Everyone is eager for an EAGER!

We regularly receive inquiries from investigators about the suitability of a project for submission as an Early Concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER). As Program Directors we have noticed that the 1-2 page descriptions that accompany these inquiries typically lack information required for evaluating their EAGER potential. This blog post focuses on the key points that Program Directors look for in a EAGER inquiry.

What is an EAGER?

The Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG NSF 18-1) describes EAGERs as “a type of proposal used to support exploratory work in its early stages on untested, but potentially transformative, research ideas or approaches. This work may be considered especially “high risk-high payoff” and it may involve” radically different approaches, applies new expertise, or engages novel disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives”. However, EAGERs are NOT a way to collect preliminary data.

EAGERs are submitted to the program directors, but do not go to panel review. Instead, they are reviewed internally by program directors that are familiar with the area of research. They are limited to 2 years in duration and a maximum budget of $300,000. The EAGER mechanism is not frequently used by most programs, with EAGERS making up less than 5% of all the awards that are made.

EAGERs are NSF’s way of encouraging research that is risky but potentially impactful. As the PAPPG states, “These exploratory proposals also may be submitted directly to an NSF program, but the EAGER proposal type should not be used for projects that are appropriate for submission as ‘regular’ (i.e., non-EAGER) NSF proposals.” For example, proposals that were or could be submitted to the IOS Core Programs would not be appropriate.

How can I know if my idea is appropriate for the EAGER mechanism?

Prior to submission, Principle Investigators MUST contact a NSF program officer to see if the idea is appropriate for EAGER. This is typically done by sending a one-page description by email to the program that is the best fit for the project. Your one-page description should include a succinct description of your idea, its intellectual framework and expected impact.

In addition, clearly lay out what makes your idea:

  • “High payoff” – What are its potential impacts? How might it be transformative?
  • “High risk” – How is it radically different from what has been done before? What are the challenges it faces?
  • Why doesn’t the project fit into existing programs? Note that having not reviewed well previously does not automatically mean it does not fit into existing programs.

How do I submit an EAGER proposal?

Once a program director has indicated that your project is appropriate, you may submit through Research.gov, Fastlane or Grants.gov. You  can find instructions for preparation of a proposal using the EAGER mechanism in the PAPPG in section 1, Ch. 2 Proposal Preparation Instructions Part E. Types of Proposals.

As usual, please contact a program director if you have questions!