NOW is the time to apply for NSF Computing Education funding

December 6, 2013 at 1:24 am 1 comment

Last month, I wrote about the new NSF program Improving Undergraduate Stem Education (see NSF page on IUSE here). I talked to Jane Prey about this program a couple weeks ago, and she was concerned. She said that lots of people are expressing doubt about applying for a program that only has a single page description–not the standard multi-page solicitation.

That’s exactly why this is the time to apply! IUSE doesn’t have a solicitation this year, but most likely will in future years. That means that anything goes this year! If you have any idea that you want to get funded, THIS is the year to apply.

The program description is wonderfully broad:

  • Want to work on broadening participation in computing? It’s there: “broadening participation of individuals and institutions in STEM fields.”
  • Want to work on after school programs, service learning, new ways of structuring your department, formal education research, new ways of measuring learning? It’s all there: “experiential learning, assessment/metrics of learning and practice, scholarships, foundational education research, professional development/institutional change, formal and informal learning environments.”
  • Want to work on teacher professional development, or even adult learners? It’s there: “educating a STEM-literate populace, improving K-12 STEM education, encouraging life-long learning, and building capacity in higher education.”

In short, the lack of a formal solicitation means that there are few barriers. You should go for it.

From here on, this is my advice based on talking with NSF program managers and having written (rejected mostly, but a bunch accepted) proposals. This is not coming from NSF:

  • You need to demonstrate that your proposal has intellectual merit and broader impacts. That’s part of any NSF proposal.
  • No, there’s nothing there that says you must have evaluation, but if you read phrases like “empirically validated teaching practices,” you have to believe that funded proposals will have good evaluation. You can probably be competitive without an external evaluator if you come up with a good evaluation plan in the proposal body itself. If you don’t know how to do this, bring in an external evaluator.
  • The really tough part of applying to a program without a solicitation is deciding how much to budget. Here’s me just gazing into a crystal ball: Smaller but realistic budgets have the greatest chance of getting funded. If you can do your project in $100-200K/year for two to three years, you increase your odds of getting funded. I think there’s a psychological barrier for review committees at a $1M proposal, so stay below that or make your really proposal great.

The big message is: Apply on February 4, 2014. Take this rare opportunity to get your wildest and most exciting ideas on the table at NSF.

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