Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Pre-announcement: research in cognitive computational neuroscience

Apply for funding to support interdisciplinary collaborations that integrate an understanding of neuroscience and cognition with artificial intelligence (AI).

You must be eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.

Leadership must comprise expertise in both biological and computational disciplines.

BBSRC will provide funding of up to £200,000 for successful projects (equivalent to 80% of the full economic cost).

Projects can last up to 24 months and must begin no later than 15 February 2023.

The full funding opportunity will open on 13 June 2022.

Who can apply

Eligibility

Standard eligibility criteria apply to this opportunity. Applicants from eligible UK-based organisations are invited, in accordance with standard UKRI practice.

Institutions and researchers normally eligible for UKRI funding include:

  • higher education institutions
  • eligible independent research organisations
  • public sector research establishments
  • UKRI funded labs and facilities.

Applications from organisations or individuals that are not eligible will be rejected without reference to panel review.

Who should apply?

BBSRC are keen to encourage applications from:

  • research groups that merge a range of talent spanning the relevant disciplines within the scope of the opportunity and the project in question and from different career stages and pathways
  • a cultural diversity of stakeholders and researchers with novel perspectives.

Principal investigators and co-investigators

This funding opportunity is intended to foster collaborations between researchers with expertise in neuroscience (or related disciplines) and AI. We expect the leadership of all project teams to reflect this.

We encourage applications with up to two named principal investigators, who should have equal leadership status on the project.

Each principal investigator should have expertise that spans either biological or computational approaches to ensure adequate representation of each discipline relevant to this funding opportunity.

Please see the ‘How to apply’ section for guidance on how to include a second principal investigator on a single Je-S application.

Projects with a single principal investigator are eligible to apply, providing that the expertise of the principal investigator spans both biological and computational approaches.

Co-investigators can also be included on proposals.

We encourage applications from individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences, either as principal investigators or co-investigators.

Funding will only be provided to UK eligible organisations. All principal investigators and co-investigator must meet the standard BBSRC eligibility criteria, as per BBSRC research grants guide.

What we will support

We will support:

  • applications from research groups that merge a range of talent and expertise from different disciplines and that foster a cultural diversity of stakeholders and researchers with novel perspectives
  • interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships, including the involvement of private sector partners. However, businesses cannot be funded through this opportunity.

What we're looking for

Scope

This funding opportunity is intended to initiate a dialogue between researchers on different sides of disciplinary boundaries and to catalyse partnership formation around shared interests in cognitive computational neuroscience (CCN).

Successful partnerships will drive research that enhances our understanding of the brain and behaviour in human and animal models.

The partnership will provide a richer understanding of the mechanistic basis of cognitive function that can be analysed and validated by appropriate computational tools. Or it can be utilised to inform the development of new AI approaches.

Successful projects will be co-designed from the outset, and should focus on one of the following challenge areas:

  • developing and applying advanced computational approaches to elucidate neural and behavioural datasets, furthering our understanding of the mechanisms underlying cognitive function and behaviour. This might include (but should not be limited to) the integration of data across scales of analysis from cells to networks and behaviour or across species.
  • utilising neural and behavioural datasets to test a specific computational question or to inform or validate areas of interest to AI development. For example, harnessing the biological basis of learning to inform the development of novel machine learning algorithms.

Some funding can be used to generate new data, but this should not form the primary focus of your application.

For more information about the background to this opportunity, please see the additional information section.

Objectives

Successful applicants will seek to:

  • support value-added collaborations across the intersection of CCN, building new interdisciplinary capability
  • integrate expertise and skills across disciplinary boundaries to drive discovery across this interface
  • pump-prime interdisciplinary discovery research and innovation to drive new science questions.

UKRI and BBSRC are committed to ensuring equality, diversity, and inclusion in our funding opportunities and in the assessment of all funding applications. Find out more information on UKRI’s commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion.

BBSRC will support research collaborations that seek to:

  • build capability, increase capacity and create communities
  • tackle research challenges with the potential to address real-world challenges
  • initiate the development of new interdisciplinary expertise. In the longer term, projects should seed the development of a skilled, interdisciplinary and ‘multilingual’ cohort of researchers. Researchers who can speak the languages of both neuroscience or cognitive sciences, and advanced computational methods.
  • develop the foundations of a research base. In future, this research base will support knowledge exchange, engaging those with computational skills and expertise in key neuroscientific questions. It will generate novel hypotheses around the mechanistic basis of cognitive function that can be analysed and validated by computational approaches.
  • drive impact. The research base will drive translation and commercialisation, facilitating impact and integrating expertise and skills across disciplinary boundaries to drive innovation.

Expected outputs

The expected outputs from this opportunity include:

  • the provision of a forum that links across disciplines to enable networking between neuroscientists (and those in related disciplines) and AI researchers, encouraging interdisciplinary research
  • the development of pilot data, where feasible, to inform downstream and longer-term research aims
  • the potential development of commercial partnerships, where appropriate.

Expected outcomes

By bridging these separate communities and enabling a multidirectional flow of expertise between them, we anticipate alignment with broader, longer-term research outcomes that:

  • further the application of AI to understanding the human brain and its control on behaviour
  • further the development of next-generation AIs, which are better able to replicate or improve on aspects of human intelligence for a wide range of applications than their current capability allows
  • enable the formation of multiple interdisciplinary research partnerships with a more diverse cohort of researchers who have the complimentary skills and expertise to realise the shared interests of these fields.

Exclusion criteria

BBSRC will not consider applications appropriate for funding if they are:

  • focused solely in one discipline
  • from applicants who are not based at UK institutions
  • focused entirely on developing novel data
  • seeking to investigate clinical conditions or pathologies.

Successful projects must begin no later than 15 February 2023.

How to apply

Launch workshop

BBSRC is delighted to announce a virtual launch workshop to coincide with the launch of this opportunity in June 2022.

The workshop is intended to introduce the opportunity and its aims, enable prospective applicants to network with researchers from other relevant disciplines, identify suitable collaborators and scope out potential research opportunities.

Attendance at the workshop is not a mandatory condition for applying to this funding opportunity however, BBSRC strongly encourages attendance if you are interested in applying for the opportunity.

All prospective applicants and their research associates are welcome to attend.

The partnering workshop will coincide with the opening of this opportunity in mid-June 2022.

The date and time of the workshop, and details for registering, will be added to this page soon.

How to apply for this opportunity

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

We recommend you start your application early. You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

When applying select ‘new document’ then:

  • council: BBSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • call/type/mode: Cognitive Computational Neuroscience: Supporting interdisciplinary research.

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

Applications that include multiple institutions must be submitted on a single Je-S proforma. Multiple forms will not be accepted.

Applicants must complete all sections of the Je-S proforma.

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

BBSRC must receive your application by 27 July 2022 at 16:00.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

Attachments

Applications must include the following attachments.

As well as the Je-S application form, the documents outlined below must be submitted.

Read BBSRC research funding guide to find out about how to complete all of these documents.

Proposal cover letter

The declaration of interest must be included in the proposal cover letter. This should be a maximum of two pages.

Case for support

Your case for support should outline the following:

  • specific challenge your project aims to address
  • strategic relevance of your project to BBSRC’s ‘bioscience for an integrated understanding of health’ challenge areas
  • timeliness and potential impact of your project
  • overview of how your proposed activities will progress towards solving the challenge
  • overview of how you will support interdisciplinary working and any necessary training for project participants.

If you have an industrial partner, your case for support should also detail:

  • role of your industrial partner
  • nature of their collaboration.

Industrial partners are not mandatory, nor are they eligible for funding.

This should be a maximum of six pages.

Justification of resources

Your justification of resources should include details of all resources being requested in your application. You should explain why they are necessary to your project.

This should be a maximum of two pages.

Data management plan

If you are seeking research grant funding from BBSRC, you must submit a data management plan. This should include concise plans for data management and sharing as part of the research grant proposal or provide reasons why data sharing is not possible or appropriate.

This should be a maximum of two pages.

Diagrammatic work plan

This must be a diagrammatic work plan representing timelines and milestones. This cannot be used to extend the case for support.

This should be a maximum of one page.

Capability to deliver

Instead of a track record section within the case for support and accompanying traditional curriculum vitae (CV), we invite applicants to submit a ‘capability to deliver’ document.

This part of the application should act as a narrative that explains how the team’s relevant experience and expertise will enable interdisciplinary research and bridge different disciplines. This section should also outline clearly how the project team is suited to undertaking the activities proposed.

The ‘capability to deliver’ document is intended to replace the need to provide CVs for all applicants and research staff. A CV that simply lists past positions, publications and funding will not adequately support an application.

This should be a maximum of two pages.

Project partners

If project partners are included in your proposal, you should also provide letters of support. This is required for industrial partners who are not seeking funding from this opportunity.

Co-principal investigators

If you intend to apply with two named principal investigators, please note that Je-S only allows one principal investigator to be named on the system.

Therefore, the co-principal investigator role must be clearly identified within your application. You can add details of the other named principal investigator on the ‘capability to deliver’ document.

The principal investigator named on the Je-S form will, for administrative purposes, be the initial point of contact for liaison with UKRI during the application process. If successful, they will also be the initial point of contact for the lifetime of the award.

The research organisation of the named principal investigator on Je-S will be the sole recipient of funding.

The ‘capability to deliver’ document should be uploaded using the attachment type ‘other attachment’.

How we will assess your application

Applications will be assessed by an independent panel before a final funding decision is made. The panel meeting will take place in September or October 2022 (final date to be confirmed).

The final funding decision will be taken within approximately four weeks of the panel meeting.

There will be no peer-review component to the assessment procedure.

Assessment criteria

Applications will be assessed based on the following criteria.

Scientific and technical excellence

This includes:

  • specific objectives of your project and whether they demonstrate excellence and originality
  • appropriateness of your proposed activities, with a clear and well-developed rationale for engaging partners with appropriate skills from relevant disciplines
  • your project’s potential to make a significant contribution to the advancement of the area.

Strategic value

This includes:

  • relevance of your proposed work programme and activities to the opportunities scope and objectives, as outlined by BBSRC in the ‘What we’re looking for’ section
  • alignment of your proposed work with BBSRC’s strategic objectives.

Timeliness and potential impact

This includes:

  • potential scale of impact arising from your proposed research
  • applicability of the research to possible end-user applications
  • potential of your proposed project to build a foundation for further investment.

Capability to deliver

This includes:

  • capabilities and sustainability of your assembled research team to deliver the proposed research
  • feasibility of delivering the proposed programme of work within the two-year time frame of the funded grant
  • a clear plan for supporting interdisciplinary work and training for project participants.

Contact details

Ask a question about the opportunity

Ceri-Wyn Thomas, Senior Portfolio Manager, Lifelong Health, BBSRC

Email: ceri-wyn.thomas@bbsrc.ukri.org

Please include ‘CCN funding opportunity’ in the subject line.

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Background

CCN has emerged as a research field from the intersection of cognitive science, AI and neuroscience.

A primary aim in this research space is to develop biologically plausible computational models of human cognition.

While AI-inspired models have demonstrated the capacity to predict human brain function and behaviour, cognitive feats like learning, planning and decision making remain a central challenge in the development of artificial agents.

In deepening our understanding of how cognition is achieved by biological systems, this may inform novel approaches in the development of artificial agents. It has the capacity to replicate successfully aspects of human cognition in real-world settings.

As such, CCN represents a promising link between currently discrete research disciplines. There is unmet potential in this research space to drive science outcomes that could be of wide benefit both to the disciplines in question and to the UK’s society and economy at large.

Yet, there are barriers to achieving research outcomes across the intersection of CCN. Lab groups rarely benefit from the range of expertise necessary to bridge disciplines effectively. Research questions may be addressed using inadequate or inappropriate computational approaches and data may be misinterpreted, insufficient or poorly integrated.

This funding opportunity aims to address these barriers by better integrating researchers from the separate disciplines across the intersection of CCN. Funding is intended to enable the formation of crucial and timely interdisciplinary collaborations and to pump-prime pilot studies to inform longer-term research questions.

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (DOCX, 26KB)

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