The Administrator of the Administration for Community Living invites applications for a new award for fiscal year (FY) 2019 for the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERC) Program – for a RERC on Rehabilitation Strategies, Techniques, and Interventions. NIDILRR’s RERC program is authorized under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.
NIDILRR’s mission is to generate new knowledge and promote its effective use to improve the abilities of people with disabilities to perform activities of their choice in the community and to expand society’s capacity to provide full opportunities and accommodations for its citizens with disabilities. In support of this mission, NIDILRR sponsors Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERCs) to address the barriers confronted by people with disabilities in all aspects of their lives.
NIDILRR-sponsored RERCs engage in the systematic application of engineering sciences to design, develop, adapt, test, evaluate, apply, and distribute technological solutions to problems confronted by people with disabilities in functional areas such as mobility, communications, hearing, vision, and cognition. RERCs conduct engineering research and development toward improved health and function, employment, and community living and participation outcomes. RERCs may focus their efforts at the individual level, for example, to develop assistive technology devices that enhance the physical, sensory, and cognitive abilities of people with disabilities. RERCs may also focus on the systems level, for example, by mitigating or eliminating barriers found in large social systems such as public transportation, telecommunications, information technology, and the built environment. RERCs conduct research and development that ultimately leads to the transfer of technology into commercialized or non-commercialized products that can be readily accessed and used to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
NIDILRR seeks to establish a RERC that will address topics in the following broad area of rehabilitation engineering: Rehabilitation strategies, techniques, and interventions. By inviting RERC applications in this broad area, we aim to increase competition for NIDILRR’s RERC grants and draw upon the field's expertise, knowledge, and creativity to optimize the quality and relevance of the rehabilitation engineering grants that we fund. In the area of rehabilitation strategies, techniques, and interventions, NIDILRR seeks to fund a RERC that leads to rehabilitation practices, services, or products that improve the health, physical, cognitive, sensory, or communication abilities, of people with a wide range of disabling conditions. Rehabilitation engineering in this area should result in new or improved products, devices, and technological advances that enhance rehabilitation services and contribute to improved outcomes for people with disabilities in clinical, community, or home settings.
NIDILRR recognizes new technological developments that are fostering a surge in the number and diversity of robotics applications. Several trends are feeding the potential for growth in robotics, including exponential growth in computing performance and data storage, the growing ubiquity of wireless communications infrastructure, faster Internet speeds, the advent of three-dimensional printing, and improvements in both electrical energy storage and the energy efficiency of electronics (2015). The technology for robotics has made great advances in the last decade. Motors are now lighter and more powerful. Sensors are also more powerful and less expensive, and batteries are greatly improved. Robotic engineering methods can be applied to user interfaces and control systems, wearable biosensors, virtual reality, teleoperation, and biofeedback, enabling new approaches to rehabilitation.
Pratt, G.A. (2015). Is a Cambrian Explosion Coming for Robotics? Journal of Economic Perspectives, 29(3): 51–60.
The Administrator of the Administration for Community Living (ACL) establishes a priority for a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Rehabilitation Strategies, Techniques, and Interventions. Under this priority, the RERC must research, develop, and evaluate innovative technologies and strategies that will result in new or improved products, devices, and technological advances that enhance rehabilitation services and contribute to improved outcomes for people with disabilities in clinical, community, or home settings. The RERC must be designed to improve outcomes of people with disabilities in one or more of the following outcome domains: community living and participation, employment, or health and function.
Research and development topics under this priority may include but are not limited to: Robotics and automation technologies; virtual reality; telerehabilitation; recreational technology; health related products and equipment; and cognitive, sensory, and communication aids. However, we do not give an application that addresses these topics a preference over other applications.
Applicants under the priority in this notice are required to specify in their proposal the following:
The NIDILRR outcome domain or domains to be addressed.
The target population or populations of people with disabilities.
The technological and informational products to be produced.
The benefits of those products to people with disabilities.
The means of testing and evaluating the products to be produced.
Requirements applicable to RERC priorities:
As a national center, the RERC must conduct high quality research, development, technical assistance, capacity building, knowledge translation, and dissemination activities that address significant needs, promote independence, and improve the quality of life and community living outcomes of people with disabilities. In order to optimize benefits to people with disabilities, the RERC must ascertain efficacy and safety of proposed strategies, technologies, or interventions, and collaborate with appropriate entities to facilitate the transfer and adoption of development products. The RERC must follow and understand emerging technologies and communicate to NIDILRR, ACL, and other appropriate stakeholders about the potential opportunities and drawbacks associated with these technologies.
A RERC established under the priority in this notice must be designed to contribute to the following outcomes:
Increased technical and scientific knowledge relevant to its designated priority research area. The RERC must contribute to this outcome by conducting high-quality, rigorous research projects. When applicable, the RERC must use engineering knowledge and techniques to collect, analyze, and/or synthesize research data.
Increased innovation in technologies, products, environments, performance guidelines, or monitoring and assessment tools applicable to its designated priority research area. The RERC must contribute to this outcome through the development and testing of these innovations. When applicable, the RERC must apply engineering knowledge and techniques to achieve development objectives.
Improved research capacity in its designated priority research area. The RERC must contribute to this outcome by collaborating with the relevant industry, professional associations, and institutions of higher education, health care providers, or educators, as appropriate, to train research and development professionals in its designated priority research area.
Improved awareness and understanding of cutting edge developments in technologies within its designated priority research area. The RERC must contribute to this outcome by communicating with NIDILRR, people with disabilities and their representatives, disability organizations, service providers, professional journals, manufacturers, and other interested parties about trends and evolving product concepts related to its designated priority research area.
Increased impact of research and development in the designated priority research area. The RERC must contribute to this outcome by providing technical assistance to relevant public and private organizations, people with disabilities, employers, and schools on policies, guidelines, and standards related to its designated priority research area.
Increased transfer of RERC-developed technologies to the marketplace. The RERC must contribute to this outcome by developing and implementing a plan for ensuring that all technologies developed by the RERC are made available to the public. The technology transfer plan must be developed in the first year of the project period in consultation with the NIDILRR-funded Center on Knowledge Translation for Technology Transfer.
In addition, the RERC must--
Have the capability to design, build, and test prototype devices and assist in the technology transfer and knowledge translation of successful solutions to relevant production and service delivery settings;
Evaluate the efficacy and safety of its new products, instrumentation, or assistive devices;
Provide as part of its proposal, and then implement, a plan that describes how it will include, as appropriate, people with disabilities or their representatives in all phases of its activities, including research, development, training, dissemination, and evaluation;
Provide as part of its proposal, and then implement, in consultation with the NIDILRR-funded National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research, a plan to disseminate its research results to people with disabilities and their representatives, disability organizations, service providers, professional journals, manufacturers, and other interested parties;
Conduct a state-of-the-science conference on its designated priority research area in the fourth year of the project period, and publish a comprehensive report on the final outcomes of the conference in the fifth year of the project period;
Coordinate research projects of mutual interest with relevant NIDILRR-funded projects, as identified through consultation with the NIDILRR project officer.
Specify the stage or stages of research projects that they are proposing. If the applicant proposes to conduct research that can be categorized under more than one stage, including research that progresses from one stage to another, those stages must be clearly specified. These stages (exploration and discovery, intervention development, intervention efficacy, and scale-up evaluation) are defined in this section of the funding opportunity announcement; and
Specify the stage or stages of development of the development projects that they are proposing. If the applicant proposes to conduct development that can be categorized under more than one stage, those stages must be clearly specified. These stages (proof of concept, proof of product, and proof of adoption) are defined in this section of the funding opportunity announcement.
Definitions - Stages of Research:
Exploration and discovery means the stage of research that generates hypotheses or theories through new and refined analyses of data, producing observational findings and creating other sources of research-based information. This research stage may include identifying or describing the barriers to and facilitators of improved outcomes of individuals with disabilities, as well as identifying or describing existing practices, programs, or policies that are associated with important aspects of the lives of individuals with disabilities. Results achieved under this stage of research may inform the development of interventions or lead to evaluations of interventions or policies. The results of the exploration and discovery stage of research may also be used to inform decisions or priorities;
Intervention development means the stage of research that focuses on generating and testing interventions that have the potential to improve outcomes for individuals with disabilities. Intervention development involves determining the active components of possible interventions, developing measures that would be required to illustrate outcomes, specifying target populations, conducting field tests, and assessing the feasibility of conducting a well-designed intervention study. Results from this stage of research may be used to inform the design of a study to test the efficacy of an intervention;
Intervention efficacy means the stage of research during which a project evaluates and tests whether an intervention is feasible, practical, and has the potential to yield positive outcomes for individuals with disabilities. Efficacy research may assess the strength of the relationships between an intervention and outcomes and may identify factors or individual characteristics that affect the relationship between the intervention and outcomes. Efficacy research can inform decisions about whether there is sufficient evidence to support “scaling-up” an intervention to other sites and contexts. This stage of research may include assessing the training needed for wide-scale implementation of the intervention and approaches to evaluation of the intervention in real-world applications; and
Scale-up evaluation means the stage of research during which a project analyzes whether an intervention is effective in producing improved outcomes for individuals with disabilities when implemented in a real-world setting. During this stage of research, a project tests the outcomes of an evidence-based intervention in different settings. The project examines the challenges to successful replication of the intervention and the circumstances and activities that contribute to successful adoption of the intervention in real-world settings. This stage of research may also include well-designed studies of an intervention that has been widely adopted in practice, but lacks a sufficient evidence base to demonstrate its effectiveness.
Definitions - Stages of Development:
Proof of concept means the stage of development where key technical challenges are resolved. Stage activities may include recruiting study participants, verifying product requirements; implementing and testing (typically in controlled contexts) key concepts, components, or systems, and resolving technical challenges. A technology transfer plan is typically developed and transfer partner(s) identified; and plan implementation may have started. Stage results establish that a product concept is feasible.
Proof of product means the stage of development where a fully-integrated and working prototype, meeting critical technical requirements, is created. Stage activities may include recruiting study participants, implementing and iteratively refining the prototype, testing the prototype in natural or less-controlled contexts, and verifying that all technical requirements are met. A technology transfer plan is typically ongoing in collaboration with the transfer partner(s). Stage results establish that a product embodiment is realizable.
Proof of adoption means the stage of development where a product is substantially adopted by its target population and used for its intended purpose. Stage activities typically include completing product refinements and continued implementation of the technology transfer plan in collaboration with the transfer partner(s). Other activities include measuring users' awareness of the product; opinion of the product; decisions to adopt, use, and retain products; and identifying barriers and facilitators impacting product adoption. Stage results establish that a product is beneficial.