EAR supports a broad spectrum of research and research infrastructure. A recent National Academies committee report, hereafter the “Earth in Time” Report, documents priority science questions to guide EAR research over the coming decade (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2020. A Vision for NSF Earth Sciences 2020-2030: Earth in Time. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25761). The report discusses the infrastructure and facilities necessary to advance identified science priority questions and reviews existing infrastructure and facilities available to the EAR research community.
The Earth in Time report notes that Department of Energy (DOE) synchrotron facilities are needed for the chemical, physical, and mechanical characterization of Earth materials under the wide range of conditions found on Earth. The report documents that NSF/EAR and DOE partnerships allow for advanced Earth materials characterization at synchrotron light sources and are needed to address stated science priorities including:
- Study of the evolution and dynamics of the geodynamo
- Plate tectonic history and evolution
- Critical element distributions and cycling in Earth materials
- Earthquake physics
- Volcanic processes
- Critical zone processes and climate feedbacks
- Water cycle dynamics
- Biogeochemical processes and biodiversity evolution
- Geohazards mitigation
As previously announced and anticipated (Dear Colleague Letter NSF 20-124), EAR is soliciting proposals to develop, manage, operate, and support user access to U.S. synchrotron-based and supporting laboratory capabilities necessary to advance Earth sciences research and training. EAR seeks proposals that prioritize support for the research and training needs of the U.S. Earth science community supported by EAR core or special programs (see https://www.nsf.gov/funding/programs.jsp?org=EAR for a current list of programs funded by EAR).
Goals of this solicitation include: 1) centralizing management of synchrotron light source beamlines focused on Earth and environmental science applications; 2) allowing for broad science community access to new capabilities that will be realized as part of Department of Energy plans for next-generation synchrotron light sources in the U.S.; 3) providing an opportunity to develop and support new beamlines, instrumentation and techniques at U.S. synchrotron light sources in support of Earth and environmental research and training including new capabilities, enhanced user support, and mechanisms to engage both the low-temperature geochemistry and Earth materials research communities; 4) addressing priority science questions and related infrastructure recommendations identified in a 2020 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Report (A Vision for NSF Earth Sciences 2020-2030: Earth in Time. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25761); 5) encouraging innovative efforts to include and foster engagement with individuals and communities historically underrepresented in the Earth and environmental sciences to be integrated with Facility activities including staffing, education, outreach and community activities, and considerate of needs to support belonging, accessibility, justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (BAJEDI); 6) preserving high-priority components of EAR's facility portfolio; 7) encouraging oversight, management, and operational efficiencies for EAR supported synchrotron-based analytical capabilities within a defined budget projection; and 8) complying with National Science Board (NSB) policy on periodic competition of NSF facilities.
Proposals may only be submitted by the following:
- Institutions of higher education (Ph.D.-granting and non-Ph.D.-granting), acting on behalf of their faculty members, that are accredited in and have their main campus in the United States, its territories, or possessions. Distinct academic campuses (e.g., that award their own degrees, have independent administrative structures, admissions policies, alumni associations, etc.) within multi-campus systems qualify as separate submission-eligible institutions.
- Not-for-profit, non-degree-granting domestic U.S. organizations, acting on behalf of their employees, for example (but not limited to) independent museums and science centers, observatories, research laboratories and similar organizations that are directly associated with the Nation's research activities. These organizations must have an independent, permanent administrative organization (e.g., a sponsored projects office) located in the United States, its territories, or possessions, and have 501(c)(3) tax status.
- Consortia as follows:
- A legally incorporated, not-for-profit consortium that includes two or more submission-eligible organizations as described in items (1) and (2) above. Such a consortium is one with an independent administrative structure (e.g., a sponsored projects office) located in the United States, its territories, or possessions and has 501(c)(3) status.
- Submission-eligible organizations as described in items (1) and (2) above, on behalf of an informal consortium. These consortium proposals may also include as partners, via subawards, other U.S. and non-U.S. organizations that are not otherwise eligible to submit directly to this solicitation.
In either case, the proposal title should indicate that a consortium is proposing.
For-profit commercial organizations, especially U.S. small businesses with strong capabilities in scientific or engineering research or education, are eligible for participatory support through subawards/subcontracts as private sector partners with submitting organizations; they may not submit proposals. Such partnerships must be substantive and meaningful. In addition, the value added by the for-profit commercial organization should be justified as a unique contribution that is otherwise unavailable within organizations described in (1) and (2).