Varela1The Mind and Life Francisco J. Varela Research Awards — an important and integral component of Mind and Life’s support of contemplative scientists and scholars — are based on neuroscientist and philosopher Francisco J. Varela’s belief that contemplative training offers modern science novel methods for investigating human experience. In his vision, contemplative training not only provides a new domain for scientific study, but it also — and more importantly — offers resources for advancing scientific theories and models of consciousness, emotion, and cognitive processing. The Varela Awards emphasize empirical examinations of contemplative techniques with the ultimate goal that findings will provide greater insight into the mechanisms of contemplative practice and its application for reducing human suffering. Preference is given to proposals using rigorous experimental designs that evaluate both state and trait effects of contemplative practice, as well as those that incorporate “first-person” contemplative methods, employing introspective investigation and reports on subjective experience.

This grant program encourages the active collaboration of scientists with contemplative scholars/practitioners in all phases of research. Grants of up to $15,000 are awarded annually through a competitive application, review, and selection process. Mind and Life wishes to express our deep thanks to the John Templeton Foundation and the Hershey Family Foundation for supporting this program.

For any questions about this award, please email VarelaAwards@mindandlife.org

View the full RFP for Mind and Life’s Varela Award

Varela Awards Recipients

Varela5To be eligible for a Varela Award, the applicant must have attended the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute as a Research Fellow within the last five years (i.e., for 2014 applications, one must have attended a Summer Research Institute in 2010 or later). Applicants must currently be graduate students enrolled in a PhD program, postdocs, or junior faculty up to their third year of appointment.
The application period for the 2014 Varela Awards will be open from September 5–October 8, 2014.
Are these awards open to international applicants?
Yes. Mind and Life Awards are not limited to residents of the United States. We encourage worldwide applications.

Would I be eligible if my work is based in the public sector, rather than a university?
Applicants need to be affiliated with a research institution (such as a university), especially in order to obtain IRB approval. Clinicians or others not affiliated with such an institution should partner with an eligible applicant who can provide access to research resources.

What is included under “contemplative practices”?
The term “contemplative practice” is meant in a broad sense to include a wide range of diverse phenomena such as meditation, yoga, contemplative prayer, prostration, and tai chi.

Can I submit two applications for different aspects of the same project?
We do not accept two separate grant proposals for the same project.

I’m currently a research assistant. Do I need to be enrolled in graduate school to be eligible?
In general, yes. Mind and Life’s award programs were established to support investigators who would be able to use the funds to generate research that would then fairly quickly motivate grant proposals by the investigator to larger funding agencies (which require postdoc or faculty positions). You may, however, consider applying once you have notice of admission to a graduate program, even though you have not yet matriculated at the time of application.

Can I submit a proposal if I’m a current awardee?
While it is possible to be funded more than once through a given grants program, applicants must not be currently funded through any MLI mechanism. For example, if you have been granted a Varela Award in the past, you must submit a final report and reconcile the budget for that grant before applying for another Varela Award, or a 1440 award.

What is included under “research costs”?
Research costs can include participant payment, fMRI scans, equipment costs, etc. When funds are used to pay outside individuals (not project PIs or collaborators), they could cover such costs as consultants for statistical analysis; meditation teachers; dedicated lab support, such as a research assistants; or services, including participant scheduling, data entry, transcription, etc. Please clearly explain all such costs in the budget. Grant funds may not be used for salaries or remuneration for the PI(s) or project collaborators.

What about indirect costs?
Grant funds may not be used to cover indirect costs. If a grant is awarded, the grantee’s institution must agree to waive all overhead and administrative fees, and further agree that the funds will be used solely for research purposes conducted by the grantee.

My proposal is part of a larger project that already has funding. How should I reflect this in the budget?
If you have additional funding sources for your project, please include this information clearly in your budget along with sources of funding. Be specific about how the Mind and Life award will be used within the larger budget.

What information is included in the word limit of the proposal?
The length of the written proposal for both the Varela and 1440 Awards is a maximum of 1,200 words. References or appendices are not included in this word count. Such items should be attached to the end of the proposal such that the proposal and all supplemental materials are combined in one document.

Is there a page limit for the CV?
There is no page limit for the CV. NIH biosketch style is preferred (a personal statement can be included).

Can I apply with a coinvestigator?
More than one person may apply for a single grant. All applicants much meet all eligibility criteria for the given award. If one applicant does not meet criteria, that person can be listed as a collaborator but would not receive funds.

If more than one person is applying for a grant (as co-PIs), each person each must fill in a separate application form with their CV and two letters of recommendation. However, they would attach the same joint proposal and budget, labeling them with both last names. Please also clarify the particular situation in a cover letter attached to the proposal.

Can I upload Word or Excel files?
All application materials, including budget, must be in .pdf form. Please contact sunanda@mindandlife.org if this presents a problem.

Who receives the grant money?
Grant funds will be sent to the grantee’s institution. Grants cannot be given directly to an individual.

Do I need IRB approval?
Yes. Payment of the award will not be made until confirmation of IRB approval has been received. IRB approval must be in place within six months of the date of notification of the receipt of the grant.

What if I need more than two years to complete the project?
The length of the grant is two years from the date of the notification of grant acceptance. If more time is required, an application for extension must be submitted to Mind and Life. It will then be sent for approval to the Senior Scientific Officer.