2014 Research Grants (Closed)

Deadline: 03/21/2014

The mission of the Johns Hopkins Science of Learning Institute (SLI) is to understand the nature of learning at all levels of scientific inquiry, from changes at the level of synapses to the nature of cognitive change over the life-span and the implications of these for education and learning in formal and informal settings. The science of learning project seeks to create an integrated understanding of how learning varies as a function of basic learner characteristics (e.g. over the life span, among the typically developing child, the challenged learner, the gifted student), how these characteristics interact with different environments and learning settings to produce variation in learning outcomes, and how interactions with intelligent artificial learning systems can enhance and optimize human learning. The Institute's work will focus on content domains including language, memory, attention, spatial and numeric understanding, and decision-making, and will consider questions such as:

  • How does language learning occur in typically developing children and in challenged populations, such as people with genetic deficits and/or damage to the brain?
  • What are the biological bases for learning and memory (including cellular, molecular and systems approaches) and how can we use our understanding to improve these?
  • How does genetic variation interact with the environment to change development?
  • What is the range of individual differences in spatial understanding, and are there interventions that can improve these capacities?
  • What are the basic characteristics of gifted learning in key domains?
  • What kinds of educational practices are most effective in facilitating conceptual learning and academic achievement? Do these vary over different ages or populations?
  • How do basic mechanisms of attention interact with learning in childhood, in adolescence, in the aging; and over different contexts of learning?
  • What scientific principles of learning can be moved into practice, including contexts of formal and informal learning?  How will these scale up in educational settings?
  • How can we use intelligent learning systems to maximize learning across different types of learners?  Examples include: development of novel machine learning theories and algorithms for understanding patterns emerging from large data sets including those coming from multiple modalities; developing optimal training modules and/or robotic and machine feedback regimes to enhance individual learning functions in content areas such as spoken and written language, mathematics, spatial cognition.

Such questions can be explored using a wide range of approaches including, but not limited to, inquiry about the basic mechanisms of learning, understanding individual differences in learning, considering how insights on learning can be embodied in an applied science of learning, and improving learning by creating effective human-machine interactions. Insights can be gained using traditional techniques of neuroscience, cognitive science, computer science, robotics, and educational intervention. However, the larger goal is to create new insights for the science of learning by cross-pollinating among these techniques and approaches.

Eligibility and Award Information:

We invite proposals on the science of learning for funding of up to $200K over 2 years. Principal Investigators (PIs) must be full-time faculty members at JHU who are eligible to serve as PIs in their division. We especially welcome proposals that include PIs and Co-PIs who are in the early stages of their careers. PIs who were funded in the first round (2013) are not eligible to apply.

Application Review Information:

Priority will be given to proposals that are strongest in meeting the following criteria, which will be explicitly evaluated in the review process:

  1. Innovation: The project seeks to discover principles about learning that break traditional barriers and generate truly new insights.
  2. Interdisciplinarity: The project uses multiple theoretical and empirical approaches to the same learning problem, and draw on expertise spanning more than one division or department in the university.
  3. Breadth of Reach: The project’s approaches and domains of inquiry push traditional boundaries on the dimension that ranges over levels of understanding, from cellular/ molecular through cognition and educational application. Projects that include innovative dissemination plans designed to enhance scientific, technical, and/or practical understanding are encouraged.
  4. Sustainability: The project is likely to generate preliminary data that could be used to generate continuing support for the research, including grant proposals to federal institutions, private foundations, and/or industrial partners when the grant period is complete. 
  5. Approach: The project’s design, methods, and analytic plan are well-developed, integrated, and appropriate to the aims of the proposed project and the research environment.
  6. Strength of PI and Research Team: The PI has a demonstrated ability to carry out and publish high quality research, and team members are uniquely qualified to create new synergies across traditional disciplines with appropriate content knowledge and methodological expertise to carry out all elements of the proposed project, including dissemination of research to appropriate target audiences.

Applicants who wish to discuss their project before applying are encouraged to contact Barbara Landau, Kelly Fisher, or members of the steering committee with the most relevant expertise.

Application Materials:

Proposals should include the following elements:

  1. Cover Letter from the PI: Briefly describe the project, emphasizing the innovative and interdisciplinary nature of the project. (suggested: 1 page)
  2. Specific Aims:  This should be a succinct statement of the aims and anticipated outcomes of the proposal and should also explicitly address each of the first four criteria listed above. (suggested: 1-2 pages)
  3. Approach: This includes the research design, measures, data analysis plan, and any preliminary data. (suggested 2-3 pages)
  4. Brief Biographical Sketch of PI, Co-PI(s), and other Key Personnel: Include a brief, 2-page statement summarizing each individual’s qualifications for the proposed project as well as a list of their existing funding for research related to the project. Please download the biographical sketch template and instructions.
  5. Budget and Budget Justification for Year 1 and Year 2: This should include PI and Co-PI effort (whether funding is requested for this or not), other personnel, and equipment/ materials/supplies. Faculty salary can be included but funding for this will not exceed 15% effort.

Application Deadline and Timeline for Review:

Applications are due March 21, 2014, and should be submitted via the Science of Learning Institute's grant application site, which will open for submissions starting March 8, 2014.  Evaluation of proposals will be carried out by a team of internal evaluators who are experts in the science of learning. 

Funding is expected to start on July 1, 2014.  Funding after Year 1 will be contingent on acceptable progress as described in a progress report due two months prior to the start of Year 2.

Fast Facts: Science of Learning Institute Grant Funding in 2013:


  • 30 research proposals were submitted and 7 were awarded grants.
  • 26 researchers across 14 departments and 5 divisions submitted proposals.
  • Average grantee award for 2-year projects was $142,850.
  • View round 1 (2013) funded project summaries.

Download This Call for Proposals:

You may download the PDF of this announcement.

Questions? Please Contact:

Barbara Landau, Director, Science of Learning Institute, landau@jhu.edu

Kelly Fisher, Assistant Director, Science of Learning Institute, kelly.fisher@jhu.edu