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SPARC: Catalytic Funding for Novel Collaborative Projects

A goal of the Broad Institute is to make it possible for investigators to undertake new projects and explore new scientific directions. However, these new directions are often difficult to fund by traditional mechanisms because they can be viewed as too risky or require preliminary data to justify. Scientific Projects to Accelerate Research and Collaboration (SPARC) was therefore created as a mechanism to strategically invest discretionary resources in relatively small projects that catalyze the creation of new scientific directions, new scientific communities, or new technologies and capabilities. Proposals are rapidly reviewed by the SPARC committee, chaired by Todd Golub, and awarded on a quarterly basis.

SPARC Goals

The overall goal of the SPARC program is to catalyze new research directions. This may take many forms, including

  • creating new capabilities (technologies, capabilities or experimental approaches) of broad interest to the Broad community
  • creating new communities and collaborations by bringing to together investigators across the Broad community to tackle important problems together and/or by bringing new scientific perspectives into the community
  • creating scientific resources (data or reagents) of broad interest to the Broad community
  • pursuing transformative science that addresses major hurdles for a specific field

Successful SPARC proposals are likely to be those that i) push the institute in a new direction, ii) facilitate new collaborative interactions, and iii) benefit the scientific community broadly via catalytic science. Successful SPARC proposals typically benefit the Broad scientific community and not just a single laboratory (although the work is often done in a single lab). In addition, the intention is to fund projects that could not be readily funded by other mechanisms because they would be viewed as too risky or lacking in preliminary data.

Eligibility

All Institute Members, Associate Members, Institute Scientists and staff scientists with PI status are allowed to apply for SPARC funding. Scientists without PI status can easily apply for PI status for a particular SPARC proposal submission, but this process must be initiated and completed prior to consideration of the proposal by the SPARC committee. For more information regarding eligibility, please contact Kathryn Link (link@broadinstitute.org) in the Office for Sponsored Research, or Alex Burgin (aburgin@broadinstitute.org) in the CSO Office.

If applicants would like feedback on a SPARC project idea from the SPARC committee, they are invited to submit a 1-2 paragraph pre-proposal inquiry to Alex Burgin (aburgin@broadinstitute.org). Pre-proposal inquiries will be examined on a rolling-process (ie. they can be submitted at any time).

Submitting a SPARC Proposal

Applicants are not required, but are strongly encouraged to discuss potential SPARC ideas with Alex Burgin (Senior Scientific Advisor to the CSO, aburgin@broadinstitute.org) prior to preparing a proposal application. Applicants are also strongly encouraged to discuss their proposals with relevant Program and Platform Directors prior to submission.

Completed applications should be sent electronically to sparcproposals@broadinstitute.org by the deadlines listed below.

Application Deadlines and Review

Applications are reviewed on a quarterly basis, with review and notification typically occurring within one month of the application deadline. Unless the deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, proposals are due by the close of business on:

January 2
April 1
July 1
October 1