Pilot Project Seed Grants


The PDHP Seed Grant Program supports high-priority pilot or demonstration projects designed to increase the success of proposals to NIH (or other external sources) for full-scale population science research projects. The intent of these grants is to provide resources that will strengthen subsequent applications for external funding for projects that will advance population sciences through the design, creation, and use of new data. Some examples of appropriate uses of these grants include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Acquiring existing data — e.g., purchasing proprietary data, constructing specialized data files, linking new sources of data to an existing data set.
  • Creating/collecting new data — e.g,. pre-testing a survey, running focus groups, conducting cognitive or small-group psychological testing, behavior coding, collecting biomarkers
  • Preliminary data analysis — e.g., testing analyses of large data sets, genetic testing

In all cases the objective of this program is to allow trial of an untested approach at an appropriate small scale in preparation for proposing it at a larger scale.


This program is open to all faculty members at the University of Michigan (including the Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint campuses). Priority will be given to the following types of researchers and projects:

  • Early Stage Investigators, defined by NIH as faculty who have received their degree within the past 10 years (or the end of post-graduate clinical training)
  • Projects that result in submissions of R01 or R21 proposals to NIH, with highest priority given to proposals that could be funded by the Population Dynamics Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
  • Projects that address PDHP’s Primary Research Areas: (1) Family and Intergenerational Influences on Health and Wellbeing; (2) Reproductive Health, Fertility, and Romantic Relationships; and (3) Population Health, the Life Course, and Biosocial Processes
  • Investigators without another active PSC small grant award

No funds can be awarded until all human subjects issues are addressed and approved by the appropriate IRB. The PI will be required to submit a final report at the end of the period of research. Awardees may be asked to present results from their work at a PSC brown bag seminar at the conclusion of their pilot projects.

Funds Available

We expect to fund 2-4 applications, depending on the number of applicants and dollars requested per award. Award amounts will vary, but most awards will range from $10,000-$15,000. All applications must include a detailed budget and budget justification statement. The maximum period for these awards will be 12 months, with exceptions contingent on clearly communicated and reasonable circumstances.

Eligible Expenses

What can be included:

  • Salaries and fringes for the applicant
  • Temp, student, data analyst salaries
  • Sample processing (e.g. DNA extraction, lab recharge)
  • Supplies (e.g. human subject incentive payment)
  • Travel for site visits, conferences, collaborator meetings, etc.
  • Conference registration (Not membership dues)
  • Publication fees
  • Purchasing existing data
  • Computing fees and software purchasing (consider separately applying for Mini Grants for Computing and Secure Data Analysis)

What cannot be included:

  • Any foreign components (please still apply as there may be alternative funding mechanisms)
  • Memberships/dues (e.g. Population Association of America membership)
  • Hosting (e.g. meals, beverages and snacks, etc.)
  • Postage
  • Telephone charges
  • See NIH uniform guidance guidelines

Application and Submission

A complete application includes the following components:

  1. A Pilot Project Seed Grant application form (complete below).
  2. A 2-3 page project description (11 pt. Times New Roman or Arial font; margins of at least ½ inch). There is no required format for the project description, but it should include a statement of specific aims of the pilot project, an explanation of the significance of the topic and the project, and a description of the planned approach including how Pilot Project Seed Grant funds would be spent. The project description should also include a plan for how this pilot project will lead to the submission of a proposal to NIH or other external funding source.
  3. The project description should identify the Principal Investigator and other involved researchers and indicate any prior collaborations among investigators. Research teams may include University of Michigan researchers/faculty not affiliated with PSC, but these researchers cannot be Principal Investigators.
  4. A budget must be appended to the proposal. Add budget notes for any category that is not discussed in the text of the proposal.
  5. If your proposed research activities include what NIH defines as a foreign component or a clinical trial, please indicate this and include detailed information in your application materials so that we can evaluate them for allowable funding sources.
  6. Documentation of human subjects approval (if necessary) by the appropriate U-M institutional review board (IRB), including PI Name, HUM Number, IRB Study Title and approval period. If the project has not yet received IRB approval, this should be explained in the application.

Review Process

Applications will be reviewed using the standard NIH review criteria: significance, innovation, approach, investigators, and environment. An additional review criterion will be the plan for linking the pilot study to submission of a proposal to NIH (or other external funding source), including both the timing and likelihood of success of submitting a proposal and of receiving external funding.

Funding for the Pilot Project Seed Grant program comes from the NICHD’s Population Dynamics Centers Research Infrastructure Program. As such, all awards drawing on that funding are subject to the approval of the NICHD’s Population Dynamics Branch, as well as the rules and regulations pertaining to the expenditure of federal research funds.