Proposals Due Sept. 30 for Annual FIRST Awards

July 24, 2019

Nebraska EPSCoR FIRST Awards winners gain funding, expert reviews

Nebraska EPSCoR has created a competitive FIRST Award grant program to help Nebraska early career faculty members compete successfully for a CAREER grant. This program is funded by an NSF infrastructure grant to Nebraska EPSCoR. The FIRST Award grant is limited to $25,000 for one year with a 100% matching requirement. Nebraska EPSCoR anticipates awarding approximately six grants per year. Each grantee is required to submit a CAREER grant proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) during or immediately after the end of the award period.

NSF states:

The CAREER program embodies NSF’s commitment to encourage faculty and academic institutions to value and support the integration of research and education. Successful PIs will propose creative, integrative and effective research and education plans, developed within the context of the mission, goals and resources of their organizations, and which will build a firm foundation for a lifetime of contributions to research, education and their integration.

All proposals must have an integrated research and education plan at their core. NSF recognizes that there is no single approach to an integrated research and education plan. Rather, these plans should reflect both the proposer’s own disciplinary and educational interests and goals, as well as the needs of his or her organization. Because there may be different expectations within different disciplinary fields and/or different organizations, a wide range of research and education activities may be appropriate for the CAREER program.

Who may apply: Assistant Professors in a tenure-leading position in any college/university in the state who are: a) in the first four years of their academic career; and b) eligible to apply for an NSF CAREER grant during the award period.

Type of eligible project: Any project that could qualify for support by a National Science Foundation standard research grant is eligible for a FIRST Award.

Match requirement and duration: An award amount is limited to $25,000 and requires a dollar-for-dollar, non-federal match (cash or in-kind release from teaching). No Indirect Costs are allowed. FIRST Awards are granted for a period of one year: starting April 1, 2020, and ending March 31, 2021.

Selection process: Selection is a two-step process.

In the first step, all pre-proposals will be reviewed by a grant subcommittee. The grant subcommittee will be composed of members of Nebraska’s scientific community but not necessarily experts in the field of each proposal; therefore, use language that is understandable to those with general knowledge of the area. Based on the merit review of the pre-proposal, a group of finalists will be invited to prepare a CAREER proposal. It is anticipated that approximately ten finalists will be invited to prepare an NSF CAREER proposal for further review.

In the second step, the received CAREER proposals will be reviewed using NSF proposal review criteria by three external experts in the field. The Nebraska EPSCoR Committee will select FIRST Award recipients by considering the external merit reviews.

Pre-proposal content: The pre-proposal must be prepared using font size 11 or greater with one inch margins. The pre-proposal should consist of the following:

1.  Budget: Attach a completed Nebraska EPSCoR Budget and Approval Form available from our web site at (please check the web site to ensure you are using the most current version). This form will serve as your cover sheet. In the Federal Agency/Program space on the form, you must specify the NSF program to which your CAREER proposal is intended to be submitted. The pre-proposal budget should provide an expenditure plan for the one year budget (EPSCoR funds plus match) of the FIRST Award. Faculty salary cannot be part of the FIRST Award budget submitted from the state’s research universities. However, it will be allowed for the state’s small universities or colleges whose main focus is teaching and who have an annual institutional research expenditure of less than $8 million. Be sure that appropriate signatures and match account numbers appear on the form. No indirect costs or foreign travel costs are allowed.

2. Body of the Pre-proposal:

a. Main body. The main body, including references, may not exceed six pages. It should have the following:

        i)   a section describing the research,

        ii) a section stating its significance and intellectual merit,

        iii) a section describing the educational plan and how research and education will be


        iv) a section addressing the planned FIRST Award activities prior to submittal of the

            CAREER proposal, and

        v) a budget justification section for the FIRST Award activities. Other sections may be

           included as necessary. Any citations should be included in the six-page limit;

b. CV summary: a two-page CV that has been prepared according to NSF instructions and also lists the PI’s current grants;

c. Letter of endorsement: A letter from the appropriate department chair or dean must be included. The letter must attest that the PI meets the necessary qualifications for the FIRST Award and describe how this grant would enhance the competitiveness of the PI. It also must demonstrate an understanding of, and a commitment to, the PI’s plan for the effective integration of research and education. It must also describe the nature of the match provided.

Submission: Pre-proposals must be submitted electronically and in print.

  1. The pre-proposal must be submitted electronically no later than 5 p.m. Central Time, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. Proposals will be submitted through a link on the Nebraska EPSCoR website's Proposals page. This link will take you to a website for our proposal collection provider (RegPack). If you do not already have an account with them, you will need to create an account with a few pieces of information that will pre-populate your application once you have entered the site. There you will provide your campus contact information and upload your proposal and budget package. Please note: you will submit your entire pre-proposal (completed EPSCoR Budget and Approval form, six-page pre-proposal, two-page CV, letter of endorsement, and budget justification) as one file; it is preferable that these files be submitted in PDF format.  You can start your application, save it and log out, and then log in again to finish it later. However, once you press the submit button, you cannot change anything in your submission.
  2. The pre-proposal must also be submitted in print and with the signatures of the PI, department chair (or other appropriate supervisor), and match authorizer. Please check with your campus Sponsored Programs Office for any requirements they have regarding their signature on your pre-proposal or other submission requirements. The printed submission must also be received no later than 5 p.m. Central Time, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, in the Nebraska EPSCoR office at W192 Nebraska Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0557.

 Faculty selected to develop a CAREER proposal will be notified by mid-November 2019. CAREER proposals will be due in the Nebraska EPSCoR office by early January 2020. More detailed instructions will be provided to the selected faculty member finalists.

 For more information about Nebraska EPSCoR’s FIRST Award process, click here