April Virtual Office Hours Recap: Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) – Updated solicitation!

The Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) held a Virtual Office Hour on April 16, 2020 focused on the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) that has a recently updated solicitation (NSF 20-525).

CAREER is an Agency-wide opportunity with some unique specifications for proposals submitted to this opportunity.

  1. There is now a single due date for submission of proposals, regardless of Directorate – July 27, 2020. This is different from the old solicitation – please mark your calendars.
  2. CAREER supports pre-tenure faculty (or the equivalent) and supports both your research and educational development.
  3. Projects must be 5 years in length, and, for proposals submitted to the Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO), budgets cannot be less than $500,000.
  4. A letter of support from your Department Chair is required.

Attendees had many questions about this opportunity; some common themes were:

  • Can a CAREER proposal be co-reviewed and how would the investigator facilitate this? – CAREER proposals can be co-reviewed between clusters in a Division, across Divisions in a Directorate, or even across Directorates if the proposed research topic warrants it.

You should submit to only one cluster and program directors in that cluster may pursue the co-review. To suggest co-review, while setting up the cover page of your proposal, you have the ability to choose a second, appropriate cluster for your work – this does not send your proposal to two clusters but, rather, alerts the program director handling your proposal as to your thoughts about the integrative nature of your work. You can also contact the managing program director after you’ve submitted your proposal and let them know you think co-review might be appropriate for your work.

  • Can someone who has submitted a CAREER proposal submit a second non-CAREER proposal to a different cluster or Division? – Investigators can submit more than one proposal, e.g., a CAREER and a non-CAREER project, for review within a Division or Directorate. However, the proposals should be substantially different in topic.
  • Can post-doctoral researchers be employed on CAREERs? – Yes, investigators preparing a CAREER proposal can include post-doctoral researchers, their salaries are listed under section B. Other Personnel in the budget documentation. If you are going to employ a post-doctoral researcher you will need to supply a mentoring plan. You also can indicate that more than one person will occupy this post over the lifetime of the award.
  • Is international research allowed in a CAREER project? – Yes, however, be sure that the proposed research is well justified, especially if there are funds going to an international institution.
  • How important is the departmental letter of support? – This is an important document and reviewers are asked to read and comment on the level of support the department is willing to provide awardees.

Please note, a letter of support is different from a letter of recommendation. A letter of support is an outline of what the department can and will do to ensure the success of the research and educational plans laid out in your CAREER proposal. There are multiple ways that this support might present itself and this will be based on your university and departmental policies and abilities.

  • Several questions surrounded the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on CAREER proposals. – At this time, it is not anticipated that the deadline for CAREER submissions will be changed due to the ongoing pandemic. However, it is suggested that researchers regularly check both the CAREER webpage and NSF’s webpage related to COVID-19 for updates on impacts to submission deadlines. If you are proposing international research and travel restrictions are still in effect, you should plan research activities with this in mind and be open about these potential impacts in the proposal. If your ability to collect all the preliminary data you wished to include has been impacted due to university shut-downs it is again recommended that you be open about these impacts in the body of the proposal.

Join us at our next IOS Office Hour on Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 1 pm EDT, when IOS program directors will be available to answer questions from the community.