Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) (FAQs)
PIRE Program Solicitation is available on the PIRE webpage
Is my institution eligible to submit proposals to the PIRE competition?
The submitting institution must be a university that has granted at least one Ph. D. in a science or engineering field since January 1, 2006, be accredited in, and have a campus located in the U.S. In almost all cases the data from
The Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2006 table which is listed on the PIRE webpagewill be used to determine eligibility. Institutions that have awarded such degrees since 2006 but are not included in the Survey list as having done so should read the next question for more information regarding eligibility.
My institution is not included in The Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2006 list that is posted on the PIRE webpage, but we have many Ph.D. students conducting research here. Is my institution eligible to apply?
If your university is included in the The Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2006 tablethatislisted on the PIRE webpage, it is eligible to submit proposals to PIRE. If not, you must contact PIRE program staff before submission and provide evidence demonstrating the eligibility of your university entity.
Who can be a PI or Co-PI?
To be listed as the PI on a PIRE proposal, an individual must beaffiliated with the U.S.-based, Ph.D.-granting university that submits the proposal (i.e., the lead institution). Co-PIs will be associated with the lead institution or with U.S.-based organizations collaborating with the lead institution.
If an institution is the submitting institution on three preliminary proposals, is it also able to participate in other proposals through subawards, assuming all the investigators are different (so that the limit on individual PI participation is not an issue)?
The "three per institution" limit on preliminary proposal submissions applies only to those preliminary proposals on which the institution is the submitting or lead institution. Your institution may be a non-lead partner on proposals over and above those three lead proposals, assuming no PI, Co-PI or other Senior Personnel is involved in more than one proposal.
Does the PI have to be a U.S. citizen?
U.S. citizenshipof the PI and other researchers on the U.S. team is not required.
Can collaborators in other countries be PIs, Co-PIs or other Senior Personnel on my proposal?
No, international collaborators should be listed as Foreign Collaborators.
On how many proposals can I serve as a PI or co-PI or other Senior Personnel?
One may participate as PI, co-PI, or other Senior Personnel (including on subawards and as consultants) on no more than one preliminary proposal and one full proposal submission.
I work at a non-Ph.D. granting institution. Is there a way I can participate in the PIRE program?
Individuals who are affiliated with a non-Ph.D.-granting institution are encouraged to work with their colleagues at Ph.D.-granting institutions in developing PIRE projects; such individuals may participate in PIRE projects, as Co-PIs or Senior Personnel, with their students being supported for research-related activities, and with their own institutions serving as collaborating organizations on the PIRE project.
I am at a large university and I have a collaborator at a four-year college. Can I include her and her students in my PIRE project?
Yes. PIRE PIs are encouraged to take advantage of their research and education networks to bring faculty and students from a diverse range of institutions into their PIRE projects.
I am a junior faculty. Am I eligible to be the PI? Have any untenured professors been PIs on PIRE awards? Is there anything you would recommend for a junior PI?
Yes, you are eligible to be a PI. Yes, several untenured faculty members have been PIs on PIRE awards. For any PI, whether junior faculty or not, one key to success will be to put together a team of PI, Co-PI(s), other Senior Personnel, international collaborators, administrative staff, and/or advisory committee members, that provides the project not only the necessary scientific/engineering and educational expertise, but also the essential managerial and logistical expertise to be able to coordinate and integrate all of the pieces of a large international research and education project.
Is there a limit on the number of full proposals that will be invited from any one institution? On the number of awards per institution?
No, there is no limit. We seek to invite, and fund, those proposals that offer the best opportunity to advance all PIRE objectives. That being said, portfolio balance will be a consideration in the invitation and award process.
Can current PIRE awardee institutions receive new awards in the current competition?
Yes. Those institutions that have received PIRE awards in the past are eligible to receive awards in this competition. PIs submitting proposals from such institutions should be in contact with current PIRE awardees at their institution to discuss how their projects might have complementary institutional impacts.
Can I submit a collaborative proposal from multiple organizations for the project I am developing with my colleague from another U.S. institution (and with our foreign colleagues)?
PIRE will accept only one proposal per project; the proposal for your collaborative partnership should be submitted as a single proposal in which a single award is requested by the lead university. The lead university may make subawards to collaborating U.S. institutions as appropriate.
How many preliminary proposal submissions are expected?
Based on past competitions and newly expanded eligibility, we expect to receive 550-650 preliminary proposals.
How many full proposals do you expect to invite?
We expect to invite 50-70 PIs to submit full proposals.
A total of $40 million over five years for the PIRE program is not a lot of money. How many awards do you expect to make?
We estimate that we will fund between 5 and 20 awards, depending on the budgets of the most highly ranked proposals. The amount of $40 million represents only funds from NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE). Co-funding, which will be sought from other NSF directorates and offices, would increase the total funding available.
What areas of research are appropriate?
Proposalsmay be submitted in any NSF-supported field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM), as well as for research on STEM education. Please visit NSF’s online Guide to Programs for more information on the fields that NSF supports: http://www.nsf.gov/funding/browse_all_funding.jsp. Please see the next question regarding research in medical or health-related areas.
- If I am interested in conducting collaborative international research on a health-related or medical topic, should I apply to PIRE?
NSF’s Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide
(http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappguide/nsf09_1/nsf091.pdf ) states that
“Research with disease-related goals, including work on the etiology, diagnosis or treatment of physical or mental disease, abnormality, or malfunction in human beings or animals, is normally not supported. Animal models of such conditions or the development or testing of drugs or other procedures for their treatment also are not eligible for support. However, research in bioengineering, with diagnosis- or treatment-related goals, that applies engineering principles to problems in biology and medicine while advancing engineering knowledge is eligible for support.”
The project that I want to propose requires that I bring together scientists and engineers from several disciplines. Is such research appropriate for PIRE?
Yes. PIRE welcomes proposals that cut across disciplinary boundaries, as well as proposals within a single discipline, as long as in each case the objectives of the PIRE program are met.
Which is more important for PIRE, research or education?
Both are equally important. Both need to be addressed in an integrated manner, along with all other PIRE objectives.
- I am writing a proposal for my regular non-OISE NSF program and I have a foreign collaborator(s) that I can add. Should I submit it to PIRE instead?
The PIRE competition is not intended to fund projects that can be funded by other programs at NSF; every year NSF disciplinary programs fund the large majority of research projects that involve international collaborators, such as the one that you describe. Successful PIRE projects will be different in nature and scope from such proposals because:
- the international collaboration is at the core of the project, drives the project, and is essential to its success;
- there is a specific focus on significantly engaging U.S. students and early-career researchers in the international research collaborations at foreign sites; and
- the PIRE project must address how it will contribute to institutional changes above the level of the PI’s research program that will strengthen the ability of U.S. students and researchers to undertake international collaboration.
I am uncertain about the institutional part of PIRE. I am interested in putting together a project that involves researchers at multiple U.S. and foreign institutions. Can I apply to PIRE?
Yes. PIRE seeks to support proposals that link people and institutions together in the manner most appropriate for their PIRE objectives – including, but not limited to projects that link two or a few institutions, that link many groups in a consortia, and that link many researchers in a network. Most current PIRE projects involve researchers at multiple U.S. institutions. Many also involve researchers in more than one foreign country, often at multiple institutions within a country (see PIRE homepage for abstracts and/or webpages for many existing PIRE projects). The key is to find those collaborators who can most contribute to strengthening your project in an integrated and coordinated way.
Is there an optimal number of partner institutions or partner countries in a PIRE?
This will vary with the project. The existing PIRE projects vary widely in the number of partners and countries involved (see
PIRE homepage for webpages and abstracts for many existing PIRE projects). PIs are advised to put together teams that work best for the project they propose, keeping in mind NSF’s interest in funding focused research projects (rather than collections of loosely-related activities) that include well-integrated education programs and strong management plans.
How can partners from industry be included in my project?
Partnerships with industry participation are welcome in the PIRE program. Such interactions can take many forms (e.g., industry can provide internship opportunities for students, provide access to research equipment, participate as full research partners, or assist with technology transfer). PIRE funds should not be used to cover the expenses of industrial partners in the project, but can be used to support non-industrial personnel (e.g., U.S. faculty and students) to work with the industrial partner. PIs are strongly encouraged to develop Intellectual Property Rights agreements, particularly with foreign entities, either before the start of the project or very early in the life of the project.
Can I include in my PIRE partnership a colleague who works at a U.S. government agency or lab?
Yes, collaborations with colleagues from U.S. government agencies and labs are welcome. However, there are strict rules governing the use of NSF funds in such collaborations. Please consult
NSF’s Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide, Ch 1.E.7, for more information.
Does my university need to enter into a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with our foreign counterparts for the PIRE to be successful? Will my proposal be strengthened by having an MOU?
The nature of many projects may not require any formal agreements between institutions. In other cases, an MOU may be very important to achieving the PIRE project’s objectives. You should do what makes the most sense for the type of project you want to propose.
My institution is developing an MOU with a foreign institution and a number of faculty in several departments want to collaborate with scientists in the corresponding departments overseas. Should we apply for a PIRE?
One of PIRE’s objectives is to support collaborative research on a question in a focused, well-integrated project. If the set of faculty you describe can do this, PIRE might be an appropriate place to seek funding. If, on the other hand, you are seeking funding to support many different, unrelated collaborations between the two institutions, your proposal is unlikely to be successful in the PIRE competition.
What do you mean when you say to describe the international landscape at my “institution”? What should be included?
First, identify the “institution” that you seek to impact with a PIRE award – your university, school, department or perhaps a subset of the community of researchers in your field. Then briefly describe the current state of internationalization within your field and institution – e.g., the extent to which your field is internationalized, the distribution of expertise, equipment, geographically-based phenomena and data around the world, and countries that are leaders in your field or a part of your field and whose collaboration is essential. Then describe the challenges that limit international engagement for U.S. students, faculty and institutions in your field (e.g., curriculum constraints, visa problems, language and cultural barriers, IPR issues, teaching constraints, professional or institutional disincentives, tenure and promotion or other institutional policy considerations). Finally, describe how a PIRE award would help overcome these challenges and enhance international engagement.
What kind of things might my university consider in choosing the three preliminary proposals to submit?
NSF expects institutions to select proposals that will strengthen international engagement beyond the level of the PI’s research group, promote optimal use of institutional resources and capabilities, and align with long-term strategic international goals of the institution(s). Universities are encouraged to interpret the “institutional” framework broadly; many current PIRE awards involve multiple U.S. and foreign institutions, enabling the lead institution to become the hub of a vibrant international network. The PIRE program encourages the submission of a wide range of proposals in terms of diversity of participating individuals and institutions, fields of study, scope, budget, and model of institutional engagement.
How will renewal proposals be handled relative to new proposals?
Renewal proposals will count as one of the three preliminary proposal submissions from each institution. PIs of renewal proposals must explicitly describe in their proposals the significant achievements of the prior PIRE award and the added value of the proposed effort beyond that of the previous award. In all other respects, renewal proposals will be reviewed in the same manner as new proposals.
I understand NSF has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work with the U.S. Agency for International Development. What could this mean for my PIRE proposal or project?
NSF and USAID are working to develop mechanisms to support projects that meet the objectives of both agencies, wherein NSF would fund U.S. side costs and USAID would support related project costs in relevant developing countries. At the time the PIRE program solicitation was published, no formal mechanism for USAID to participate in the PIRE program competition had been approved.
Is a full FastLane budget required for a preliminary proposal?
No, a preliminary budget and budget justification of no more than two pages is required for a preliminary proposal. The preliminary budget information should be entered as part of the Project Description. DO NOT enter the information into the FastLane budget module. Enter $2 in the Requested Amount box on the FastLane cover sheet.
Are letters of commitment required for preliminary proposals?
No. At the preliminary proposal stage, letters of commitment from the submitting institution or collaborating institutions should not be included.
If our proposal is invited into the full proposal stage of the competition, can the project team or scope of the project be changed from what was in the preliminary proposal?
Any changes in the research team and any major changes in the scope of the original project as presented in the preliminary proposal must be approved by PIRE staff in writing before submission of a full proposal
Do I need to submit a conceptual data management policy in my preliminary proposals?
No, this will only be required for the full proposals. In the notification inviting PIs to submit full proposals, more information about which units at NSF have data management policies, and links to those policies, will be provided.
Do I need to be invited to submit a full proposal—i.e., can I submit one anyway, even if I am not invited?
The decision to Invite or Not Invite full proposal submission is binding. Full proposal submissions that are not invited by NSF will be returned without review.
How will I know if I am invited to submit a full proposal?
Upon completion of the preliminary proposal review process, OISE will electronically notify approximately 50-70 PIs and their organization’s Sponsored Projects Office (SPO) of the “Invited to Submit Full Proposal” decision. OISE will also electronically notify PIs and their organization’s SPO for proposals that are “Not Invited” to submit full proposals.
Who should sign the letter of commitment from my institution and my collaborators’ institutions? Department Chair? Dean? Vice President for Research? Provost?
It depends on the institutional impact that the project aims to achieve—and whose commitment within the institution will be key to achieving the project’s institutional impact objectives. If the PIRE team expects an award to have a transformative impact of the PI’s department, then a letter from the Department Chair would be essential. For projects that aim to advance a university-wide effort to strengthen international research engagement, support at the Vice President for Research or Provost level would likely be more appropriate. For projects that bring together researchers and students from multiple U.S. institutions, the several Department Chairs or Deans and/or the Heads of the relevant professional societies may be most appropriate.
As a group, the graduate students and faculty in my department and discipline are not very diverse. How do I go about engaging and recruiting colleagues and students from groups under-represented in science?
Full proposals must describe strategies and provisions for creating a diverse team of U.S. researchers and students. Therefore PIs are encouraged to tap expertise on broadening participation that may be resident on their own campuses (e.g., PIs of NSF-sponsored programs to enhance diversity such as AGEP, CREST, ADVANCE, LSAMP, HBCU-UP, TCUP, all described on NSF’s
Division of Human Resource Development (HRD) homepage). PIs are encouraged to build collaborations with faculty at Minority-Serving Institutions – thereby establishing strong research and educational relationships which can enhance a more sustainable recruitment strategy. PIs are also encouraged to work with their STEM professional societies, many of which have active programs for enhancing diversity at both the faculty and student levels, as well as with professional societies specifically targeting groups underrepresented in science (e.g., the American Society of Black Physicists, the Society for the Advancement of Chicano and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), the Society of Women Engineers).
Can you provide examples of the types of mentoring activities that I should provide a postdoctoral researcher (and that I must include in my full proposal)?
As per the 2009 NSF
Grant Proposal Guide, which will take effect on January 5, 2009, if a project has any support for a postdoctoral researcher, it must include, as a separate section within the 20-page Project Description, a description of the mentoring activities. Examples of mentoring activities include, but are not limited to: career counseling; training in preparation of grant proposals, publications and presentations; guidance on ways to improve teaching and mentoring skills; guidance on how to effectively collaborate with researchers from diverse backgrounds and disciplinary areas; and training in responsible professional practices. Proposals that do not include a separate section on mentoring activities for the postdoctoral researcher(s) in the Project Description of a full proposal will be returned without review!
I don’t have much experience in evaluating the impact of my scientific projects. How can I put together a strong evaluation and assessment plan?
PIRE requires a strong assessment plan, so successful projects will need specific expertise to be able to develop effective techniques, tools and metrics for project evaluation. PIs are encouraged to tap the evaluation and assessment expertise that is often resident on their campuses or on the campuses of their U.S. partners. Effective strategies used in the current PIRE projects include working with faculty and graduate students in a Department of Education, working with faculty and students in a Social Science department interested in international research and education, working with evaluation professionals supported by the university, and/or hiring outside experts to assist in evaluation activities.
How will full proposals be reviewed?
Full proposals will undergo both ad hoc and panel review. The ad hoc review will evaluate each proposal based on the standard NSF review criteria and the PIRE-specific review criteria from the perspective of experts in the relevant field(s) of research. The full proposal panel review will use the same criteria to evaluate the proposals’ ability to achieve the multiple objectives of the program, relative to other proposals.
What should I use as the start date for my PIRE project?
You may list a starting date as early as November 1, 2009 and as late as September 30, 2010. You should request a starting date that best fits your project’s timetable.
What is the maximum award size for a PIRE project?
There is no maximum award in the FY09 PIRE competition. PIs are invited to request the budget they believe they need to implement their integrated research and education program.
Why did NSF remove the budget cap on PIRE proposals?
In previous PIRE competitions most proposals had budgets very close to the upper limit, suggesting that the budget cap may have constrained institutions and PIs in a variety of ways. Some PIs may have cut out aspects of their projects that would have been beneficial but could not be included because of the budget limitation. For projects that required less than the budget cap, PIs may have faced a perceived incentive to include additional elements to bring the budget up to the limit. The intent of removing the budget cap is to encourage submission of proposals of diverse scale and scope, with a wider range of budgets, both large and small, that are more closely tailored to the needs of the proposed partnership project.
Can PIRE funds be used to support the salary or travel-related expenses of foreign participants?
NSF funds are intended to support the U.S. side of a research and education collaboration; the international collaborators should seek funding for their participation in the project from their own funding sources. NSF’s expectation is that the opportunity to participate in a high-profile, large-scale, multi-year cutting-edge science or engineering research project will provide strong inducement to foreign counterparts, and their funding agencies, to participate in the project without NSF support of their participation. For projects involving exchanges of researchers and/or students, please see the next question. In PIRE projects where collaborators are scientists and engineers from a developing country or from a country whose currency is not convertible, limited funds may be requested to support their participation in the project; proposers should consult with the OISE program officer(s) responsible for the country(ies) in question (listed at http://www.nsf.gov/od/oise/country-list.jsp) before submitting a detailed full-proposal budget.
Can I pay some costs for my foreign partner’s researchers or students in the U.S. if they do the same for my research team members when they are overseas?
For projects involving exchanges of researchers and/or students, reciprocal arrangements for provision of housing and subsistence are allowed and are encouraged, with adherence to the overall principle that each side supports equivalent costs.
Can PIRE funding support students at U.S. institutions who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents?
In exceptional cases, PIREfunding can support students enrolled in degree programs at U.S. institutions who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents, but highest priority should be given to students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Does the program allow funding for travel and subsistence expenses for students and post-docs?
Yes. In fact, the solicitation states that “It is the expectation that a significant portion of a PIRE award’s direct costs will fund undergraduate students, graduate students, and/or early career researchers who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents to conduct collaborative research-related activities at foreign sites.” For more details, please consult the program solicitation section on Budget and Allowable Costs for full proposals.
My institution participates in a large Study Abroad program in the country where my PIRE will be working. Can I include the cost of Study Abroad programs for undergraduate students in my budget?
Inclusion of such Study Abroad costs would only be considered if the proposal demonstrates that the activity provides an essential and integral part of the students’ international research experience.
I believe it is essential that my PIRE students have at least a basic understanding of the language of the country in which they will be conducting research. Can I use PIRE funds to support language training for my students in the U.S. and/or while they are abroad?
Inclusion of language training costs would be considered if the proposal demonstrates that the language training activity would be an essential and integral part of the students’ international research experience.
How much funding can be used for salary support of the PI, co-PI, or other senior project personnel?
The solicitation allows salary support for the PI for up to a maximum of two months per year. For co-PIs or other Senior Personnel salary support (including as consultants and in subawards), the maximum level per individual is one month per year.
Is there a limit to how much travel can be included in the budget?
No. PIs are encouraged to request the level of travel that is necessary to achieve optimal results in the integrated research and education program. The expectation is that undergraduate and graduate students and early career researchers will have extensive opportunities for significant participation in overseas research experiences under the proposed project.
Can the PIRE grant support sabbatical leave for a PI or co-PI?
PIRE is not intended as a sabbatical support program. PIRE salary support for the PI is limited to two months per year and salary for co-PI(s) and Senior Personnel (including as consultants and in subawards) is limited to one month per year.
Must we request the same level of budget for each year?
No. You are encouraged to request the budget that makes sense for your project. Expanding the program in stages may make sense in many cases.
Can we use some of the budget to support project coordination? Must a project coordinator be a Co-PI?
For some of the current PIRE projects, strong coordination has been a key contributor to early success. So yes, part of the PIRE budget may be used to support project coordination, (e.g., part-time salary for a coordinator, coordination meetings, support for an outside advisory committee) on a scale commensurate with the complexity of the partnership. The project coordinator does not have to be a Co-PI. If the project coordinator is a PI, Co-PI, or other Senior Personnel, the amount of salary that they can receive from the PIRE award is limited to two months per year for the PI and one month per year for Co-PI and other Senior Personnel.
I am concerned that in the review NSF might be biased against projects that partner with distant or expensive countries, and also against projects that require more equipment or supplies? How will such differences be handled?
NSF will work to ensure that the review process does not introduce a bias due to different costs for travel to and/or subsistence in different countries, nor due to differential costs of conducting research in different disciplines. Regarding equipment costs, the “Budget and Allowable Costs” section for full proposals notes that “PIRE is not intended to support the purchase, operation or maintenance of moderate to large equipment. Only limited equipment costs can be included.”
I am not sure whether my international collaboration is ready for PIRE or whether my project will be chosen by my university for submission. If I don’t submit a preliminary proposal, can I participate in the PIRE program as a panelist or reviewer?
Yes, the PIRE program welcomes offers to volunteer as a panelist or reviewer. Please send an e-mail to
PIREfirstname.lastname@example.org indicating your interest, disciplinary expertise, and international experience, and attach a 2-page Curriculum Vitae. Please also e-mail the names and qualifications of others you would recommend as PIRE reviewers.
When should my foreign collaborator seek funding on his/her side?
PIs are encouraged to be in contact with their foreign counterparts as they develop their preliminary proposals. However, because so few PIRE awards will be made relative to the number of preliminary proposals and because the PIRE awards will not be made until November 2009 at the earliest, it is advisable that your foreign collaborators wait at least until a full proposal is invited before they seek parallel funding. At that time PIs may want to discuss possible mechanisms for foreign collaborators to seek support in their own countries with the relevant country program officers in OISE, listed at (http://www.nsf.gov/od/oise/country-list.jsp).
How will research and education programs across NSF be involved in PIRE?
Research and education programs across NSF are participating fully in PIRE planning and review. Review panels will be jointly moderated by program officers from OISE and from the other directorates/offices. Co-funding of awards will also be sought from relevant NSF programs.
When should I seek approval from my university for research involving human or vertebrate subjects?
In general, this process should be initiated after receiving the invitation to submit a full proposal. However, you should check with your university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) for human subject research or your university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) for animal subject research as to their internal requirements. Note that no National Science Foundation funds can be released for an award until all research protocol approvals have been granted by your university.
I have never used FastLane before. How do I get started?
If you are a new user to FastLane, you should first consult with the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) at your institution well in advance of the proposal deadline dates to obtain the support you will need during the submission process. The NSF home page contains more details about using FastLane as well as a FastLane demonstration site.
I have never used Grants.gov before. How do I get started?
If you are a new user to Grants.gov, you should first consult with the AOR at your institution well in advance of the proposal deadline dates to obtain the support you will need during the submission process. The Grants.gov website contains more details about registering with and using Grants.gov.
NSF Home Page: http://www.nsf.gov
NSF’s Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide:
Grants.gov Website: http://www.grants.gov
NSF Grants.gov Application Guide: http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/docs/grantsgovguide.pdf
Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE): http://www.nsf.gov/div/index.jsp?div=OISE
PIRE homepage: http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=12819
OISE Staff by Country: http://www.nsf.gov/od/oise/country-list.jsp