NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program (some inside

National Science Foundation
NSF Faculty Early Career Development
(CAREER) Program
Jeff Ryan*
Professor, Chair and Director, School of
and (formerly) an NSF Program Director, EHR/DUE
[and a past member of the CAREER Coordinating
[email protected]
*with input from past and current NSF PD’s!
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation
• The National Science Foundation is an
independent granting agency of the U.S.
Federal government
• Budget: $7.2 billion, FY 2012
• Charter: to fund fundamental research and
education in the sciences, mathematics
and engineering
• Excluded from: clinical research (NIH),
weapons research (DoD), research in
(most of) space (NASA), high-energy
physics (DoE)
National Science Foundation
NSF “Org Chart” (after Hazelrigg, 2012)
•Office of the
Inspector General
•National Science Board
•Staff Offices
•Directorate for
•Directorate for
•Directorate for
•Directorate for
Computer and
•Science and
•Directorate for
•Directorate for
•Education and
•Directorate for
•and Physical
•Directorate for
•and Economic
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation
• Information site (where all NSF funding programs
are “published”): www.nsf.gov
• Proposal Input site (where you go to both review
proposals and to submit your own):
• Project Reports site (where you document project
findings for NSF and input information about
public benefits: www.research.gov
• Just now: NONE of these sites are available for
us (thanks to Congressional hijinks…)
National Science Foundation
CAREER: Program Goals
• “A Foundation-wide activity that offers the National
Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in
support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of
teacher-scholars through outstanding research,
excellent education and the integration of education
and research within the context of the mission of their
 All NSF Research Directorates make CAREER
 Tying faculty research and educational efforts
together is a key goal of the program.
 As well, CAREER seeks to support the development
of investigators from under-represented populations
National Science Foundation
CAREER Awards:
• Funding is to support the academic career
development of new faculty (it is not purely a
research award…)
• Is based on a professional development plan,
”a well-argued and specific proposal for
activities that will, over a 5-year period, build a
firm foundation for a lifetime of contributions
to research and education”
• Research is part of the plan (obviously!), but
so is education and professional
National Science Foundation
CAREER: Program Eligibility
 Applicants Must:
Hold a doctoral degree as of submission date
Be untenured as of submission date
Be employed in a tenure-track (or equivalent) position as of
October 1 following submission
Be employed as an assistant professor (or equivalent) as
of October 1 following submission
Have not competed more than 2 times previously in the
CAREER program (Three Strikes Rule…)
Have not previously received an NSF CAREER or
PECASE award.
 Questions? See CAREER Frequently Asked Questions, on
the CAREER Program pages in www.nsf.gov (when it’s
available again!)
National Science Foundation
Award Duration and Size
5-year duration (very long awards for NSF,
but equivalent to the pre-tenure period for
most University faculty)
Minimum award size of $400,000;
$500,000 in the Biological Sciences and
Polar Programs
No maximum award size (!!!), but how much
bigger varies considerably by funding
program and Directorate.
National Science Foundation
CAREER: A Program within Programs…
• “Foundation-wide” means every Directorate
makes CAREER awards, but they each manage
their aspect of the program differently toward
meeting their mandated goals.
• One may apply for CAREER Program support for any
RESEARCH activities supported by NSF. This means:
– The research needs to be submittable to an existing NSF
research funding program!
• In the EHR (Education and Human Resources)
Directorate, only the REESE (Research and Evaluation
on Education in Science and Engineering) Program
typically accepts CAREER proposals
– In the disciplinary “Research and Research Related”
directorates, all programs ostensibly can handle
CAREER proposals (though there may be exceptions…).
National Science Foundation
CAREER in the Social and Behavioral
• Generally, proposals must be submitted through
existing SBE funding programs (these cover a lot
of ground…)
Psychology/Neuroscience (not clinical!)
Economics, etc.
• Biggest SBE CAREER challenge – budgets!
– Specifically, getting to the budgetary minimum…
• A CAREER award ends up being a very large
fraction of an SBE funding program (which can
make a Program Officer a bit antsy…)
National Science Foundation
CAREER: Who should submit?
• Everyone who is eligible! But…
– Each NSF Directorate manages CAREER program
awards differently:
• ENG, CISE: Primary means of supporting
junior faculty! (lots of CAREER awards made)
• GEO: Historically, an honorific for the “best of the
best” (fewest CAREER awards made):
• SBE: Number of awards usually constrained
by overall program funding
• EHR: constrained by “research” funding programs
(most are “implementation” or
scholarship/fellowship funding).
• BIO, CHE, PHY - Varies! You need to ask some
hard questions of your cognizant Program Officer!
National Science Foundation
Writing a Competitive CAREER Proposal:
• CAREER proposals are NOT normal research
• CAREER proposals are requests for financial
support of an integrated academic career plan
– Research is part of this plan, and will define to a great
degree the “storyline’ of the proposal
– Education is also part of this plan (you are working at a
– Service is part of this plan
• The proposal should spend page space (and
grant money!) on each aspect of your career
development activities, commensurate with their
importance in your career!
National Science Foundation
A CAREER Development Plan…
…is a strategic plan!
• A strategic plan has three parts:
– Where are you today?
– Where do you want to be in the future (5, 10, 20
years from now)?
– How do you get from here to there?
Your proposal…
Should move you toward your professional goals
Should be compatible with your institution’s mission
and goals
Should represent a contribution to society at large
National Science Foundation
CAREER Proposal Preparation - First Steps
• Before you write a word -– CALL your disciplinary Program Officer well in
advance to talk about your interest in
submitting a CAREER proposal!
– He/she will tell you up front if it’s better to submit
via CAREER, or via the traditional research
– For budgetary reasons, Program Officers always
want a heads-up on any planned CAREER
• Large awards require budgetary planning,
• CAREER submissions require different
reviewers and (maybe) differing review
National Science Foundation
CAREER: Who to Contact:
• Contact the Program Director(s) who manage the
NSF research program that best fits the research
effort you seek to support via CAREER!
• Also: each NSF Directorate has CAREER program
liaisons, who serve on the CAREER Coordinating
Committee (CCC). These folks can be helpful with
specific questions about the solicitation, eligibility,
• Also helpful: CAREER Program Frequently Asked
Questions - available on the CAREER program page
at www.nsf.gov (when it’s working…).
National Science Foundation
Proposal Development
What are your plans for research? What are your plans re:
Criteria for research as in a standard NSF proposal, just more
succinct (no room for great detail!)
Educational activities should be consistent with your job as an
educator (i.e., if you’re assigned to mentor graduate students, it
should focus on graduate education…).
Don’t propose “extra” activities beyond the scope of your job,
esp. if the infrastructure to do them is unclear.
Conceptual strategy re education: you are going to LEARN to be
an outstanding educator
NSF knows that you didn’t learn this in grad school!
How? Identifying/adopting/ adapting best STEM
educational practices in your classroom and student
Also: you will be mentored by your senior colleagues
(Chair’s letter….)
National Science Foundation
Proposal Development
2. How are you going to integrate your research
and education activities?
Key: it’s got to make sense!
It’s got to be “part of your job”.
It’s got to support your career development!
The best proposals tie the research and
educational activities seamlessly.
Ex: classroom activities incorporating
research tools/results that lead to students
engaging in mentored research with you on
aspects of the project.
National Science Foundation
CAREER Proposal DO’s
• Have a strategic career plan that you can explain
to a stranger!
• Build on and leverage your strengths.
• Differentiate this proposal from your Ph.D. work
and other funded work (it can align with past
work but not simply repeat/continue it)
• Do the requisite background work before writing
(on both the research you want to do, AND on the
education/outreach efforts you will propose!)
– Read and FOLLOW the NSF Grant Proposal
Guide (GPG)
• Establish the professional/research network you
will need for success.
National Science Foundation
CAREER Proposal DON’Ts
• Rush!
• Wait until last minute (<1 month) to contact program
• Make the proposed work (research and education)
too broad and/or diffuse
• Make the proposed work too narrow (it’s a career…)
• Ask for too much (or too little) money!
• Ignore rules (Grant Proposal Guide) and misc. items
– Violation of the GPG rules will result in return
without review
National Science Foundation
Proposal Basics
• Write to your reviewers, and your Program Officer
(they are your audience!)
– Your proposal will be evaluated and rated by the
reviewers, and recommended/declined by the
Program Officer based (in part) on reviewer
• Reviewers want to know four things:
– What is it about (the research/educational
– How will you do it (the technical approaches)?
– Can you do it (you and your facilities)?
– Is it worth doing (intellectual merit and broader
– Did you follow the rules? (specifically, the CAREER
solicitation guidelines for proposal content)
• This is, basically, all the proposal needs to convey –
but it needs to convey this
National Science Foundation
Two Baseline Rules for writing potentially
Competitive Proposals:
• Don’t piss off your reviewing audience!
– NSF font/size guidelines – exceed these for
readability (12 point MINIMUM!)
– Organize with headings
– Number the pages (!!)
– Captions should be with figures!
• Follow the rules (= read and follow the RFP!)
– The Grant Proposal Guide (GPG)
– The CAREER Solicitation
– The solicitation of the program through which you
are submitting your CAREER proposal.
National Science Foundation
NSF’s “We’ll Send it Back!” Rules
• MUST describe Intellectual Merit and Broader
Impacts in Project Summary document (now this
is hardwired…)
• MUST include a Data Management Plan
describing plans for public access to project data
(as appropriate) once the project is done.
• MUST include a Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan if
postdocs are part of the proposed project (and in
CAREERS they generally are…)
• MUST include a labeled section on Broader
Impacts in the Project Descriptions
National Science Foundation
CAREER Specific Requirements/Opportunities
• Departmental Letter - From your Chair, must
confirm your eligibility to submit under CAREER,
document support for your project, and commit to
mentoring you through the term of the award.
– Severe Limits on Supplemental Documents beyond the
Chair’s letter – Check with the Program Director…
• PI restrictions - Only YOU may serve as a PI on a
CAREER award: no Co-PI’s. Subawards are
permitted, as are participating Senior Personnel
important to the project. Otherwise funds may be
used as in any other NSF grant.
• PECASE Awards: CAREER grantees who are U.S.
citizens are eligible for PECASE (Presidential awards for Early
Career Scientists and Engineers) consideration. Nominations
made by Program officers and forwarded from each NSF
directorate based on number of CAREER awards made.
National Science Foundation
CAREER Proposal Deadlines for
• ?? (One hopes we will know soon..)
• Past years: Late July
• Upwards of 1800 CAREER proposals are
submitted annually (!!), so generally the deadline
is spread over several days, with proposals for
different directorates due each day.
– Be sure your Grants Specialist and you are on
the same page re: submission deadlines!
National Science Foundation
CAREER Proposal Review
• This varies A LOT by program and Directorate!
– For programs with a lot of CAREERS annually:
dedicated review process.
– For less active programs: folded into the normal
programmatic review cycle if tenable.
• 2 kinds of review:
– Ad hoc (“mail” review) for specialist input
– Panel review (for generalist/programmatic
perspectives and input on education/outreach)
• CAREER proposals typically are reviewed both
ways (ad hoc followed by panel)
• To know: Ask your Program Officer (it’s not
a secret!)
National Science Foundation
CAREER Proposal Review
• Who are your reviewers?
– Specialists in your research field (Ad Hoc)
– Experienced investigators broadly in-field (Ad
Hoc and Panel)
– Experts in STEM Education (usually Panel…)
• Don’t forget the Program Officers!
– They consider the “advice” of reviewers in
making funding recommendations
• [Very different from NIH….]
• Another good reason to call your cognizant
PO EARLY to set up for submission…
National Science Foundation
NSF Review Criteria: Intellectual Merit
• The Intellectual Merit is the contribution that your
research makes to your discipline’s knowledge
– Questions:
• What is already known?
• What is new?
• What will your research add?
• What will this do to enhance or enable research
in your or other fields?
– Why is your research important for the
advancement of your field?
National Science Foundation
NSF Review Criteria: Broader Impact
• The Broader Impact focuses on the benefit to
society at large as a result of your research
• Means to benefit society include:
– Economic/environment/energy
– Education and training
– Providing opportunities for underrepresented
– Improving research and education infrastructure
• The key issue is how your research
results will be applied — why would the
general public care?
National Science Foundation
Getting Started
• Start EARLY
• Get acquainted with FASTLANE
• Read the Program Solicitation (for both CAREER
and for your disciplinary research program) and
follow their guidelines
• DO Contact your cognizant Program Officer to alert
him to your CAREER submission and to discuss
your idea. This may cause you to refine your idea
and may prevent you from applying to the wrong
disciplinary program
• You can offer to review proposals in your program
area, to get more familiar with the state-of-the-art
and cutting-edge concerns (be careful though –
they WILL take you up on this!)

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