Funding Opportunities

Request for Pilot Study Proposals in Aging Research

CLICK HERE for a Recording of the Pilot RFA Informational Webinar


The Duke Roybal Center (NIA P30AG064201) aims to catalyze researchers across disciplines to develop, test and implement innovative behavioral interventions grounded in behavioral or social science principles to promote independent living of older adults and adults at risk for disability. The theme of the Duke Roybal Center is to accelerate translational behavioral intervention research on aging and functional independence. Our Center’s Pilot Core provides pilot project awardees with direct, frequent, and intensive guidance and training on how to develop, refine, test or implement an intervention. Funding and staff support (please see below) are available for one year and subsequent engagement with the center is designed for continued guidance on research progression toward larger trials and implementation.


We are seeking proposals for theory-driven intervention research that aims to promote functional independence of older adults or adults facing disease that increases their risk for disability. Faculty investigators should propose high quality behavioral intervention studies that can be completed in one year. The intent of pilot funding is for generating preliminary data that can lead to high-impact externally funded studies. Clinical efficacy, effectiveness and implementation trials are strongly encouraged.

The research we fund could be in any of the NIH stages of intervention development (0, I, II, III, IV) with higher priority for stage II or higher. Applicants must propose a plan for progression across the levels of the NIH Stage Model for Behavioral Intervention Development. The Duke Roybal Center has incorporated ten research principles to support translation using the NIH Stage Model. The use of these principles draws attention to and creates momentum towards the importance of moving research forward in the translation trajectory. Interested applicants will discuss their proposed research and its alignment with these principles with a Pilot Core investigator during a required study consult meeting prior submitting a Letter of Intent (LOI).

  1. Team science
  2. Links to relevant theory/scientific concept(s)
  3. Treatment fidelity
  4. Methods for training interventionists
  5. Optimizing treatment effects and streamlining treatment
  6. Stakeholders/community providers
  7. Potential for implementation
  8. Commitment to translation (i.e. moving through the stages of the NIH Stage Model)
  9. Findings from each stage used to feedback and feedforward (i.e. research is iterative and bidirectional)
  10. Diversity in recruitment and engagement in research

Studies of Interest:

We are interested in studies that relate to our focus on “Accelerating Translational Behavioral Intervention Research on Aging and Functional Independence.” We define function using the WHO International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF). The primary intervention outcome is expected to be in the domain of physical function (e.g., disability, mobility, self-care, physical activity) and can be measured by a person’s capacity (what s/he can do), perceived capacity, or performance (what is actually done) in executing a specific task or being involved in a life situation.

Potential topic areas include but are not limited to interventions that address:

  • Acute stressors or threats to function and independence (e.g., surgery, anesthesia, cardiovascular events, falls and fractures, infections).
  • Functional reserve or physiological resilience in older persons.
  • Causes, prevention, and treatment of episodes of functional decline.
  • Factors that promote recovery of function or health, or the ability to resist functional decline in the face of stressors or challenges
  • The effect of age on physiological resilience and mobility
  • Interactive effects on mobility of multiple diseases, and interventions in older persons, and their relationship to risk of morbidity, progression of disability, and efficacy of prevention or treatment strategies.

Studies that evaluate psychosocial resilience, which do not also address an aspect of physical health/independence, may not fall within the scope of our Center.

Further, we are interested in studies that reflect our Center’s Commitment to Equity and Diversity:

The Duke Roybal Center aims to advance behavioral intervention development and implementation to optimize mobility for older adults. Integral to behavioral and social science research are intentional efforts to acknowledge the intersectionality of age with all dimensions of diversity, including but not limited to: sex, race, ethnicity, gender identity, and expression, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, health, socioeconomic status, and social class. As a center, there is an equal commitment to actively engage underrepresented Center and Pilot investigators, study teams, community stakeholders, and study participants to understand and address health disparities among older adults.

Duration and Funding:

Funding is available for one year, June 1 – May 31. The budget request for pilot studies is up to $80,000 in direct costs for the one year. An experienced behavioral interventionist is available to support funded projects. Administrative support is available to support translation and applications for future funding.

Pilot studies are expected to utilize Roybal Center expertise and participate in center training activities during the award year. Training activities include quarterly intensive workshops and state of the science lectures, consultation with external advisors, monthly Novel Intervention Development Incubator (NIDI) meetings, and an eight-week grant writing course scheduled in the fall of each year. Pilot awardees will include Roybal Center staff in research meetings, participate in quarterly progress reviews with the Pilot Core leadership, and attend quarterly Center investigator meetings.

Deadlines & Timeline:

  • November 2, 2020 4:30pm-5:30pm: Informational Webinar (REGISTER HERE)
  • November 2, 2020 – November 30, 2020: Required Study Consult Meeting
  • December 1, 2020: Letter of Intent (LOI) Due
  • December 15, 2020: Invitations to Submit Full Applications
  • January 11, 2021: Application Due
  • February 16, 2021: Funding Decisions
  • March 15, 2021: Human Subjects Documents Due for NIH
  • June 1, 2021: Earliest Start Date

Letter of Intent (LOI) and Application Details:

The Pilot Study LOI is a competitive review and required by December 1, 2020. It must include the following items sent as a single PDF package to

  1. Title Page:
    1. Proposed title of the project
    2. name of the principal investigator
    3. key co-investigators
    4. Stage of Research (NIH Stage Model)
  1. Specific Aims Page (1-page):
    1. Brief, high-level summary of significance/problem, approach, study aims, innovation,
    2. Plan for translation
    3. Relevance to the Duke Roybal Center theme of aging and functional independence (Please note: Pilot studies aiming to address populations younger than 65 years must provide justification for how outcomes will promote healthy aging and prevent functional decline or disability)
  1. Principal Investigator NIH Biosketch

Full Application:

We hope to invite 6-8 applicants to submit a full proposal. The full proposal is due January 11, 2021.

  1. Research Strategy: (Maximum of 3 pages, Arial 11 point font, 0.5 inch margins)
    1. Study Aims
    2. Significance
    3. Innovation
    4. Study Design & Methods (specifying stage of research)
    5. Analysis Plan
    6. Plans for dissemination and leveraging findings toward future external funding
    7. Stated commitment to participate in Roybal Center training activities
    8. Description of how the Roybal Center’s expertise will be utilized to accomplish the proposed work and any other resources available to the investigator to ensure the success of the pilot study (environment).
  2. References
  3. NIH Biosketch for all key personnel
  4. Detailed Budget (please work with your grants administrator to meet NIH guidelines)
  5. Detailed Budget Justification

Please contact Jessie Byrd, CRC ( with any questions.