Grant Memorial, Photo by Igor Ferreira, from Unsplash, open access license

National Science Foundation Opportunities

CLA-ALL Grants

The CLA office of research has explicitly selected the following NSF opportunities for social science and humanities projects. CLA will post periodic announcements summarizing the most recent opportunities. Please bookmark the URL for the latest CLA funding opportunities: https://news.cla.purdue.edu/category/grants/

Human Networks and Data Science (HNDS)

The Human Networks and Data Science program (HNDS) supports research that enhances understanding of human behavior by leveraging data and network science research across a broad range of topics.  HNDS research will identify ways in which dynamic, distributed, and heterogeneous data can provide novel answers to fundamental questions about individual and group behavior. HNDS is especially interested in proposals that provide data-rich insights about human networks to support improved health, prosperity, and security. 

HNDS has two tracks:  

(1) Human Networks and Data Science – Infrastructure (HNDS-I). Infrastructure proposals will address the development of data resources and relevant analytic techniques that support fundamental Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) research. Successful proposals will, within the financial resources provided by the award, construct user-friendly large-scale next-generation data resources and relevant analytic techniques and produce a finished product that will enable new types of data-intensive research. The databases or techniques should have significant impacts, either across multiple fields or within broad disciplinary areas, by enabling new types of data-intensive research in the SBE sciences.  

(2) Human Networks and Data Science – Core Research (HNDS-R). Core research proposals will advance theory in a core SBE discipline by the application of data and network science methods.  This includes the leveraging of large data sets with diverse spatio-temporal scales of measurement and linked qualitative and quantitative approaches, as well as multi-scale, multi-level network data and techniques of network analysis.  Supported projects are expected to yield results that will enhance, expand, and transform theory and methods, and that generate novel understandings of human behavior – particularly understandings that can improve the outcomes of significant societal opportunities and challenges.  HNDS-R encourages core research proposals that make innovative use of NSF-supported data networks, data bases, centers, and other forms of scientific infrastructure including those developed by HNDS-I (formerly RIDIR) projects.   

Dear Colleague Letter: Request for Information on Future Topics for the NSF Convergence Accelerator

This Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) replaces NSF 21-012, which was the previous Request for Information (RFI) on Future Topics for the NSF Convergence Accelerator.

The Convergence Accelerator builds upon NSF investments in fundamental research and discovery to accelerate solutions toward societal impact using a three-tiered approach: topic ideation, followed by convergence research phases 1 and 2. Topics aligned to a specific research focus are called “tracks” and funded teams constitute a cohort. The teams include multiple disciplines, expertise and cross-sector partnerships to stimulate innovative ideas and to develop long-lasting, sustainable solutions to support a variety of societal challenges.

The purpose of this RFI is to seek input from industry, institutions of higher education (IHEs), non-profits, state and local governments, and other interested parties on potential NSF Convergence Accelerator tracks for the next round of funding, anticipated in fiscal year (FY) 2023.

This RFI does not invite research proposals. However, collective input from different ideas submitted may result in the identification of potential topics for future research funding opportunities. Through this DCL, the Convergence Accelerator is providing a direct opportunity to offer input on potential topic ideas for FY 2023.

NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Program (S-STEM)

In 1998 Congress enacted the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act which provided funds to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a mechanism whereby the hiring of foreign workers in technology-intensive sectors on H-1B visas would help address the long-term workforce needs of the United States. Initially, scholarships were only provided for students in math, engineering, and computer science. Later legislation authorized NSF to expand the eligible disciplines at the discretion of the NSF director. This revised solicitation expands the eligibility of degrees to most disciplinary fields in which NSF provides research funding (with some exclusions described elsewhere in this document) as long as there is a national or regional demand for professionals with those degrees to address the long-term workforce needs of the United States.

The main goal of the S-STEM program is to enable low-income students with academic ability, talent or potential to pursue successful careers in promising STEM fields. Ultimately, the S-STEM program seeks to increase the number of low-income students who graduate with a S-STEM eligible degree and contribute to the American innovation economy with their STEM knowledge. Recognizing that financial aid alone cannot increase retention and graduation in STEM, the program provides awards to institutions of higher education (IHEs) not only to fund scholarships, but also to adapt, implement, and study evidence-based curricular and co-curricular[1] activities that have been shown to be effective supporting recruitment, retention, transfer (if appropriate), student success, academic/career pathways, and graduation in STEM.

Social mobility for low-income students with academic potential is even more crucial than for students that enjoy other economic support structures. Hence, social mobility cannot be guaranteed unless the scholarship funds the pursuit of degrees in areas where rewarding jobs are available after graduation with an undergraduate or graduate degree.

The S-STEM program encourages collaborations, including but not limited to partnerships among different types of institutions; collaborations of S-STEM eligible faculty, researchers, and academic administrators focused on investigating the factors that affect low-income student success (e.g., institutional, educational, behavioral and social science researchers); and partnerships among institutions of higher education and business, industry, local community organizations, national labs, or other federal or state government organizations, as appropriate.

Scholars must be domestic low-income students, with academic ability, talent or potential and with demonstrated unmet financial need who are enrolled in an associate, baccalaureate, or graduate degree program in an S-STEM eligible discipline. Proposers must provide an analysis that articulates the characteristics and academic needs of the population of students they are trying to serve. NSF is particularly interested in supporting the attainment of degrees in fields identified as critical needs for the Nation. Many of these fields have high demand for training professionals that can operate at the convergence of disciplines and include but are not limited to quantum computing and quantum science, robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, computer science, data science and computational science applied to other frontier STEM areas and other STEM or technology fields in urgent need of domestic professionals. It is up to the proposer to make a compelling case that a field is a critical need field in the United States.

S-STEM Eligible Degree Programs

  • Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, Associate of Engineering, and Associate of Applied Science
  • Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Engineering
  • Doctoral

S-STEM Eligible Disciplines

  1. Disciplinary fields in which research is funded by NSF, with the following exceptions:
    1. Clinical degree programs, including medical degrees, nursing, veterinary medicine, physical therapy, and others not funded by NSF, are ineligible degrees.
    2. Business school programs that lead to Bachelor of Arts or Science in Business Administration degrees (BABA/BSBA/BBA) are not eligible for S-STEM funding.
    3. Masters and Doctoral degrees in Business Administration are also excluded.
  2. Technology fields associated with the S-STEM-eligible disciplines (e.g., biotechnology, chemical technology, engineering technology, information technology).

Proposers are strongly encouraged to contact Program Officers before submitting a proposal if they have questions concerning degree or disciplinary eligibility.

The S-STEM program particularly encourages proposals from 2-year institutions, Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), and urban, suburban and rural public institutions.

[1] an activity at a school or college pursued in addition to the normal course of study.

Dear Colleague Letter: Opportunities for Research and Education in the Critical-Zone (ORE-CZ)

With this Dear Colleague Letter, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) within the Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) together with the Division of Human Resources Development (HRD) in the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) announce an intent to expand the breadth of researchers investigating the dynamics and processes within Earth’s Critical Zone (CZ), the region that ranges from the weathered bedrock beneath the soil profile up to the top of the vegetation canopy. The recent consensus study report from the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Mathematics (NASEM), A Vision for NSF EAR 2020-2030: Earth in Time, recommended that EAR encourage exploration of the Critical Zone “to advance knowledge of water, carbon, and nutrient cycles; landscape evolution and hazards prediction; and land-climate interactions.” NSF currently supports these goals through several Thematic Clusters as part of the Critical-Zone Collaborative Network (CZNet; NSF 19-586); this announcement is intended to enable other investigators to develop complementary approaches to answer fundamental questions concerning Critical-Zone function. This same NASEM report recommends that the Division of Earth Sciences “enhance its existing efforts to provide leadership, investment, and centralized guidance to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Earth science community.” An increase in the community of Critical-Zone researchers provides an opportunity to advance this effort.

Small Business Innovation Research Program Phase I

Introduction to the Program:

The NSF SBIR program focuses on transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial potential and/or societal benefit. Unlike fundamental or basic research activities that focus on scientific and engineering discovery itself, the NSF SBIR program supports the creation of opportunities to move fundamental science and engineering out of the lab and into the market or other use at scale, or startups and small businesses representing “deep technology ventures.”  

The NSF SBIR Program funds research and development. The program is designed to provide non-dilutive funding and entrepreneurial support at the earliest stages of company and technology development.

Synopsis of Program:

The SBIR program is intended to support scientific excellence and technological innovation that is moving from the lab to the market. By investing federal research and development funds into startups and small businesses, NSF hopes to build a strong national economy and stimulate the creation of novel products, services, and solutions in the private sector; strengthen the role of small business in meeting federal research and development needs; increase the commercial application of federally supported research results; and develop and increase the US workforce, especially by fostering and encouraging participation by socially and economically disadvantaged and women-owned small businesses.

The SBIR program at NSF solicits proposals based on groundbreaking scientific discoveries or significant engineering breakthroughs from the small businesses consistent with NSF’s mission to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.

The program is governed by Public Law 114-328 (SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2017). SBIR/STTR policy is provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the SBIR Policy Directive.

The NSF SBIR/STTR program welcomes proposals from many topics and does not have a specific topical or procurement focus. The topics are detailed on the program website. The program is also open to proposals focusing on technical and market areas not explicitly noted in the aforementioned topics.

Dear Colleague Letter: Mathematical and Scientific Foundations of Deep Learning and Related Areas (MoDL+)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorates for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), Engineering (ENG), Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS), and Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) promote interdisciplinary research in Mathematical and Scientific Foundations of Deep Learning and related areas (MoDL+). Deep learning and other related modern machine learning technologies have met with impressive empirical success, fueling fundamental scientific discoveries, and transforming numerous application domains of artificial intelligence. The incomplete theoretical understanding of the field, however, impedes the use of machine learning techniques by a wider range of participants. Confronting this incomplete understanding of the mechanisms underlying the successes and failures of machine learning is essential to overcoming its limitations and expanding its applicability.

EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program: Bridging EPSCoR Communities (RII-BEC)

The Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is designed to fulfill the mandate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to promote scientific progress nationwide. Jurisdictions are eligible to participate in the NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Program based on their level of total NSF support over their most recent five years (see RII eligibility). Through this program, NSF facilitates the establishment of partnerships among academic institutions and organizations in governmental, non-profit, and commercial or industrial sectors that are designed to effect sustainable improvements in a jurisdiction’s research infrastructure, Research and Development (R&D) capacity, and hence, its R&D competitiveness.

In response to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319, sec. 7502), the National Science Foundation (NSF) established the EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program: Bridging EPSCoR Communities (RII-BEC) initiative. The RII-BEC initiative seeks to enable institutions in EPSCoR jurisdictions to set up bridge programs to facilitate the transitions of Affected Groups (e.g., women, underrepresented groups, research trainees, and graduate fellows) from one stage of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) training to the next, with particular focus on providing support for individuals from groups underrepresented in STEM and those transitioning from or to minority-serving institutions (MSIs) within EPSCoR jurisdictions.

The RII-BEC initiative will accept proposals that support those individuals most strongly affected by the pandemic at vulnerable career transition points (e.g., first two years of college, or preparation for entry into graduate programs and/or the STEM workforce) within EPSCoR jurisdictions. The RII-BEC initiative will provide up to $1,000,000 total per award for up to 5 years to support the strategic goal of reducing student attrition at these key junctures to improve future R&D competitiveness of EPSCoR jurisdictions. Proposals may include partnerships within and/or across two-year and four-year institutions (including community colleges). A key feature of projects will be a program strategy and plan for recruitment, mentoring, retention, and graduation of students (U.S. citizens, nationals, and permanent residents) in NSF-supported STEM fields, with specific efforts aimed at underrepresented groups in STEM. 

The RII-BEC initiative is aligned with NSF’s commitment to increase access for underrepresented groups to the Nation’s STEM enterprise.

Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers Program (IUCRC)

Program Mission:

The IUCRC program catalyzes breakthrough pre-competitive research by enabling close and sustained engagement between industry innovators, world-class academic teams, and government agencies.  IUCRCs help industry partners and government agencies connect directly and efficiently with university researchers to achieve three primary objectives: 1) Conduct high-impact research to meet shared and critical industrial needs in companies of all  sizes; 2) Enhance U.S. global leadership in driving innovative technology development, and 3)  Identify, mentor and develop a diverse, highly skilled science and engineering workforce.

Program Overview:

The IUCRC program provides a structure for academic researchers to conduct fundamental, pre-competitive research of shared interest to industry and government organizations. These organizations pay membership fees to a consortium so that they can collectively envision and fund research, with at least 90% of Member funds allocated to the direct costs of these shared research projects.

IUCRCs are formed around research areas of strategic interest to U.S. industry. Industry is defined very broadly to include companies (large and small), startups and non-profit organizations. Principal Investigators form a Center around emerging research topics of current research interest, in a pre-competitive space but with clear pathways to applied research and commercial development. Industry partners join at inception, as an existing Center grows or they inspire the creation of a new Center by recruiting university partners to leverage NSF support. Government agencies participate in IUCRCs as Members or by partnering directly with NSF at the strategic level.  

Universities, academic researchers, and students benefit from IUCRC participation through the research funding, the establishment and growth of industry partnerships, and educational and career placement opportunities for students. Industry Members benefit by accessing knowledge, facilities, equipment, and intellectual property in a highly cost-efficient model; leveraging Center research outcomes in their future proprietary projects; interacting in an informal, collaborative way with other private sector and government entities with shared interests; and identifying and recruiting talent.  NSF provides funding to support Center administrative costs and a governance framework to manage membership, operations, and evaluation.

Successful IUCRCs require:

  • A capable research/management team with an entrepreneurial mindset;
  • Universities, faculty, and students interested in engaging in research of interest to industry;
  • A community of industry partners seeking pre-competitive, use-inspired research projects.

Each IUCRC is expected to grow and become independently sustainable by the end of the NSF support. 

Small Business Innovation Research Program Phase I

Introduction to the Program:

The NSF SBIR program focuses on transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial potential and/or societal benefit. Unlike fundamental or basic research activities that focus on scientific and engineering discovery itself, the NSF SBIR program supports the creation of opportunities to move fundamental science and engineering out of the lab and into the market or other use at scale, or startups and small businesses representing “deep technology ventures.”  

The NSF SBIR Program funds research and development. The program is designed to provide non-dilutive funding and entrepreneurial support at the earliest stages of company and technology development.

Synopsis of Program:

The SBIR program is intended to support scientific excellence and technological innovation that is moving from the lab to the market. By investing federal research and development funds into startups and small businesses, NSF hopes to build a strong national economy and stimulate the creation of novel products, services, and solutions in the private sector; strengthen the role of small business in meeting federal research and development needs; increase the commercial application of federally supported research results; and develop and increase the US workforce, especially by fostering and encouraging participation by socially and economically disadvantaged and women-owned small businesses.

The SBIR program at NSF solicits proposals based on groundbreaking scientific discoveries or significant engineering breakthroughs from the small businesses consistent with NSF’s mission to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.

The program is governed by Public Law 114-328 (SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2017). SBIR/STTR policy is provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the SBIR Policy Directive.

The NSF SBIR/STTR program welcomes proposals from many topics and does not have a specific topical or procurement focus. The topics are detailed on the program website. The program is also open to proposals focusing on technical and market areas not explicitly noted in the aforementioned topics

Smart and Connected Communities (S&CC)

Communities in the United States (US) and around the world are entering a new era of transformation in which residents and their surrounding environments are increasingly connected through rapidly-changing intelligent technologies. This transformation offers great promise for improved wellbeing and prosperity but poses significant challenges at the complex intersection of technology and society. The goal of the NSF Smart and Connected Communities (S&CC) program solicitation is to accelerate the creation of the scientific and engineering foundations that will enable smart and connected communities to bring about new levels of economic opportunity and growth, safety and security, health and wellness, accessibility and inclusivity, and overall quality of life.

For the purposes of this solicitation, communities are defined as having geographically-delineated boundaries — such as towns, cities, counties, neighborhoods, community districts, rural areas, and tribal regions — consisting of various populations, with the structure and ability to engage in meaningful ways with proposed research activities. A “smart and connected community” is, in turn, defined as a community that synergistically integrates intelligent technologies with the natural and built environments, including infrastructure, to improve the social, economic, and environmental well-being of those who live, work, learn, or travel within it.

The S&CC program encourages researchers to work with community stakeholders to identify and define challenges they are facing, enabling those challenges to motivate use-inspired research questions. For this solicitation, community stakeholders may include some or all of the following: residents, neighborhood or community groups, nonprofit or philanthropic organizations, businesses, as well as municipal organizations such as libraries, museums, educational institutions, public works departments, and health and social services agencies. The S&CC program supports integrative research that addresses fundamental technological and social science dimensions of smart and connected communities and pilots solutions together with communities. Importantly, this program is interested in projects that consider the sustainability of the research outcomes beyond the life of the project, including the scalability and transferability of the proposed solutions.

This S&CC solicitation will support research projects in the following categories:

  • S&CC Integrative Research Grants (SCC-IRG) Tracks 1 and 2. Awards in this category will support fundamental integrative research that addresses technological and social science dimensions of smart and connected communities and pilots solutions together with communities. Track 1 proposals may request budgets ranging between $1,500,001 and $2,500,000, with durations of up to four years. Track 2 proposals may request budgets up to $1,500,000, with durations of up to three years.
  • S&CC Planning Grants (SCC-PG). Awards in this category are for capacity building to prepare project teams to propose future well-developed SCC-IRG proposals. Each of these awards will provide support for a period of one year and may be requested at a level not to exceed $150,000 for the total budget.

S&CC is a cross-directorate program supported by NSF’s Directorates for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), Education and Human Resources (EHR), Engineering (ENG), and Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE).

Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Education and Human Resources (IUSE: EHR)

The fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) hold much promise as sectors of the economy where we can expect to see continuous vigorous growth in the coming decades. STEM job creation is expected to outpace non-STEM job creation significantly, according to the Commerce Department, reflecting the importance of STEM knowledge to the US economy.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) plays a leadership role in developing and implementing efforts to enhance and improve STEM education in the United States.  Through the NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) initiative, the agency continues to make a substantial commitment to the highest caliber undergraduate STEM education through a Foundation-wide framework of investments. The IUSE: EHR is a core NSF STEM education program that seeks to promote novel, creative, and transformative approaches to generating and using new knowledge about STEM teaching and learning to improve STEM education for undergraduate students.  The program is open to application from all institutions of higher education and associated organizations. NSF places high value on educating students to be leaders and innovators in emerging and rapidly changing STEM fields as well as educating a scientifically literate public. In pursuit of this goal, IUSE: EHR supports projects that seek to bring recent advances in STEM knowledge into undergraduate education, that adapt, improve, and incorporate evidence-based practices into STEM teaching and learning, and that lay the groundwork for institutional improvement in STEM education.  In addition to innovative work at the frontier of STEM education, this program also encourages replication of research studies at different types of institutions and with different student bodies to produce deeper knowledge about the effectiveness and transferability of findings.

IUSE: EHR also seeks to support projects that have high potential for broader societal impacts, including improved diversity of students and instructors participating in STEM education, professional development for instructors to ensure adoption of new and effective pedagogical techniques that meet the changing needs of students, and projects that promote institutional partnerships for collaborative research and development. IUSE: EHR especially welcomes proposals that will pair well with the efforts of NSF INCLUDES (https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/nsfincludes/index.jsp) to develop STEM talent from all sectors and groups in our society. 

For all the above objectives, the National Science Foundation invests primarily in evidence-based and knowledge-generating approaches to understand and improve STEM learning and learning environments, improve the diversity of STEM students and majors, and prepare STEM majors for the workforce.  In addition to contributing to STEM education in the host institution(s), proposals should have the promise of adding more broadly to our understanding of effective teaching and learning practices.

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