IOS Virtual Office Hours – July: Upcoming CAREER proposals

The next Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) Office Hour will be on July 11th, 2019, at 1 pm EDT, and we plan to talk about co-review within the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) and between BIO and other Directorates at NSF, a subject that many people had questions about during our last office hour.

IOS held a Virtual Office Hour (June 20th, 2019) focused on Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) proposals that early career investigators will be submitting soon. The deadline for CAREER proposals to be reviewed by programs in the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) is July 17th, 2019. Participants asked many questions about different aspects of CAREER proposals; here is a quick summary of answers to some of the more common questions:

  1. What can be included in the educational component of CAREER proposals?

The educational component does not need to target the university level (e.g., undergraduate courses), although for many applicants this may be an appropriate level to target. The educational component can be at other levels within educational systems and can even be outside of academia. However, remember that the educational component is expected to be an effort beyond your regular responsibilities as a faculty member. When designing the educational component, be sure to propose activities that both advance education and are manageable given your other responsibilities.

  1. What is the relative emphasis on research versus education in a CAREER proposal?

The intellectual merit must be a strong focus of a CAREER proposal, and typically, it is the component that is weighted most heavily by reviewers. A CAREER award should help lift both your research program and your engagement as an educator to a new level. A competitive CAREER proposal has strong intellectual merit and a 5-year education plan that is well integrated with the research.

  1. How much space should be allocated to the educational component?

There is no easy answer. It is a good idea to take the space you need to thoroughly explain and justify your educational plan within the 15-page limit for the Project Description of the proposal. However, Broader Impact sections are routinely in the 1-3-page range.

Some other tips to keep in mind when preparing CAREER proposals:

  • CAREER proposals will likely be reviewed alongside regular non-CAREER proposals. Regardless, reviewers are instructed to assess and comment on the unique aspects of a CAREER proposal.
  • The letter of support from your chair is not a letter of recommendation. Rather, it should outline how you will be supported in developing your research and teaching plans.
  • You need to include a data management plan and a postdoctoral mentoring plan (if you budget for a postdoctoral trainee).
  • For CAREER proposals submitted for review by programs in the Directorate for Biological Sciences, your budget cannot be less than $500,000.
  • Always contact an appropriate program officer before submitting your CAREER proposal. They can help you with the focus and scope of the intellectual merit and broader impacts in the proposal.

During the IOS Virtual Office Hour, program directors are available to answer questions from the community and pass on information to investigators interested in IOS including recently published solicitations or Dear Colleague Letters. Also, program directors briefly discuss topics of interest to the community. Last, we set aside a large amount of time for answering questions from attendees.