Request for Proposals: “The Science of Immortality”
The University of California at Riverside, with the help of a very generous grant from The John Templeton Foundation and under the direction of John Martin Fischer, welcomes proposals to investigate via empirical means questions that concern personal immortality. Such questions are central existential concerns that know no geographical or cultural bounds. They include questions about the possibility and plausibility of post-mortem survival; questions about the influence of beliefs about immortality on behavior, attitudes, and character; questions as to why and how persons are (at least pre-reflectively) disposed to believe in post-mortem survival; and more besides. The goal of this RFP is to make progress on these questions through empirical research.
We anticipate proposals that fall under one of the following three categories:
1. Empirical studies (possibly including meta-analysis of previously published research) that seek to make progress on the question of whether and in what forms persons survive bodily death (such investigation could take the form of research on near-death experiences, alleged out-of-body-experiences, alleged experiences of past lives, and related issues). We do not seek or presume specific findings on this question. Rather, we seek useful scientific research that might either corroborate or falsify a range of opinions on this topic.
2. Empirical research on belief in, or hope for, post-mortem survival. Such research could have two various foci. One would include investigations into whether or not, and to what extent, the belief that one will survive bodily death influences one’s behavior, attitudes, character, etc. Another would examine the source and structure of the cognitive psychological dispositions that dispose human beings to believe in survival of death. Also, there could be studies of the interaction between religious hopes or beliefs concerning immortality, on the one hand, and technologically inspired hopes or beliefs concerning immortality, on the other.
3. Empirical research on technological approaches to physical longevity: e.g., the possibility of postponing bodily death so as to extend a person’s physical life span considerably or even indefinitely, perhaps including cryonic suspension after biological death and subsequent reanimation.
Recently published works that constitute, contain, or describe research that addresses one or more of the categories above include the following:
Bering (2006), “The Folk Psychology of Souls,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29: 1-46.
Blanke & Metzinger (2009), Full-Body Illusions and Minimal Phenomenal Selfhood,” Trends in Cognitive Science 13: 7-13.
Ehrsson (2007), “The Experimental Induction of Out-of-Body Experiences,” Science 317:1048.
Hodge (2011), “On Imagining the Afterlife,” Journal of Cognition and Culture 11: 367-389.
Gray, Knickman, & Wegner (2011), “More Dead than Dead: Perception of Persons in the Persistent Vegetative State,” Cognition 121: 275-280.
Harris (2011), “Conflicting Thoughts about Death,” Human Development 54: 160-168.
Marsh (2010), Out-of-Body and Near-Death Experiences: Brain-State Phenomena or Glimpse of Immortality? Oxford.
Metzinger (2009), The Ego Tunnel, Basic Books.
Mueller, Rauser, and Rose (2001), Does Aging Stop? Oxford University Press.
Applicants may request up to $350,000 for projects not to exceed two years in duration. The average expected request amount is $250,000, and requests that exceed this amount will require exceptional justification. The total available payout for the RFP is $2.5 million. To ensure that strong proposals from multiple categories receive funding, no more than 50% of the RFP funds will be awarded to proposals from any single category of the three listed above. Letters of Intent are due by 15 December, 2012. Notification will be made by 1 February, 2013, with submission of full proposals no later than 15 March, 2013. Final award decisions will be issued by 1 June, 2013 for research to begin no later than 1 September, 2013.
Letter of Intent (LOI) Stage
Applicants are required to submit:
§ A complete curriculum vitae for the PI and for all major team members (if applicable).
§ A letter of intent that includes the central questions of the project, the background and significance of the questions, identification of which of the three research categories (listed above) the project falls under, and a summary of the methodology. The letter cannot exceed 1,500 words.
Application materials should be submitted by e-mail attachment, if possible, to firstname.lastname@example.org. The word “Science of Immortality” should appear in the e- mail subject line. The only acceptable file formats are .doc and PDF. Questions about the application process can be sent to the same address. All LOI materials must be received no later than 15 December, 2012.
Full Proposal Stage
Those applicants who are invited to submit full proposals must include:
§ A cover letter with the title, amount requested, duration of the project (not to exceed two years), and team members (if applicable).
§ A description of the work to be carried out, not to exceed 5,000 words. The description should explain the central questions of the project, the background and significance of the questions, identification of which of the three research categories (listed above) the project falls under, the methodology (in sufficient detail to establish scientific rigor), and the researchers’ qualifications to conduct the research.
§ A project abstract of up to 500 words which explains the project and its significance to non-academics, and which would be published on The Immortality Project website and possibly in Templeton materials, and included in publicity materials if the proposal is funded.
§ A timeline.
§ A detailed budget with accompanying narrative explaining line items. Overhead is limited to 15%, and funds cannot be used for major equipment purchases.
§ Approval of the department chair and the institution’s signing officials.
Full proposals should be submitted by e-mail attachment, if possible, to email@example.com (questions about full proposals can be sent to the same address). The words “Science of Immortality” should appear in the e-mail subject line. The only acceptable file formats are .doc and PDF. Full proposals will be accepted only from applicants who have been invited to submit by the project director, on the basis of the LOI phase. Full proposals must be received no later than 15 March, 2013.
The PI must have a Ph.D. (or comparable terminal degree) and be in or contracted to a faculty position at an accredited college or university before 1 July, 2013. Applicants can have their name on only one proposal for this competition. The judging panel will consist of scientists with expertise in the relevant domains; some proposals may receive additional reviews by philosophers or theologians. Selection criteria will include: (1) significance, approach, innovation, investigators, and environment; and (2) relevance of the project to the themes of the RFP as described above. Please see NIH criteria for more information (http://cms.csr.nih.gov/PeerReviewMeetings/ReviewerGuidelines/). While additional funding from other sources is not required, applicants are encouraged to seek such funding and to list the amount and sources of additional funds in their proposals. All applications must be submitted in English and all payments will be made in US dollars.
Funded projects must have their PI commit to the following:
§ Submit interim and final reports, as well as interim and final expenditure reports. The interim and final reports should not exceed 5 pages, and should detail the outcomes of the funded project. Reports must be submitted at the end of Year 1 and at the conclusion of the project if the project is for more than one year.
§ Attend and present initial findings at a 2-day conference in June, 2014 (expenses covered).
§ Attend and present central results at the capstone conference in June, 2015 (expenses covered).
§ Consent to have their presentation at the two conferences videotaped for the Immortality Project website.
§ Notify the project at (firstname.lastname@example.org) of all conference presentations, papers, and books that arise from the funded research.
§ Follow stipulations of grant award as communicated by Templeton either to the University of California at Riverside or to the recipient directly, and as determined by the University of California at Riverside.
All questions should be directed to:
The Immortality Project
Email address: email@example.com
Physical address (although email preferred, all materials can also be submitted here):The Immortality Project Department of Philosophy HMNSS Building 1604 900 University Avenue University of California Riverside, CA USA 92521