Posted: 4/18/2022

Dear Colleague Letter: Integrated NSF Support Promoting Interdisciplinary Research and Education (INSPIRE)

The Integrated NSF Support Promoting Interdisciplinary Research and Education (INSPIRE) pilot seeks to support bold interdisciplinary projects in all NSF-supported areas of science, engineering, and education research. INSPIRE has no targeted themes and serves as a funding mechanism for proposals that are required both to be interdisciplinary and to exhibit potentially transformative research (IDR and PTR, respectively). Complementing existing NSF efforts, INSPIRE was created to handle proposals whose:

  • Scientific advances lie outside the scope of a single program or discipline, such that substantial funding support from more than one program or discipline is necessary.
  • Lines of research promise transformational advances.
  • Prospective discoveries reside at the interfaces of disciplinary boundaries that may not be recognized through traditional review or co-review.

To receive funding as an INSPIRE-appropriate project, all three criteria must be met. INSPIRE is not intended to be used for interdisciplinary projects that can be accommodated within other NSF funding mechanisms or that continue well-established practices.

The implementation of the INSPIRE pilot is based on two overarching goals:

Goal 1: To emphasize to the science, mathematics, engineering and education research community that NSF is welcoming to bold, unconventional ideas incorporating creative interdisciplinary approaches. INSPIRE seeks to attract unusually creative high-risk/high-reward "out of the box" interdisciplinary proposals.

Goal 2: To provide NSF Program Officers (POs) with additional tools and support to engage in cross-cutting collaboration and risk-taking in managing their awards portfolios.

INSPIRE supports projects that lie at the intersection of traditional disciplines, and is intended to 1) attract unusually creative high-risk / high-reward interdisciplinary proposals; 2) provide substantial funding, not limited to the exploratory stage of the pursuit of novel ideas (unlike NSF's EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research, or EAGER); and 3) be open to all NSF-supported areas of science, mathematics, engineering, and education research. NSF will initiate an external formative assessment to test whether the INSPIRE pilot is achieving program and portfolio-level goals.

NSF support for INSPIRE projects is subject to the availability of funds.

Eligibility Requirements

Proposals may be submitted by:

  • Universities and Colleges - Universities and two- and four-year colleges (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. Such organizations also are referred to as academic institutions.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.
  • NSF-sponsored Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs). Non-NSF-sponsored FFRDCs are not permitted to submit proposals under this INSPIRE DCL.

INSPIRE is not intended to be used for interdisciplinary proposals that are appropriate for existing funding mechanisms or that continue well-established practices.

Prospective PIs must receive approval to submit a proposal from at least two NSF Program Officers, in intellectually distinct programs, whose expertise is most germane to the proposal topics. Consultations with POs prior to submission are required in order to aid in determining the appropriateness of the work for consideration under the INSPIRE mechanism. Only after approval is provided by at least two NSF POs in distinctly different research areas may a proposal be submitted.

Amount Description
  • Proposals meeting INSPIRE criteria will be considered for funding on any NSF-supported topic.
  • Proposals in response to this Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) may be submitted after August 01, 2014.
  • Awards will generally support an individual PI or a small team.
  • An INSPIRE award must be substantively co-funded by at least two intellectually distinct NSF divisions or disciplinary programs.
  • A maximum budget of $1 million applies for INSPIRE proposals/awards regardless of the number of sponsoring programs beyond the minimum of two.
  • Duration may be up to 5 years.
Funding Type
Sponsor: Rolling