American Academy of Optometry Scientific Research Career Development Award

The American Academy of Optometry (AAO) is pleased to announce the development of a scientific research career development award for optometric faculty at schools or colleges of optometry and optometrists practicing in Departments of Ophthalmology. This announcement serves as the American Academy of Optometry’s request for proposals for its new Scientific Research Career Development Award.

Rationale and basis for the Academy funding this award: It has been recognized for some time that young investigators, including optometric investigators, take many years after the inception of their careers before successfully acquiring Federal research funding. In fact, the mean age of first time National Institutes of Health (NIH) grantees is over 40 years of age. In an effort to positively influence and reduce the age at which optometric researchers attain large scale federal support and to increase the number of optometrists who receive such support, the Academy has launched this new initiative.

Basic structure of the award: This award is designed for optometric educators and scientists involved in research--including clinical, patient-oriented, educational, etc.--as long as the case can be made for the potential to acquire future extramural funding. Preference is for innovative, original, independent, Principal Investigator (PI)-driven projects, and is not intended as a supplement to senior investigator research projects. The AAO will provide a maximum of $50,000 in direct costs per year for up to two years, potentially renewable once for a total of up to four years of funding (pending evidence of significant progress and justification for additional time). The applicant’s institution will be required to provide matching funds, dollar for dollar, up to $50,000 per year for each year of funding. Matching funds must be new funds to the researcher and cannot include existing support to the applicant. No indirect (i.e., facilities and administration) costs will be provided; the applicant’s institution cannot use the award for these costs. Allowable expenses, with detailed budget justification, include: PI and/or staff/student salary and benefits and research-related costs. Additional expenses such as computers, travel to the American Academy of Optometry annual meeting, and/or travel to another laboratory for additional training to enhance completion of the project are allowable, but require prior approval from the Board. Budgets will be evaluated as part of the review process and funding is contingent upon justification. The Academy reserves the right to reduce the budget to that appropriate for the amount of research effort. 

In this cycle, up to two awards will be made.  Each year the Board of Directors will determine whether any new additional awards will be funded.  The AAO will commit to funding each two year cycle of awards, but retains the right to not fund future awards at its discretion.

Eligibility requirements: Eligible applicants must be optometrists at schools and colleges of optometry in the United States (or optometrists in other academic settings, such as Departments of Ophthalmology). The applicant must hold a full time academic appointment at the level of assistant or associate professor at their institution.

Applicants with a prior NIH R01, R21, R34, or U10 award, NSF grant, or VA Career Development Award are ineligible. Previous and current NIH K grantees are eligible and K awards may be held concurrently with this program. However, there should be minimal overlap in the two projects. No co-PIs are allowed. Note: the goal is not to fund senior scientists’ laboratories by funding their junior colleagues through this mechanism.

Non-US based PIs must provide additional justification detailing their unique circumstances, e.g., why the work cannot be done in the US, special training opportunities and/or patient populations available abroad, etc. in the letter of intent for eligibility approval prior to proposal submission.

Letter of intent required: Prospective applicants should submit a letter of intent using this form for the purposes of defining the applicant’s eligibility and their institution’s material support of their potential success in obtaining future federal funding. The LOI must stipulate that the applicant is an optometrist, a faculty member at the assistant or associate professor level, a member of the AAO (candidate or Fellow), and is at least a 50% full-time equivalent faculty member at an academic institution in the United States. Applicants must be an assistant or associate professor at the time of application. Applicants with a faculty appointment contingent on receiving this award are ineligible. 

If there are exceptions to the faculty requirement described above or if the applicant will be outside of the United States, these should be defined and a case should be made in the Letter of Intent that this eligibility requirement should be waived. 

A senior academic administrator with institutional signing authority should provide a letter of support verifying the university’s commitment to the applicant including the availability of matching funds and protected time for research of at least six calendar months.

In a given application cycle, an applicant can only submit one letter of intent and upon eligibility approval, one proposal.  Additional LOIs or proposals from the same applicant (PI) per funding cycle will not be considered.

After review of the LOI by the review committee for eligibility, a notice will be sent to the applicant inviting the submission of a full proposal.

Proposal Contents and Format: The grant proposal should follow the standard NIH format with the following modifications as outlined below. Instructions and forms can be found at the following web site: www.nih.gov/grants/funding/phs398/phs398.html‎.

In general the following items should be included in the proposal:

Cover Letter
Title Page with Approval from Institutional Signing Official
Table of Contents
Detailed Budget and Justification for All Years
*budget must include a statement that describes the importance of the investment to optometry and optometric practice. 
Biosketch(es) in NIH format
Resources and Environment
Scientific Abstract
Specific Aims, Growth Potential*, and Scientific Impact (2 pages)
Significance and Innovation (1 page)
Career Development Plan with Timeline, including Time-Specific Goals (2 pages)
Research Plan (6 pages)
Literature Cited
Human Subjects (inclusion of women, children, etc.), if applicable
Animal Care and Use, if applicable
Biohazards, if applicable
Letters of Support from Collaborators
Applicant’s Highest Impact and/or Relevant Paper Published or In Press
*Respond to: “How will funding of this proposal make you more competitive for extramural funding 3-5 years from now?”

Applications should be in Arial 11 font with half-inch margins and be single spaced. Video materials should be provided on DVD as needed, with one DVD included with each printed copy of the proposal. Applicants should submit six printed copies and an electronic copy of all materials (see mailing instructions at the end of the application).

Review process: A Standing Review Committee has been appointed by the AAO President in consultation with the Chair of the AAO’s Research Committee, consisting of six members including an appointed Chair. All applicants will receive a detailed summary statement. Following committee review, results will be provided to the AAO Board of Directors for final decisions on funding.

Review criteria: The overall score will be based primarily on: (1) Potential for growth and (2) Potential for future major extramural funding. A 1-9 NIH priority score scale will be utilized. No subscale scores will be provided to the applicant. Projects must be in line with the purpose of the award and have relevance to optometry. While mentorship is not required, it is encouraged. In areas where the applicant is expanding or developing their skillset, the inclusion of a senior collaborator or advisors to assist them would be an asset and strengthen their research team. 

Application and review timeline:

  • Full RFP out no later than December 2, 2016.
  • Letter of intent submission due February 3, 2017 with review of LOI no later than March 3, 2017. 
  • Full proposal deadline August 1, 2017.
  • Review Committee completes review no later than September 25, 2017.
  • Board ratifies Committee recommendations at October Board meeting.
  • Awardees notified onsite in Chicago, with public announcement at the Awards Program. 
  • Grant start date January 1, 2018

Resubmission: One resubmission (two submissions total) will be allowed. One additional page, “Introduction to Revised Application,” will be required in the resubmission. The applicant must submit the first summary statement with the resubmitted application. An LOI is required for a resubmission application.

Grants Management: Awards will not be made unless appropriate human subjects and/or animal care and usage approvals are in place. Annual progress reports are required, with a summary of goals achieved, a mandatory, detailed timeline for accomplishments for year two, and a detailed report on funds expended. (No more than $12,500 can be carried forward to any successive year.)  No no-cost extensions will be granted.

Proposals and all related application materials should be mailed to the Academy office with a postmark no later than the submission deadline (Letter of Intent February 3, 2017, Application deadline August 1, 2017).

Mail to:
Career Development Award
American Academy of Optometry
2909 Fairgreen Street
Orlando, FL 32803

Questions can be directed to Helen Viksnins, Senior Director, Programs, at Helenv@aaoptom.org.

AAO phone number: 321-319-4860