The AOTF Occupational Therapy Research & Advancing Science

The AOTF Occupational Therapy Research & Advancing Science

The American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) is the nation’s leading nonprofit investing in occupational therapy research and the future research workforce. Quality, data-driven evidence is essential to improving the delivery of care, enhancing reimbursements and strengthening the value of our profession.  Our grants, programs, research resources and AOTF scholarships are available to a wide variety of OTs, caregivers and healthcare stakeholders and is made possible by a community of volunteers, donors, and advocates who are the lifeblood of our mission.

Founded in 1965 as a separate and autonomous entity from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), AOTF’s mission is to advance the science of occupational therapy so that every person, regardless of age or ability, may live a meaningful and independent life, able to participate in the activities that matter to them.  

Throughout our history, AOTF has funded:

  • research grants, doctoral dissertations, scholarships and fellowships;
  • programs and events aimed at building new evidence; and
  • efforts to strengthen the research workforce and disseminate information.

Our focus is to address areas of critical need to the profession. Today, we believe there are two critical needs for OT: the need for more evidence and the need for more OT researchers.

The demand for evidence is rising and AOTF is taking a leadership role in generating both new evidence and new OT scientists. At unprecedented levels, evidence is being demanded by occupational therapists, clients, caregivers, payers and policymakers. We know that with new evidence OT’s can improve their delivery of care, address issues that plague healthcare systems and health service environments, as well as change policy and reimbursement standards that are out of date and inaccurately measure progress or wellbeing.

Looking for ways to make your occupational therapy research idea a reality? AOTF has grants and programs to help you contribute to the science of OT! | #occupationaltherapy #OT #OTresearch

How is AOTF advancing the science of OT and how is it influencing positive change in the profession?

1. Intervention Research Grant Program (an AOTF scholarship)

Starting in 2013, AOTF  launched the Intervention Research Grant (IRG) program aimed at supporting new and novel ideas in OT focused on areas of critical need to the profession. These 1 year, $50,000 grants are unique in OT as they provide seed funding to help investigators build proof of concept, collect pilot data and publish initial findings. All of these are necessary to conduct larger studies and acquire bigger grants. There was a lack of opportunity for OTs to find early-stage research funding, so this is a niche where AOTF found it could make a significant impact.

Today, AOTF has funded 30 IRGs with $1.5 million in research aid. This money comes directly from our annual donors including AOTA, NBCOT and the schools who participate in the St. Catherine’s Challenge. After 6 years we found that from our $1.5 million investment, over $19 million in new grants have been awarded in follow-up funding. In addition, 93% of IRG recipients went on to receive federal funding for their work. IRG findings have resulted in 32 publications in both OT and non-OT journals and over 90 presentations have been given by grant recipients based on their findings.

IRGs are also providing a new mechanism for young investigators to receive external research support. Over 60% of IRG recipients are under the age of 40 or less than 10 years into their research careers.  Support for both early stage research and early-career researchers are vital to strengthening the future of the field.

2. Health Services Research Grant Program

In 2019 AOTF introduced its second grant program, in Health Services Research (HSR), to investigate how people get access to health care, how and what care is delivered, the cost of that care, and what happens to patients as a result of receiving or not receiving care.  

Specifically, HSR is a multidisciplinary field that studies how social factors, financing systems, organizational structures and processes, health technologies, and personal behaviors affect access to health care, the quality and costs of health care, and ultimately, the health and well-being of health care consumers. Health Services Research has a high value to both individuals and society. Past research has yielded information on intervention trends and risk factors, outcome of treatments, and patterns of care.  It has established new health policies, led to significant discoveries, and to the development of new therapies.

Looking for ways to make your occupational therapy research idea a reality? AOTF has grants and programs to help you contribute to the science of OT! | #occupationaltherapy #OT #OTresearch

3. Implementation Research Grant Program

Starting in 2020 AOTF will offer its third grant program in Implementation Research (IR).  It is well known, and cited, that it takes an average of 17 years for practitioners to adopt new medical evidence into widespread health care practice.

There are many reasons for this long delay, but one outcome is clear. Delays and barriers that omit new evidence from practice decrease the quality of care, diminish efficacy, increase costs and exacerbates harm to patients and overall societal health.

To address the research-to-practice gap, its causes, as well as costs and consequences, AOTF is funding new grants that examine barriers to:

  • implementation,
  • determine how to more efficiently deliver evidence-based practice in the practice setting,
  • address scaling up smaller pilot research studies into larger health systems,
  • measure performance within a practice setting, and
  • develop methods to measure successful implementation.

This area of research is going to be the next big contributor to the transformation in health care delivery.

4. Planning Grant Collectives

AOTF is also taking a proactive role in generating new research by bringing leading OTs and investigators in other disciplines together to discuss research priorities in two-day workshops called Planning Grant Collectives. These events host two-dozen researchers, funders and other stakeholders.

In July 2019 AOTF hosted its third Planning Grant Collective on the topic of “Stimulating Research to Enhance Aging in Place: A Continuum of Home and Community-based Services.  The goal of the workshop was to establish several collaborative teams that would develop new research grant proposals designed to advance the evidence base for home and community-based services that support aging in place.

Looking for ways to make your occupational therapy research idea a reality? AOTF has grants and programs to help you contribute to the science of OT! | #occupationaltherapy #OT #OTresearch

How Can You Engage With and Support AOTF?

AOTF offers a number of resources for OTs.

  • At the AOTA Conference through:
    • Breakfast with A Scholar and
    • The State of the Science Symposium. CE units are available at each event. 
  • AOTF Research Resources is a monthly e-publication that provides information on OT and rehab research interests.
  • OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health is a leading research journal in occupational therapy that reflects the Foundation’s commitment to advancing the profession through scientific inquiry and fosters interdisciplinary dialogue with contributions from disciplines such as psychology, neuroscience, economics, anthropology, sociology, geography, rehabilitation science, nursing, and social work.
  • The St. Catherine Challenge, a national, student-led fundraising initiative that raises money for IRGs.
  • Pi Theta Epsilon (PTE) the national honor society for occupational therapy students and alumni.
    • Its mission is to promote research and scholarship among occupational therapy students.
    • PTE recognizes and encourages superior scholarship among students enrolled in accredited educational programs across the United States.

AOTF has a number of opportunities for OTs, caregivers and other stakeholders to participate and support our work. There are nine standing committees run by volunteers that help our Foundation accomplish our mission and promote evidence-based practice.  We are always looking for new partnerships and feedback from the OT community as to areas where new evidence is needed.

We invite you to become a donor so you can support future grants, programs, scholarships, and events that bolster OT. Gifts can be given to support research, scholarships, programs or AOTF overall.

The second century of OT will be defined by evidence-based practice. AOTF plans to play a leading role in building that evidence and helping create the future of the field, but we can only achieve success together. 

If you are someone who can envision a world where people, regardless of age or ability can participate in the activities of their choosing than you are someone who shares in the vision of AOTF, I invite you to share your thoughts with us about current and future directions, expand your participation with the Foundation’s work, and think about joining us as a volunteer as well as a donor.

More information can be found at or please contact Lawrence Liff, Chief Development Officer, at   

About our Guest Blogger

Dr. Scott Campbell began his tenure as Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation in May 2015.  Prior to joining the Foundation, Dr. Dr. Scott Campbell, American Occupational Therapy Foundation CEOCampbell served as a Scientific Advisory Board member for Temptime Corporation and served as Executive Director and CEO of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.  He was responsible for overall leadership of the FNIH and was involved with many of the collaborative research projects funded through the FNIH including the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), the Biomarkers Consortium, the Observational Medical Outcomes Partnership (OMOP), Grand Challenges in Global Health, the US-Russia Scientific Forum and the mHealth Summit.  He also represented the Foundation on the Health Research Alliance and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Forum on Drug Discovery, Development, and Translation.  

From 2001-2010, Dr. Campbell served as National Vice President of Research Programs at the American Diabetes Association.  In addition to overseeing all research-related programs at the ADA, he also was responsible for helping acquire major donations to the ADA Research Foundation.  He was a trustee on the Board of Trustees, Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC); member of the IOM Clinical Research Roundtable; and served on the Board of Directors of the Health Research Alliance.  He also represented the ADA on several federally related committees, including the Diabetes Mellitus Interagency Coordinating Committee (DMICC) at the National Institutes of Health.  Before beginning his non-profit scientific administration career, Dr. Campbell spent 16 years in academia with academic appointments at the University of South Dakota, University of Missouri, and Michael Reese Hospital.

Scott received his PhD in Basic Biomedical Sciences from the University of South Florida.  He is the author of 40 peer-reviewed articles, 9 invited reviews, and 14 book chapters related to cardiovascular disease.

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