Funded SCIBAR Projects
These incredible teams will each be awarded $1 million dollars to further their work.
Funded by the Dean’s Office:
- Waking up to Climate Change: Cool Roofs, Sleep, and Health in Baltimore City
PIs Kirsten Koehler and Adam Spira
- Assessing Hidden Hunger through Plasma Proteomics
PI Keith West
Funded by the Bloomberg American Health Initiative:
- Can restoring vacant lots improve adolescent health disparities?
PI Kristin Mmari
- Translating Mixed-Methods Research in Addiction and Overdose to Policy and Practice in Indigenous Communities throughout the United States
PIs Melissa Walls and Sean Allen
We look forward to hearing about their progress over the next four years.
A Year of Collaboration, Refinement And Deliberation
We would like to thank everyone who contributed to the early success of SCIBAR, including the members of the proposal review panel and the pitch review panel. We are deeply appreciative of their time and careful, thoughtful deliberation.
The SCIBAR funding process was designed to capitalize on the breadth and depth of expertise of the faculty at the Bloomberg School, incentivizing the development of productive and novel partnerships working together to solve complex and pressing health challenges. In addition to generating innovative ideas, the SCIBAR effort also sought to build awareness of the power of team science throughout the School. We were delighted by the enthusiasm and engagement that this program elicited and are genuinely inspired by the proposals each team presented.
The SCIBAR initiative kicked off in May of 2019, with a Schoolwide event introducing our academic community to the concept of SCIBAR and announcing the funding opportunity associated with this effort: 4 $1,000,000 grants to be awarded to the teams with the most innovative projects designed to move from insight to action. Two of these awards are funded by the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, addressing one of the five programmatic areas sponsored by the Initiative: Addiction and Overdose; Adolescent Health; Environmental Challenges; Obesity and the Food System; or Violence. The other two awards are funded by the Office of the Dean.
SCIBAR challenges teams to use both basic and applied research to address major problems undermining health and well-being in the world. Many of these problems pose special threats to health equity. Consequently, the theme of health equity is a critical component of SCIBAR, and teams were expected to explain how the problems they targeted and the solutions proposed addressed “avoidable, unfair, or remediable differences among people.” To raise awareness of the issues around health equity and how to address them in research, a panel discussion was held in the summer of 2019, which was open to the entire School community.
In October of 2019, we received 44 letters of intent, and 27 of these teams chose to participate in an optional open poster session, Post-It, using the Better Poster format. Teams received feedback on their ideas from faculty, students and staff, and both participants and attendees learned an innovative approach to developing and presenting a poster in a way that encourages dialog with the presenter. The teams took the feedback they received and incorporated it in the development of a 3 page concept summary, which was submitted in December of 2019, outlining the public health problem they aimed to address, and briefly outlining their proposed approach.
The 33 concept summaries received were reviewed by a review panel chaired by Dean Emeritus Michael Klag. Other panel members included Janice Bowie, Robert Black, Joanna Cohen, Diane Griffin, Gregory Kirk, Tom Louis, Manthuram Santosham, Joshua Sharfstein, alumna Beth Linas, and Bloomberg School Health Advisory Board Member Bill Clarke. Cecilia Meisner, Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations, also participated in the review to help match unfunded proposals with foundations or other funding opportunities. After careful deliberation, twelve finalists were invited to submit a full proposal.
The finalists, in addition to developing their SCIBAR proposals, were tasked with developing a 5-minute pitch to the School community, making the case for the magnitude of the problem they aimed to solve and the match between their proposed intervention and the solution. In February of 2020, the teams received a full day training session on communicating about science with the Alan Alda Foundation, and an introductory workshop on science communication was offered to the entire School at the same time. The teams practiced their pitches with a panel chaired by Dean Emeritus Alfred Sommer, which also included Lymari Morales, Nina Martin, and Health Advisory Board members Karl Ronn and Irene Frary. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Pitch-It event to go to an online format, and in June of 2020, the pitches were made available to the public. Participants in the virtual Pitch-It event were able to provide feedback to the project teams and indicate which projects they felt were most closely aligned with the principles of SCIBAR. Participation in this event was excellent, and hundreds of evaluation forms were completed, demonstrating engagement with the ideas and the teams.
Final proposals, which were submitted in July of 2020, were reviewed by the same panel that reviewed the pre-proposals (note that Diane Griffin was replaced by Ashani Weeraratna due to a potential conflict of interest). Final proposals were judged based on the importance of the problem, the project’s potential for innovation, the degree to which it addressed health equity, feasibility, and the strength of the research team. While all twelve proposals were excellent, the committee presented Dean MacKenzie with the four proposals they agreed should be funded.
We congratulate all of the scientists who pursued new collaborations as a result of SCIBAR. We are hopeful that this process has created new partnerships and a renewed awareness of the potential of team science. Our commitment to non-traditional approaches to thorny problems in public health and the consideration of the importance of health equity in proposing solutions will carry forward, and we will continue to support and promote opportunities for these productive relationships to flourish.