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Research Coordination Networks: Fostering and Nurturing a Diverse Community of CI Professionals
The national research cyberinfrastructure (CI) ecosystem is a key catalyst for discovery and innovation across research domains and plays a critical role in ensuring US leadership in science and engineering, economic competitiveness, and national security, consistent with NSF’s mission. A diverse, skilled, capable, and productive workforce is required to effectively leverage and utilize current, emerging, and future CI capabilities – spanning researchers who use CI, developers of new CI capabilities, and professionals that deploy and operate NSF-supported CI. Developing and sustaining such a dynamic CI workforce presents challenges that are similar across science and engineering research and education fields, such as implementing effective institutional and on-the-job training and refreshing skills to keep up with evolving software, technologies, platforms, and application requirements . The CI workforce also faces somewhat unique challenges due to lack of clear career pathways and disparity in position descriptions.
In this broader context, NSF envisions fostering and nurturing diverse communities of CI Professionals (CIP) across all areas of science and engineering research and education  by establishing a network of connected and coordinated hubs that recognize and connect CI Professionals, support communications, training, sharing of best practices, and mobility across projects and organizations.
To establish this network for all stakeholders of the CI workforce, NSF will support a set of Research Coordination Networks (RCN) to advance CI Professionals communities through transformative and/or new approaches for fostering, nurturing, expanding, and sustaining such communities. The RCN:CIP projects are intended to:
- foster exchange and community development among CI Professionals;
- share experience on sustaining and retaining CI Professionals;
- raise the awareness and importance of CI Professionals in academia, and convey the information to academic leaders on their career development;
- communicate opportunities for, and importance of, CI Professionals’ collaboration with research and engineering groups;
- advance best practices for recruiting and developing CI expertise at all levels;
- explore mutually beneficial partnerships across the different stakeholders in academia, government, non-profits, and industry; and
- explore the establishment and sustainability of a network of hubs over the longer term, including governance and coordination among these hubs.
The RCN:CIP will engage CI Professionals from across the NSF research and education community and will also include representatives from university leadership (e.g., Vice Presidents for Research) and industry. The RCN must maintain a website for dissemination of RCN information, including opportunities for participation. The RCN may be regional, focused on specific research disciplines, or a combination. A key goal, and metric of success, of the RCN investments will be broadening participation. Broad inclusion of minorities and underrepresented communities will be particularly important. RCNs focused on these communities, and/or well-suited opportunities for such institutions to open career paths for such individuals, are encouraged. Geographic diversity is an important consideration and proposals led by institutions in EPSCoR jurisdictions are encouraged. In addition, participation by key organizations and societies (such as ACM – Association for Computing Machinery, CASC - Coalition for Academic Scientific Computation, and CRA – Computing Research Association) will be important and is also encouraged.
NSF expects the RCN:CIP awardees to coordinate their efforts and activities, for instance through joint workshops and knowledge sharing, towards the goal of defining and establishing an interconnected network of hubs with a common set of high-level objectives and overall outcomes. RCN:CIP will be expected to implement a range of measures to demonstrate progress, efficacy, and improvements.
It is required that prospective PIs contact the RCN:CIP Program Officer(s) to ascertain if the focus and budget of their proposed RCN is appropriate for this solicitation.
Full Proposal Deadline Date: April 25, 2022
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.
Estimated Number of Awards: 5
Estimated program budget, number of awards and average award size/duration are subject to the availability of funds and the quality of proposals received. A RCN:CIP award is expected to be at the level of $100,000 – $200,000 per year with a duration of up to five years. Up to five awards are expected in FY 2022 depending upon the availability of funds and the quality of proposals received.
Anticipated Funding Amount: $2,500,000 to $5,000,000
A total RCN:CIP award for five years must lie in the range of $500,000 to $1,000,000, with $100,000 – $200,000 in FY 2022.