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Explorer Awards RFA

SFARI mission

The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) seeks to improve the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders by funding innovative research of the greatest quality and relevance.

Objective of the SFARI Explorer Awards

This award program is designed to enhance our existing support of autism research by providing timely resources to enable focused experiments highly relevant to our mission. A deeper understanding of the mechanisms underlying autism spectrum disorders or potential therapeutic approaches will require investigation at multiple levels, including but not limited to studies focused on gene discovery, molecular mechanisms, circuits, anatomy, and cognition and behavior. We will consider proposals at all of these levels.

The maximum budget is $60,000, including indirect costs for one (1) year, non-renewable.

Explorer Awards are intended to provide resources to support exploratory experiments that will strengthen hypotheses and lead to the formulation of competitive applications for subsequent larger-scale funding by SFARI or other organizations. Innovative, high-risk/high-impact proposals are encouraged. We especially encourage applications from investigators who are new to the field of autism, but who have expertise that could be brought to bear on this complex disorder.

Receiving support for an exploratory grant does not guarantee future support from the Simons Foundation. Neither requests for supplemental funding from recipients of other SFARI grants nor travel funding requests will be entertained.

Applicants are strongly advised to familiarize themselves with the work currently supported by SFARI and to consider how their proposals might complement existing grants. We expect Simons Investigators to share renewable reagents and data developed with SFARI funds with other qualified investigators. Access to the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC), a resource of rigorously characterized phenotypic data, genetic data and biomaterials, will be available to all approved scientists through SFARI Base. We encourage applications that use this resource. Policies regarding acquisition of SSC biospecimens are available online.


SFARI will support applications for maximum direct costs of $50,000 for one year, non-renewable. Indirect costs are limited to 20 percent of direct costs, with the following exceptions: equipment, tuition, pre and postdoctoral fellow stipends and benefits, any subcontracts with budgets — including indirect expenses, and SCC biospecimens. Travel expenses may not be included in the budget. Indirect costs paid to a subcontractor may not exceed 20 percent of the direct costs paid to the subcontractor.

The Simons Foundation's salary support guidelines are identical to those set by the National Institutes of Health for faculty, trainees and students. SFARI reserves the right to modify budgets when an application has been selected for an award (see 'Salary and stipend support' in the SFARI Procedures document).


All applicants and key collaborators must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree and have a faculty position or equivalent at a college, university, medical school or other research facility. Applications may be submitted by domestic and foreign nonprofit organizations, as well as public and private institutions, such as colleges, universities, hospitals and laboratories. For-profit organizations will not be considered. There are no citizenship or country requirements. Proposals that are rejected cannot be resubmitted unless specifically invited to do so by the SFARI science staff.

SFARI policies

Policies have been adopted by the Simons Foundation and apply to all autism research grant awards. Investigators and their institutions must abide by all applicable laws and regulations, including those governing the conduct of research on humans or animals.

The Simons Foundation reserves the right to modify or amend its policies governing grants. You may view SFARI policies on the SFARI website.

Instructions for submission

Applications must be completed electronically and submitted using forms provided at proposalCENTRAL. Please log in as an applicant, scroll to Simons Foundation and click on the program. For assistance, please call 800-875-2562 or email pcsupport@altum.com.

Deadlines and notification schedule

Applications are considered on a rolling basis, with a response time as early as 30 days.


Prospective applicants must submit an application using proposalCENTRAL. The application should be no more than three (3) pages long (including references and figures) and should include:

  • Name, title, affiliation and contact of Principal Investigator and Key Collaborators
  • Research project description, including specific aims, experimental design, significance, potential impact on autism research, novelty, milestones and preliminary data (if available; it is understood that preliminary results are not required)

Please note that applications exceeding the three (3)-page limit will not be reviewed.

Applicants must also attach the following to the application:

  • Bio-sketch of Principal Investigator and Key Collaborators
  • Current and pending support for Principal Investigator and Key Collaborators
  • Budget and justification
  • Research environment and resources
  • Renewable reagents and data-sharing plan

Review of applications

The SFARI scientific team will review applications, with external ad-hoc reviewers as needed. Reviewers will consider the excellence of science, the relevance to autism, and the appropriateness of budget. The SFARI Board of Directors makes final funding decisions.

SFARI and proposalCENTRAL contacts:
Email: grants@simonsfoundation.org or pcsupport@altum.com
Phone: 800-875-2562