National Science Foundation

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Program Overview

The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds science and engineering (S&E) research via grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements. The agency is tasked with keeping the United States at the leading edge of discovery in a wide range of scientific areas, from astronomy to geology to zoology. In addition to traditional academic areas, NSF supports cutting-edge ideas and projects.  The Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) was created to provide deliberate investments in S&E research and capacity-building in U.S. states, including South Carolina, and territories receiving a disproportionate share of NSF funds. NSF accounts for about one-fourth of federal support to academic institutions for basic research.

NSF receives more than 40,000 proposals each year, of which about 12,000 new awards, with an average duration of three years -- to fund specific research proposals that have been judged the most promising by a rigorous and objective merit-review system. Most of these awards go to individuals or small groups of investigators. Others provide funding for research centers, instruments and facilities that allow scientists, engineers, and students to work at the outermost frontiers of knowledge. 

Strategies for Success (Merit Review Process Webinar)


  • The NSF motto is “ask early, ask often” don’t wait until the last minute, Program Officers (PO) assist investigators with how best to prepare a proposal to receive funding. [Email your PO to talk about the idea for a proposal and prepare an “elevator” speech.
  • Read the Program Solicitation (PS) and ask the program officer for clarifications if needed; address all the proposal review criteria, understand the NSF merit review criteria, avoid omissions and mistakes, and check your proposal to verify that it is complete.
  • Guiding principles include 1) your proposal has the potential to advance, if not transform, the frontiers of knowledge, 2) contribute more broadly to achieving societal goals, 3) meaningful assessment and evaluation (correlation between the effect of broader impacts and the resources provided to implement projects.)
  • Did you know that NSF has an overall funding rate of 28%?
  • NSF program officers aim for portfolio balance, it is beneficial to indicate if a researcher is a new PI and/or from an EPSCoR state. [South Carolina is an EPSCoR state.]


How to Apply


  • Visit the NSF Resource Center for the latest webcasts, videos and presentations to learn more about the agency’s purpose and programs.
  • Explore the NSF research areas and open funding opportunities
  • Prepare your NSF Biosketch using the Approved Formats; Webinar
  • Review the PS for deadlines, program description, and instructions
  • Utilize Cayuse 424, MUSC’s platform-independent software solution for submission of error-free NSF grant applications. Notify your department grant administrator and ORSP representative of your submission timeline.


Investigator Resources