Boston University Arts & Sciences

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W. M. Keck Foundation
Science & Engineering Research Program
and Medical Research Program

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION: The W. M. Keck Foundation’s two major research grant programs support research projects in natural science, engineering, and medicine, at the forefront of numerous fields and across disciplinary lines. They fund work that lays the foundation for discoveries and new technologies that will save lives, provide innovative solutions to pressing problems, and add to our understanding of the world. Past grants have been awarded to major universities and independent research institutes to support pioneering scientific research and the development of promising new technologies, and to facilitate the purchase of advanced instruments where such instruments would further research ideas. Grants range from $500,000 to $1 million over a maximum of three years.

The foundation strives to fund endeavors that are distinctive and novel in their approach. It encourages projects that are high-risk with the potential for transformative impact. “High-risk” projects push the edge of the field, present unconventional approaches to intransigent problems, or challenge the prevailing paradigm. “Transformative” may mean creation of a new field of research, development of new instrumentation enabling observations not previously possible, or discovery of knowledge that challenges prevailing perspectives. Projects are interdisciplinary; focus on basic research and are not disease-specific or clinical in nature; and require the support of private philanthropy rather than public funding agencies. Proposed projects should build on significant institutional resources, investments, and commitments.

Complete lists of past grants can be found here for Medical Research and here for Science & Engineering.

Internal Review Process

Boston University is limited to submitting one pre-proposal to the foundation for the May 1 deadline. Interested BU investigators should electronically submit materials described below to the Office of the Vice President for Research ( by December 9, 2011, for internal review.

1. A description of the proposed research (maximum length 3 pages) including:

a. Overview: Summarize the project’s overall goal, methodology, and significance to science or medicine, for a well-educated lay audience. Don’t be modest. What scientific or technical frontier will your project take us beyond, and what new worlds will this open up to us?

b. Goals and Methodology: State the major goals of this project and summarize the methodologies and time frame to be used in achieving them.

c. Relationship to field: What distinguishes this project from existing work in the field? Name at least two other groups that are pursuing comparable or related work and explain how this project differs from their work. If no one is pursuing related work, please explain why.

d. Key Personnel: Name key project personnel and describe their expertise and role in this project.

e. Institutional capacity: Describe past and current efforts at Boston University that are relevant to this project, including institutional resources that will support the work and any existing or prospective public funding for this or related work.

f. Justification for WMKF support: Explain why public sources are unlikely or unable to fund this project and why support from the Keck Foundation is essential for this project.

2. A bibliography of 3–4 background publications that will provide context for understanding the project and its importance.

3. A letter of recommendation from the appropriate chair or research mentor, commenting on the PI’s and institution’s capacity to undertake the proposed project and on its significance for science, engineering, or medicine.

The Vice President for Research, in consultation with the University Provost, the Medical Campus Provost, relevant deans, and the foundation, will select one project for submission as a Phase I pre-proposal by the May 1, 2012, deadline.

BU Internal Deadline: December 9, 2011
Phase I (pre-proposal) Submission: May 1, 2012
Phase II (full proposal) Submission: August 15, 2012 (if invited)

Return to the November 2011 Newsletter

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