Pilot for Early Career Investigators

(formerly Pilot for Junior Investigators in Basic and Clinical/Translational Sciences)

Project Award Amount: $40,000

These pilot projects are intended to support a wide range of biomedical research, including fundamental basic science, clinical/translational science, health policy and social science, digital health (incorporating the use of mobile technology) and population science.

Pilot projects are for one year and not renewable. (Some funding agencies allow for no-cost extensions. This will be clarified in the Award Letter.) All funding agencies require progress reports if an award is received. The number and timing of those reports varies between the agencies. Detailed information about this will appear in the respective funding agencies Award Letter.

For projects focusing on Digital Health Research

Funds are available for research-focused projects in mobile health (dHealth), defined as the use of mobile technology in conjunction with Internet and social media to improve 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.

Projects are encouraged that 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. 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.


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) in the ranks of Instructors and Assistant Professors may apply.  Appointees to the Professional Research Series in the rank of Assistant Research can apply.  Appointees to the Librarian Series may apply. If the proposal has multiple PIs, both PI1 and PI2 need to meet the eligibility criteria listed above for this grant mechanism (both PI1 and PI2 need to be Instructors and/or Assistant Prof.)

Who's Not Eligible:
Fellows are not eligible. Specialists are not eligible.

Funder-specific eligibility requirements:

NOTE:  a proposal with content not covered by the specific funding sources listed below would still be eligible for this pilot grant mechanism.

Precision Medicine in Rheumatology (PREMIER) is an NIH/NIAMS funded Center at UCSF with the overarching goal of facilitating and enhancing precision medicine studies in rheumatic and related autoimmune diseases. Precision medicine studies of interest include but are not limited to studies delineating heterogeneity of rheumatic diseases through multi-omic approaches as well as translational studies focused on a specific biological pathway.  Applicants seeking funding through PREMIER for pilot grants must be members of the Center. All UCSF faculty are eligible for membership; please apply through the PREMIER website:  https://premier.ucsf.edu/content/request-membership. Please address in the proposal how the project is expected to advance precision medicine in rheumatic or related human autoimmune disease. These grants are intended for projects that are translational in nature with studies focused on advancing precision medicine in rheumatology. Projects related to all types of rheumatologic and/or related human autoimmune diseases will be considered. Projects should utilize human samples showing direct links to rheumatologic/autoimmune disease in humans. PREMIER consists of 3 Resource Cores: Clinical Data and Informatics (CDI), Genomic Technology (GT), and Integrative Bioinformatics (IB). You must use a portion of your funds in at least one of the PREMIER Cores (CDI, GT, IB); please contact us in advance to prepare your budget.  Use of more than one Core is encouraged. For more information on our Cores, PREMIER and how to apply for membership, please see our web site at http://premier.ucsf.edu/. For projects focused on Rheumatoid Arthritis you may also consider applying for BPRAR pilot grants. We encourage all applicants to contact us at [email protected].  Center personnel can also advise you regarding preparation of your proposal.

School of Dentistry (SOD) will not sponsor Spring 2024 and will resume in Fall 2024 for clinical research.

Core Center for Musculoskeletal Biology and Medicine (CCMBM)
Applicants must be FULL members of the Center. Instructions for becoming a member can be found at ccmbm.ucsf.edu/become-member. In addition, investigators should explicitly indicate how their proposed project:

  1. tests the feasibility of a new or innovative idea related to musculoskeletal disease representing a clear and distinct departure from their ongoing research; and
  2. addresses a problem in the musculoskeletal field.

In the body of the RAP application, please address your membership status and how you fulfill either of these proposal criteria. We will accept new membership applications up to two weeks prior to the RAP deadline.

The CCMBM Pilot grants are intended for projects that are translational in nature and related to musculoskeletal disease. Digital health projects in this area will also be accepted. The CCMBM consists of three Research Cores (Imaging, Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Study Design, and Skeletal Biology and Biomechanics). You must use a portion of your funds in, at least, one of the cores although use in more than one core is encouraged. For more information on our Cores and the CCMBM in general, please visit our website.

CoLabs - (will not sponsor Spring 2024 and will resume in Fall 2024)
CoLabs is a new model for research collaborations and core labs for the UCSF community. Proposed projects and use of funds must be for musculoskeletal research that includes at least one of the five CoLab Teams - 1. Biological Imaging Development CoLab (BIDC), 2. Data Science CoLab, 3. Disease to Biology CoLab (D2B), 4. Flow Cytometry CoLab, and 5. Genomics CoLab. Kindly consult with the CoLabs Chief Strategist, Andrea Barczak for guidance on the appropriateness of your application idea within the framework of the CoLabs. Consultations must be completed by four weeks prior to the RAP application deadline.

Cancer Center - CCSG Developmental Funds (funded by the NCI P30 award). This program provides seed funding to encourage innovative cancer-related research in a wide range of research areas, including basic science, clinical and translational science, health policy and social science, and population sciences. Priority is given to innovative, translational science and to areas that align with HDFCCC research priorities. This program supports novel cancer research initiatives which are not currently funded by research grants and which may ultimately lead to new ways of preventing, detecting, or treating cancer. Training costs and routine equipment purchases are not allowable. International Subcontracts are allowable on CCSG funds, with specific requirements regarding foreign components and if the foreign subcontractor is from industries (see Detailed Budget section below). 

Academic Senate will not fund fellows and postdocs.

CTSI-Pilot Awards (funded by the NIH NCATS U54 Award) provides funding in Spring Cycles ONLY, and supports proposals that focus on innovative and novel translational and clinical studies with high consideration given to the following priority areas: rural health, vulnerable populations, and partner health center/health system network capacity. Consistent with NCATS mission to catalyze translation of discoveries to treatments, the proposed research should focus on translational science and clinical research rather than on basic discovery research. A preferred, but not required, characteristic is that such research not only address a translational research question, but also provide insights that could be generalized to other projects. Such research will advance translational science. Examples of pilot studies include feasibility studies, secondary analysis of existing data, development of new research methodology and/or new tools, dissemination of effective tools, methods, processes, or early development of new therapy or technology.  Investigators must apply with documentation of a faculty-equivalent appointment.  Projects that involve human subjects will require (IRB/IACUC approval letters), evidence of human studies training (if applicable), and supplemental documentation for and NIH Prior Approval for timely release of project funds. 

Research Evaluation and Allocation Committee (REAC) To be funded by REAC applicants must have an appointment with the UCSF School of Medicine.  REAC funds pilot projects ranging from basic to clinical and translational. Pilot research should collect data for publication and to acquire successful subsequent funding by other mechanisms.

Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health (will not sponsor Spring 2024 and will resume in Fall 2024) is a transdisciplinary UCSF Center with the overarching goal of improving sexual and reproductive health (SRH) worldwide. Applicants seeking Bixby funding must be members of the Center. Any UCSF investigator working in SRH is eligible for membership. To apply, you may self-nominate or a current member may nominate you to the Bixby Director at least two weeks before the RAP application deadline. The purposes of the Bixby award are to: 1) catalyze new collaborations among Bixby members; 2) support innovative research with the potential for large impact; and 3) advance health care, policy or education in abortion, adolescent sexual health, contraception, HIV/STIs or pregnancy and birth. A new collaboration is work with a Bixby member on another team with whom you have not previously conducted research, authored an abstract or manuscript, and from whom you have not previously received mentorship. Please address in your proposal how you expect the project to advance Bixby collaboration, how the project is innovative, and how it will ultimately impact SRH. Ideally, pilot research will collect data for publication. For projects focused on HIV/AIDS, you may also consider applying for CAPS-HIV Innovative Grants or CFAR Pilot Award for Investigators New to HIV. For projects focused on pregnancy and birth disparities, you may also consider applying to the PTBi-CA Pilot or Innovation Awards in Prematurity Research.

Submission Rules

Designation of Research Mentor
All pilot award applications from individuals at the Assistant Professor level or below require the designation of a faculty mentor. This should be an individual who has primary responsibility for overseeing the research career development of the applicant.

Criteria for Review/Evaluation of Applications
Projects will be evaluated based on the quality of the proposed scientific investigation, 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.

The proposal will be evaluated based on the following questions: click here to view the review form for this grant mechanism.

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.  Please note there are several pieces of information that need to be provided directly via the electronic application form (selecting the appropriate grant mechanism, providing demographic information, uploading an abstract, etc.).

Click here to preview an inactive template of 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.


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; 11pt; 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. Make sure the new edits 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". A new letter of support from the Department Chair or other Unit Head is required in all cases.

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.     Project Title

3.     Proposal (maximum 6 pages, including figures and tables, excluding literature cited and Community Engagement component (if applicable)

  • 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 project period for this grant (approximately 300 words max).
  • Background and Significance
  • Preliminary studies
  • Experimental Design and Methods (include time-table)
  • Explain how this pilot project is important for your career goals (e.g., lead to major funding, etc.)
  • Mentoring Plan: Please describe the plan for oversight of this project by your mentor(s), including the specific role of your primary mentor named in this application.
  • Literature cited (not included in page limit)

It is recommended that PIs with projects involving human subjects prepare an IRB application concurrently with the application for funding. Please refer to the UCSF Human Research Protection Program to determine if your research requires IRB review and if your research meets the definition of human subjects research.

4.  Detailed Budget - $40,000 maximum per proposal; 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":
http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/phs398/phs398.html   ​Add the network recharge rates to your budget.

    Budget Preparation Resources:



Not Allowable

PI Salary *



Co-Investigator(s) Salary


Post Doc Salary



Network Recharge Rates  X  
General Automobile and Employee Liability insurance (GAEL)   X

Administrative Support












Personal Computers






General Automobile and Employee Liability (GAEL)   X







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



Patient Care



International Subcontracts**


X (CTSI-Pilot Awards, MZHF)

Indirect Costs on Subcontracts at other Universities


X (CTSI-Pilot Awards)

Publication fees (max $5K) 


*The NIH base salary cap applies.  PIs are required to list their effort whether it is paid or in kind.

PI partial salary support should be well-justified with respect to project activities. Due to their small size, RAP grants are designed for project support and are not intended to provide PI salary support unrelated to the project.  PI salary amounts greater than ~10% of the requested award amount (e.g., $5,000 of a $50K award proposal, not 10% FTE) must be well justified and it should reflect work done by the PI to conduct specific scientific tasks on the project (e.g. data collection, computation) and not merely general supervision of project goals and personnel.

Multiple PIs can decide how to distribute the 10% salary support among themselves (e.g., 5%/5% or 6%/4%).

  • The 10% limit on salary support is a guideline and includes SALARY & FRINGE BENEFITS.
  • The award amount is DIRECT COST ONLY.

 ** If CCSG resources are used in partnership with industrial resources, the Cancer Center must assure that applicable federal law governs the public availability of any final products of the research. In addition, NIH must track all pilot projects in this category that include foreign components and, if necessary, State Department clearance must be obtained prior to implementation. Cancer Center staff will act as the liaison between the Centers and the NIH Fogarty International Center, which is responsible for coordinating all clearances.

If you need assistance with budgeting for statistical or recruitment help, please contact CTSI-Consultation Services. Consultation Services offers a free hour to all researchers per project and service, and it can assist with appropriate budgeting if your project is awarded.

Specific funder budget constraints:

PREMIER cannot fund any international projects or expenses. You must use a portion of your funds in at least one of the Cores (HSCP: Human Studies and Clinical Phenotyping, GMR: Genomics and Molecular Resources, and IB: Integrative Bioinformatics), although use in more than one Core is encouraged. In the budget, you will need to outline how funds will be spent in Core(s). To obtain an estimate regarding Core usage, please use the request services form on the PREMIER website (http://premier.ucsf.edu/content/request-services) and enter RAP grant proposal in your request.  IACUC and IRB approvals letters, and evidence of human studies training (if applicable) need to be provided for timely release of project funds.

CTSI-Pilot Awards cannot fund any international projects or expenses; projects where there may be foreign co-authorship will require additional approval prior to release of funds. Current K scholars are not eligible to receive salary support from CTSI-Pilot Awards. K scholars must submit the type of K award received and award dates. Current K scholars must also submit justification for the differences between K-awarded project and RAP project. KL2 awardees are not eligible.

Cancer Center-CCSG Developmental Funds cannot support training costs and routine equipment purchases. International Subcontracts are allowable on CCSG funds, with specific requirements regarding foreign components and if the foreign subcontractor is from industries (see Detailed Budget section above).

CCMBM cannot fund any international projects or expenses. In the budget, please also outline how much money you will be spending in each CCMBM core. In addition, before the CCMBM can release funds, NIH/NIAMS requires a review of the application to assure all relevant human and animal welfare protocols are approved and in place. Consequently, proof of relevant training for all PIs and Co-Is (if applicable) and IACUC and IRB approvals letters (if applicable) need to be provided for timely release of project funds.

5.  Budget Justification: Clearly and fully justify all costs. Budget Overlap - If the proposed study is closely related or a sub-study of existing funded research listed in the applicant’s bio sketch, clarify the relationship between the two projects and confirm that there is no overlap in funding.

For all personnel, clearly identify any discrepancies between the actual effort (i.e. real percent time) the individual will contribute to the project, versus the amount of salary effort they are requesting.  This is particularly important for personnel/PI's who expect to contribute project effort with little or no salary, such as those whose salary is above the NIH base salary cap.

Recall: PI salary amounts greater than ~10% of the requested award amount must be well justified.

NOTE: If your Other Support references projects that may appear to have scientific or budgetary overlap with this proposal, please clearly identify and explain why this proposal is unique and non-overlapping.

6. NIH BioSketch of Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator(s) and UCSF Faculty Mentor(s) (if applicable), (5 page format):

·         Use Form Version H at https://grants.nih.gov/grants/forms/biosketch-blank-format-rev-10-2021.docx
·         Include bio sketches for both PIs of a multi-PI application
·         Only NIH Bio sketch version H will be accepted with RAP applications this Spring 2024 Cycle.

Other support pages of Principal Investigator(s) and Co-Investigator(s) and UCSF Faculty Mentor(s)  

7.  Letter(s) of support: Provide a letter of support from the department chair or other unit head. In addition, for Early Career 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 document 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. VIEW SAMPLE.