Pilot Projects

Our Pilot Project Program aims to encourage innovation and creativity in environmental health science research, to develop new collaborations across disciplines and institutions, and to attract new investigators to environmental health science research. Several grants of up to $30,000 are offered twice each year. Funds are typically used for feasibility studies and to produce preliminary data to compete for NIH funding.

Next Deadline: Fall 2024 (TBD)

To apply, you must:

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can apply for Pilot Project funding?

All Harvard NIEHS Center members are eligible to apply for pilot project funds. Other faculty or research scientist level researchers may apply in collaboration with a Center member co-investigator. Applications are accepted from Harvard Research Associates or Fellows working under the supervision of Center faculty, but the role of the sponsoring faculty member must be specified. Doctoral students are not eligible for pilot project support.

When are Pilot Grant proposals due?

Requests for Pilot Project applications are announced twice a year via postings at the Harvard School of Public Health, email, and on our website. Due dates are usually the first Friday of March and October (can vary).

When are awards announced?

Funding decisions are typically announced within 6-8 weeks from the application deadline.

How do I apply?

Applications follow an abbreviated NIH structure, including a narrative section (2-3 single-spaced pages) with background, specific aims, experimental protocols; a brief budget and justification; and an NIH format biosketch for the principal investigator and co-investigators.

Email completed Application Forms to niehsctr@hsph.harvard.edu and fill out the Intent to Submit form on this page.

What is the maximum award amount and what expenses are allowed?

  • Total requested costs for a one-year project period may not exceed $30,000 total costs.
    • Subcontracts are allowed, however, if the sub-institution requires Indirect Costs, it will be included in the $30K total.
  • The budget may include funds for supplies and other appropriate costs directly related to the project.
  • The PI is required to have a minimum of 1% effort be devoted to project.
    • PI Salary between 1-3% commensurate with effort is allowable.
    • The NIH Salary cap should be applied if faculty salary is over the cap.
  • In some cases, postdoc salary or technical support salary may be appropriate (e.g., biostatistical support).
  • Graduate student stipends are not allowed.
  • Travel costs are not supported except those essential to carry out the project.

What is the typical project duration?

Funds are awarded for a period of one year. A one-year extension may be requested but carry forward is not assured.  To request carry forward fill out this Pilot Project No Cost Extension Request form.

How are Pilot Project proposals evaluated?

Each application is reviewed by three or more reviewers, at least one of whom is not a Harvard-NIEHS Center member. Evaluation criteria include:

  1. Innovation
  2. Study Design
  3. Project team
  4. Potential for future funding
  5. Relevance to the Harvard NIEHS Center mission
  6. Potential for stimulating collaborative research

The Pilot Project Review Committee meets to consider the reviews, rank the proposals and make funding decisions.

Funding is determined by the Review Committee ratings, and the availability of funds in a particular cycle. Funding decisions are provided to the applicants along with a summary of comments from the internal and external reviewers. Applicants may be asked to address critical issues before final approval. Unfunded applicants are encouraged to consider reviewer feedback and re-apply during the following funding cycle. Unfunded projects are allowed one resubmission.

What is the funding rate?

Funding success rate can vary with the quality of the proposals and the availability of funds. Over the past several years, the funding rate has been approximately 30% with the average award around $24,000. Click here to see a list of previously funded Pilot Projects.

What are a recipient’s reporting responsibilities?

Funding recipients will be contacted periodically by the Center Administrator to monitor progress. At the completion of the project, the investigator will submit to the Center Director a short summary of the project and its findings, publications, and applications for independent funding that have resulted from the pilot project. Investigators may be asked to present their work at a Center-sponsored event, e.g. the External Advisory Committee Meeting or the annual Retreat. Recipients will be expected to notify Monica Russell of any publications, press, grant applications or other outcomes related to the pilot funding, and to be responsive to requests for such information annually for Center progress reports.

How do I acknowledge Center support?

Investigators should acknowledge support Center support with a statement that the study “was supported in part by a Pilot Project grant from the Harvard-NIEHS Center for Environmental Health (P30ES000002).”

A note regarding foreign projects

Pilot projects that involve work outside of the USA are subject to approval by the NIEHS and the US State Department. This includes use of samples previously collected outside the US. Applications for NIEHS/State Department approval include a study description form, detailed budget and justification, and copies of relevant approvals (IRB, etc). Applications for foreign clearance will be submitted to NIEHS/State Department by the Center Administrator after all other approvals (IRB, IACUC) and subcontract documents are in order, and may take several weeks or longer to obtain. Applicants should plan accordingly.

Please download the appropriate approval form here for projects that involve:

Work outside the US: HSPH-Foreign-Component-Approval-Application-1
Use of samples previously collected outside the US: Foreign Component Approval Application_just samples.

Do you have a question?  Fill out the form on our ‘Contact Us’ page and click ‘Pilot Projects’.