Skip to content Skip to navigation

Big Ideas Application and Eligibility

Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute, Big Ideas

2018 Call for Letters of Intent (Round 2 Phase 1) 

Applications are now closed for the 2018 call for Letters of Intent for a second round of Big Ideas: Transformative research initiatives in the brain sciences and review of the submitted letters is underway.

The Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute is dedicated to stimulating and supporting interdisciplinary efforts that advance neuroscience research and education. Our projects promote health, new technologies and basic discoveries. This request invites submissions that combine neuroscience with other areas of disciplinary strength at Stanford, including 1) engineering and the quantitative sciences, 2) chemical and molecular biology, and 3) the social sciences, humanities and professional schools of education, law and business. 

The Institute will select a subset of the submissions to receive a planning budget ($4,000) to support the development of a full proposal. The planning budget may be used for retreats, dinners, small honoraria, bringing in outside experts, or small incidental costs. Full proposals, selected by the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute leadership in consultation with other experts, will be funded for a first phase of up to $700,000 direct costs over two years.  

Key Dates for 2018 Big Ideas Round 2 Phase 1

Call for Letters of Intent January 15, 2018
Deadline for submitting Letters of Intent March 12, 2018, 5:00 pm
Notification of selection for Full Proposal Submission April 18, 2018
Deadline for submitting Full Proposals July 11, 2018, 5:00 pm
Notification of Awards September 2018
Funding Period Fall 2018 to Fall 2019, renewable for a second year of funding through Fall 2020

See below for detailed information on the Big Ideas Process

All application materials must be submitted online.

Eligibility Criteria

The proposed project should be larger in scope than a typical R01 grant, requiring diverse expertise and teamwork, and is expected to have a large impact on neuroscience if successful. Each initiative should engage teams of about 5 to 15 faculty members. Proposals that involve disciplines outside traditional basic and clinical neuroscience (e.g. law, education, business, public policy, humanities) are encouraged. The team’s diversity with respect to professorial rank, departments, schools and scientific disciplines is an important criterion.

Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute values diversity as an asset, and team members of any race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law are invited to participate.

Applicants must be Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute Affiliates. Any Stanford faculty member is invited to join Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute.

  1. Each team must have at least one team leader. One leader should be the communicating team leader, who will submit the letter of intent application online and will serve as the point of contact for the project. The communicating team leader must be Stanford faculty with PI eligibility.
    1. Stanford PI eligible faculty include those with tenure line (UTL), medical center line (MCL), research (NTLR) faculty appointments, as well as Clinician Educator (CE) faculty at the rank of clinical assistant professor and above who are full-time Stanford employees with 100% CE faculty appointments.
    2. Clinical Instructors in the Clinician Educator (CE) line are not eligible to lead teams.
  2. A PI may participate on up to a total of three (3) letters of intent and can be a team leader on only one (1) letter of intent.
  3. Team leaders of current Big Ideas projects (round 1, phase 2) are not eligible to be team leaders on the new (round 2) projects. Faculty receiving significant funding and/or salary support from current Big Ideas projects are not eligible to be team leaders.
  4. Proposals that extend beyond traditional basic and clinical neuroscience into law, education, business, public policy, humanities are encouraged.

Selection Criteria

The Neurosciences Institute Big Ideas Committee will review proposals based on:

  1. Scientific merit / innovation
  2. Creativity
  3. Community engagement
  4. Impact
  5. Team qualifications and diversity
  6. Chance of success

Letter of Intent Submission

The deadline for submitting Letters of Intent for the second round of Big Ideas was 5:00 pm Pacific Time on March 12, 2018. Letters of intent were submitted via the online application service at

The Letter of Intent should include a project summary, list of participants and roles, and a 2-page proposal.

Project Summary 

(online application form)

  • Project title
  • Brief (250 words) summary of the initiative's vision

Participants and Roles

(complete and upload Big Ideas Participant Information and Roles spreadsheet)

Big Ideas Participant Information and Roles

  • Faculty leadership (main contact, 1-2 others)
  • List faculty participants
  • Briefly describe the role of each faculty (1-2 sentences)


(maximum 1000 words, 2 pages, PDF or Word document upload)

  • Background
  • Intellectual goal
  • Specific proposal
  • Expected outcomes review 

Preview of Full Proposal Requirements

If your team’s Letter of Intent is selected by the Big Ideas and Executive Committees, you will be invited to submit a 10-page full proposal. Full proposals must include the intellectual goal, background leading to the proposal, specific aims, the proposed approach and methods, a budget with justification, expected outcome and biosketches of all the faculty involved in the proposal.


Phase 1 grants will be for a two-year development period, subject to a progress review after the first year.


The total two-year budget may be up to $700,000 direct costs, though we anticipate that many of the proposals will not need this amount. The funds can be used for personnel (undergraduate, graduate, or postdoctoral students, research assistants or associates), supplies, equipment, travel, or seminar and symposia needs. Faculty salaries are generally not allowed on this phase of Big Ideas projects.

Complete details for full proposal submission will be provided after Letter of Intent selection.


Contact Tanya Raschke, PhD
Associate Director for Planning and Operations, Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute