Real breakthroughs in Neuroscience will only happen at a university that can provide a united effort across vast disciplinary terrain. The greatest leaps will happen when science and technology can be combined with the social sciences, arts, and humanities.

Berkeley provides a phenomenal breadth and depth of renowned faculty and inventive students who can create such leaps. The Radical Ideas in Brain Science Challenge will instill collaboration between these cross-disciplinary researchers and seed breakthroughs in understanding the human mind.

The program will:

  • Catalyze bold, potentially transformative research that otherwise could not move forward;
  • Incentivize new combinations of cross-disciplinary expertise, especially with the social sciences;
  • Make connections with key external partners in industry, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and with cognate institutions in the arts and humanities.

Applications for 2017 are closed


Program Overview

Program Origin
The Radical Ideas in Brain Science Challenge is made possible through the generosity of Andrea and Peter Roth, P’05.

We believe that brain research represents the next frontier in scientific exploration. It is our honor and privilege to support UC Berkeley’s brilliant and innovative multidisciplinary teams as they endeavor to unravel and understand the miraculous and mysterious wonders of the mind.

Andrea and Peter Roth

Award Amount
One team will be selected for an award of $300k. The award will be provided in annual installments of $100,000, with the second and third installments pending an annual progress review.

Proposal Team Composition Requirements
Given the interest in fostering new cross-disciplinary approaches, we recommend the following as requirements for team composition:

  • At least one participant should be a member of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute (HWNI).
  • At least one additional participant should be a UC Berkeley ladder-rank faculty member who is from a discipline different from that of the HWNI member. This could include additional HWNI members. Teams that include faculty from the social sciences and humanities are encouraged to apply.
  • External participants from industry, national labs, or peer universities are encouraged, but are not mandatory.

Focus Areas
Proposals should address at least one of the following focus areas of the Berkeley Brain Initiative:

  • Pioneering Neurotechnologies
  • Cracking the Neural Code
  • Bridging Mind, Brain and Computation
  • Learning
  • The Developing Child
  • The Aging Brain

Proposal Guidelines

Proposals will describe how the support will enable new cross-disciplinary research relationships and areas of new knowledge development, target major gaps in our current knowledge, and describe how the support will enable a clear path from research concept to formal research and development. Eligible activities for the Radical Ideas in Brain Science Challenge include, but are not limited to: research and development, course development and/or teaching, conferences, and post-doc/graduate student support. Faculty salaries should be no more than 10% of total expenditures.

Application should be submitted electronically as a single PDF file that includes:

  • Title page listing PI and co-PIs and their department affiliations
  • 1-paragraph lay summary of project
  • 3-5 page project description
  • 1-page budget and justification
  • CVs or biosketches of the PI and co-PIs

The lay summary should be accessible to non-scientists and speak to the goals as well as the potential societal impact of the project. Send applications to by March 31, 2017 at 5pm. Please direct questions to Proposals should not be routed through SPO. Please name the PDF as follows: lead PI “Last name_first name_RadicalIdeas_2017.pdf”. Include a running header on the top right hand corner of the PDF with the lead PI’s last name, first name, proposal title and year.

Timeline and Process

  • January 17, 2017– Program Announcement
  • March 31, 2017 – Applications due by 5pm
  • May 15, 2017- Selection notifications to applicants
  • July 1, 2017 – Project start date
  • May 2018/2019 – Progress presentation to selection committee

Selection Committee/Process
The selection committee will be composed of the Vice Chancellor for Research (VCR), a panel of deans, the director of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute (HWNI), and the donor who has funded the prize.

The committee members are asked to rate the proposals based on a rubric created by the selection committee. The committee members meet in-person to discuss the applications and make a final recommendation to the VCR for ultimate determination.

Review/Reporting Requirements
The second and third installments of the award funds will depend on the completion of an annual progress report and presentations in May (2018/2019) for each project. Presentations will be made to the selection committee and to the broader neuroscience community at UC Berkeley.