Fellows Program Call for Proposals

The NHLBI BioData Catalyst Fellows Program provides researchers, especially early-career researchers, the opportunity to receive funding to help support research on novel and innovative data science and data-focused research problems. The program is open to academic disciplines conducting biomedical research or related research in heart, lung, blood, and sleep domains. 

The goals of the BioData Catalyst Fellows Program are to:

  • Attract eager, risk-tolerant users to BioData Catalyst to provide real world user feedback, especially scientific guidance, to the BioData Catalyst developers.
  • Identify potential superusers of BioData Catalyst who can become experts on its functionality and can in turn attract and informally support other users in their peer group.
  • Support dedicated time to work on large scale datasets including TOPMed to accelerate research productivity.

The BioData Catalyst Fellows Program is not currently accepting applications. Look for additional funding opportunities in June 2020. 

About NHLBI BioData Catalyst

For NHLBI research investigators who need to find, access, share, store, cross-link, and compute on large scale datasets, NHLBI BioData Catalyst will serve as a cloud-based platform providing tools, applications, and workflows to enable these capabilities in secure workspaces. NHLBI BioData Catalyst is a rationally organized digital environment that will accelerate efficient biomedical research and maximize community engagement and productivity through increased access to NHLBI data sets and innovative data analysis capabilities. By making these data sets accessible and usable to varied users, NHLBI BioData Catalyst will drive discovery and scientific advancement, leading to novel diagnostic tools, therapeutic options, and prevention strategies for heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders.

The first BioData Catalyst Design Principle is “meet user needs and incorporate feedback”.  The BioData Catalyst Fellows Program offers one mechanism for researchers to engage with the Consortium as partners in the BioData Catalyst endeavor. 


Applicants must be authorized to work in the USA and preferably affiliated with a research academic institution. Preference will be given to early-career researchers (graduate students, postdocs, and junior faculty). The fellows positions are for 1-year (March 6 2020 - February 26, 2021), with a brief project report due 6 months into the project (September 25, 2020) and at the end (February 26, 2021). All fellows will be expected to be involved in NHLBI BioData Catalyst activities during the year, including attending quarterly face-to-face consortium meetings and select meetings (e.g. working group meetings).


December 20, 2019

Application Process Opens 

January 17, 2020  11:59 PM Eastern Time

Application Deadline

February 24, 2020

Successful Proposals Announced

March 20, 2020 (Anticipated)

Fellows Program Begins

Financial Stipend

Awardees will receive a stipend of up to $69,733, which includes costs for travel, training, publication, and conference fees. We anticipate 12-14 awardees in year one. Computing costs will be covered separately. The Year One Fellows Program will begin on approximately March 6, 2020.

Application Process

Applicants should submit proposals by January 17, 2020. Proposals should address the requirements below and any additional questions via the Fellows Program Application Form. The proposal should be understandable to readers from outside the field of study and must clearly spell out the project aims, past studies, methods, materials, and engagement plan.

Proposal Requirements

  1. Profile information - Provide your name, organization, department, position title, research area, email address, and your personal profile web page.
  2. Letters of support - Two letters of support from mentors or key collaborators are required. Letters for projects arising from TOPMed Working Groups should demonstrate the applicant’s critical participation in a relevant working group and confirm that the applicant has (or will have) access to the appropriate data and that the proposed project is supported by the Working Group.  Letters of support should include contact information (full name, position title, organization, email/phone number, and signature) of the reference. 
  3. Biographical sketch - A biographical sketch or (NIH) biosketch (not to exceed 5 pages) is required.
  4. Abstract - Provide an abstract on your research question and how your proposed project will address the goals of the Fellows Program. (100 words maximum)
  5. Project aims - Describe concisely the specific research approach you intend to take, specifically outlining aims, goals, deliverables, and timelines for the year. (350 words maximum)
  6. Prior studies - Using examples of work, by you or others, please outline how your proposed project would align with past studies. Please provide sufficient background to demonstrate project feasibility, and that your project can be completed successfully in the duration of the year. (150 words maximum)
  7. Expertise - Describe your familiarity with genomic analysis, statistical programming, and cloud based computation. (100 words maximum)
  8. Methods and materials - Explain what methods and material are to be used in the project such as protocols, data, software, analysis; and how you plan to use the BioData Catalyst ecosystem to enhance your proposed project. Provide details on the status of your access to the relevant datasets (e.g. IRB approval, data use agreements), whether you are currently engaged with working groups (e.g. TOPMED), and/or outline plans to obtain data access during the Fellows Program. Include an estimate of the scale of the proposed analyses (e.g., the sample size, number of proposed analyses, and types data expected to be used). (150 words maximum)
  9. Engagement - Indicate how you will engage and collaborate with Consortium members, Fellows peer group, and the broader community. (75 words maximum)
  10. Budget estimate - Provide a budget estimate including expected research costs and costs for travel, training, publication, and conference fees. (50 words maximum)
  11. References - Provide a list of references cited in the previous questions here (100 words maximum) 

Selection Criteria

A Review Committee comprised of NHLBI BioData Catalyst Consortium members, NHLBI representatives, and external experts will use the following criteria to evaluate proposals and select award recipients:

  • The proposal is relevant to the research topic and speaks to novel approaches to challenges in the research area.
  • The proposal addresses an important scientific question that can be usefully answered using the BioData Catalyst ecosystem along with the available data resources and in the 1-year timeframe.
  • The applicant has obtained IRB approval, data use agreements (e.g. dbGaP), is participating in working groups (e.g. TOPMED), and/or is in the process of obtaining data access and dbGaP data use agreements before applying.
  • The applicant has demonstrated the necessary background and capabilities to accomplish the proposed work.
  • The application describes approaches that will benefit the functionality of the BioData Catalyst ecosystem.
  • The applicant has a willingness to engage and collaborate with the Consortium, Fellows peer group, and the broader community.


All applicants will be notified of their status by February 17, 2020. Awardees will be expected to present a prospective outline of their research plans at the start of the fellowship, a mid-year status report, and to submit an end-of-term summary. Fellows are also expected to attend NHLBI BioData Catalyst Consortium quarterly face-to-face meetings and are encouraged to attend related meetings (e.g. working groups) and events applicable to their project proposals.


Questions may be directed to the NHLBI BioData Catalyst Coordinating Center at bdc3@renci.org. Please submit completed applications via the Fellows Program Application Form, by 11:59 PM  Eastern Time on January 17, 2020. Late applications will not be accepted.