Ben Barres Spotlight Awards: Applications open for 2024

Awards of up to $5,000 are now available to researchers from underrepresented backgrounds or countries with limited funding to support their research, career and community.

Note: The application deadline has now passed.

Through the Ben Barres Spotlight Awards, eLife has supported over 50 pioneering researchers from backgrounds historically underrepresented in biology and medicine, including many working in countries where research funding is limited. As we now enter the scheme’s sixth year, we are pleased to welcome eligible authors of publicly reviewed preprints or eLife articles to once again apply for awards of up to $5,000 to support their research, careers or communities.

Successful applicants have made diverse use of their awarded funds over the past five years to remove barriers and seize new opportunities.

Noelia Weisstaub

Noelia Weisstaub used her 2019 award to overcome a funding shortfall caused by the devaluation of the Argentine peso. She says, “My Ben Barres Spotlight Award came at an absolutely critical time and helped me begin new lines of research in my lab.”

Md Noor Akhtar

Md Noor Akhtar was one of the winners of the 2023 awards and is based at the Indian Institute of Science. He says, “My award granted me the privilege to attend the Targeted Protein Degradation conference in the United States, allowing me to establish valuable connections with fellow researchers and leaders in my field.”

Sol Fittipaldi

A runner-up in last year’s awards, Sol Fittipaldi plans to use part of her funds to support a survey into barriers faced by women scientists in Latin America working on dementia. “I feel proud that my award will make women’s contributions to the field more visible and hopefully offer unique insights that will narrow the gender gap in my research community,” she adds.

Alagie Jassey

Alagie Jassey’s 2023 award was used to buy two microscopes needed for diagnostic and research purposes. He says, "Winning the Ben Barres Spotlight Award means a lot to me. The publicity has been invaluable, especially as a postdoc aspiring to become an independent investigator. But it also enabled me to fulfil a long-standing personal goal of giving back to Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in The Gambia, where my career began."

Ready to apply?

Please first review the Terms and Conditions outlined below, and then submit your application via the online form. Applications must be submitted by 5pm (BST) on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.

The application deadline has now passed; you can no longer apply via the form.

If you need any accommodations to support you in making an application, please contact eLife’s Research Culture Manager, Stuart King, via Questions and comments are also welcome. Anonymous feedback may be shared via this form.

Celebrating the winners

We're also pleased to invite you to join us at the online award ceremony on July 3, where we'll announce the results of the 2024 awards. Join us for an inspiring event as we hear from past recipients about the impact of their awards and celebrate this year's winners.


In memory of a remarkable colleague

The Ben Barres Spotlight Awards pay homage to our esteemed late colleague, Ben Barres. As a Reviewing Editor, Ben brought invaluable scientific expertise, boundless energy, and passionate advocacy to eLife's communities. He was a vocal champion for trans and women’s rights, shining a light on injustices within academia. Through the Ben Barres Spotlight Awards, we are proud to help uphold Ben's legacy and strive towards his vision of a more inclusive and equitable scientific community.


Applicants must be:

  1. An active researcher in the life or biomedical sciences at a university or other non-commercial research institute AND
  2. An author of a life sciences preprint with one or more evaluations from an eligible group on Sciety* OR author of a manuscript published or accepted for publication at eLife AND
  3. A member of one or more of the following groups based on their background or identity:
  • Researchers based in countries where research funding is limited; emphasis is placed on those from low and middle-income nations**
  • Disabled researchers or researchers with disabilities
  • Researchers with ethnic minority backgrounds
  • Women; non-binary researchers and researchers of minority genders; transgender researchers of any gender
  • Researchers who are neurodivergent
  • Researchers who belong to a minority group based on their sexual orientation
  • Researchers from working-class backgrounds or “first-generation” students

* Sciety is an application that aggregates public evaluations from preprint-reviewing groups like eLife, Review Commons, PREreview and others. Preprint servers that are currently supported include bioRxiv and medXiv. Please see exclusions below for groups that are not covered by this award scheme.

** eLife welcomes and will consider applications from all countries. There are, however, some territories where it will not be possible for us to transfer funds. We will explore all practical and legal options to allow any winners in these locations to still receive their awards. Researchers based in countries subject to economic sanctions or who are unsure about their eligibility or ability to receive funds are invited to contact eLife’s Head of Communities, Godwyns Onwuchekwa via before making an application.

Applicants do not need to submit any "official" documents to verify their eligibility. However, winners will be requested to provide proof of identity to facilitate the bank transfer process. Acceptable forms of identification include, but are not restricted to, scanned copies of: a valid passport, driver's licence, birth certificate, state-issued identification card, student identification card, and/or social security card.

Available awards and application process

Awards of up to $5,000 (USD) will be granted to assist researchers from groups that are underrepresented in biology and medicine or from countries with limited research funding (as indicated in the eligibility criteria above) until the entire budget is distributed.

We aim to select ten winners. We may offer more awards if not all applicants request the maximum amount. We may also decide to offer fewer awards of the maximum prize in order to provide runner-up awards of a lesser value to a greater number of applicants.

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, if granted, will support a major improvement in their research, career or community. Applicants also need to provide a high-level budget for their proposed expenses under the award. (A PDF copy of the application form can be viewed here, to help applicants prepare their applications.)

Examples of acceptable requests include, but are not limited to:

  • Infrastructure, equipment, services or materials purchases, whether to support research or participation in virtual events or online communication;
  • Adaptations or equipment to make research workspaces more accessible or inclusive;
  • When and where it is safe to do so, travel expenses to conferences, study trips or other visits for the applicants, their group members or collaborators;
  • Meetings with specialist academic mentors to develop research proposals;
  • Temporary administrative or personal assistance, for example, to provide relief during preparation of grant applications or requests for disability support services;
  • Childcare or other care costs to enable, for example, working from home, conference attendance, or a visit to another lab.

Part-funding is acceptable; for example, you may have some funds available for a purpose, but not enough, and this award would complete that requirement. In these circumstances, the applicant should make a request for no more than $5,000 (USD), and describe how the remaining costs will be covered in the “Purpose of the expenditure” section of the application form.


eLife will not consider applications received after the deadline, or submitted by previous recipients of a Ben Barres Spotlight Award, current eLife editors or current eLife early-career advisors.

We will not accept requests in excess of $5,000 (USD), nor fund salaries for the candidate or another individual, stipends for students, or any other recurring costs under this scheme.

Requests to cover article processing charges (APCs) or open-access publication fees will also not be accepted; details of eLife’s publication fee waiver policy can be found here.

Applications towards reimbursing costs that would have been incurred before August 1, 2024, are also excluded.

Evaluations provided by the automated screening tool ScreenIt are not considered to be public reviews for the purposes of this award scheme.

Use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools and technology

Applicants can use generative AI tools like ChatGPT or AI with large language models to help write text for their application to the Ben Barres Spotlight Awards. As an applicant, however, you remain accountable for all contributions and are expected to cooperate with any questions regarding the accuracy or integrity of any part of your application.

Judging process and criteria

eLife staff will screen the applications based on the eligibility criteria outlined above.

Eligible applications will be reviewed by panels formed of representatives of eLife editors, early-career advisors and staff. This review will be conducted anonymously, and the eligibility information will not be shared with the reviewers.

Reviewers will primarily focus on the catalytic potential of the funds towards overcoming barriers in and unlocking new opportunities for the applicant’s research, career and community. In addition, reviewers will consider the extent to which the funds could promote the openness, reproducibility or inclusiveness of the recipient’s research, or increase their prospects for collaboration.

Priority will be given to high-scoring applications that:

  • Depend on the applicant getting this award
  • Are from researchers with intersecting identities
  • Are from researchers based in a low and lower-middle-income country
  • Are from early-career group leaders

If necessary, final decisions may be further guided by the following criteria (in order):

  • The geographic diversity among the winners
  • The extent of the applicant's contribution to the published article or preprint
  • The recency of the applicant’s publication or preprint

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

The related privacy notice for applicants can be found here.

Application deadline and communications

Applications are due by 5pm (BST) on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. We reserve three weeks (15 working days) after the deadline for the decision-making process. Once the decisions are made, all applicants will be duly notified by email with the result.

Successful applicants will be asked to provide a copy of proof of identity (e.g. a valid passport, driver's licence, birth certificate, state-issued identification card, student identification card, and/or social security card). They will also be asked for additional information to help with a public announcement of their award. Recipients will formally be announced at the online award ceremony in July. A list of successful applicants and information about any funds remaining will also be posted on the eLife website.

Should there be any remaining funds after the successful applicants have been decided, we will reopen applications later in the year. Unsuccessful applicants are welcome to re-apply for the next deadline if their situation changes (for instance, if applying for funding for a different purpose).

After the grant is awarded

Upon acceptance of the grant, recipients acknowledge that they will organise an event or activity with time for an audience Q&A with an eLife editor or staff. The event or activity must take place between September 2024 and May 2025, though other details are open to negotiation. For example, winners may opt to give a research presentation hosted as a hybrid event based at their institution, or some other fully online event.

Recipients will also agree to report to eLife on the effect of the award on their research, career and community, and to acknowledge the award when publishing or presenting any work supported by the fund. eLife reserves the right to request evidence of expenses when they are made following receipt of the grant.

Winners will receive 70% of the total grant amount upon their acceptance of the award, with the remaining 30% made available following the successful delivery of the event stipulated above. Funds 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 at least 30 days for the funds to arrive in their accounts.


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