Did You Know? Opportunities within NSF to Fund International Collaborative Research Efforts 

This post addresses questions about how NSF might fund international collaborations… including a few considerations and options. 

This non-exhaustive summary identifies several paths for international collaborations and we encourage those interested in seeking support for these to contact the Program Directors associated with opportunities appropriate to your project.  

  As part of its mission to support the U.S. scientific and engineering enterprise and U.S. scientists, the NSF enthusiastically endorses international efforts in science, engineering, and education and provides diverse opportunities to support projects involving international collaborators. These award opportunities range from facilitating collaboration between a single U.S. lab and a foreign lab to a larger network-based effort involving multiple participants.   

Consideration: International work often requires more consideration of permits required to access sites, take samples, work in sensitive habitats, or study endangered or threatened species. In all those cases, expect to need more time and planning to get permits in place. 


It is generally appreciated that proposals may request international travel support for U.S. scientists and/or students to attend an international conference or visit or conduct field research in another country. 

Collaborative Research Component 

In addition, proposals submitted to one of the standard disciplinary programs may also request funding for an international collaborative research component. For example, funds may be requested to employ local field or laboratory technicians and support the foreign collaborator’s purchase of necessary supplies and/or use of instrumentation. 

Consideration: In cases where funds are budgeted to international institutions or individuals, it is critical that the proposal explain why the expertise of the foreign collaborator is essential to the project and not available in the U.S. If you have questions, reach out to a Program Director for some guidance early in the proposal’s planning stages. 

 Proposals involving research collaborations with virtually any country are welcome.  

NSF Agreements with Foreign Funding Organizations 
Formalized international agreements are in place between NSF and other countries including Israel, the United Kingdom (U.K.), Brazil, and China. These are designed to foster collaborative research efforts with those countries in areas supported by IOS (as well as other BIO divisions and other NSF directorates) through coordination of funding decisions.  

In some cases these relationships are restricted to special programs, such as the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease, or Biodiversity on a Changing Planet.  

Other agreements have focal areas of research that overlap and are supported by proposals to the IOS Core solicitations. For example, the program with the U.K. focuses on biological informatics, systems understanding of host-microbe interactions, synthetic cells and cellular systems, and synthetic microbial communities. The program with Israel supports research funded by the entire Directorate for Biological Sciences. Dear Colleague Letters provide details for both the Israeli and U.K. agreements.  

Consideration: Be sure your proposed work fits within the focus of the program or lead agency agreement. If you have any questions, reach out to a Program Director. 

  Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) 

The NSF Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) directs several international programs focused on building networks and promoting the education of the next generation of scientists. Links to these opportunities are at the OISE web page.