Hobbs Discovery Strategic Priorities Awards

Request for Proposals is Now Closed


The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development (VKC) announces a call for the Hobbs Discovery Strategic Priorities Awards. The mission of the VKC is to facilitate discoveries and best practices that make positive differences in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

The nature of this specific pilot grant opportunity is distinctive from previous years VKC Pilot Funding opportunities, so please read this request carefully.

We are requesting applications for original, empirical, interdisciplinary research projects that will generate preliminary evidence and pilot data supporting selection of the VKC Intellectual and Developmental Disability Research Center (IDDRC) P50 Signature Research Project to be included in the grant submission for the 2025-2030 grant period. Funded IDDRC signature research project budgets generally are in the range of R21 up to modular R01 (around $125-250K in direct costs).

Supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Development, IDDRC’s are tasked to advance the diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and amelioration of intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The Signature Research Project should be aligned with this overall mission, and should address one or more of NICHD’s Research Priorities (details in link):

  1. Comprehensive-omics Approaches
  2. Development of Biomarkers or Assessment Measures in More than on IDD Condition
  3. Outcome Measures or Biomarkers for Interventions or Treatments
  4. Multi-Modal Treatment Approaches
  5. Preventing and Mitigating the Impact of Exposures that Can Cause IDD
  6. Interventions and Management of Co-morbid Mental Health Conditions
  7. Innovative Technologies to Improve Assessments, Interventions, and Outcomes for Those with IDD

Proposals should utilize at least of three (3) of the VKC IDDRC Core Services (Details in link):

  1. Administrative Core
  2. Clinical Translational Core
  3. Translational Neurosciences Core
  4. Behavioral Phenotyping Core
  5. Data Sciences Core

Specific areas of interest for the VKC that fall within the scope of NICHD’s research priorities include trans-species approaches (behavioral, imaging, neurophysiology), advanced data science methods to large datasets and Electronic Health Record (EHR), and innovative treatment approaches, such as those that include wearable devices and/or neuromodulation (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, Transcranial Electrical Stimulation approaches).

Projects must also address inclusion of participants and researchers traditionally underrepresented in medicine and research or propose how these areas will be addressed in a larger project.

VKC IDDRC leadership will work closely with the PI’s of selected proposals over the course of the funding year to maximize success potential.


This internal grant award is available to VU and VUMC faculty who are members of the VKC. The Principal Investigator must be a VKC‐affiliated faculty member prior to submitting the grant proposal. PIs with innovative ideas that fall within the scope of the proposal announcement who are not currently VKC members are welcome to contact VKC leadership to discuss idea and the process for becoming a member of VKC prior to proposal submission.

Period and Amount of Awards

Awards will be for 11 months (July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2024) and are non-renewable. Funds must be spent by June 30, 2024, and cost carry-over is not possible. Budgets allow up to a maximum of $40,000 (direct costs: include direct costs only on submission). Depending on the nature of the project, in-kind VKC IDDRC Core Resources may also be available.

Application Procedure

Applications are due by 5 p.m. Friday, June 9, 2023. Applications submitted beyond that date will not be considered. Applicants should email a pdf file to Julia Harrison (julia.harrison@vumc.org). A return confirmation will be sent to you electronically. Award decisions will be made in mid-June for a start date of July 1, 2023.

Application Contents

  • Page 1: Cover/Face Page (Note: PI is the only required signature)
  • Page 2: Abstract
  • Page 3: Table of Contents
  • Page 4: Budget
  • Page 5: Budget Justification (provide brief summary)
  • Page 6: Biographical Sketch for each Key Personnel – PHS 398 template

Slightly modified PHS 398 templates (Word format) are available by clicking this link or using the "Download Application Forms" button. Applicants should complete the application forms as though they were applying for an R03 Small Grant; however, there is a 2page limit on Research Plan sections (1) through (4). With respect to the 2-page limit, a suggestion is that the first page could consist of background/significance, aims/hypotheses, innovation, and impact; second page could be approach, written at a general level in order to give reviewers an understanding of the feasibility and scope of the work. Arial 11 pt. font should be used. The only required signature on the Face Page is from the PI.

Research Plan (2page limit for sections 1‐4)

  1. Introduction: (a) Statement of Problem and (b) Relevance to VKC Mission
  2. Specific Hypotheses/Aims
  3. Background and Significance, with an emphasis on innovation and impact
  4. Approach—General Research Design and Brief Methods

Specific Instructions Regarding Budget and Allowable Costs

Applicants must provide a detailed budget and brief budget justification. Allowable expenses are: salaries for research staff (or term appointments) and student assistants, small equipment, consumable laboratory supplies, travel necessary for carrying out research, participant reimbursements, research computer software and supplies, and other miscellaneous costs necessary for carrying out the proposed research. Examples of costs that are NOT allowable are investigator or co‐investigator faculty salaries (tenure or research track), travel expenses to and from conferences (including registration fees, hotels and meals), tuition, subscriptions, books, office renovation or equipment and furnishings, local meals with guests, and other non‐research costs.

This award is not intended to supplement ongoing federally funded grants. However, the award may be used to complete an already productive pilot project supported with private foundation grant funds or which has been a spin‐off project growing out of a previously funded grant. If an applicant is proposing to use remaining funds from another source (e.g., a small grant from an advocacy organization or private foundation) in addition to this award, the proposed budget must show what each source of funding would cover.

IRB and IACUC Approvals

It is not necessary for your project to be approved by the IRB and/or Animal Care Committees at the time you submit your proposal; however, if your proposal is awarded, funds will not be made available until you have submitted your approval notification to Julia Harrison. (Your IRB or IACUC approval notification should include the title of your pilot proposal, and the funding source should state Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Hobbs Discovery Strategic Priorities Award)

Review Criteria

The review criteria employed in evaluating these applications will be similar to those in evaluating NIH Small Grant (R03) applications.

Five criteria with be used in evaluating proposals:

  1. Ideas have scientific merit and are innovative
  2. Responsiveness to stated priority of the current Request for Proposals, criteria, and mission of the VKC
  3. Work appears to be realizable by the end of the award period
  4. Likelihood the project will be selected as the P50 Signature Research Project
  5. Investigator qualifications

Scientific merit includes originality and innovative nature of the scientific question and approach and soundness of research design and proposed measurement system. Pilot research typically involves small samples that may preclude an adequate statistical power analysis; however, applicants will be expected to demonstrate how such preliminary findings will be interpreted, given the nature of the anticipated findings. Applicants must describe how they plan to use that information to convince an NIH or OSERS committee that findings based on a small sample is likely to be generalizable to a larger group.

Feasibility refers to ability to carry out the research described with the funds provided, to be spent by June 30, 2024. Proposals that promise to do far more than can conceivably be accomplished with the limited funds provided within the current Fiscal Year will not fare well on this criterion.

Expectations of Hobbs Discovery Strategic Priorities Award Recipient

It is expected that at the start of the project, the PI will provide a plain language description of the project for ongoing Communications efforts. As the award nears a conclusion, we will request a brief, written report summarizing your progress, including any new findings that resulted. Understanding that it takes time for research findings to result in grants or publications, we will contact you a year after your award ends for an update on whether these funds assisted you in obtaining extramural funding or in submitting peer-reviewed publications. You also may be asked to deliver a special lecture to the VKC science community, a lay language presentation to the community, and/or to record an episode of a VKC science podcast on the topic of study.


Inquiries are encouraged in order to clarify procedures or priorities. Questions regarding procedures should be directed to Julia Harrison or Tim Stafford. Substantive questions regarding research priorities should be referred to VKC Director Jeffrey Neul and/or Laurie Cutting.

For more information contact:

Julia Harrison or Tim Stafford