eLife Latest: Introducing the Ben Barres Spotlight Awards

A pilot fund seeks to recognise and support the work of researchers from underrepresented communities.

Note: The Ben Barres Spotlight Awards returned for 2020; find out more here.

At eLife we believe that researchers should not be disadvantaged because of their gender, country of work, career stage, ethnicity or disability. We are therefore introducing the Ben Barres Spotlight Awards to provide visibility and collaboration opportunities for scientists from underrepresented groups. Funds will be awarded based on the extent to which they will help the recipients and their work.

Awards of up to $4,500 will be offered until the $22,000 budget is depleted.

Following a recent diversity-focused review of the current fellowships landscape, carried out by the eLife Ambassadors, the introduction of the Ben Barres Spotlight Awards is a contribution towards creating a more inclusive environment in science. One of the distinct features of the fund is its openness to the needs of the community. We don’t prescribe what the money needs to be spent on, whether it’s a travel grant or equipment purchase. Instead, we invite our applicants to tell us how this sum can make the biggest difference to their work. The 2019 fund is a pilot and we expect to develop the scheme as we learn from the outcomes.

“We’re aware that $22,000 is a modest amount, far from what’s required to solve the challenge of inclusivity and intersectionality in science or scientific publishing,” says Kora Korzec, Community Manager at eLife. “We hope the fund will be catalytic – both in helping to create a step change for the awardees we’re able to support directly, and in bringing attention to this complex issue and motivating other efforts to address it.”

All recipients of the awards will be asked to present their work locally to increase the visibility of their research. In this way, we hope to send a positive signal that eLife supports and welcomes the work of underrepresented communities.

The awards are named after Ben Barres, our late colleague and former Reviewing Editor at eLife. During his time at eLife, we benefited enormously from his scientific expertise. By naming the fund after him we wish to pay tribute to him not only as an outstanding scientist, but primarily as an advocate for young scientists, women and researchers of diverse backgrounds.

(Image courtesy of Stanford University School of Medicine.)

Terms and conditions of the Ben Barres Spotlight Awards

The 2019 fund is a pilot. These terms are therefore subject to change.

Available awards

Awards of up to $4,500 will be granted to assist researchers from groups underrepresented in the scientific workforce (see the eligibility criteria, below, for details), until the budget of $22,000 is distributed.

Awards will be made for research in any area of the life sciences and biomedicine covered by the eLife journal.

eLife does not specify the purpose for the awards. We simply invite candidates to explain their requirements and describe how the money will support a major improvement in their work, if granted.

Examples of acceptable requests include, but are not limited to: travel to conferences; study trips for the applicants or members of their group; supporting a visit by another scholar for training or mentoring; setting up meetings to develop research proposals with specialist academic mentors; equipment purchases (also where part-funding is required); and support towards childcare costs, for example during a conference or a visit.


Applicants must be:

  1. Independent researchers – scientists who have secured funding to support a research group, for example in a Group Leader, Principal Investigator or Assistant Professor position – pursuing their research in the life sciences or biomedicine in a non-commercial research institute, and
  2. An author of a manuscript published or accepted for publication at eLife, and
  3. Members of any of the underrepresented groups listed below, which are addressed by this fund:
  • Researchers currently based in countries where resources are limited; emphasis is placed on those from low and middle-income nations
  • Early-career researchers who have no more than five years of active research experience in an independent position (health-related or parental leave, for example, are not considered active research experience)
  • Women, non-binary or transgender researchers (those who identify with a gender that is different from the sex assigned at birth)
  • Ethnic minorities
  • Researchers with disabilities


Once reviewed, any unsuccessful applications are removed from the pool under consideration, and the candidates will be notified. Unsuccessful applicants are welcome to apply again by the following available deadline if their situation changes (for instance, if applying for funding for a different purpose).

Applications can be submitted at any time with this form – the related privacy notice can be found here. The application deadline is August 1, and we reserve two weeks (10 working days) for the decision-making process.

We can only consider applications where costs will be incurred no earlier than two weeks after the application deadline.

A list of successful applications and information about any funds remaining will be posted on the eLife website, once the decisions are made, and all applicants will be duly notified.

Subject to the availability of funds, the deadline for the second round of applications will be on October 1.


We will not consider applications towards reimbursing costs that would have been incurred before the results of the funding round are published.

We will not fund salaries or other recurring costs under this scheme.

New applications from recipients of these awards will not be considered.

Judging process and criteria

Awards will be granted by a committee formed of representatives of eLife staff, editors and members of the Early-Career Advisory Group (ECAG). Applications will be prioritised based on the scale of change expected from the award: reviewers will focus on the catalytic potential for unlocking new opportunities for the candidate’s research. The judgement may be further guided based on:

  • Adversity factors faced by the applicant
  • The extent of the applicant's contribution to research published at eLife
  • Recency of the applicant’s publication at eLife

We reserve the right to make changes and further clarify these criteria as the programme progresses.

After the grant is awarded

The total grant amount will be sent to the recipient's account by a wire transfer based on the information they provide via a claim form. All applicants should be aware that, from the point when they provide their details for an international bank transfer, it may take up to 30 days for the funds to arrive into their accounts.

The awardees will need to provide a high-level budget for their expenses under the award during the application process. eLife reserves the right to request evidence of those expenses when they are made following receipt of the grant.

eLife will contact applicants by email with the result of their application and, where relevant, request additional information to help with a public announcement of their award.

Upon acceptance of the grant, recipients acknowledge that they will be obliged to organise a presentation of their work, either at their institution or a relevant scientific event. At their presentation, awardees will allow time for a Q&A with eLife to offer participants an opportunity to learn more about our commitment to improving the culture of science communication. Modest additional funds of up to $350 can be made available by eLife for catering purposes for the event.

Awardees will report to eLife:

  • Feedback from their presentation
  • The effect of the award on their research
  • Evidence of costs incurred as presented in their application

Ready to apply?



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