Nilay Papila on Research Funding Landscape for Young Researchers After Covid-19 Disruption

Pandemic-related lockdowns resulted in nearly all research laboratories closing for several months since March 2020. When laboratories re-opened, the return was far from normal, with the need to work in limited shifts to reduce on-site team members. In addition, the supply chain for research materials and equipment remains disrupted, and impediments to hiring research staff have hindered clinicians and scientists [1].
As lockdowns forced scientists to put their research on hold, sponsoring agencies took measures to minimize the stress on researchers. Major funding agencies have adapted their funding policies in response to the pandemic [2]. The policy revisions of major agencies such as NSF, NIH, DOE, and DoD related to Covid-19 disruption are summarized below.
National Science Foundation (NSF)
• The NSF processed daily grant payments to recipients without interruption during the pandemic. The NSF introduced a series of measures to provide “administrative relief” to researchers affected by COVID-19, such as extensions to due dates for project reports and the ability to charge costs to grants that would not normally be allowed — such as when events and travel are canceled, or research activities have to be paused and restarted. Recipients can apply for no-cost extensions to their grants following the normal procedure, and some of the deadlines have been extended.
U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)
• The NIH implemented similar measures to the NSF. The NIH lets institutions affected by COVID-19 continue to provide stipend payments to fellows and trainees who may be unable to work because of COVID-19. Extensions up to 12 months beyond the original completion date are allowed. Non-refundable costs associated with grant-related travel that has been canceled because of COVID-19 can be paid for by the NIH award if they would have otherwise been allowable.
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
• The DOE allowed the requests for extensions to grant applications, letters of intent, and progress reports if the lead principal investigator or the applicant’s institution is subject to quarantine or closure. Researchers do not require approval if they need to reallocate funds because of meeting cancellations or changes to travel plans.
NASA and Department of Defense (DoD)
• Like other agencies, NASA and DoD are open to the possibility of extending grants if the pandemic has disrupted research. Due dates for various funding proposals have also been extended for these agencies.

Funding sources are critical, especially for young researchers, to re-establish research programs impacted by the challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic. This article will summarize the funding opportunities available for young researchers to help them re-establish research programs impacted by Covid-19 disruptions.

Funding Opportunities of Major Funding Agencies for Young Researchers

2.1. National Science Foundation (NSF)

  • Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, NSF Funding Search

CAREER supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. The minimum award is $400,000 total for the five-year duration, except for the Directorate for Biological Sciences, the Directorate for Engineering, or the Office of Polar Programs, with a minimum total of $500,000 for the five-year duration.

Deadline: 7/27/2022

2.2. Department of Defense (DoD)

  • Air Force Fiscal Year 2023 Young Investigator Program (YIP)       

The Air Force YIP supports scientists and engineers who have received Ph.D. or equivalent degrees within the last seven years and show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research. The objective is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering; enhance the early career development of outstanding young investigators; and increase opportunities for the young investigator to recognize the Air Force mission and related challenges in science and engineering. Most YIP awards are funded up to $150,000 per year for three years. Exceptional proposals will be considered individually for higher funding levels and longer duration.

Deadline: 6/13/2022

  • ONR Young Investigator Program, Office of Naval Research

ONR’s YIP seeks to identify and support academic scientists and engineers who are in their first or second full-time tenure-track or tenure-track-equivalent academic appointment and who show exceptional promise for doing creative research. Typical awards are $510,000 over 36 months of performance. Additional funding may be requested for up to $250,000 to cover equipment costs, testing, ship time, etc.

Deadline: 6/6/2022

  • Young Faculty Award, DARPA

The objective is to identify and engage rising stars in junior research positions, emphasizing those without prior DARPA funding, and expose them to DoD needs and DARPA’s program development process.

Deadline: Opens August/ September

  • Young Investigator Program, Army Research Office

The ARO Young Investigator Program is included in the ARO Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for Fundamental Research. The objective of the YIP is to attract outstanding young university faculty members to pursue fundamental research in areas relevant to the Army, support their research in these areas, and encourage their teaching and research careers. This program is open to U.S. citizens, U.S. Nationals, and Permanent Resident Aliens holding tenure-track positions at U.S. universities and colleges who have held their graduate degrees (Ph.D. or equivalent) for fewer than five years at the time of application. YIP awards are up to $120,000 per year for three years.

Deadline: Deadline past. Provided for information purposes only

2.3. National Institutes of Health (NIH)

  • Stephen I. Katz Early Stage Investigator Research Project Grant (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed): May 26, 2022; September 27, 2022; January 26, 2023; May 26, 2023; September 26, 2023

  • Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) Award (R01 Clinical Trial Optional): Given that one application per school or college is allowed, those interested should coordinate with their respective college. LOI deadline: January 2023 (Anticipated).

  • NIH Research Training and Career Development Programs: Multiple

2.4. National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  • New (Early Career) Investigator Program in Earth Science (ROSES program element)

The NIP in Earth Science is designed to support outstanding scientific research and career development of scientists and engineers at the early stage of their professional careers. The program aims to encourage innovative research initiatives and cultivate scientific leadership in Earth system science. A NIP proposal PI must be a U.S. citizen or have the lawful status of permanent residency and be a recent Ph.D. recipient, defined as having graduated on or after January 1 of the year that is no more than five years before the issuance date of the ROSES NRA.

Deadline: varies; applications are solicited every two years. Provided for information purposes only

  • New Early Career Fellowship Program

The Early Career Fellowship (ECF) program supports the development of individual research programs for outstanding scientists early in their careers and stimulates research careers in the areas supported by the Planetary Sciences Division.

Deadline: varies. Provided for information purposes only

  • Nancy Grace Roman Technology Fellowships for Early Career Researchers

The goals of the RTF program in Astrophysics are to provide early-career researchers the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to lead astrophysics flight instrument development projects; to develop innovative technologies for space astrophysics that have the potential to enable major scientific breakthroughs and to foster new talent by putting early career instrument builders on a trajectory towards long-term positions. To be eligible, P.I.s must have received a Ph.D. on or after January 1 of a year that is no more than eight years before the issuance date of the ROSES NRA.

Deadline: varies. Provided for information purposes only

  • Early Career Faculty (ECF)(SpaceTech-REDDI), STMD Early Career Faculty

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate solicits innovative, early-stage space technology research proposals. The PI must be an untenured Assistant Professor on the tenure track at the sponsoring U.S. university at the time of the award. The PI must be a U.S. citizen or have the lawful status of permanent residency no later than August 1 following the proposal submission deadline.

Deadline: varies. Provided for information purposes only

2.5. Department of Agriculture

  • Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), National Institute of Food and Agriculture

The Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Grants component includes funding for new investigators. A new investigator is defined as an individual who is beginning their career, does not have an extensive scientific publication record, and has less than five years of postgraduate career-track experience. The new investigator may not have received competitively awarded Federal research funds as Project Director except for pre-or postdoctoral grants or AFRI Seed Grants.

Deadline: varies by program area

2.6. Department of Energy (DOE)

  • Early Career Research Program:

The effort is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by supporting exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years when many scientists do their most formative work. Under the program, university-based researchers will receive about $150,000 per year to cover summer salary and research expenses. For researchers based at DOE national laboratories, where DOE typically covers the full salary and expenses of laboratory employees, grants will be about $500,000 per year to cover year-round salary plus research expenses. The research grants are planned for five years.

Deadline: Mandatory Pre-Application: October 2022 (Anticipated). Submission Deadline for Applications: January 2023 (Anticipated).