide strong evidence for access to the population of interest; for secondary analyses, proposals must describe dataset availability. Investigators are expected to prepare and submit the appropriate requests for IRB approval.

Structure and Submission of Proposals

Proposals must be submitted as one document via email to ssri-seed-grant@psu.edu. To complete your proposal submission, you must download, complete, and email the form below:

Proposal Submission Form (doc)

Other Ideas to Consider as You Construct Your Level 2

  • Consult with the SSRI Director or Associate Director about your project. Talk with any of the SSRI unit directors (Geographic Information Analysis (GIA), Survey Research Center (SRC), Social, Life, and Engineering Sciences Imaging Center (SLEIC), and Methodological Consulting Center) about how you might use the expertise of their units to enhance your research
  • If you need time and funding to network, organize your team, or further develop your research ideas, consider applying for a Level 1 project

Project Reports

Investigators are expected to provide an annual project status update and a brief (one page) final report upon completing the project. These materials allow us to track and report outcomes as well as monitor the success of our seed grant program.

If you need to make changes to the project team, description, design, or budget during the course of your projects, please send a request to ssri-seed-grant@psu.edu with the specific details of these changes.

Example of a Successful SSRI Level 2 Proposal

Stephen Wilson, PI, Assistant Professor of Psychology, College of the Liberal Arts: Blood Nicotine Absorption, Subjective and Neurocognitive Effects of Different Types of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Devices (ENDDs) in Current Daily Users. Collaborating investigators at Penn State Hershey College of Medicine are: Jonathan Foulds, Professor of Public Health Sciences and Psychiatry, Gang Chen, Assistant Professor of Public Health Sciences, and Arthur Berg, Assistant Professor of Public Health Sciences and Statistics.

Questions? Contact Michael Murray, MD, Director of Division of Autism Services, Department of Psychiatry, at mmurray2@psu.edu