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Joseph G. Sprague New Investigator Award


Award Application Timeline

April 28, 2023 Applicant Webinar (required) LISTEN TO RECORDING
June 16, 2023 Submission Deadline
July 28, 2023 Award Recipients announced


About the Award


The Center for Health Design announces the opening of the Joseph G. Sprague New Investigator Award (NIA). The purpose of this award is to support and recognize high quality research by new investigators around the world in the field of evidence-based healthcare facility design. The award is open to graduate students, and other recent research degree recipients whose contributions reflect their potential to conduct original, empirical research to improve our understanding of the relationships between the physical environment and health-related outcomes & wellness. The goal of the award is to support new researchers whose research can fill critical gaps in the field of evidence-based design (EBD).

All applications will undergo a thorough peer-review process, conducted by a multi-disciplinary jury established by The Center for Health Design. All applicants must use the provided (approved) templates with no modifications to fonts (e.g., type, size) or formatting (e.g., line spacing, margins).  Modifications to footer page numbers are expected prior to assembling your final submission.  Your proposal should be clear and succinct. In no instance shall the “body” of the proposal exceed the allowed page limits. (See the application requirements, page 5.)  The Center reserves the right to disqualify/reject submissions that exceed these limits. You are responsible to check your submission. You will not be notified about disqualification in advance of the deadline.


This request for proposals (RFP) seeks to fund studies in all healthcare settings, including hospitals, ambulatory care, behavioral health settings, senior living communities and home-based models of care. The setting of research can range from academic medical centers to community-based care initiatives, as well as simulation laboratories. This RFP stipulates that the proposal examine the relationship between the built environment and healthcare outcomes. Priority will be given to proposals in the following areas of focus:

Design to support:

  1. Staff well-being. There are a range of strategies that can support the well-being of clinical staff. We acknowledge the broad spectrum that encompasses well-being (e.g., efficient workflows, respite spaces, noise mitigation) and the proposal must specify both which segment of staff is to be considered and which environments are proposed for study (e.g., intensive care, primary care, acute care).
  2. Behavioral and mental health. There are a range of settings that can support behavioral health (i.e., not limited to secure psychiatric units). We acknowledge the broad spectrum that encompasses behavioral health (e.g., neurodiversity, suicide), and the proposal must specify both which segment of the population is to be considered and which environments are proposed for study (e.g., intensive outpatient, emergency department).
  3. Aging. There are a range of settings that can support aging (i.e., not limited to long-term care). We acknowledge the broad spectrum that encompasses conditions of aging (e.g., dementia, frailty), and the proposal must specify both which segment of the population is to be considered and which environments are proposed for study (e.g., assisted living, acute care).
  4. Pediatric care. There are a range of settings that can support pediatric care. We acknowledge the broad spectrum that encompasses pediatric conditions (e.g., PICU, pediatric oncology), and the proposal must specify both which segment of the pediatric population is to be considered (e.g., age range, medical condition) and which environments are proposed for study (e.g., play rooms, patient rooms).

While an applicant may propose a study outside of these areas, there should be a clear and compelling case for the contribution to the field (e.g., the knowledge gap being addressed, the practical application). Priority will be given to studies that include vulnerable, underserved populations and address issues around equity of care.


The Center for Health Design will present up to two awards up to $10,000 each to someone in the early phase of their research career. Additionally, the award recipient will receive free registration to attend the Healthcare Design Conference + Expo, where they will have the opportunity to present their completed study; US domestic travel costs (e.g., coach-class airfare), lodging for one night, and other ancillary travel expenses should be included in the applicant’s budget – this amount shall not exceed $1,000. The travel location will be announced prior to the submission date. The award recipient will receive guidance through The Center’s research team for one year.


Evidence-based design or ‘the process of basing decisions about the built environment on credible research to achieve the best possible outcomes’ provides a framework for linking facility design decisions with key patient, staff and organizational outcomes in healthcare settings.

While the body of evidence available for supporting design decisions has grown over the last decade, there is still a paucity of research in many key areas. As a result, healthcare practitioners and designers engaged in the design of new facilities or renovating existing facilities struggle to find sufficient evidence to support key facility investment decisions. There is a need for timely and relevant research studies that clearly show how different aspects of the built environment impact patient safety, worker safety and effectiveness as well as patient satisfaction and quality of care in healthcare settings. The New Investigator Award is intended to support the continued development of quality EBD research and researchers.


Investigators from research and academic institutions, and professional practice, are encouraged to apply. Applicants should be either a current graduate student or someone who has graduated with a research degree within the past three years and is currently engaged in research in either a practice setting or academic institution. Applicants may have extensive professional experience, but must be in the early stages of their formal research career to qualify (i.e., no more than three years following the graduation date of the degree year). Age is therefore not a factor in eligibility consideration.

Applicants may be involved in a research study that is part of a larger research agenda (a grant-funded project at a university).  If this is the case, however, the applicant must clearly articulate how their individual study scope is an identifiable “sub-project,” led by the candidate. These applicants should describe how their individual research is contributing to the body of knowledge apart from the larger research scope. These applicants should also define how this study increases their individual skillset in the context of the larger opportunity. There should be no doubt that the applicant is the lead investigator for the study described in the application. As such, the award is not intended for a research team although the candidate may include industry experts/academic advisors in an advisory role. It should be clear that any listed advisors are not conducting the research.

Applicants with recent degrees who are working in non-academic settings (e.g., an A/D firm, non-profit) are eligible but must clearly identify how the proposed project is an independent investigation. The topic should be in an area of interest that the candidate would like to pursue to advance their own research interests and development. This should not be a company-led project for which the applicant is the researcher. A letter of support from the employer is encouraged.

All applicants should submit a fully developed research proposal meeting the page limits as detailed in the Application Requirements. Only the approved templates are to be used. The proposal should not be developed in design software or with a Word format using different fonts, sizes, and layouts. This is to ensure a consistency of applications for the reviewers. Deviations from the provided template and page limits are grounds for disqualification.


Proposal submissions will be reviewed and scored by a multi-disciplinary jury based on the following weighted criteria (listed in order of importance):

  1. Scientific quality of the proposal (including study purpose, significance, research question/hypothesis, anticipated outcomes, practical implications, literature review, conceptual or theoretical framework (optional), study design and methods)
  2. Industry contribution (including innovation & new knowledge, dissemination plan)
  3. Readiness/Feasibility (including researcher’s capabilities and experience, project feasibility as described in the proposal, Human Subjects protection/Administrative approval)
  4. Administrative (including budget justification, task schedule/timeframe)
  5. Writing Quality (grammar, spelling, clarity, appropriate use of research terminology)
  6. Engaging content (compelling case that this is a unique, timely, high quality study)

The award decisions will be made at the discretion of The Center based on the recommendations of the jury. Reviewers are required to respect the confidentiality of the information provided in the proposals. Applicants will receive written feedback from the jurors following the announcement.


Applicants for the New Investigator Award are required to view an informational webinar on April 28, 2023. Listen to recording.
The live webinar includes a Q&A session, and will cover:

  • The Center for Health Design’s and the Sprague Foundation’s mission and purpose of the award
  • A step-by-step discussion of each section of the proposal and what it tells the reviewers
  • Keys to success and common mistakes to avoid

After the live webinar date, an on-demand recording will be available. Contact Catherine Ancheta for recorded webinar access and for additional questions. 



March 14, 2023                       NIA RFP announced
April 28, 2023                         NIA RFP Q&A (webinar viewable on-demand) — 3:00-3:30pm Eastern

June 16, 2023                          Submission Deadline

July 28, 2023                          NIA Award Recipients announced
August 2023                           The NIA recipient begins their engagement with The Center
2024/2025                             The NIA recipient presents research findings at a conference



NIA recipient will have quarterly progress reports via Zoom with The Center. Recipients are expected to complete the research project, according to the timeline outlined in their proposal. Any adjustments to the timeline must be coordinated with and approved by The Center.

At the conclusion of the project, NIA recipients are expected to:

  1. Prepare a manuscript describing the study in a format that can be submitted to a peer reviewed journal. Submission to a peer-reviewed journal is at the discretion of the researcher, but please acknowledge the support of The Center and the Joseph G. Sprague New Investigator Award.
  2. Complete a Key Point Summary of their study using The Center’s Knowledge Repository format.
  3. Prepare an interactive (roundtable) presentation about their study during The Center’s Innovations in Research session of the Healthcare Design Expo Conference + Expo.
  4. The researcher will coordinate with The Center to write the final deliverable, which is a paper (approx. 5 pages, excluding references and appendices) that summarizes the design implications of the study. The paper should be written for an audience of designers, and will be published via The Center’s website.


Reviewer Conflict of Interest

The Center staff and its consultants are not eligible to serve as principal investigators. In addition, they may not participate in the review of proposals that are submitted by his or her colleagues or if he or she is asked to serve in a consulting capacity. All proposals must adhere to the application process of the RFP. All research results will be broadly disseminated and therefore are required to be non-proprietary. Only one proposal per applicant is eligible for the award.

Applicant Conflict of Interest

Applicant must acknowledge any real, perceived, or potential COI that raises questions of research integrity (i.e., circumstances in which research may be influenced by a secondary interest of the applicant.) This includes an existing or potential financial or other material interest and/or a relationship that impairs or might appear to impair the individual's independence and objectivity in conducting the study. If there is no COI the applicant must explicitly state, “I have no conflicts of interest” in the template, in addition to indication in the application checklist.

Click Here to Download the RFP Templates

Please email submissions in a single PDF or direct questions to:

Catherine Ancheta, Senior Project Manager, The Center for Health Design, 1850 Gateway Boulevard, Suite 1083, Concord, CA 94520   925.521.9404 x122 cancheta@healthdesign.org.


Past Winners 

The 2022 Winners: Becky Gill and Marzia Chowdury Awarded New Investigator Award

The 2018 Winner: Kathryn Peditto Awarded New Investigator Award

The 2017 Winner: Deborah Wingler Awarded New Investigator Award

The 2016 Winner: Lori Reynolds Awarded New Investigator Award

The 2015 Winner: Lorissa MacAllister Awarded New Investigator Award

The 2014 Winners: Nayma Khan and Naomi Sachs Awarded New Investigator Award

The 2012 Winner: Young-Seon Choi Awarded New Investigator Award

The 2011 Winner: Rana Zadeh Awarded New Investigator Award