RFPs | 2021 Allen Distinguished Investigators

We are excited to announce three 2021 Allen Distinguished Investigator (ADI) initiative request for proposals (RFPs). Up to 11 awards will be made for up to $16.5M total funding to support pioneering research in 1) Micropeptides, 2) Neural Circuit Design, and 3) Mammalian Synthetic Development.

We are seeking full proposals by July 20, 2021 from researchers whose LOIs were selected to be considered for an ADI award in 2021. Details on the individual calls as well as answers to frequently asked questions can be found below. 


 

Micropeptides

Neural Circuit Design

Evolutionary principles in neural circuit design from less explored neuroscience models and systems.

Download RFP AnnouncemeNt (.pdf) 

Download proposal Template (.docx)

download bUdget Template (.xlSx)

Submit here


 

Mammalian Synthetic Development

Advancing understanding and the potential of mammalian synthetic development

Download RFP AnnouncemeNt (.pdf) 

Download proposal Template (.docx)

download bUdget Template (.xlSx)

Submit here


 

Proposals are due by 11:59pm PDT on July 20, 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions

Topic Questions

Is my idea eligible?
The Frontiers Group’s policy does not allow us to comment on ideas or drafts in advance of the submission deadline. 

May I submit a proposal on a similar topic?
No. Proposals are only considered for the LOIs selected and the RFP topics stated. However, the approach you take need not be traditional. We encourage creative and ambitious approaches. 

Is there a preferred subtopic or approach beyond what is described in the RFP?
No. Preferences are not given based on any scenario. Awards will be made to the proposals that best fit the call’s stated Purpose.

Researcher and institution eligibility

Who is eligible to apply?
Principal investigators must have independent research programs (e.g., tenured or tenure-track faculty or similar positions) at the time of proposal submission, however other members of the team do not need to have this qualification. All personnel must be affiliated with an eligible institution.

Is the opportunity open to international researchers?
Yes. Both US and international researchers may apply through institutions that conduct charitable activities.

What institutions are eligible? 
Nonprofit institutions with current 501(c)(3) Public Charity status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), government entities, IRS-recognized tribes, and other organizations that conduct charitable activities are eligible. Applicants may not be private foundations as defined in Section 509(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.

My collaborator is at a different institution. Are multi-institution projects allowed?
Yes. The Frontiers Group will accept one application for multi-institution projects, provided that one institution acts as the lead and receives and manages all grant monies, if awarded. Although sub-awards do not require our consent, please ensure that each sub-award is made in compliance with the requirements of the grant agreement including our policy of no indirect costs.

Is there a recommended number of researchers on projects?
No. Although collaborations are allowed there is no preference to the number of researchers on a project. We recommend no more than three equally contributing PIs. We generally consider equally contributing PIs to be ADIs, if awarded. 

What are the leadership guidelines for Allen Distinguished Investigators?
We ask that the leader commit a minimum of 20% effort to the ADI research activities. On multiple PI grants, the 20% effort is distributed amongst the leaders.

Can I be listed as a collaborator on another RFP application while submitting my own application as lead PI?
Yes. You may be listed on another proposal as a collaborator and submit your own application as lead PI.

Proposal questions

General proposal questions

Does it cost money to submit a proposal?
There is no cost to submit a proposal.

Do you have a past, successful application that I could read for pointers?
No. While we understand your request for a model application, all proposals that we receive are confidential.

Can some of the projects in the ADI proposal relate to ongoing projects in my lab that are funded by other mechanisms?
The projects described in your proposal can relate to ongoing work in your lab that is funded by other mechanisms. However, the projects in your proposal should be distinct from those that are already funded. 

What should be the scope of my proposal? 
The scope of your proposal should consider the award format as stated in the RFP (e.g., up to $1,500,000 over 3 years). We encourage creative and ambitious approaches. 

How should I organize my proposal? 
Please follow our templates when preparing your proposal. Beyond the guidelines given in the RFP, the templates and these FAQ, we leave it to you to choose how you wish to organize your proposal.

What do you mean by the request for confidentiality?
We ask that you do not share information about the call and your invitation publicly (e.g., not to members of the press, on social media, among your department, etc.). You may share information on a need-to-know basis, such as with potential collaborators and co-investigators and/or grant administration staff.

What do you mean by open science? 
Should your proposal be awarded, we expect that you will conduct all research funded by the award and manage any research results in a manner consistent with open science principles (making all data, knowledge, tools, etc., available) so as to accelerate discovery and maximize impact.

What is the source of this funding?
Funding will come from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, a division of the Allen Institute, acts as the Foundation’s agent and subject matter expert. The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group will provide counsel on the Project and support the administration of the Grant.

Cover page questions

Are administrative points of contact required on ADI proposals?
Administrative points of contact are required for the PI making the submission and the primary institution. Other administrative points of contact are welcomed but not required.

Who should I list as my administrative points of contact? 
Please include your grants officer as a point of contact. 

Who should I list as recommended reviewers? 
You may recommend up to three individuals that you feel would be good evaluators of your proposed project or aspects thereof. Please do not include recent collaborators or other individuals who may have a conflict of interest (e.g., someone with whom you share a trainee, someone you have published with in the last three years, someone with an appointment at your institution, etc.). The Frontiers Group considers all recommended reviewers, but the choice of reviewers is at our discretion.

May I list people that I would not like to serve as reviewers for my project? 
Yes. You may list up to three individuals that you feel would not be good evaluators of your proposed project. If you choose to do so, in the space below the ‘Recommended Reviewers’ box please add “Not recommended:” and list the individuals’ names and affiliations. The Frontiers Group generally follows recommendations for reviewers to avoid, but the choice of reviewers is at our discretion.

Technical project summary questions

Is there a length limit for this section?
Yes. The limit for this section is 300 words.

How should I use this section?
Use this section to summarize your project for a technical audience.

Lay project summary questions

Is there a length limit for this section?
Yes. The limit for this section is 300 words.

How should I use this section?
Use this section to summarize your project for a nontechnical audience. We recommend that you highlight your proposed research’s potential big picture impact.

Project description questions

Is there a length limit for this section?
Yes. The limit for this section is 8 pages.

How should I use this section?
Use this section to:
-    Address the major project(s) and how the team will conduct the work; major gaps in knowledge to be filled; major platform technologies to be developed; main impacts that are expected if successful; what differentiates the team’s approach from other work in the area; and why it constitutes a frontier or pioneering approach.
-    Describe the available facilities at the team’s institute(s) and laboratory(-ies), such as laboratory space and infrastructure; and the utilization of any resource to further the proposed research. Such a resource could be physical (equipment, a unique product/reagent, tissue line, etc.) or theoretical (expertise, people, skills, new results etc.) in nature.
-    Describe any potential collaborations that will take place during and are related to this project. This would include explaining the responsibilities of the PI(s)/team members/collaborators with respect to the proposed research. 

What is the difference between the project description and the project milestones sections?
Please use the ‘Project description’ section to address the major project(s) and how you will conduct the work; major gaps in knowledge to be filled; major platform technologies to be developed; main impacts that are expected if successful; what differentiates your approach from other work in the area; and why it constitutes a frontier or pioneering approach. In the ‘Technical project milestones’ section, please describe the specific goals and/or events in your project(s). Should you wish to include a project timeline, please do so in your technical project milestones.

How much of preliminary, unpublished data is expected in the project description? May I use published data as well?
Please use what relevant, supporting unpublished data that you have. For preliminary data you may use published as well as unpublished data.

Are the reference list, figures, and figure legends included in the page/word limit? 
No, references, figures, and figure legends will not count towards the page limit. The references and figures must be included in an appendix at the end of the PDF.

Mentoring, community building and inclusivity assessment questions

Is there a length limit for this section?
Yes. The limit for this section is 300 words.

How should I use this section?
Use this section to describe how the proposed research and/or supporting the researchers involved in the proposal will improve, support and/or promote mentoring, community building and inclusion in science and/or more broadly. Statements regarding the team’s wider efforts or personal challenges relating to diversity, equity and inclusion may also be included.

PI biography questions    

Is there a length limit for this section?
Yes. The limit for this section is 1 page (for each PI). Please include one biography for each PI.

How should I use this section?
Use this section to tell us anything that you would like reviewers to know about yourself. We recommend that you provide a holistic description of your scientific activities to-date. The narrative may include your career milestones; key scientific discoveries; awards; teaching, mentoring and outreach activities; community building and inclusivity efforts; significant moments in your career growth; career challenges; and/or other information about why you are particularly suited to undertake your proposed project. No specific information is required.

Can I include a collaborator’s biography?
Biographies are required for each PI; for collaborators you may choose to or choose not to include biographies. The length limit for a biography is 1 page.

Risk/innovation assessment questions

Is there a length limit for this section?
Yes. The limit for this section is 1 page.

How should I use this section?
We recommend that you use this section to expand on what makes your proposal innovative or high risk-high reward. You may use this section to address feasibility.

Technical project milestones questions

Is there a length limit for this section?
Yes. The limit for this section is 2 pages.

How should I use this section?
Use this section to describe the specific goals and/or events in your proposed research. Technical project milestones should be specific, feasible, transformative and high impact. Should you wish to include a project timeline in your proposal, please do so in this section.

What is the difference between the project description and the project milestones sections?
Please use the ‘Project description’ section to address the major project(s) and how you will conduct the work; major gaps in knowledge to be filled; major platform technologies to be developed; main impacts that are expected if successful; what differentiates your approach from other work in the area; and why it constitutes a frontier or pioneering approach. In the ‘Technical project milestones’ section, please describe the specific goals and/or events in your project(s). We leave it you to choose the level of granularity. Should you wish to include a project timeline, please do so in this section.

Related prior and current grants questions

Is there a length limit for this section?
Yes. The limit for this section is 1 page.

How should I use this section?
Use this section to describe your team’s prior and current funding, particularly related to your proposed project.

What details should I include in this section?
We recommend including identifying information such as grant titles, funding body, grant start and end dates, etc., and details about goals, funds, effort, etc., if space allows, but do not have specific requirements. We leave it to you to choose which details to include.

Budget spreadsheet and justification questions

Is there a length limit for the budget spreadsheet and budget justification?
No. We recommend a maximum length of 2 pages for the budget justification.

How should I use this section?
Use this section to provide and explain a budget for your proposed project.

Where can I find the budget template?
The Budget Template is available next to the call information at the top of this page.

Can the budget template be modified to meet my needs?
Yes, use the provided template and modify as needed. Supply a detailed budget for each award and sub-award. Include a justification in the proposal following the budget spreadsheet. Funds will be provided in US dollars. The budget period is not based on a calendar year. Year 1 starts on the day funding is awarded and extends for 12 months. 

What is the start date for the grant?
These grants will start within the fourth quarter of 2021. For the purposes of the proposal you may use November 1, 2021 as the start date. If awarded, the official start date will be the date that the award contract is executed.

Can I prepare a budget with a different payment schedule?
No. Please follow the payment schedule stated in the RFP. If there is a compelling reason for a different payment schedule (e.g., the purchase of a major piece of equipment, etc.), we will review requests for exceptions for proposals selected for the pre-award stage. Please be aware that we rarely make exceptions to the payment schedule.

What format should the budget justification be in?
We recommend that you provide the budget justification in narrative format. Brief budget justifications could be added to the bottom of the Excel spreadsheet if you are using that template. For longer justifications, it may be easier to write up the justification in Word or a similar program and include the justification after the proposed budget in the proposal file (please note that we ask that all sections of your proposal be combined into a single file for submission). If you have a PI and co-PI, you can prepare separate justifications or a combined justification, whichever is easiest for you.

How are sub-grants managed?
The Frontiers Group will accept one application for multi-institution projects, provided that one institution acts as the lead and receives and manages all grant monies, if awarded. Although sub-awards do not require our consent, please ensure that each sub-award is made in compliance with the requirements of the grant agreement including our policy of no indirect costs. On the budget template, add additional rows for sub-grants or include them in detail on separate spreadsheets. Please provide a Letter of Support from each institution participating.

Does the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation pay indirect costs?
The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has a policy of 0% indirect costs.

What are indirect costs?
Indirect costs are costs that are not directly related to the project proposed. Overhead costs are generally considered indirect costs. 

How much equipment linked to the project can be added into the budget?
We do not have restrictions on how much project-related equipment can be included in the budget. You may decide what is best for your project. However, please keep in mind when shaping your budget the award size and payment schedule as stated in the RFP. Exceptions to this payment schedule are rarely allowed.

My salary is covered by my organization. Do I have to include it in the budget?
You may choose to include or choose not to include your salary in the budget. For example, if your salary is covered by your institution or other funding mechanisms, you do not need to include your salary in the budget. You may note its exclusion in the budget justification.

Do I use the NIH capped salary number or my true/base salary?
You may use your true/base/full salary.

What does 'Senior Personnel' on the template mean?
‘Senior Personnel’ refers to the lead investigators on the proposal: the PI(s), and if applicable co-investigator(s).

What does 'Benefits' on the template mean?
‘Benefits’ refer to anything on top of the salary proper. This may or may not include things such as pension or retirement contributions, private or supplemental health insurance, tuition reimbursement, etc. If your grant office calculates salary and benefits together, on the budget template you may complete the ‘Salaries’ section and leave the ‘Benefits’ section blank. You may explain this in the budget justification.

The budget asks for student tuition costs. At my institution, we include student costs as a one line budget item. Is this acceptable?
If your grant office calculates salary and tuition together, on the budget template you may complete the ‘Salaries’ section and leave the ‘Tuition’ section blank. (This applies to the ‘Benefits’ section as well.) You may explain the blank ‘Tuition’ section in the budget justification.

Are there other items that I can include in the budget?
We would support and encourage awardees who would like to use some of their award budget to conduct mentoring, community building and/or inclusivity activities. Please reach out to the Frontiers Group to receive clarification around specific uses.

Letter of Support questions

Is there a length limit for this section?
No. We recommend that length of each Letter of Support be 1 page.

Who should the Letter of Support come from and what should it say?
The Letter of Support can come from the Office of Research or any similar agency (e.g., office of sponsored projects, Vice President of Research’s office, etc.). You can use the following sentence as a guide when writing the letter. “The University of X supports the submission of the proposal, <Insert proposal title here> to The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group for consideration under the Request for Proposals, <Insert RFP Title here>.”

How many Letters of Support do I need to include with my proposal?
Please provide a Letter of Support from each institution participating.

Are letters of collaboration required?
No. Letters of collaboration are permitted but not required.

Appendix questions

Is there a length limit for this section?
No.

How should I use this section?
Use this section to provide references and figures.

How many figures can I include?
You can include up to 10 figures.

Are multi-panel figures allowed? 
Both multi-panel and single-panel figures are allowed. Please develop and present your figures similarly to how you might for a journal article, and include 10 or fewer. The count refers to the number of figures, not their subcomponents. The Frontiers Group recommends limited inclusion of figures.
 

Submission questions

How should I submit my proposal?
The proposal must be sent as a single PDF file with the following filename: 
Principal Investigator name (last name.first initial)_InstitutionName_YearandRFPtitle.pdf 
Example: Allen.P_AllenUniversity_2021[Cohort]_RFP.pdf
Proposals are due by 11:59 p.m. PST on the due date of the RFP via the link provided. 

When it comes to the time to submit, can I still make edits after uploading the file but before deadline?
If you wish to make edits after uploading your proposal, you may resubmit your entire proposal as a new file and note the new version in the file name (e.g., original proposal ‘Allen.P_AllenUniversity_2021[Cohort]_RFP.pdf’, revised proposal ‘Allen.P_AllenUniversity_2021RFP[Cohort]_v2.pdf’). We will use the last file to be uploaded before the deadline. We will delete your earlier submission(s) without opening the file(s). So that we do not assume that the same file was accidentally uploaded more than once, we recommend that you also email frontiers@alleninstitute.org to let us know that you submitted multiple versions of your proposal and to confirm the version number of your final submission.

Review questions

What is the review process for the proposal?   
Proposals will be confidentially reviewed by a panel of experts tailored for the topic, and this panel will make recommendations to the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, a division of the Allen Institute, which acts as the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s agent and subject matter expert, provides counsel and supports the administration of the awards. The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has the final decision on the award. Top proposals will be selected for finalist interviews, which will be held virtually.

Who will review my proposal?   
Members of a panel of experts and any advisors tailored for the topic who serve anonymously. Reviewer identities as well as correspondence, evaluations and deliberations are kept confidential. This policy enables advisors and evaluators to provide their honest impressions independent of outside influence. Past awardees may be asked to act as future evaluators and advisors.

When will finalist interviews be held?
The dates and times of the finalist interviews are listed in the call’s RFP. We ask that you reserve the listed time windows so that you will be available for an interview should your proposal be selected as a finalist. Please contact us if you have any unmovable conflicts during the listed time windows.

What is the format for finalist interviews?
Finalist interviews will be 30-minute virtual meetings with the PIs of the selected proposals and The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group Senior Director, Program Officer and/or other senior staff members. One interview will be held for each selected proposal. We intend for the interviews to be informal conversations for us to meet the PIs and learn about the finalist teams, ask questions that arose during the review, and answer questions that the PIs might have. Slides are not required for the interviews. Up to two slides are permitted.

When will the review be completed?
We anticipate that decisions on the RFPs will be made within the third quarter of 2021.

Will you provide reviewers comments/feedback on my proposal?   
The Frontiers Group does not provide feedback on proposals. Reviewers may choose to or choose not to provide anonymous feedback on proposals. If feedback is provided, it will be shared with the applicants.