Funding Opportunity: NSF Releases HDR Institutes for Data-Intensive Research in Science and Engineering – Ideas Labs

On Thursday, December 13, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a solicitation for its newest program under the Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR) Big Idea, titled Institutes for Data Intensive Research in Science and Engineering – Ideas Labs (I-DIRSE-IL).  This solicitation is part of the first phase of creating new HDR Institutes, which are intended to accelerate data-intensive science and engineering through convergence between science and engineering researchers and researchers with expertise in data science foundations, systems, and applications.  The Ideas Lab will facilitate the creation of teams that can compete for two-year conceptualization awards that will build towards a full Institutes competition.  NSF expects to release a second solicitation for researchers that don’t participate in the Ideas Lab to compete for a different type of phase I conceptualization award.

NSF aims to develop innovative projects at the Ideas Lab by facilitating engagement of participants across different backgrounds and areas of expertise.  Therefore, this solicitation is open to participants from a wide range of disciplines across science and engineering as well as those with expertise in data science disciplines like computer science, computational science, and mathematics.  The Ideas Lab will be facilitated by Directors and Mentors who function as real-time peer reviewers, and it will take place April 22- April 26, 2019 near the NSF headquarters in Alexandria, VA.  NSF plans to run at least one Ideas Lab, and more may be held concurrently depending on responses to the solicitation and funding availability.

In the solicitation announcement, NSF elucidated a series of upcoming opportunities that build towards the establishment of multidisciplinary and interconnected HDR Institutes.  In fiscal year (FY) 2019, in addition to the I-DIRSE-IL, there will also be a solicitation for developing data science frameworks for integrated data science solutions for science and engineering challenges.  Awards resulting from both of these solicitations will constitute the first, or “conceptualization” phase, of the HDR Institutes that NSF notes is “aimed at building communities, defining research priorities, and developing interdisciplinary prototype solutions.”  As mentioned above, following the two-year conceptualization awards, NSF will begin phase two, a “convergence and co-design phase,” to scale up and integrate efforts into institutes.

NSF states that the Ideas Labs will concentrate on areas that:

  1. “are at a ‘tipping point’ where a timely investment in data-intensive approaches has the maximum potential for a transformative effect;
  2. have needs that can benefit from interdisciplinary investments in data analytic infrastructure; and
  3. represent investment priorities for the participating NSF directorates during, and beyond, the lifetime of the HDR Big Idea.”

The DIRSE program is part of NSF’s cross-cutting 10 Big Ideas initiative and advances the HDR big idea.  The intention of HDR is to utilize data to “transform research across all fields of science and engineering” to help the nation.  Goals also include expanding research data infrastructure and preparing the workforce to be responsive to 21st century data needs.  Other HDR investments include the Transdisciplinary Research in Principles of Data Science (TRIPODS) Institutes, Partnerships between Science and Engineering Fields and NSF TRIPODS Institutes (TRIPODS +X), Data Science Corps, and Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs and the Critical Techniques, Technologies and Methodologies for Advancing Foundations and Applications of Big Data Sciences and Engineering (BIGDATA) programs.  Ideas Lab outcomes are expected to advance both HDR and the Growing Convergent Research big ideas.

Due to the multidisciplinary nature of this solicitation, submissions will be managed by program officers across the agency, though proposals should be submitted to the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science & Engineering (CISE).  NSF notes that the Ideas Labs should leverage NSF investments and work with communities that don’t typically collaborate.

Total Funding and Award Size: Up to $20 million is available for 10-15 awards for full proposal topics generated from the Ideas Lab.  NSF states that “participation in an Ideas Lab is required to be eligible to submit a full conceptualization proposal pursuant to this solicitation.”

Due Dates: Preliminary proposals, which are required, are due January 28, 2019 by 5:00 PM submitter’s local time.  Full proposals are by invitation only after the Ideas Lab and are due June 19, 2019 by 5:00 PM submitter’s local time.

Eligibility: Individuals at institutions of higher education, non-academic nonprofit organizations such as professional societies and research labs, and NSF-sponsored Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) are eligible to submit proposals.  There are no limits on the number of preliminary proposals that can be submitted by a single organization or individual.  Each preliminary proposal must only come from a single Principal Investigator, as teams will be facilitated at the Ideas Lab.  This solicitation is open to individuals “at any stage of their research career.”  Those submitting proposals are expected to be able to attend the full Ideas Lab but may only attend if invited in response to a preliminary proposal.  Participants in the HDR I-DIRSE Ideas Lab will not be eligible as a PI or co-PI for the upcoming HDR DIRSE Frameworks solicitation.

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