Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Core Research (FW-HTF)

Funding Agency:
National Science Foundation

In 2016, the National Science Foundation (NSF) unveiled a set of “Big Ideas,” 10 bold, long-term research and process ideas that identify areas for future investment at the frontiers of science and engineering (see https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/big_ideas/index.jsp). The Big Ideas represent unique opportunities to position our Nation at the cutting edge of global science and engineering leadership by bringing together diverse disciplinary perspectives to support convergence research. As such, when responding to this solicitation, even though proposals must be submitted to the Directorate for Engineering (ENG) Office of Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities (ENG/EFMA), once received, the proposals will be managed by a cross-disciplinary team of NSF Program Directors.

The overarching vision of this program is to support multi-disciplinary research to sustain economic competitiveness, to promote worker well-being, lifelong and pervasive learning, and quality of life, and to illuminate the emerging social and economic context and drivers of innovations that are shaping the future of jobs and work.

For the purposes of this solicitation, work is defined as mental or physical activity to achieve income, profit, or other tangible benefits. A proposal for a research grant in this program must focus on advancing fundamental understanding of future work and work outcomes for workers and society.

The specific objectives of the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier program are to (1) facilitate inter-disciplinary or convergent research that employs the joint perspectives, methods, and knowledge of behavioral science, computer science, economics, engineering, learning sciences, research on adult learning and workforce training, and the social sciences; (2) develop deeper understandings of how human needs can be met and values respected in regard to how new technologies, conditions, and work experiences are changing; (3) support deeper understanding of the societal infrastructure that accompanies and leads to new work technologies and new approaches to work and jobs, and that prepares people for the future world of work; (4) encourage the development of a research community dedicated to designing intelligent technologies and work organization and modes inspired by their positive impact on individual workers, the work at hand, the way workers learn and adapt to technological change, creative and inclusive workplaces (including remote locations, homes, classrooms, or virtual spaces), and benefits for social, economic, educational, and environmental systems at different scales; (5) promote deeper basic understanding of the interdependent human-technology partnership to advance societal needs by advancing design of intelligent technologies that operate in harmony with human workers, including consideration of how adults learn the new skills needed to interact with these technologies in the workplace, and by enabling broad and diverse workforce participation, including improving accessibility for those challenged by physical, learning or cognitive impairment and other visible and invisible disabilities; and (6) understand, anticipate, and explore ways of mitigating potential risks including inequity arising from future work at the human-technology frontier.

Proposals to this program should describe inter-disciplinary or convergent research that addresses technological, human, and societal dimensions of future work. Technological innovations should be integrated with advances in cognitive and behavioral sciences, computer science, economic science, engineering, learning sciences, education, research on adult learning and workforce training, and the social sciences. Proposals that address the impact of large-scale disruptions such as the Covid-19 pandemic on the future of jobs and work are also of interest. Submissions are encouraged from institutions in EPSCOR jurisdictions (https://beta.nsf.gov/funding/initiatives/epscor/state-websites) and emerging research institutions, as defined in the CHIPS & Science Act, Section 10002(5) (42 USC 18901(5)).

Full Proposal Deadline Date: March 30, 2023

Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) - Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.
  • 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.

PIs must hold appointments at U.S.-based campuses/offices of eligible organizations (IHEs or Non-profit, non-academic organizations). There are no restrictions, beyond the eligibility outlined in the PAPPG Chapter I.E, on who may serve as co-PIs, Senior Personnel or Consultant (see Categories of Proposers in PAPPG Chapter I.E).

An individual may appear as PI or co-PI on only one proposal submitted in response to this solicitation, totaled across all FW-HTF proposal categories. This eligibility constraint will be strictly enforced. In the event an individual exceeds this limit, the first proposal received prior to the deadline will be accepted and the remainder will be returned without review. This limitation includes proposals submitted by a lead organization, collaborative non-lead proposals, and any subawards or contracts included as part of a collaborative proposal involving multiple institutions. No exceptions will be made.

Amount Description

Estimated Number of Awards: 25

Up to 25 Research Awards. The number of awards is dependent upon the proposals received and the degree to which proposals meet the solicitation goals and NSF merit review criteria.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $30,000,000

FW-HTF Research Grants (FW-HTF-R) may be requested in the following two budget categories:

  • Medium (FW-HTF-RM) projects with a total budget not to exceed $1,000,000 for a period of up to 4 years.
  • Large (FW-HTF-RL) projects with a total budget greater than $1,000,000 and not to exceed $2,000,000 for a period of up to 4 years.

The FW-HTF program accepts projects that span a wide range of budget sizes. The Project Description should explain why the level of resources requested (e.g., personnel, travel, equipment) is needed to achieve the desired project impacts and how the budget is appropriate to the scope of work.

Estimated program budget, number of awards, and average award size/duration are subject to the availability of funds and quality of proposals received.

Funding Type





Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences
Social Sciences

External Deadline

March 30, 2023