Making a Difference in Real-World Bioethics Dilemmas

New Bioethics Funding Opportunity

New Bioethics Program, Spring 2014

Making a Difference in Real-World Bioethics Dilemmas


The Greenwall Foundation will fund a bioethics grants program, Making a Difference in Real-World Bioethics Dilemmas to support research to help resolve an important emerging or unanswered bioethics problem in clinical care, biomedical research, public health practice, or public policy. We hope these grants will have a real-world, practical impact.


Under this RFP, we will fund four types of grants.  We will continue to fund the mentored projects and senior collaborations from the first cycle, and we have added two additional grant categories described below.  The first three types of proposals will receive priority if the requested time frame is one-year or less, and the annual budget is below $60,000, though we will consider annual budgets up to $100,000. The fourth type of proposal may have timelines longer than one-year and annual budgets at the investigator’s discretion.


1. Mentored research projects. Awards to a senior bioethics researcher to carry out a mentored bioethics research project with a post-doctoral fellow or junior faculty member. The close mentoring will help ensure that the project is completed within a year. The Foundation will provide salary support for the effort of the mentor on the project. Projects where the mentee already has salary support will receive priority. Proposals in which the mentee has other responsibilities that compete with carrying out such a research project, like courses for a degree program and clinical responsibilities by resident physicians or fellows, will be considered only in exceptional circumstances. Mentored research projects may analyze the normative implications of empirical research conducted with other funding (as described in #3).  For projects that involve secondary analysis of existing data sets, the team must include expertise in the obtaining, merging, and analysis of such datasets. For mentored projects, primary data collection will be considered only in exceptional circumstances. Proposals to collect pilot or preliminary data for a larger project will not be considered.


2. Senior collaboration projects. Grants to allow innovative biomedical or clinical researchers or leaders of health care organizations or government agencies to partner with an established bioethics scholar to carry out research on the intersection of their primary work with bioethics. For example, a leading researcher in an innovative biomedical field could bring deep knowledge of that field to help analyze important unresolved bioethics problems in it. As another example, a physician-leader in a safety-net hospital or a public health agency could analyze ethical problems she or he had encountered and struggled with. Both collaborating senior scholars are eligible for salary support.


3. Analyzing the normative implications of empirical research you are conducting with other funding (new initiative). Researchers able to obtain funding from other sponsors to carry out empirical research on a bioethics dilemma or issue, may lack support to write about the conceptual or normative implications of the findings of this empirical research. We will fund investigators to write conceptual or normative analyses, providing that the empirical study is well-designed and the findings interesting.


4. Empirical bioethics research involving primary data collection (new initiative). We invite projects that involve the collection of primary data, are tightly linked to an active real-world bioethics problem or policy dilemma, and likely to contribute to its resolution. Priority will be given to important bioethics problems or policy questions, particularly those being actively debated by policy makers. The research team must demonstrate the ability to carry out such projects within the proposed time frame. Methodology should be rigorous, (e.g. attention to response rates, representativeness of the sample, and minimizing bias). These projects may have extended time frames and annual budgets larger than $60,000 to $100,000, however, all other things being equal, cost conscious projects will receive priority; for example by adding questions to already-funded survey projects or using cost sharing arrangements such as with existing grants or research trainees whose salary is supported from other sources (provided that trainees do not have conflicting classwork or clinical responsibilities). Proposals to collect pilot or preliminary data for a larger project are discouraged. Partial salary support may be requested for staff to manage the budget/finances and administration as appropriate.  


We expect grantees to disseminate their research through practical articles in one or more peer-reviewed journals that reach the appropriate audience for the topic studied, through presentations in relevant national and international professional meetings, and in other ways that will increase real-world impact.


Examples of the kinds of real-life bioethics problems grantees might address include:

  • Dilemmas raised by innovative biomedical research and new communication technologies.
  • Dilemmas from major changes in the delivery of U.S. health care resulting from the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Acts and private initiatives.
  • Dilemmas that are particularly salient -- and particularly ripe for analysis -- in certain cultural and ethnic communities, although they also involve people across the population.


In evaluating proposals The Foundation will consider:

  • The real-world importance of the bioethics problem to be studied and the likelihood the project will have a constructive real-world impact.
  • The innovative nature of the project's approach and how it goes beyond previous work on the issue.
  • The professional background of the proposed investigators, and their close, working familiarity with the bioethics problems to be addressed.
  • The previous success of the principal investigator in carrying out similar projects (mentoring, collaboration, normative implication of empirical research, or primary data collection).
  • The success of the investigators publishing practical bioethics articles, similar to what is proposed, in top-tier journals with a broad audience.
  • The value added by interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • The reasonableness of the budget. All things being equal, projects with smaller budgets will receive priority.


While we will give strong preference to proposals that meet these criteria, we will also consider exceptional proposals outside these criteria that meet our strategic goal of supporting bioethics research that will have a real-world impact. More than one applicant may apply from each institution, but primary investigators may submit only one letter of intent per funding cycle. 


Projects with the following characteristics will not be funded:

  • Projects that implement or make incremental improvements in established approaches to bioethics problems, build institutional infrastructure, or provide bioethics education, training or course work.
  • Projects that simply describe or analyze bioethics issues or provide a conceptual framework, without making practical recommendations for resolving the issues. However, projects that present normative recommendations that are based on previous empirical research are encouraged (project category three).
  • Proposals to gather pilot or preliminary data for a larger project.
  • Projects whose main goal is to convene or enhance a meeting.
  • Projects to support or extend ongoing or core activities of an organization.
  • Applications from unaffiliated individuals and from institutions outside the U.S. The Greenwall Foundation awards grants only to tax-exempt institutions in the U.S.


We welcome e-mail inquiries about this initiative,


Application Process


Friday, December 13, 2013 at 5:00pm ET  – Deadline for email letter of intent. We encourage applicants with projects already in development to submit their inquiries before the deadline.


Please direct all letters of intent to with the subject “Primary investigator’s last name, first name, title of proposal, either ‘Mentored’, ‘Collaboration’, ‘Normative’, or ‘Empirical’ LOI”.  Please send a 400-600 word e-mail of inquiry organized by the following headings:

  • Title
  • Type of project: senior collaboration, mentored project, normative implications, or primary data collection
  • The amount and duration of funding requested.
  • A one sentence summary of the project for a lay audience
  • The bioethics problem to be addressed
  • The specific aims or research questions of the project
  • How the proposed project is innovative and goes beyond the current work on the problem, particularly in its potential to have a real-world impact
  • Names of the proposed research team. Please attach copies of CV's (no more than 3 pages each, highlighting publications relevant to the application) of the two main investigators (or mentee and mentor).
  • The nature of peer-reviewed publication(s) expected from the project and how the target journal audience includes key individuals who can change practice or policy.


Selected applicants will be encouraged to submit a full application. Some applicants will receive feedback on issues to be specifically addressed or clarified.


Friday, February 14, 2014 at 5:00pm ET– Deadline for full applications, by invitation only. 


We will fund another cycle of grants in Fall/Winter 2014.  The deadline to submit email inquiries will be in early fall.  We will release an updated application timeline in the summer of 2014.