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Home > Scientific Areas > Smart and Connect Health

NSF-NIH Interagency Initiative: Smart and Connected Health


Presentation Slides with Audio (PPTX 54.64MB)


The Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have identified Smart and Connected Health as a program focus.  In particular, the present initiative covers the need to development the next generation of health and healthcare research through advances in the understanding of and applications in information science, technology, behavior, cognition, sensors, robotics, bioimaging, and engineering.  

The purpose of this interagency program solicitation is the development of next generation health and healthcare research through high-risk, high-reward advances in the understanding of and applications in information science, technology, behavior, cognition, sensors, robotics, bioimaging, and engineering. Collaboration between academic, industry, non-profit and other organizations is strongly encouraged to establish better linkages between fundamental science, clinical practice and technology development, deployment and use. This solicitation is aligned with the visions (e.g., PCAST, NRC, IOM) calling for major changes in health and wellbeing as well as healthcare delivery and is aimed at the fundamental research to enable the change. Realizing the promise of disruptive transformation in health and healthcare will require
well-coordinated, multi-disciplinary approaches that draw from the social, behavioral, and economic sciences, engineering, medicine, biology, and computer and information sciences. We encourage scientists from all disciplines to participate.

Each Exploratory Project (EXP) involving one or more investigators and spanning up to 3 years may receive NIH support up to $250,000 in total costs per year.  Each Integrative Project (INT) involving multidisciplinary teams of investigators and spanning up to 4 years may receive NIH support up to $500,000 in total costs per year.

Application submission is through the National Science Foundation. Application instructions are provided in the NSF Program Solicitation (NSF-13-543, Following a jointly conducted initial peer review of these applications, likely NIH awardees will be asked to reformat their application and resubmit their application for NIH processing. Detailed information about this program can be obtained at (

Examples of NIH Research Topics
Several Institutes within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have joined together with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). Applications should be relevant to both the objectives of the FOA and to at least one of the participating organization's general research interests. Researchers are strongly encouraged to review the general research interests of the participating organizations and the following examples of topics of specific interest to the participating entities. Because additional research areas are welcome, prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the relevant program administrator at NIH listed below prior to preparing an application.

Below is a list of other institutes supporting Smart and Connected Health:

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National Cancer Institute (NCI)

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is particularly interested in projects addressing the following areas:

  • Approaches for re-engineering patient, caregiver, and provider clinical workflows to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and safety of cancer prevention and control.
  • Approaches for augmenting clinical data with continuous sensing, monitoring, and assessment tools.
  • Improving coordination of cancer care in a '‘learning healthcare system' approach through:
    • Better integration of clinical EHR/PHR data with behavioral, psychosocial, and population health data for improved patient and provider decision support;
    • Incorporate human factors approaches for improving care coordination with smart and connected interfaces for shared decision-making.
    • Technology-mediated communication and visualization of ‘data to knowledge' for cognitive support and self-management where appropriate;
    • Systems science approaches to improving quality and outcomes;
    • Intelligent support tools to engage oncology patients at the point-of-care using coordinated input of data from primary care, specialty care, pharmaceutical, laboratory, and/or community health facilities.

Bradford Hesse,
Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch,
National Cancer Institute, NIH
Telephone: (301) 594-9904, Email:

Abdul Shaikh,
Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch,
National Cancer Institute (NCI), NIH
Telephone: (301) 594-6690

National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) encourages research related to genomic medicine.  Such research may include, but not be limited to, methods and algorithms for aggregation of multi-scale clinical and genomic data about a patient in electronic health records (EHRs) and personal health records (PHRs), decision support tools to facilitate optimized patient-centered, evidence-based decisions utilizing genomic data, and human-computer interfaces for clinician, patient, and family access to genomic information in EHRs and PHRs.

Anastasia L. Wise,
Office of Population Genomics,
National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), NIH,
Telephone: (301) 443-0585,

National Institute on Aging (NIA)

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) leads the federal government in conducting and supporting research on aging and the health and well-being of older people. In particular, the NIA supports and conducts genetic, biological, clinical, behavioral, social, and economic research on aging, fosters the development of research and clinician scientists in aging, and disseminates information about aging and advances in research to the public and a variety of audiences.

Jonathan King,
National Institute on Aging. NIH,
Telephone: (301) 402-4156,

National Institute of Bioimaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)

The NIBIB has broad interests in the development of biomedical technologies to improve human health and address health disparities.  Program areas of particular relevance include health information technologies, telehealth, mHealth, point-of-care technologies, sensors, rehabilitation engineering, robotics, and next generation predictive models.  The Institute is interested in the development of novel technologies and in advances that enable effective utilization of new or existing technologies."

Brenda Korte,
Division of Discovery Science and Technology,
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), NIH,
Telephone: (301) 451-4778,

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Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

The mission of NICHD is to ensure that every person is born healthy and wanted, that women suffer no harmful effects from reproductive processes, and that all children have the chance to achieve their full potential for healthy and productive lives, free from disease or disability, and to ensure the health, productivity, independence, and well-being of all people through optimal rehabilitation.

For the Smart and Connected Health Solicitation, NICHD welcomes grant applications on topics including, but not limited to:

  • breastfeeding,
  • child behavior and development,
  • childhood obesity,
  • fertility/infertility
  • intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism
  • medical rehabilitation, including telerehab, assistive devices, prosthetics and orthotics,
  • minority health and health disparities,
  • pediatric chronic diseases,
  • prenatal care and pregnancy.

Theresa Hayes Cruz,
National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research,
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH,
Telephone: (301) 496-9233,


Other NIH Inquiries
Wendy J. Nilsen
Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research
Office of the Director, NIH
Telephone: (301) 496-0979

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Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

1. Is there a way for for-profit companies to participate in this announcement?
NSF does not directly fund for-profit companies. NSF does, however, allow academic or a non-profit organizations to subcontract some portion of the work to a for-profit entity, with justification.

2. Smart and Connected health is required to have a number of Principal Investigators (PIs and co-PIs). Is there a limit on the number of co-PIs who can apply?
There is a limit of one (1) PI and four (4) co-PIs per grant, but there is also a limit on the available money. So it is important to ensure that the co-PIs effort and importance to the project is clear.

3. Can you please clarify the fall solicitation opportunity/timeline?
For the first cycle, you can apply in May 27th and June 3rd. From the NSF perspective, those two early dates are in the same submission cycle and are to be funded in fiscal year 2013. The October and later submission date are for the next yearly cycle, to be funded from the fiscal year 2014 budget. For NIH, even the earlier dates may be too late for fiscal year 2013 funding; these grants will be considered in fiscal year 2014.

4. Are the NIH awards the equivalent of an R21 or R01?
All of these awards will be classified as R01s from the NIH viewpoint.

5. Are collaborative proposals allowed or does one have to have sub-contracts to collaborators in other universities?
NSF collaborative proposals are definitely allowed. One of the objectives of the program is to develop or encourage integrated multi-disciplinary teams of researchers that will work closely together in a seamless way.

6. Will there be a specific SBIR solicitations/topics related to this initiative? Which organization will sponsor them?
We have not planned either a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) solicitation as a part of Smart and Connected Health. That said, there might be NIH Institutes and Centers that have SBIR/STTRs in the general domain that are not associated with this program. For example, the National Cancer Institute does have a SBIR focused on health information technology and that will be a direct tie to this. Many of these topics will also apply to the omnibus NICHD solicitation for SBIR/STTRs. If you believe you have a really strong idea you should contact your program officer at the specific NIH Institutes/Centers because the SBIR announcement is out and we are always looking for really good science from small businesses.

7. Do we need to address the protection of human subjects in the 15 page NSF proposal limit?
Yes, but you do not need to write much, since you can refer for detail to the required supplemental document(s) from your IRB. Please see the NSF GRANT PROPOSAL GUIDE for details.

In addition to the main proposal, proposals involving human subjects should include a supplementary document of no more than two pages in length summarizing potential risks to human subjects; plans for recruitment and informed consent; inclusion of women, minorities, and children; and planned procedures to protect against or minimize potential risks.

8. Does Smart and Connected Health require a health organization to be part of the team? Should a health organization be a sub-contract under the university primary or is it possible to have joint proposals?
There is no requirement for a health organization to be part of the team. The important thing is to have the expertise that is required to solve the problem. Since the requirement of this solicitation is to solve health-related problems, you will need expertise in that area. Whether you make use of a co-PI, sub-contractor or some other mechanism, you need to convince the reviewers that your team has the necessary expertise. This is true for NSF and NIH.

9. Will there be jointly funded proposals by NIH and NSF?
There is a potential for jointly funded proposals, as well as proposals solely funded by either NSF or NIH. If NIH opts to fully fund a proposal the process will involve submission of the proposal to NIH (sending a paper copy of the NSF submission with a cover letter) for fast-tracked funding and withdrawal of the proposal from NSF consideration.

10. Do you expect to fund randomized clinical trials (RCTs) or are feasibility studies enough?
From a NSF perspective there is no need for a RCT. In fact, it is NSF policy not to fund clinical trials. If the NIH chooses to fund a proposal, it may include provision for RCT in the NIH award, but inclusion of clinical trials in a proposal will make it ineligible for NSF funding.

More importantly, the approach you use should be appropriate to the question you are trying to answer. So if you are the stage where you are ready to do a RCT, you can propose that, but be aware that there are limitations in the amount of funding and that available funds in this announcement may not be appropriate to complete this study. But you are encouraged to take the approach that is appropriate. If you are ready for a full scale RCT, you might consider applying directly to NIH, using one of the NIH's existing mechanisms.

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11. Is there a training component to these proposals?
Yes. The solicitation-specific review criteria include Education and Training: "The degree to which research and education are integrated and activities involve participation and training of students. Reviewers will assess the potential for involvement of motivated populations of young researchers in advancing health through science, technology, and behavior. In addition, if the proposed work includes a post-doctoral fellow in the project, the proposal is required to have a mentoring plan.

12. What about the NIH Institutes/Centers that are not represented in the announcement?
Only those NIH Institutes/Centers listed are participating in this solicitation as described. NIH has many reasons why our Institutes/Centers participate or not. It is not necessarily from a lack of interest. If you're interested in submitting a proposal that might fit, but the Institute/Center is not listed on this solicitation, the proposal needs to be submitted through standard NIH mechanisms including contacting the appropriate program officer. If you do not know a program officer, send Wendy Nilsen ( a message and she will connect you with someone at the appropriate institute.

13. Should the proposal identify a specific NIH institute for funding in the proposal?
It is important to note that the initial submissions to the SCH program are NSF proposals, that are going to be reviewed at NSF. The PI may suggest a specific NIH institute in your proposal, but that is not necessary. The program officers and directors from NSF and NIH will work together to find the most appropriate home. In addition, please contact your NIH representatives and discus this with them because they will be in the best position to provide advice to you.

14. Is the overhead from a sub award considered as a direct cost?

15. Is human subject approval requested at the time of the proposal?
As stated in the NSF GRANT PROPOSAL GUIDE, "All projects involving human subjects must either (1) have approval from the organization's Institutional Review Board (IRB) before issuance of an NSF award or, (2) must affirm that the IRB has declared the research exempt from IRB review." Full IRB approval at the time of the review is not strictly required, but if the IRB approval or exception letter is not available by the time funding decisions are made, the project will not be funded.

16. Do sub-contract indirect cost count towards our direct costs?
Yes, sub-contract indirect cost count towards the project's direct costs.

17. Can we have dual PIs, which is a phenomenon in the NIH system?
Not exactly. The NSF requires one person be designated as the PI from each institution, with additional personnel listed as co-PIs. The NSF allows collaborative proposals, that is, linked proposals with separate budgets but a single project description, submitted from different institutions. In such cases, each institution in the collaboration has it its own PI. For proposals submitted to this program that are chosen for funding directly by the NIH, the resubmission to NIH will be subject to NIH rules, i.e., a single application with multiple principal investigators.

18. Is this open to early career principal investigators?
Yes, the NIH new investigator status applies where appropriate. If you are a new investigator to NIH, each institute treats that a little bit differently so you will need to consult the Institute/Center for specifics. If your SCH submission is funded, will no longer be a new investigator subsequent to that.

19. Does the health content of the Smart and Connected Health proposal need to fit with an NIH Institute/Center for this solicitation?
There needs to be an NIH Institute/Center that is participating that is interested in your application because it meets their mission. NIBIB is fairly broad in their mission, so some research topics may fit there that do not fit as easily in other NIH Institutes/Centers. It is important to look carefully at the mission of each Institute. This information is on the NIH Smart and Connected Health website at NIH ( Also, it is important to talk to the appropriate NIH program officer prior to submission.

20. What was the success rate for Smart and Connected Health?
Last year the program was called Smart Health and Wellbeing and it was solely run by NSF, with about $15 million in funding. The success rate was relatively low because there were many proposals. For the larger ones, the Integrative projects, we had a success rate of about 3%. The rate for the smaller ones, the Exploratory projects, was about 6%.

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21. How is it decided whether NSF or NIH is interested in funding of any particular proposal?
There are many different factors and NIH and NSF work very closely together. Decisions are based on funding levels and mission. Both agencies will do the best we can to get the high scoring applications funded. One of the benefits of applying to this program is that you could have funding from either NSF or NIH.

If you have an application that is very much an NIH R01 and there is a standing study section that can do a good job reviewing your application, SCH might not be the mechanism for you. So think about whether your idea go beyond what is typically reviewed at NIH and will it benefit from a NSF review panel?

22. Who picks the panels for review? Is it NIH or NSF?
NSF is in charge of the picking the reviewers, but with considerable help from NIH. That way we will get the range of expertise and get reviewers that often review at NIH, as well. But the panels will be executed and run at NSF, with a lot of support from NIH.

23. Is NSF funding any of the proposals on their own or will they all get channeled to NIH?
NSF has money set aside for this solicitation and NIH will be including some proposals from those funds. So there are multiple opportunities for funding.

24. Is there a limit on the number of proposals that a person can be involved in?
The SCH solicitation says: "An investigator may participate as Principal Investigator (PI), co-Principal Investigator (co-PI), Project Director (PD), Senior Personnel or Consultant in no more than two proposals submitted in response to this solicitation. For example, an individual may participate as PI, co-PI, PD, Senior Personnel or Consultant in one EXP proposal and in one INT proposal or an individual may participate as PI, co-PI, PD, Senior Personnel or Consultant in two EXP proposals or two INT proposals (but not both). These eligibility constraints will be strictly enforced in order to treat everyone fairly and consistently. In the event that an individual exceeds this limit, proposals received within the limit will be accepted based on earliest date and time of proposal submission (i.e., the first two proposals received will be accepted, and the remainder will be returned without review). No exceptions will be made

25. Will sensor (biosensors, portable MRI) development proposal be reviewed by NIH or NSF? I don't see NSF EECS (engineering) participating in this program.
NSF is conducting the review of all proposals. Sensor proposals will be included. In fact, EECS (engineering) is involved. If a proposal falls into engineering we will get our engineering colleagues to review that.

26. What is the time frame from when you submit the proposal to the award?
There is no fixed time frame. Typically, it takes up to six or eight months. For the first round, this year, we hope to complete the process faster, before the October 1 start of the next fiscal year. Awards for proposals submitted for the fall deadline likely will not be made until the following spring or summer.

27. What is the benefit of applying to this announcement over a standard R01?
The main benefit is that this program has a different review process and different criteria. It may fund projects that would not be suitable for a standard R01. If the proposed work makes sense for a standard R01 and there is a study section that that can cover your science, then it probably doesn't benefit you. Smart and Connected Health proposals must confirm to the NSF criteria and style (not R01) because these are going to NSF for review. This will benefit you if the proposed ideas and efforts does not fit within any existing NIH study section, and the proposed project assessment could benefit from the NSF review process. A discussion with the NIH program officer will be valuable to helping you make that evaluation.

28. Should applications focus on the health, healthcare outcomes, or the technology or both?
Both. This is laid out very clearly in the solicitation; we paid a lot of attention how to express that. Each proposal that is a good candidate for funding has to have both; that is, it has to an address important health or medical problem, but it also has to advance either computer science, engineering or social behavioral science or medical science. It has to have both components. Also note that the term and concepts used is "science", not "technology".

The NSF review panels will evaluate and assess both aspects. The merit of the clinical significance of the application, as well as the merit of the underlying scientific background in the work is reviewed. So you want to be as strong as possible on both.

29. Computational proposals are frequently not well reviewed at NIH, but the solicitation states that proposals that have been submitted to NIH already cannot go back. Is that correct?
NIH has a rule about submitting the same proposals multiple times. So if you have submitted this exact proposal to NIH, you cannot submit it to NIH again. But you should be talking to your NIH programs officers and explain the situations so that you can reshape your topic to make your application appropriate and successful.

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