Twice a year, the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) convenes a special web meeting for its Convergence College Network (CCN) community of practice that is designed specifically to address the unique needs of administrators. The CTC works mostly with faculty members, but some grant goals look beyond the classroom and involve perspectives of department chairs, deans, and provosts. A good portion of the most recent “CCN Administrators” meeting, for example, was devoted to a discussion of NSF grant opportunities and resources.
Below are some highlights.
- All NSF grant applicants must start with the solicitation. Think of it as a request for a proposal. The solicitation defines the focus and the specifications of the funding. The proposal must align to the solicitation. That means you’ll need to read (and take notes on) the solicitation multiple times to be sure you understand all of the details.
- While the National CTC is funded through the NSF’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program (solicitation 17-568), there are many NSF programs that can support your new projects and initiatives. For example, ITEST (solicitation 17-565) focuses on high school needs and pathways to community colleges, while IUSE (solicitation 17-590) provides help for new programs in need of curriculum or equipment.
- Research first to determine if what you want to do has already been done or if another grantee is already working in your area. You can propose something someone else is doing so long as you involve them in your proposal and build on their work. Use the “Awards Search” feature on the NSF website to look for other grants that may be pursuing goals similar to yours.
- All NSF proposals need to clearly address two criteria. “Intellectual merit” defines how your proposal’s goals will advance knowledge. Usually this means how you will introduce new elements to your school or to your region. “Broader impacts” describe who else in society will benefit from your grant, which includes things like boosting enrollment for women or sharing your successes with the region.
- Plan ahead. This is perhaps the most important piece of advice. The next round of ATE proposals is due October 4, 2018. Don’t wait until September to start preparing a proposal. In addition to the hard work of actually developing compelling goals and strategies in a clearly written proposal, you’ll also be very busy assembling a number of supporting documents from a variety of sources. Give yourself plenty of time. By early 2018, you should have a pretty good idea of your grant focus.
The Centers Collaborative for Technical Assistance (CCTA) hosted a collection of webinars last year on writing a competitive ATE proposal. You can access the recordings here. In 2018, new webinars will be presented offering the latest information.