A New Interest in Larger Social and Behavioral Science Proposals at NSF

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An edited version of the the PowerPoint presentation detailing large funding opportunities for SBE researchers

Over the last 18 months, people around the world have faced significant challenges. Some of these challenges were the result of a deadly new pathogen. Other challenges were the result of vulnerabilities and inequities in critical social ecosystems.

Social, behavioral, and economic, or SBE, researchers offer important insights about the most important questions of our time. During the pandemic, for example, SBE research has helped individuals, organizations, and nations around the world deliver critical services and convey important information more effectively. These insights increase the security and resilience of vital supply chains, and empower first responders around the world. Fewer people will suffer and more communities will recover quickly because of the work that social and behavioral scientists have done.

Yet, there is so much more that social and behavioral scientists can do. With these opportunities in mind, the National Science Foundation is offering more ways for SBE researchers to propose larger projects.

  • NSF’s Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks solicitation offers up to $3 million for projects that “use convergent approaches that explore emergent network properties of living systems across various levels of organizational scale… [and render more] reliable predictions about the impact of specific environmental changes on behaviors of complex living systems.” Proposals are due on May 10. You can learn more here: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505871
  • NSF’s Convergence Accelerator (CA) tracks for 2021 are “Networked Blue Economy” and “Trust and Authenticity in Communications Systems.” The CA “addresses national-scale societal challenges through use-inspired convergence research. Using a convergence approach and innovation processes like human-centered design, user discovery, and team science and integration of multidisciplinary research, the Convergence Accelerator program seeks to transition basic research and discovery into practice—to solve high-impact societal challenges aligned with specific research themes.” Letters of intent are due on May 5. Full proposals are due on June 14. You can learn more here: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505795
  • NSF’s Midscale Infrastructure supports “any combination of facilities, equipment, instrumentation, or computational hardware or software, and the necessary human capital in support of the same.” At NSF, mid-scale refers to the total cost of the proposed project. Midscale is any infrastructure proposal that costs between $6 million and $100 million over a period of up to five years. In a public session, the National Science Board recently endorsed a significant expenditure in a SBE-focused midscale infrastructure project. Given increasing awareness of the value of SBE-focused research on national priorities, there is interest in well-develop proposals that can advance science in dynamic new ways.
    • Proposals for infrastructure costing up to $20 million are due on April 23. You can learn more here: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505602

In all cases, when seeking larger levels of support from NSF, it is important to have a great scientific design with potential for substantial broader impacts. But that is not enough. With millions or tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on the line, it is important that proposals have an operations and management plan, and a consequent staffing plan, that can ensure effective implementation of the proposed research in accordance with all federal accountability requirements. 

If you, or your colleagues or organizations, are interested in learning more about these opportunities, and for tips on how to build effective proposals, please join us for an informational webinar on the topic on April 15 at 4 p.m. Eastern. You can learn more here: https://nsf.gov/events/event_summ.jsp?cntn_id=302446&org=SBE

The challenges and opportunities of our day are great. The skills of SBE researchers is substantial, but we often lack the larger funding opportunities and research infrastructure to realize SBE research’s full potential to address these challenges. At NSF, there is a renewed interest in supporting this type of work – and more opportunities will follow the solicitations listed above. If you are interested in advancing science now, empowering the next generation of researchers, and improving quality of life for people around the world, please consider developing a proposal in response to this new generation of opportunity.

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Arthur Lupia

Arthur "Skip" Lupia heads the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation. Lupia has more than 25 years of leadership and management experience in the social sciences community. Since 2006, he has served as the Hal R. Varian Collegiate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. He serves concurrently as chairman of the board for the Center for Open Science and as the chair of the National Academies Roundtable on the Communication and Use of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Lupia has also held leadership positions in numerous professional societies.

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