Research Guidelines

JPB EH Fellows Research Proposal Guidelines

As you begin discussing proposal ideas, we thought it might be useful for you to have an example of a recently awarded pilot proposal from our NIEHS Center Grant.

This excerpt from our HSPH agreement with the JPB Foundation can serve as a guide to the intent of your research projects: 

The participants in the JPB Environmental Health Fellows program will focus their multidisciplinary collaborative efforts on generating research at the interface of urban [and rural] systems and the health and wellbeing of underserved and often vulnerable communities.

While health professionals recognize that environmental contamination, behaviors and social factors all play a role in determining the health of individuals and of communities, this recognition has not translated into generating wide-scale understanding or potential solutions.  The degradation of the environment often effects low-income populations differentially, in part, through air pollution, noise, chemicals, poor quality water and loss of natural areas, combined with lifestyle changes.  There is some evidence that conditions of the built environment, quality of health care, nutrition, income and education disparities is also contributing to substantial increases in rates of obesity, diabetes, asthma, allergies, diseases of the cardiovascular and nervous systems and cancer—which are now recognized as major public health problems for many low-income urban.  So it is imperative that research be undertaken to address the environmental components of these adverse health outcomes differentially impacting poorer populations.

A major focus of the research undertaken by the initial group of JPB EH Fellows will be to understand the role of environmental contaminant exposures, along with other non-chemical stressors, in diseases and disorders primarily found in low-income communities.  The interactions of genetic factors and environmental factors are critical to further our understanding of susceptibility and expression of disorders.

Consider the following points when developing your research ideas on health disparities relevant to disadvantaged communities:

  1. You can propose adding something new to an existing project. 
  2. You can propose a “pilot project” to gather evidence, collect samples, or to begin a community engagement process to demonstrate feasibility of the methods for a larger research proposal.  The point is to generate preliminary evidence or “proof of concept” data useful for submitting an NIH-like application.
  3. Projects must be driven by aims or hypotheses and have a clear research question.  See the attached NIEHS Pilot Project as an example of a project in line with the kinds of things we are expecting.  Also attached is an application form with the required sections; please submit your proposal using this form.
  4. You can propose more than one research idea.  For example, some of your effort might be as a Co-PI supporting other Fellows; however, we expect you to be PIs on your home university projects and as Co-PIs on other proposals.
  5. You are not bound to a single three-year project and could start a new project each year.  In fact, we will be reviewing progress each year and possibly recommending redirections.
  6. Include a tentative timeline for the project, and list the co-investigators with their roles.
  7. Consider how your project is innovative and advances the science.

As we and selected outside reviewers review your proposals, we will apply the following criteria:

  1. Does your research proposal meet the intent of the JPB EH Fellowship Program?
  2. What is the community involvement aspect of the project, and who are the partners?
  3. Are the aims/hypotheses explicitly stated and are they feasible?
  4. Are methods, approach, and analysis adequately described, appropriate and feasible?
  5. What is the innovation?
  6. How will this project further your career development?
  7. How will this project benefit another fellow and/or be enhanced through the participation of other fellows?

The research proposal process is to provide feedback to either strengthen promising proposals or, if needed, suggest other directions to align with the mission of the JPB Fellowship Program.

The timeline is getting tight, as you will be presenting your draft proposals at the March workshop, so we highly recommend that you set up weekly phone calls to discuss ideas with your co-fellows to develop these proposals.

In addition, as you think about forming your projects and budgets, we want you to be collectively creative and include other activities that could relate to your research and professional development, e.g., you might host other Fellows’ graduate students, co-teach courses or webinars, organize more workshops, etc.  While this cannot be the only thing you propose, we encourage you to use the JPB EH Fellowship resources to your fullest advantage.