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Application Process

Step I: Challenge

Prospective applicants must complete a challenge to initiate the application process to ensure that they have the requisite skills to develop a reasoning tool. The challenge tasks themselves are designed to provide important background and insight into the task of building a biomedical reasoning tool prototype for this program and thereby improve the quality of proposals received. The challenge is a multilevel computational exercise. The challenge may be completed as an individual, or as a team that will be part of the proposal, provided the team is using a common login. Upon successful completion of each level, additional sections of the funding opportunity will be revealed.

To begin the challenge, go to https://ncats.io/challenge/start.

Step II: Concept Letter

The computational exercises control access to the instructions, so completion of the computational exercises will enable applicants to view instructions that are necessary to submit the required concept letter.

Step III: Full Proposal

After objective review of concept letters is completed; successful teams will receive written notification with instructions for submitting a full proposal and giving a virtual presentation to the review panel.

Key events and dates are provided in the table below. Instructions for submitting the concept letter will be provided in the funding opportunity announcement upon completion of the challenge.

Expertise and Skills

Successful completion of the application process will require applicants to have specific skills related to translational research and software development. Applicants will need to demonstrate technical skills, including familiarity with web communication protocols, a variety of programming languages and software stack, and general algorithmic techniques in the areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and knowledge engineering, as well as problem solving skills, especially creativity and persistence. For applicants who are familiar with the specific languages and packages most useful for solving different tasks, the entire challenge process may take between 2 and 8 hours to complete; applicants without the necessary background in each of these areas may take substantially longer. 


All U.S. and foreign organizations and U.S. citizens are eligible to apply. This funding opportunity is open to U.S. and foreign organizations, including academic institutions and commercial entities; subcontracts are allowed. U.S. citizens may also apply as individuals without an organizational affiliation and may be direct recipients of an award. Non-citizen individuals residing in the U.S. or foreign country who are not affiliated with either a U.S. or foreign organization are not eligible to be direct recipients of an award.

Key Events and Dates

Key Events


Action Needed by Applicants

Challenge opens

(Step I)

Sept. 7, 2017

Solve challenge puzzle to complete Step I of the process.

Concept letters due

(Step II)

Sept. 22, 2017

Submit concept letter following instructions provided through the challenge before 11 p.m. EDT* to complete Step II of the process.

Objective review of concept letters completed

Oct. 2, 2017

Receive written notification with instructions for submitting a full proposal and giving a virtual presentation to the review panel if the outcome of objective review is favorable.

Biomedical Data Translator public meeting

Oct. 25, 2017

Attend meeting in person (optional); Webex will be available.

Written, full proposal for reasoning tool development that includes milestones due

(Step III)

Nov. 20, 2017

Submit by email the 10-month plan and milestones by 5 p.m. local time* [action taken by AOR for organizations or signing representative for individuals] to initiate Step III of the process.

Virtual presentations of proof-of-concept software and 10-month project plan

Nov. 28-29, 2017

Participate in the virtual meeting with the review panel to complete Step III of the process.**

Awards announced

January 2018


*   Letters and proposals received after these times will not be accepted.

** Applicants should save-the-date to ensure availability for the virtual interview.

Last updated: 09-15-2017
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