Next application period: February 3 to March 3, 2021.

Research on contemplation offers a rich opportunity for understanding the mind and its capacity for change, and programs delivering contemplative training in various settings have expanded rapidly over the past decade. Our knowledge of cognitive, physiological, and clinical effects of these practices has grown steadily, in large part due to the ongoing efforts of the Mind & Life Institute and our community of scholars. Research to date has focused largely on mindfulness-based practices and their impact, although recently compassion-based practices have also been investigated.

This expansion to include research on the specific cultivation of prosocial qualities and actions is clearly warranted as we look to foster positive change in the world. In addition, much of the existing research has examined effects of contemplative practice solely on the individual who practices—a logical first step in this broad investigation. However, we believe this is a crucial moment for understanding the development of qualities and outcomes that support not only individual well-being but also interpersonal well-being, societal flourishing, and interconnection.

Recently, our mission has evolved in response to what we perceive to be a global crisis of disconnection: from loneliness and isolation to racism and tribalism, our disconnection from one another is causing tremendous suffering for people and the planet. Understanding the role of the human mind—both in creating these problems, and its potential to help solve them—will be essential as we face today’s challenges. How do minds work, and how can they be transformed toward interconnection and positive action in the world?

To this end, Mind & Life is pleased to lead the way in expanding contemplative research through our PEACE Grants. This funding mechanism supports projects that advance our understanding of wholesome mental qualities and positive interpersonal and social action related to Prosociality, Empathy, Altruism, Compassion, and Ethics (PEACE). Note that the term “PEACE” in this context is meant to encompass a range of qualities beyond the acronym itself, including gratitude, love, kindness, forgiveness, sympathetic joy, patience, and presence. With this program, we invite rigorous interdisciplinary research proposals that examine one or more of the following:

  • practices, methods, or interventions that may cultivate PEACE qualities,
  • basic mechanisms (psychological, physiological, social, developmental, etc.) underlying PEACE qualities and their growth, and
  • the development of measures to rigorously assess PEACE qualities in various contexts (both in the laboratory and in the real world).

While projects do not need to have an immediate applied component, applicants should make clear how the proposed research could support positive action in the world. In addition, we have a special interest in supporting such research on PEACE qualities in relation to two broad topic areas:

  • Implications of connection for mental health and well-being—e.g., how the individual mind operates in states of disconnection, and how contemplative wisdom & practices might help restore connection.
    Examples of possible research areas: loneliness and isolation, depression and anxiety, addiction, PTSD, and general benefits of social connection for health and well-being.
  • Issues of othering and societal disconnection—e.g., how the mind creates a sense of “self” and “other,” and how that affects views, behaviors, and the social systems that separate us. Also, how these concepts might be shifted through contemplative wisdom & practices to move towards greater connection.
    Examples of possible research areas: today’s “isms”—tribalism, racism, sexism, etc.—as well as bullying, dehumanization, implicit bias, political polarization and possible antidotes including compassion, empathy, and conflict resolution.

In this context, “contemplative” approaches can include a wide range of practices that involve introspection and awareness of mind-body states, including various forms of meditation, embodied or movement-based practices, reflective writing, contemplative prayer, and others. Note that projects do not need to include an actual contemplative intervention, but the research must be able to inform the development of contemplative interventions, or increase our understanding of whether and how contemplative practice might promote PEACE qualities. We encourage research proposals that work across traditional disciplinary boundaries, and use methodological approaches that meet the highest standards of rigor.

Grant Information

Two levels of funding are available through this program: up to $25,000 and up to $100,000 (USD). Grants will be awarded through a competitive application and selection process. Proposed research should be completed within a 2-year period, and annual progress reports are required for grantees to remain in good standing. Applications are reviewed by an external committee of experienced contemplative researchers and selected based on the following criteria:

  • Significance and Impact: project addresses an important issue related to mechanisms, cultivation, or assessment of PEACE/wholesome qualities, and has potential to lead to advancement of contemplative research and positive action in the world;
  • Innovation: project offers something new or challenges existing paradigms, either conceptually or methodologically, or both;
  • Methodological Approach/Design: design, methods, and analyses are adequately developed, rigorous, well integrated, and appropriate to the aims of the project;
  • Investigator(s): principal investigator(s) appropriately trained and capable of coordinating and managing the proposed research, with high likelihood of success and future contribution to the field, appropriate research team with complementary expertise;
  • Research Environment: sufficient access to resources to carry out the research questions, project will be supported and advanced by institutional research community.
Research Values and Ethics

Mind & Life is committed to building a rigorous community of interdisciplinary contemplatives, scholars, and scientists that integrates diverse perspectives and experiences. Historically, contemplative research has been dominated by a select and largely racially and ethnically homogenous group of scientists, scholars, and practitioners from a handful of academic institutions. This homogeneity reinforces societal imbalances and biases, and diminishes the field’s capacity to adequately understand the human mind and investigate the mechanisms and impact of contemplative practices.

The PEACE Grants program is a natural extension of Mind & Life’s mission and reflects our commitment to leading the way in integrating rigorous investigation while also addressing larger societal issues. In line with our desire to expand the scope of our collective inquiry and begin to address existing imbalances, we encourage applicants to:

  • practice sampling transparency by clearly describing participant demographics (including but not limited to age, gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and education level);
  • consider demographics of research staff, those delivering interventions, as well as participant populations;
  • design ethical research protocols that take into account accessibility, cultural norms, and values of all involved;
  • investigate research questions relevant to understudied populations;
  • consider the limits of generalization to other populations, and interpret any conclusions within the specific context of the study.

To be eligible, the Principal Investigator (and Co-Principal Investigator if relevant) must have completed a research doctorate (e.g., PhD, EdD) and have sufficient training, experience and institutional resources to accomplish the proposed work. Mind & Life aims to maximize the benefits of diversity, and to use diversity as a tool for enriching the field of contemplative research. We welcome applicants of all races, classes, genders, ages, religions, physical abilities, and sexual orientations.

Applicants may not be actively funded through any Mind & Life research grant. Current Mind & Life grantees must submit a final report and budget reconciliation for existing grants before applying for a new grant. This policy applies both within and across Mind & Life research grant programs (with the exception of Think Tanks). Note that we do not allow two separate proposals in a given cycle from the same applicant (PI or co-PI), or from different applicants for two aspects of the same project.

Application Information

Letters of intent must be submitted through the online application portal between February 3 and March 3, 2021 (portal closes 5:00 PM Eastern Time on March 3). All applicants must submit a letter of intent to be considered for invitation to submit a full proposal.

The following elements will be required for the letter of intent application:

  • Funding level you will be seeking ($25,000 or $100,000). Grant funds may be used to cover any research-related costs; salary and/or time buy-out is permissible.
  • Project title
  • Lay abstract (150 words maximum)
  • Project description including:
  • Explanation of the overall aims of the research project (300 words maximum)
  • Brief description of the methodological approach, including population, procedures, and analysis (500 words maximum)
  • Significance and potential impact of the work, and relevance to the contemplative sciences (200 words maximum)
  • Abbreviated CVs or NIH-style biosketches of key personnel (5 pages maximum per biosketch)
  • NOTE: In the online portal, the applicant’s name must be the Principal Investigator on the grant—if you are submitting materials for another person, you must create an account in her/his name.

More information is available in the Grants Policies and FAQ.

All applicants will receive email notification by May 21, 2021 as to whether they have been selected to submit a full proposal. If selected to submit a full proposal, a detailed request for proposals (RFP) will be sent to you at that time. Proposals for the $25,000 level will be 5 single-spaced pages maximum, and the $100,000 level will be 10 single-spaced pages, each including figures, tables, and references (excluding appendices). Full proposals will be due July 30; grantees will be announced in November.