GeoPRISMS Program

Grants to USA IHEs, Nonprofits, and Agencies for
Geological Sciences Research and Activities

GrantWatch ID#: 158577
Agency Type:


National Science Foundation (NSF) and Divisions of Earth and Ocean Sciences


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Grants to USA colleges, universities, non-academic nonprofits, and federal agencies for research activities to enhance the understanding of complex geological processes affecting the evolution of continental margins. Activities may address the chemical, biological, fluid, and mechanical processes acting in concert to drive the initiation, evolution and eventual destruction of continental margins, as well as the accumulation of resources in these regions.

GeoPRISMS expands the dimensions of the preceding MARGINS program in several fundamental ways: (1) integration of scientific emphases to define two main initiatives (SCD and RIE), (2) explicit inclusion of surface processes and their feedbacks in the evolution of continental margins, (3) consideration of ancient and exhumed margins to understand parts of the system that are not accessible at active margins, (4) implementation of science objectives through a combination of primary sites and thematic based investigations, (5) further integration through overarching scientific themes that cross-cut tectonic categories, (6) expanded emphasis on issues with direct societal impact, and (7) a vertically-integrated education and outreach program supporting development from K-12 to early career scientists.

GeoPRISMS emphasizes multidisciplinary research and studies that cross the shoreline, recognizing that the shoreline is where much of continental evolution takes place, and is also where the dynamics of the solid Earth have the largest impact on human populations.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) invites proposals directed towards the program elements listed below in the special-focus section. NSF funding will be provided by the Divisions of Earth and Ocean Sciences.

Proposals submitted to the GeoPRISMS Program should include a statement in the Project Description addressing the relevance of the proposed study to the overall goals of the program and the connections of the research to initiative primary sites and/or thematic studies. Proposals will be reviewed in accordance with established NSF procedures and the criteria described in the PAPPG and the additional solicitation specific review criteria. Competition for GeoPRISMS funding will take place once a year and proposals will be evaluated by a joint Earth and Ocean Sciences panel. The proposal deadline for each year is for funding in the following fiscal year. Proposals can be submitted to either of the two programs named below, depending on their degree of relevance to marine or onshore work. Questions regarding proposal preparation and deadlines should be directed to the program officers listed in this solicitation for the following programs. Proposals for some of the overarching science topics can also be submitted, with prior program-officer concurrence, to other programs in these two Divisions.

Scientific Objectives of the GeoPRISMS Program:

The GeoPRISMS science objectives were established by the broader geosciences community through a series of community workshops with the aim that GeoPRISMS carry out interdisciplinary investigations of the coupled geodynamics, earth surface processes and climate interactions that build and modify continental margins over a wide range of time scales. These interactions cross the shoreline and have applications to margin evolution and dynamics, construction of stratigraphic architecture, accumulation of economic resources, and associated geologic hazards and environmental management. GeoPRISMS investigations should be aimed towards a comprehensive understanding of the observable system properties, and can include theoretical, numerical and experimental studies, as well as field investigations. GeoPRISMS objectives must be achievable with existing technological capabilities or reasonable increments beyond present capabilities, but should be open to a range of integrative and interdisciplinary community experiments. Finally, broader impacts such as societal relevance, contribution within the discipline, and education and outreach are important elements of the GeoPRISMS Program.

The GeoPRISMS Initiatives:

Subduction Cycles and Deformation (SCD):

The SCD initiative takes a holistic approach to the deformation processes and material cycles governed by subduction. It integrates and expands the former SEIZE and SubFac initiatives of the MARGINS Program, building on a growing recognition that the two systems are tightly linked and responding to many of the same forcing functions, although manifest in different ways. The SCD Initiative focuses on the coupled processes responsible for both long-term margin evolution and material transfer and short-term plate boundary deformation and volcanism. For example, SCD studies can examine the properties, mechanisms, and manifestations of strain build-up and release along the plate boundary, the transport and release of volatiles such as H2O and CO2 through the thrust zone and sub-arc mantle, and the ways in which these processes affect the long-term growth and evolution of continents. In so doing, SCD will provide fundamental scientific understanding of the processes that generate some of the largest natural hazards on the planet, including great earthquakes, tsunamis, and explosive volcanic eruptions.

The primary sites identified by the GeoPRISMS research community for this initiative include: the Aleutians, Cascadia and New Zealand margins.

Rift Initiation and Evolution (RIE):

The RIE initiative provides a new and broad perspective on the processes by which continents break apart. It expands the former RCL (Rupturing Continental Lithosphere) initiative of the MARGINS Program to include all stages of continental breakup, with increased emphasis on the interaction between surface processes, sedimentation, and continental evolution. It includes early-stage rifts, but also the study of passive margins, which archive the entire history of rift zone construction and evolution. This approach provides direct relevance to understanding both mineral and hydrocarbon resources. The RIE initiative seeks to determine the parameters and physical properties that control the processes of continental evolution, with particular emphasis on the initiation of continental rift zones, feedbacks between tectonics, magmatism and surficial processes, and the resulting stratigraphic and tectonic architecture of rifted margins.

The primary sites identified by the GeoPRISMS research community for this initiative are the Eastern North American Margin (ENAM) and East African Rift System (EARS).

Overarching Themes:

In addition to the two initiatives listed above, a suite of five overarching themes has been identified by the science community that will serve as the basis for integrative studies and provide a framework for cross-initiative programs: (1) Origin and Evolution of Continental Crust; (2) Fluids, Magmas and Their Interactions; (3) Climate-Surface-Tectonic Feedbacks; (4) Geochemical Cycles; and (5) Plate Boundary Deformation and Geodynamics.

Completion of the Phased Funding Model and New Opportunities:

The geosciences community has made substantial effort to produce both a Science Plan and an Implementation Plan for the two initiatives of the GeoPRISMS Program. The former represents a broad outline of science priorities and future directions. The latter includes more detail on studies, including possible community experiments at each of the primary sites for the two initiatives (i.e., the operations plans). Early in the GeoPRISMS program, NSF implemented a phased funding model for large-scale field projects in an effort to target the limited available resources in a practical and cost-effective manner. The full cycle of this phased model has now completed, and the program will now accept proposals for work at any primary site and/or that is relevant to any of the themes. However, proposals for field projects should be targeted towards gaps in existing data. A justification for the work and the gap it might fill should be made clear, and that justification could derive from either in the Science or Implementation plans, or as reported in the results of the 2015 GeoPRISMS mid-term review, available at Large field projects that involve ship time, significant resources, or where the fieldwork is a significant fraction of the budget (>15%) must be discussed with a Program Director before submission. Given that large field projects require significant out-year commitments of funds, and the program is moving towards the last few years of its decadal lifespan, it is likely that this is the last Target Date to which we will accept proposals of this scale.

Smaller scale integration projects for any of the primary sites are strongly encouraged, particularly those that bring together multiple disciplines. The program also encourages projects that involve amphibious work - work that is done both onshore and offshore - which could involve either the synthesis of previously results or data, new laboratory or experimental work, new or evolving models, or field work.

NSF continues to consider proposals that address thematic topics that are not site-specific.

Postdoctoral Program:

GeoPRISMS Postdoctoral program is aimed at providing opportunities for early-career scientists to solidify research skills, build a track record, establish peer relationships, and acquire professional self-confidence. NSF's GeoPRISMS Program provides support for postdoctoral researchers to conduct up to two years of multi-disciplinary research at higher education institutions in the United States. The intention is to encourage individuals, typically within five years after award of their Ph.D., to diversify their expertise relative to that used in their thesis research.

The GeoPRISMS Postdoctoral Fellowship is designed so that recipients can choose the research environment most beneficial for their scientific development and that of the GeoPRISMS Program. To this end, applicants are encouraged to establish a relationship with a proposed advisor (mentor) well in advance of proposal submission.

Although awards must be held at U.S. institutions, there is no citizenship requirement and nationals of countries involved in the NSF-GeoPRISMS Program are encouraged to apply. It is expected that candidates will write their own materials for submission, except where otherwise required. There is no fixed dollar amount for a postdoctoral proposal; rather, the budget should be for the candidate's direct work only and should be appropriate to the postdoctoral research project, including salary commensurate with the experience of the candidate, institutional standards and local cost of living.

NSF enables career-life balance through a variety of mechanisms. Support to address dependent care issues may be available for awardees.

GeoPRISMS Postdoctoral Fellowship proposals are subject to the same submission and review criteria as other proposals for GeoPRISMS funding. Submissions should state that the proposal is for a GeoPRISMS Postdoctoral Fellowship and must be submitted by the institution to which an award would be made. In addition to the standard NSF proposal requirements, applicants should also include, in a Supplementary Document: a short abstract of your dissertation research and planned publications (not to exceed one single-spaced page); any fellowships, scholarships, teaching, and other positions relevant to your field held since entering college/university; any academic honors you have received relevant to your major field of study; and a statement of your long-term career goals and (particularly for international fellowship candidates) the ways the GeoPRISMS Fellowship will lead to development of long-term collaborative activities in GeoPRISMS science.

The proposal should also be supported by four (4) letters of reference which must be uploaded by the applicant directly as Supplementary Documents. It is anticipated that one of your referees will be your Ph.D. thesis adviser, and another the sponsoring/collaborating scientist at the proposed host institution. The latter reference should state that your proposed mentor and institution are willing to host you and can accept the GeoPRISMS Fellowship award. Other referees should be faculty members or researchers with current knowledge of your academic and/or professional experience.

Conferences, Theoretical Institute and Rapid Response Proposals:

The GeoPRISMS Program will also continue to support science synthesis and planning conferences and Theoretical and Experimental Institutes, to facilitate integration within and between the initiatives. In addition, proposals that require rapid response to events that create opportunities (RAPID - see PAPPG for a description and guidance) for the study of extant processes at GeoPRISMS primary sites and are compatible with GeoPRISMS science plans will also be accepted. PIs must contact a program director prior to submission of a RAPID proposal.


The program expects to make approximately 10 standard or continuing awards.

Under this solicitation, the program expects to make standard or continuing awards for up to four years.

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

-Universities and Colleges - Universities and two- and four-year colleges (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in, the US acting on behalf of their faculty members. Such organizations also are referred to as academic institutions.

-Nonprofit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.

-Other Federal Agencies and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs): Contact the appropriate program before preparing a proposal for submission.

Proposals for postdoctoral fellowships must be submitted by a US academic institution. For all other proposals, the categories of proposers identified in the Grant Proposal Guide are eligible to submit proposals under this program solicitation.

Proposers may opt to submit proposals in response to this Program Solicitation via or via the NSF FastLane system.

The full proposal deadline is July 27, 2017.

NSF Grant Proposal Guide:

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Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

General inquiries regarding this program should be made to:

Maurice Tivey, Program Director
OCE: Marine Geology & Geophysics
(703) 292-7710

Jennifer Wade, Program Director
EAR: Petrology & Geochemistry
(703) 292-4739

For questions related to the use of FastLane, contact:

FastLane Help Desk:

For questions relating to contact: Contact Center:


NSF 17-549

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