Overview of the Scholars Committee

Julianna Rava

The Scholars Committee is the administrative backbone of the AIR-P Scholars program, a pilot grant funding initiative aimed at nurturing a new generation of researchers. This program is committed to improving the physical health outcomes of Autistic individuals throughout their lives. The committee's primary role includes providing essential pilot and feasibility funding, which supports preliminary research to address gaps in current knowledge about autism. This funding also acts as a seedbed for generating pilot data crucial for securing future large-scale grants, like the NIH R01. In addition to financial support, the Scholars Committee places a strong emphasis on mentorship and professional development, offering invaluable guidance to nurture the skills of early-stage investigators, including doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and recent graduates. These efforts are augmented by the committee's commitment to fostering collaboration, thereby creating a robust network of interconnected researchers. By administering funds ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 for each one-year award, the Scholars Committee is not just investing in individual research projects; it is investing in the long-term infrastructure of autism research, championing a collaborative, well-mentored, and strategically guided research community that stands to benefit Autistic individuals and society at large.

Responsibilities of Scholars ANSWER Reps:

Scholars who serve as ANSWER Reps play a pivotal role in the proposal review process. They bring a valuable neuro-affirming / neuro-informed perspective and serve as subject-matter experts in various research areas related to autism and physical health. Their responsibility involves evaluating applications with a focus on the significance, innovation, and feasibility of the proposed research projects. During committee review sessions, they actively contribute to the decision-making process regarding accepted applicants. Furthermore, ANSWER Reps provide constructive feedback to applicants, aiding them in enhancing the overall goals and design of their proposed projects.

The Scholars review process occurs annually over a four-month period, requiring ANSWER reps to actively participate throughout the entire review process. For detailed information on the review process, please consult the 2023-2024 Scholars Reviewer Manual. Note that there might be updates for the 2024-2025 cycle.

  • One of the critical duties is to ensure that each proposal is reviewed by at least one Autistic reviewer from the Network, reflecting the Scholars Committee’s commitment to participatory approaches.
  • Each ANSWER Rep is expected to conduct 1-2 reviews of project outlines (Stage 1) and provide feedback to the applicant. They are responsible for the timely completion of reviews to keep the proposal process moving efficiently. The estimated time commitment for each review is less than 1 hour.
  • Each ANSWER Rep is expected to complete 1-2 full evaluations of Stage 2 applications. This includes providing scoring criteria and a constructive critique of the application. The estimated time commitment for each review is 1 hour.
  • Attend the Scholars Committee Meetings held during the review period, including: a kickoff meeting in January, a meeting before Stage 2 reviews, and two 2-hour meetings for the review panel meetings.

We are looking for individuals with the following experience:

  • Autistic/Neurodivergent lived experience AND prior graduate-level training

Preferred Qualifications for Scholars ANSWER Reps

  • Applicants must have at least two years of graduate school experience and be currently enrolled in a research-based doctoral program OR have completed their doctoral degree. Postdocs and early career researchers are particularly encouraged to apply.
  • Prior experience/knowledge of proposal review processes
  • Background in autism and neurodevelopmental research
  • Willingness to provide constructive feedback
  • Ability to work effectively in a team of researchers with a diversity of opinions
  • Willingness to identify and remove oneself from potential conflicts of interest (in proposal review)