Notes from the NSF...funding opportunities...
Bruce Seely and John Perhonis
Program Directors, Science and Technology Studies
We would like to alert HSS members about funding opportunities at the
National Science Foundation's STS Program. We also want to convey to potential
applicants a couple of concerns about difficulties found in recent submissions.
The Program reviewed 195 proposals in the Fall 2000 and Spring 2001 review
cycles, and made 67 awards, including 16 for dissertations. In partial
response to the increasing number of proposals, the STS Program received
a 7 percent budget increase for FY 2001, to $3,827,000. The situation
for FY 2002 is unclear, but projections are for flat budgets. Those interested
in learning about the Program's activities are invited to look at the
Program Announcement and other information on the STS Program's home page:
Awards are made to individual investigators and to collaborative research
projects, for dissertation improvement projects, postdoctoral fellowships,
professional development fellowship, and for conferences. The Program
also entertains proposals each fall for small grants for training and
research (SGTRs). Proposals are accepted twice a year, with target dates
of February 1 and August 1. By October, a revised program announcement
will be posted, and it will govern the Spring 2002 review cycle. The changes
are relatively minor clarifications of requirements and expectations,
and include a slight increase in the budget guidelines.
We want to strongly encourage HSS members to respond to the larger Foundation-wide
funding opportunities. For example, a number of scholars and institutions
that fall under the science and technology studies banner have received
SGTR awards in the recent past; others in the more distant past received
larger training grants. Any graduate program that has been supported in
this way might consider developing proposals for such competitions as
IGERT: Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship. This is
a very competitive program with proposals usually due in late June. It
takes time to prepare such a proposal. But it seems about time for an
STS-oriented program to take this step. At the level of individual investigators,
there are a number of opportunities to which all scholars in STS, not
just historians of science, have responded sparingly. The CAREER program
for early faculty investigators, the ADVANCE program to Increase the Participation
and Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers,
and MRI, the competition for Major Research Instrumentation are three
such examples. Information on these and other Foundation-wide programs
can be found at the Cross Cutting/Interdisciplinary Programs home page:
Most new funding at NSF in recent years has gone for targeted research
in emerging areas of science and engineering. For the coming year, two
special topics are slated for substantial support: Information Technology
Research (ITR) and Nanoscale Science and Engineering (NANO). STS scholars
should seriously consider submitting proposals because it is now REQUIRED
that these programs support projects examining the societal implications
of these cutting edge science and engineering fields. Thus research by
STS scholars on the historical, philosophical, and social dimensions of
these topics can be funded. The specific research emphases for the next
funding cycle should be announced in late August, with proposals due at
various times in November and January. We strongly encourage STS scholars
to participate, as our communities have much to contribute to conversations
about emerging sciences and technologies. Indeed, questions about "societal
implications" seem tailor-made for the STS researchers. And the funding
is significant. ITR had $180 million new dollars in FY 2001, with projects
grouped into small (individual investigator proposals with budgets of
up to $500,000), medium (larger collaborative projects with budgets of
$500,000 to $5 million), and large (centers with budgets up to $15 million)
categories. Please watch for the updated program announcements on the
Crosscutting Programs page: http://www.nsf.gov/home/crssprgm/
NOTES ON PROPOSALS TO STS
Over the past year, a number of proposals have given the STS Advisory
Panel (which reviews all proposals) and the Program cause for slight concern.
The difficulties can lead to lower evaluations, but are easily correctable.
Our goal is to enable you to produce the best proposals possible.
We are concerned that some of these proposals are not following NSF guidelines.
A very few have omitted required elements or presented budgets that do
not adhere to the guidelines. Other problems suggest that faculty advisers
have not carefully reviewed proposals with their graduate students. The
most common difficulties are awkward or unclear writing, very general
or weak work plans, and distracting grammatical and spelling errors. A
few submissions included bibliographies that identified only the broad
formative or theoretical literatures from which students intend to build
their projects, and omitted citations to the specific subject content.
These difficulties undermine the confidence of evaluators in projects.
The Advisory Panel and Program realize dissertation proposals cannot exhibit
the maturity of projects from established scholars. But faculty advisers
are PIs on these projects for a reason, and proposals ultimately reflect
Postdoctoral Fellowship Proposals
As with dissertations proposals, the applicant is the co-PI with the sponsoring
faculty member as PI. These have increased in number in recent years,
and some share problems with the dissertations in terms of clarity and
bibliographies. Equally a matter of concern has been postdoc proposals
that did not specifically justify the choice of the institution and sponsoring
faculty member in terms of the student's plan of research and training.
A few proposals have failed to describe both the training component and
the research activity. Finally, a number of postdoc proposals have given
short shrift to the student's work plan. In the end, competitive postdoctoral
fellowship proposals are built through careful cooperation between the
applicant and the sponsoring faculty member. The Program and Advisory
Panel worry that proposals not exhibiting such contact in the preparation
stage will lead to unsatisfactory postdoc experiences.
Current and Pending Support Statements
A number of recent STS proposals of all types have slighted the required
Statement on Current and Pending Support. This document should include
information about other awards you have already received, as well as the
other organizations to which you plan to submit applications covering
the same ground as your NSF proposal. We encourage multiple submission
of proposals, for NSF is always willing to work out sharing arrangements
with sponsors when both find a project meritorious. While some organizations
may not allow this, the STS Program can more quickly deal with budgets
from multiple funding sources if we know about such possibilities from
the outset. So please provide complete information on the Current and
Pending Support Form at the time of the initial submission. And remember
that investigators have an obligation to notify the STS program as soon
as they learn that have been awarded funding for the same research project
submitted to NSF.
As always, if you have any questions about the STS Program or submission
requirements, please contact us. Information can be found on the STS home
page, and Bruce Seely's's email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
John handles the dissertation program and can be reached at email@example.com.
13 August 2001 | Contact
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