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GeoPRISMS Program

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

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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

Deadline Date:

08/13/18 - Deadline for regular proposals; requests for conference proposals may be submitted at any time throughout the year


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Grants to USA IHEs, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, and federally-funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) for research activities to enhance the understanding of complex geological processes that affect 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 GeoPRISMS Program is jointly supported by the Divisions of Earth and Ocean Sciences of the Directorate for Geosciences.

Program Description:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) invites proposals directed towards the program initiatives and types of proposals listed below. 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.

Moving Toward Synthesis:

A major change, this fiscal year, is that large field projects that involve ship time, significant resources, or where the fieldwork is a significant fraction of the budget (>15%) are no longer accepted to this program.

Smaller-scale integration projects for any of the primary sites are strongly encouraged, particularly those that bring together multiple disciplines and datasets. The program also encourages projects that involve amphibious work - work that is done both onshore and offshore - which could involve either the synthesis of previous results or data, new laboratory or experimental work, or new or evolving models. Projects focused on thematic topics that are not site-specific are always welcome.

Conferences and Rapid Response Proposals (RAPIDs):

In order to encourage synthesis and integration of multidisciplinary datasets and models, NSF will welcome conference proposals throughout the year. Conference proposals should not exceed $50,000, and should involve hands-on work with data or data-derived products, with a goal of facilitating integration within and between the initiatives (see PAPPG Chapter II.E.7 for guidance).

In addition, proposals that require rapid response to events or other time-limited opportunities that may fill data gaps 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 conference or a RAPID proposal.

Scientific Objectives of the GeoPRISMS Program:

The GeoPRISMS science objectives were developed 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. In the sections that follow, this document summarizes the priority areas of study to be supported by the Divisions of Earth and Ocean Sciences through this program. 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 small-scale 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 for this initiative include: the Aleutian, Cascadian, 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 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, with input from the science community, 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.

Postdoctoral Scholar Program:

The GeoPRISMS Postdoctoral program is aimed at providing opportunities for early-career scientists to solidify research skills, build a track record, and establish peer relationships. NSF's GeoPRISMS Program provides support for postdoctoral researchers to conduct up to two years of multi-disciplinary research at institutions of higher education 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 Program 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.

It is expected that candidates will write their own proposals 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 proposals are subject to the same submission and review criteria as other proposals for GeoPRISMS funding. Submissions should state, in the Project Description, that the proposal is for a GeoPRISMS Postdoctoral Award 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 a description of the ways the GeoPRISMS Postdoctoral Scholar award will lead to development of long-term collaborative activities in GeoPRISMS science.

The proposal should also be supported by two (2) 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 Scholar award.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 158577

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:

Under this solicitation, the program expects to make approximately 10 standard or continuing awards.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) - Two and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.

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.

Who May Serve as PI:
-Only PIs employed by the types of organizations described above may apply.

Postdoctoral Scholar proposals must be submitted by a US institution of higher education. For all other proposals, the categories of proposers identified in the PAPPG are eligible to submit proposals under this program solicitation.

Additional Eligibility Info:

Postdoctoral Scholar proposals must be submitted by a US institution of higher education. For all other proposals, the categories of proposers identified in the PAPPG are eligible to submit proposals under this program solicitation.

Pre-Application Information:

Full Proposals must be submitted by the Target Date of August 13. However, conference proposals may be submitted at any time throughout the year. You must contact a Program Director prior to submission of a conference proposal.

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

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Contact Information:

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

Cognizant Program Officer(s):

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

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

CFDA Number:


Funding or Pin Number:

NSF 18-559

URL for Full Text (RFP):

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