Blog Archives

Congressional Appropriators Get to Work; NSF Director Testifies

Following the release of the Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget request, Congressional leaders have gotten to work on spending bills for the coming fiscal year. As COSSA has previously reported, Congress must first address the limits to discretionary spending (“raise the caps”) before they can complete the FY 2020 appropriations process. Congress has until the end of September to finalize all government spending. COSSA has signed onto a letter as part of the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) to encourage Congress to raise the caps on discretionary spending.

While Congress has yet to reach a broader budget deal to address the caps on discretionary spending, Appropriations Subcommittees have started reviewing federal agencies’ budget requests as the first step in the appropriations process.

Last week, the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee (CJS) received testimony from France Córdova, the Director of the National Science Foundation, on the agency’s FY 2020 budget request. In her prepared statement, Director Córdova emphasized NSF’s Ten Big Ideas and the many contributions that NSF-funded research has made to the everyday lives of Americans – from iPhone and search engine technology to Doppler radar and American Sign Language adoption.  Members of the subcommittee expressed concern about the proposed twelve percent decrease for the agency in FY 2020, and how the agency was going to balance the rest of their research portfolio while investing in the Ten Big Ideas. Members of the subcommittee also highlighted the importance of social science in relation to the priorities of the NSF, including artificial intelligence, and their own priorities, including program evaluation, STEM education, and economic opportunity. Other topics of discussion included NSF investment in scientific infrastructure and broadening participation in STEM. An archive of the hearing can be viewed on the House Appropriations Committee website.

Leaders from the National Institutes of Health and the Census Bureau are scheduled to testify this week. For more information on Appropriations hearings and bills follow the COSSA Washington Update.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 2), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

National Science Foundation Invites Participation in Convergence Accelerator Pilot

In a Dear Colleague letter released on March 18, the National Science Foundation (NSF) invited interested parties to participate in the NSF Convergence Accelerator Pilot. The NSF Convergence Accelerators Pilot seeks to accelerate use-inspired convergence research in areas of national importance by facilitating convergent team-building capacity around exploratory, potentially high-risk proposals. The Pilot seeks proposals to support fundamental research while encouraging rapid advances through partnerships that include, or will include, multiple stakeholders in three research tracks aligned with two of the NSF Ten Big Ideas. The three research tracks are: Open Knowledge Network (as part of the Harnessing the Data Revolution Big Idea), AI and the Future of Jobs (as part of the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier Big Idea), and National Talent Ecosystem (as part of the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier Big Idea).

The submission of a Research Concept Outline is due April 15, with full proposals due by June 3.  NSF will host two webinars, on March 27 and April 3, to answer questions about the submission process and the Convergence Accelerator program more broadly. More information about the Convergence Accelerator program is available on the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 19), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Social Scientists Encouraged to Explore NSF’s Ten Big Ideas Solicitations

Arthur Lupia, Assistant Director for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) of the National Science Foundation (NSF), is calling on social and behavioral scientists to learn more about, and consider applying for, the funding opportunities associated with the NSF Ten Big Ideas for Future Investment. The Ideas focus on critical issues in science and society and provide potentially substantial opportunities for social and behavioral scientists—from planning grants to research infrastructure. The letter includes details of the Big Ideas, links to more information, and directions to join informational webinars. Read the letter below for detail. More information about the Ten Big Ideas can be found on the NSF website.

Substantial Funding Opportunities from NSF Relevant to SBE Scientists

Dear Colleague,

There are new funding opportunities at NSF that might be of interest to you. They are called the “Big Ideas” and they focus on critical issues in science and society. The purpose of each Big Idea is to motivate dynamic and innovative scholars to create and implement new and potentially transformative interdisciplinary approaches to some very large societal challenges.

I encourage

  • every social scientist,
  • every behavioral scientist,
  • every member of an organization who is willing to collaborate with social or behavioral scientists, and
  • every scholar who is looking for new opportunities to advance science in ways that best serve the public

to think “big”.

Here are some of the opportunities now available:

  1. Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR): Data are being created, distributed, and used at a scale that is unprecedented in human history. This Big Idea encourages NSF’s research community to pursue broad, interdisciplinary research in data science and engineering, and to explore its implications for social interaction and organization. This Big Idea seeks to help society better understand, and more effectively develop, a cohesive, federated, national-scale approach to research data infrastructure, and knowledge needed to empower a 21st-century data-capable workforce. The HDR vision is realized through an interrelated set of activities and funding opportunities. Each of these efforts is designed to amplify the intrinsically multidisciplinary nature of the emerging field of data science.
    Multiple Funding Opportunities:

  2. The Future of Work at the Human Technology Frontier: This Big Idea seeks to help society better understand, and more effectively build, the human-technology relationship in the context of work. Relevant activities include assessing the social and behavioral implications of automation; producing new technologies to augment human performance; developing and evaluating mechanisms to foster lifelong and pervasive learning with technology; and many more.
    Funding Opportunity:

  3. Navigating the New Arctic: The Arctic is undergoing rapid biological, physical, and social change, not only its shape and surface properties, but also the ways in which humans can interact with it. This Big Idea seeks to help society better understand, and more effectively adapt to how Arctic change will influence communities both in the Arctic and beyond. This initiative is not just for people already studying the Arctic. It is for anyone whose work is potentially pertinent to New Arctic issues.
    Funding Opportunity:

  4. Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure: At NSF, the term “mid-scale” infrastructure refers to projects that, once built, can help many researchers conduct diverse analyses from a single platform. The budget for these projects can range from $6.0 million to $70.0 million over a five-year period. This Big Idea is designed to motivate entrepreneurial research teams to create new and innovative research platforms.
    Two Funding Opportunities:

  5. Growing Convergence Research: Research relying on convergence is needed to solve complex scientific and engineering problems that require integrating knowledge, methods, and expertise from different disciplines and forming novel frameworks to catalyze scientific discovery and innovation. This is research driven by a specific and compelling problem and features deep integration across disciplines.
    More details are expected soon.

Two additional Big Ideas do not currently have open funding opportunities; but could be a source of new solicitations in the future.

Understanding the Rules of Life: This Big Idea seeks broad interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the regularities that guide or influence the emergence of observable characteristics, i.e., phenotype, in organisms across the tree of life, including humans. Previously, this program sought proposals in two areas: Epigenetics, and Building a Synthetic Cell. While the subject matter of future calls has not been determined, we anticipate calls that include a significant role for social and behavioral scientists.

NSF INCLUDES: This Big Idea seeks to help scholars develop, implement, and evaluate new ways to transform education and career pathways in ways that broaden participation in science and engineering.  The INCLUDES initiative is aimed at expanding the number of underrepresented scientists and engineers within the U.S. scientific workforce.  To accomplish this, NSF INCLUDES has supported the development of a national network of a broad array of research centers and sites, both public and private, with varied STEM foci ranging from community water research to environmental engineering.

Please spend a few minutes learning about the Big Ideas. These new funding opportunities, along with NSF’s existing social and behavioral science programs, offer exciting opportunities for innovative scholars who are interested in transformative, problem-inspired, basic research. If you have questions about these or other SBE programs, please contact the program officers listed at the bottom of each opportunity’s main page.

The Big Ideas offer a great opportunity for social and behavioral scientists to advance science and address important social problems. We would like to see strong proposals from our community in the weeks and months to come.


Arthur Lupia
Assistant Director
Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences
National Science Foundation

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 5), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NSF Releases Solicitation for “Ideas Labs” for Data-Intensive Research in Science and Engineering

As part of the ongoing 10 Big Ideas for Future Investment at the National Science Foundation (NSF), NSF has released a solicitation on the Harnessing the Data Revolution big idea. The solicitation, for participation in NSF Ideas Labs, which are intensive workshops focused on finding innovative and bold transdisciplinary solutions to grand challenge problems, is part of NSF’s support for data-intensive research in science and engineering. The Ideas Labs will be intensive, interactive, and free-thinking environments in which a diverse group of participants from a range of disciplines and backgrounds will meet for five days and immerse themselves in collaborative thinking processes with a goal of constructing innovative approaches for solving significant science and engineering challenges through data-intensive research. Preliminary proposals for participation are being accepted through January 28, 2019. More information can be found on the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 8), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NSF Releases FY 2019 Program Solicitation for Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a revised solicitation for the fiscal year (FY) 2019 grant competition for Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF), one of NSF’s Ten Big Ideas. FW-HTF is a cross-directorate initiative, supported by the directorates for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), Education and Human Resources (EHR), Engineering (ENG), Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE), and the Office of Integrative Activities (OIA) that encourages integration and convergence of disciplines across all these fields. Through FW-HTF, NSF is responding to challenges and opportunities related to the changing landscape of jobs and work.

The overarching vision of this Big Idea is to support convergent research to understand and develop the human-technology partnership, design new technologies to augment human performance, illuminate the emerging socio-technological landscape, understand the risks and benefits of new technologies, understand and influence the impact of artificial intelligence on workers and work, and foster lifelong and pervasive learning. Proposals must focus on advancing fundamental understanding of future work, and potential improvements to work, workplaces, workforce preparation, or work outcomes for workers and society. It must be convergent research that addresses the technological as well as the human and societal dimensions and potential impact of future work. The full solicitation can be found on the NSF website. The deadline for proposals is March 6, 2019.

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Posted in Issue 24 (December 11), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

NSF Launches 2026 Idea Machine

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has launched the NSF 2026 Idea Machine. As COSSA has reported, the Idea Machine is a competition to help set the agenda for fundamental research in U.S. science and engineering for the next decade, including the next set of Big Ideas. According to the agency, the NSF 2026 Idea Machine is an opportunity to contribute to NSF’s mission, spur research that will cross traditional scientific boundaries, and address significant societal and scientific questions. Details about eligibility, timeline, and the judging process are available on the NSF website. Submissions of “Big Ideas” for the 2026 Idea Machine are due by October 26, 2018.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 4), Update, Volume 37 (2018)


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