Digital Mental Health Award Track

Spring Cycle Only - Not Offered in Spring 2020

Project Award Amount: $40,000


The UCSF Department of Psychiatry’s Digital Health Core will be sponsoring a dHealth research project that is focused on advancing mental health through technology. Projects must include the delivery of technology using mobile devices (including mobile phones, tablets, and sensing devices) and/or virtual/augmented reality, with the goal of improving mental health. The DHC is interested in funding technical feasibility studies as well as methods development and evaluation studies. Funds under this mechanism are available for research-focused projects in mobile mental health (dHealth), defined as the use of mobile technology in conjunction with Internet and social media to improve mental health and wellness and/or to manage disease. dHealth emphasizes use by laypeople but also includes use by clinicians and other health care workers (including public health and community care workers). Awards can be for projects in any health domain where there exists an unmet need or the potential for significant improvement over current approaches.

Each project will have a maximum budget of $40,000. This track will also include:

  • 40 hours of Design and Discovery support via the UCSF Technology Services School of Medicine, which may be used to develop wireframes, prototypes, and/or technical support
  • Toptal™, a premium talent finding agency has pledged 20 complimentary hours exclusively to the recipients of the RAP award to help get said project up and running (see here for more details).

Awardees are not obligated to use either resource; rather, they are encouraged to utilize either/any of these options to best accomplish the goals of the proposed project in a timely and efficient manner.

Study teams must include at least 1 PI from the Department of Psychiatry at a postdoc OR faculty level (may be a multi-PI submission). It is highly recommended that interested applicants reach out to the DHC Director Joaquin Anguera to inquire about the goodness of fit of study applications.

Projects must involve delivery of the technology over mobile devices (mobile phones, tablets, excluding laptops) Examples include mobile phone "apps" for medication reminders, symptom tracking, improved dietary habits, health records exchange, or medical reference. Projects may include the use of sensing devices (e.g., pedometer, physiologic sensors) but projects that are solely about sensors or biomechanical devices are not supported by this mechanism.

The following is a guide to which dHealth grant mechanism is most appropriate for your project:

  • Technical feasibility studies (e.g., planning and design work, development of a working prototype, initial user testing) -- either the Research Projects mechanism (if overall project objective is to primarily generate new knowledge) or the Early Translational Projects (ETR dHealth) mechanism (if your overall project objective is primarily to commercialize or disseminate)
  • Methods development or evaluation studies (e.g., pilot proof of concept studies, field evaluations) – the Research Projects mechanism
  • Note that feasibility studies determining the potential value of a dHealth intervention that do not in themselves use or propose to develop a specific technology (e.g., evaluation of technology access in a target group, focus groups/interviews to determine barriers to potential adoption of dHealth interventions) are appropriate under this mechanism.

dHealth Research Project Awards
Project funds under this category are intended to support the planning or development of mobile technology projects intended primarily to culminate in the generation of new knowledge on dHealth methods, efficacy, effectiveness, or policy. (See dHealth Translational Project Awards for projects focusing on commercialization or dissemination of mobile technology). Appropriate project proposal goals include but are not limited to the accumulation of preliminary data for grant proposals and/or for publication, system design, programming, usability studies, study coordinator time, data entry personnel, or other justified research related needs and supplies. Examples include development and initial usability testing of a prototype iPhone symptom diary for an NIH proposal, or focus group studies on the use of cell phones for health purposes among homeless youth.

Each project will have a maximum budget of $40,000. Partial investigator salary support may be requested. Funding is for one year from the time of award and is not renewable. A progress report is required of all recipients of an award at the end of the funding period as well as one year following the funding period, identifying resulting publications and subsequent funding obtained to support expanded/extended projects. Any resulting publication must directly cite funding by UCSF Department of Psychiatry, DHC.


Eligibility requirements need to be met as of date of submission; no waivers are allowed. 

Who's Eligible: UCSF faculty in any Series (Ladder Rank, In Residence, Clinical X, Health Science Clinical, Adjunct) at all ranks (Instructors, Assistant, Associate, Full Professors) may apply.  Appointees to the Professional Research Series and LIbrarian Series can also apply. Postdoctoral Scholars and Fellows are eligible to submit applications as PI when a faculty member is acting as Co-PI. Study teams must include at least 1 PI from the Department of Psychiatry at a postdoc OR faculty level (may be a multi-PI submission).

Who's Not Eligible: Residents, Specialists.

Submission Rules

Application Requirements
A completed research proposal application form is required. The proposal should provide the aims of the project, background and significance, any preliminary work, experimental plans and methods (including evaluation metrics and timetable), and an explanation of how this funding will increase your ability to secure future funding for this project. Note in particular that proposals for software development should include a quote from a software developer. Applicants are encouraged to consider the potential intellectual property implications of working with outside organizations. Please see detailed instructions.

Criteria for Evaluation of Applications
Proposals will be evaluated based on the potential of the project to improve health or the delivery of healthcare services, the scientific rationale, the methodological strength of the proposal, the potential of the proposal to lead to a fully funded independent research grant, and the quality and potential of the applicant and the research team.

Both feasibility and methods/evaluation studies will be considered for funding under this mechanism. Applicants are encouraged to scope their proposals carefully to what can realistically be carried out in one year with $40,000. Feasibility studies will be evaluated based on appropriate involvement of technical, design, and usability methods and expertise.

Projects that involve human subjects will require UCSF/CHR approval before funding is released.

Selection of Awardees
Funding decisions are made independently by each funding agency based on several factors – scientific review score, alignment of proposal to funder’s strategic goals, proposal research area of focus, and specifically called out eligibility or other requirements like membership in a center, affiliation with a specific school or a well-described mentoring plan.


STEP 1) Complete the electronic application form
STEP 2) Upload your proposal as a SINGLE PDF that includes all the things listed in numeric order in the instructions below. Do not include form fields in your PDF document.


Please write your proposal following the instructions listed below and create one single PDF file. Do not include form fields in your PDF document.

Proposal Length: Maximum 6 pages, including figures and tables, excluding table of contents, literature cited and Community Engagement component (if applicable).

Format Requirements:  Arial font; 11 pt; minimum 0.5 inch for all margins; no appendices; include page numbers and table of contents.

Definition: Same research topic with an amended application or research plan rather than a new research topic and new research plan.
Requirements: Please use up to one extra page to introduce your revised proposal, addressing the issues raised in the review, and any additional changes to your proposal. A new letter from the Chair is not required if the resubmission is within 2 cycles (one skipped cycle max). You will include the old letter and state your resubmission is within 2 cycles and new letter is not required. Make sure the new changes are highlighted in bold or italic font so the reviewers can easily see where and how the proposal has changed. Do not use track changes.

1.    PI Name(s) - Optionally, you may apply with two PIs. If funded, PI1 will be the primary contact for the award set up and management. If the proposal has multiple PIs, both PI1 and PI2 need to meet the eligibility criteria listed for this grant mechanism. Only one application as PI (PI1 OR PI2) is permitted per cycle.

2.    Research Agreements/MTA: Related to this project, do you have any external partners or industry sponsors? If so please briefly describe the relationship and note that, if awarded, an MTA/research agreement may be required prior to funds being distributed. Be sure to also describe in concrete terms the relative benefit of the project to both the industry partner and the UCSF Researcher. Additionally, if the project is significantly tied to an external partner or industry sponsor, a letter is required from the outside partner/industry sponsor outlining the nature of interaction and commitment to contribute their part upon funding of the project.

3.    Project Title

4.    Proposal (maximum 6 pages, including figures and tables, excluding literature cited and community engagement component (if applicable)).

  • Specific aims. Do not submit an application that describes an idea that is the same or similar to one used in a previously funded RAP grant. If it is a similar idea, describe how the new proposed research is uniquely different.
  • Feasibility: Describe what steps you are taking to ensure the proposed project can be completed within the one year project period for this grant (approximately 300 word max).
  • Background and Significance
  • Preliminary studies
  • Experimental Design and Methods (include evaluation metrics and time-table). If you are proposing software development, please include a quote for services from a developer, and ideally some data on their past ability to meet timelines and budgets.
  • Explain how this pilot project is important for your career goals (e.g., lead to major funding, etc.)
  • Literature cited (not included in page limit)

Community Engagement Component (optional) describe a community engagement component for your research proposal (300 words max.). Projects that engage in community partnership practices are characterized by increasing level of community involvement, impact, trust and communication flow (from stages of involve, collaborate and shared leadership). For examples of excellence in community partnerships, please visit: Community broadly includes local, state, national and international stakeholders. Stakeholders include researchers, health systems, government, policy makers, community based orgaizations, community residents and patients.  For clarification, questions and consultations, please contact either [email protected] or [email protected]

5.  Detailed Budget ($40,000 maximum per proposal) and please round up to the nearest thousand (i.e. instead of $39,867 list $40,000).
Use the following form: PHS 398 Form Page 4, "Detailed Budget for the Initial Period": Add the network recharge rates to your budget.



Not Allowable

PI Salary



Co-Investigator(s) Salary



Post Doc Salary



Administrative Support












Personal Computers












Research Staff Support (e.g. RSA; Lab. Technician)



Patient Care



International Subcontracts



Indirect costs on subcontracts at other universities



*NIH base salary cap. Fully justify all requests. Generally PI partial salary support should not exceed 10% of the award budget - NOT a % of PI salary. An amount over 10% of the award budget must be well justified. Multiple PIs can decide how to distribute the 10% salary support among themselves (e.g., 5%/5% or 6%/4%).

6.    Budget Justification: clearly justify all costs fully. A price quote for any proposed software development is not required but is highly recommended.

7.    NIH Bio-sketch of Principal Investigator(s) and Co-Investigator(s) and UCSF Faculty Mentor(s) (if applicable) (5 page maximum):

Use this version: Biosketch Version E. Include biosketches for all PIs of a multi-PI application, and any other key personnel such as Co-Investigator(s) or UCSF Faculty Mentor(s). In section "D. Additional Information", list the relevant recent past, planned, active, and pending proposals, including percent effort and total direct costs (annual), where possible. Include a brief discussion of any potential overlap with the current proposal. 

8.    Letter(s) of support: Provide a letter of support from the department chair or other unit head. In addition, for junior investigators, department chairs/unit heads should comment on the independence of the applicant and availability of research space and other resources for the proposed research. Include the letter of support at the end of your PDF proposal and address it to the RAP Committee. If there are multiple (two) PIs, a letter of support is required for both PIs. If PIs are in the same department, the chair can vouch for both PIs in a single letter.