Columbia Roybal Center Pilot Award Program




The Columbia Roybal Center for Fearless Behavior Change will fund one-year pilot studies relevant to developing health behavior interventions in patients who have suffered acute medical events. Our prior research has shown that many patients develop fear-based responses to these traumatic events (e.g., fear of recurrence, heightened distress from internal physiologic stimuli) that lead to avoidance of the very health behaviors (e.g., exercise, take medications regularly) that are recommended to prevent recurrence. Accordingly, our Center seeks to develop interventions that address these fear-related mechanisms.  Relevant study populations include, but are not limited to, patients with stroke, myocardial infarction, cardiac arrest, COPD, heart failure, respiratory failure, or recent diagnosis with cancer or end-stage renal disease. Relevant behavioral outcomes include, but are not limited to, medication adherence, physical activity, sleep, as well as measures of psychological distress and quality of life. Interventions can be delivered in-person or remotely, using telemedicine tools (e.g., video visits, mobile health devices). The goal of the award is to help investigators obtain preliminary data to support independent grant applications to the NIH or other extramural sources.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to follow the experimental medicine approach to intervention development promoted by the Science of Behavior Change. This involves testing the effect of the intervention not only on the target health behavior (e.g., medication adherence or physical activity), but also on the proximal mechanism that explains how the intervention works (e.g., reducing fear of recurrent cardiovascular events).

Early-stage studies that are assessing the feasibility of novel behavioral interventions are welcomed, as are later-stage studies that assess efficacy or effectiveness. (See NIH Stage Model for nomenclature onstage of behavioral intervention development.)

Award Amount

Up to $50,000 (direct + indirect costs). Investigators will also gain access to research infrastructure at the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health that can facilitate enrollment, intervention delivery, follow-up, data analyses, data and safety monitoring, and mHealth devices for monitoring physical activity/sleep (e.g., Fitbit) and medication adherence (e.g., eCAPs).  Investigators will also gain peer mentorship from investigators and advisors involved in the Roybal Center as well as opportunities for dissemination of their work through the Roybal Center’ administrative core.

Note: Projects that address fear of pain have the opportunity to apply for co-funding from the Translational Institute on Pain in Later Life (, another Roybal Center based at Weill Cornell Medical College and Cornell University.

Number of Awards

Up to 3 awards per year.


Applicants can be post-doctoral research fellows or faculty at any rank but must show evidence of being capable of completing the pilot study within one year. Applicants are not required to be affiliated with Columbia University. Preference will be given to applications from junior investigators and those likely to lead to future extramural funding.


Applications are now being accepted. Applications must be submitted by Thursday, December 1st, 2022.   

Pilot Selection

Pilot projects will be notified of the outcome of their application by Friday, January 6th, 2023. Pilot projects that are not selected will be given feedback and may resubmit their application the following year. Selected projects are expected to receive a notice of award in July 2023, pending NIA and IRB approval.

Review Process

Reviewers will score proposals from 1-9 for Overall Impact, broadly mirroring the NIH approach to grant review. Reviewers will judge each application on the basis scientific merit, innovation, significance, applicant and multidisciplinary team, feasibility of using the pilot study data to submit a grant for external funding or publication, and alignment with goals, priorities and directions of the Columbia Roybal Center for Fearless Behavior Change. Early-stage investigator status will be considered and viewed favorably in funding decisions.

Two independent reviews will be obtained for each proposal. A “study section” will be convened in December 2022 at which the top ranked proposals will be discussed. A minimum of 2 proposals will be selected for funding in the upcoming year.


For questions about the scientific content, please contact:

Dr. Ian Kronish, Director, Columbia Roybal Center
(212) 342-1335

For questions about the application process and format, please contact:

Darlene Straussman

To learn more about the NIA’s Roybal Center Initiative, please visit: