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National Science Foundation Programs Most Relevant for Undergraduate Institutions

RUI (Research at Undergraduate Institutions)
The Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) activity supports research by faculty members of predominantly undergraduate institutions through the funding of (1) individual and collaborative research projects, (2) the purchase of shared-use research instrumentation, and (3) Research Opportunity Awards for work with NSF-supported investigators at other institutions. All NSF directorates participate in the RUI activity. RUI proposals are evaluated and funded by the NSF programs in the disciplinary areas of the proposed research. Eligible "predominantly undergraduate" institutions include U.S. two-year, four-year, masters-level, and small doctoral colleges and universities that (1) grant baccalaureate degrees in NSF-supported fields, or provide programs of instruction for students pursuing such degrees with institutional transfers (e.g., two-year schools), (2) have undergraduate enrollment exceeding graduate enrollment, and (3) award an average of no more than 10 Ph.D. or D.Sc. degrees per year in all NSF-supportable disciplines. Autonomous campuses in a system are considered independently, although they may be submitting their proposals through a central office. A Research Opportunity Award is usually funded as a supplement to the NSF grant of the host researcher, and the application is submitted by the host institution.

REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates)
The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation. REU projects involve students in meaningful ways in ongoing research programs or in research projects specifically designed for the REU program. This solicitation features two mechanisms for support of student research: (1) REU Sites are based on independent proposals to initiate and conduct projects that engage a number of students in research. REU Sites may be based in a single discipline or academic department or may offer interdisciplinary or multi-department research opportunities with a coherent intellectual theme. Proposals with an international dimension are welcome. (2) REU Supplements may be included as a component of proposals for new or renewal NSF grants or cooperative agreements or may be requested for ongoing NSF-funded research projects.
Undergraduate student participants in either REU Sites or REU Supplements must be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or permanent residents of the United States.
Students do not apply to NSF to participate in REU activities. Students apply directly to REU Sites or to NSF-funded investigators who receive REU Supplements. To identify appropriate REU Sites, students should consult the directory of active REU Sites on the Web at http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/reu_search.cfm.

ROA (Research Opportunity Award: Supplement Opportunity)
ROAs enable faculty at predominantly undergraduate institutions, including community colleges, to pursue research as visiting scientists with NSF-supported investigators at other institutions. The goal of this activity is to enhance the research productivity and professional development of science faculty at undergraduate institutions through research activities that enable them to explore the emerging frontiers of science. Such research not only contributes to basic knowledge in science but also provides an opportunity to integrate research and undergraduate education.

The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) strongly encourages all of its awardees to make special efforts to invite community college faculty, as well as faculty at predominantly undergraduate institutions, to participate in research through ROAs and thus broaden the national research base. Participation of members of underrepresented groups (underrepresented minorities and persons with disabilities) is particularly encouraged.

An ROA supplement can be requested on a current award or when submitting a new or renewal proposal. Most frequently, ROA activities are summer experiences, but partial support of sabbaticals may also be provided. ROA supplements are usually about $25,000, including indirect costs. Except for major instrumentation or equipment, almost anything allowable in a regular grant proposal (see the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) for details) may be included in an ROA budget. The ROA supplement request should clearly describe, in some detail, the research to be conducted by the ROA visitor, a statement from the host about his/her role in the proposed research efforts, the contribution of the proposed work to the visitor’s future research plans and impact on his/her home institution, a budget with appropriate explanatory information, and a biographical sketch for the visitor. This same information should be supplied for an ROA that is incorporated into a new research proposal.

For guidance and inquiries concerning the ROA supplement, the Principal Investigator should consult the Program Director for his/her particular NSF award or the cognizant Program Director for the program to which he/she is submitting a proposal. The decision to award an ROA supplement will be based on internal review by the Program Director and availability of funds in a particular program.

A proposal for an ROA supplement to an existing NSF award should be submitted via FastLane following the instructions described in the GPG. Further information is available from the RUI Program Announcement (NSF 00-144). ROAs incorporated in a new or renewal research proposal should adhere to the same guidelines for new or renewing proposals that are described in the GPG.

MRI (Major Research Instrumentation)
The Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI) serves to increase access to shared scientific and engineering instruments for research and research training in our Nation's institutions of higher education, and not-for-profit museums, science centers and scientific/engineering research organizations. This program especially seeks to improve the quality and expand the scope of research and research training in science and engineering, by supporting proposals for shared instrumentation that fosters the integration of research and education in research-intensive learning environments. Each MRI proposal may request support for the acquisition (Track 1) or development (Track 2) of a single research instrument for shared inter- and/or intra-organizational use; development efforts that leverage the strengths of private sector partners to build instrument development capacity at MRI submission-eligible organizations are encouraged.

To accomplish the program's goals, the MRI program assists with the acquisition or development of a shared research instrument that is, in general, too costly and/or not appropriate for support through other NSF programs. The instrument is expected to be operational for regular research use by the end of the award period. For the purposes of the MRI program, a proposal must be for either acquisition (Track 1) or development (Track 2) of a single instrument or for equipment that, when combined, serves as an integrated research instrument (in contrast to requests for multiple instruments that enable research in a common or focused research domain, which MRI does not support). The MRI program does not support the acquisition or development of a suite of instruments to outfit research laboratories/facilities or that will be used to conduct independent research activities simultaneously.

Instrument acquisition or development proposals that request funds from NSF in the range $100,000-$4 million may be accepted from any MRI-eligible organization. Proposals that request funds from NSF less than $100,000 may also be accepted from any MRI-eligible organization for the disciplines of mathematics or social, behavioral and economic sciences and from non-Ph.D.-granting institutions of higher education for all NSF-supported disciplines.

Cost-sharing of precisely 30% of the total project cost is required for Ph.D.-granting institutions of higher education and for non-degree-granting organizations. Non-Ph.D.-granting institutions of higher education are exempt from cost-sharing and cannot include it. National Science Board policy is that voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited.

TUES (Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (formerly CCLI)
The Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (TUES) program seeks to improve the quality of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for all undergraduate students. This solicitation especially encourages projects that have the potential to transform undergraduate STEM education, for example, by bringing about widespread adoption of classroom practices that embody understanding of how students learn most effectively. Thus transferability and dissemination are critical aspects for projects developing instructional materials and methods and should be considered throughout the project's lifetime. More advanced projects should involve efforts to facilitate adaptation at other sites.

The program supports efforts to create, adapt, and disseminate new learning materials and teaching strategies to reflect advances both in STEM disciplines and in what is known about teaching and learning. It funds projects that develop faculty expertise, implement educational innovations, assess learning and evaluate innovations, prepare K-12 teachers, or conduct research on STEM teaching and learning. It also supports projects that further the work of the program itself, for example, synthesis and dissemination of findings across the program. The program supports projects representing different stages of development, ranging from small, exploratory investigations to large, comprehensive projects.


NSF Evaluation Criteria: NSF makes available examples of what constitutes appropriate activities with “a broader impact” at www.nsf.gov/pubs/gpg/broaderimpacts.pdf “Broader impact” is one of the two fundamental NSF criteria in evaluating proposals. (Intellectual merit” is the other.)

The NSF has very recently made significant changes to implement the recommendations of the National Science Board’s Report, "National Science Foundation’s Merit Review Criteria; Review and Revisions." These changes are summarized at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappguide/nsf13001/gpg_sigchanges.jsp. Faculty developing proposals should review these changes.