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International Research Experiences for Students (IRES)

Grants to USA Nonprofits and IHEs to Engage
Students in Science and Engineering Research

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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National Science Foundation (NSF)

Deadline Date:

09/11/18 - for Track I: IRES Sites; 09/18/18 - for Track II: Advanced Studies Institutes


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Grants to USA nonprofit organizations, colleges, and universities for international research activities carried out by US-based science and engineering students. This program promotes the development of a globally-engaged, diverse workforce with world-class skillsets. Emphasis is placed on active research participation by undergraduate or graduate students in high quality international research, education and professional development experiences in NSF-funded research areas.


IRES projects in all tracks may involve collaboration within an already-established partnership between a U.S.-based research group and a foreign research group (e.g., an existing lab-to-lab arrangement, U.S. and foreign professional societies, etc.). Alternatively, IRES projects may propose to initiate new international collaborations, interactions, or create new international research teams/networks.

Although two-way exchanges of U.S. and foreign students are strongly encouraged, the IRES program typically provides support for U.S. students. The IRES program does not provide salary support for the foreign research mentors, although it supports research and related expenses for the U.S. team while in an international location.

PIs are responsible for arranging required visas and other travel documents for foreign travel. PIs are responsible for obtaining research permits and import/export documents, where necessary.

In all cases, the IRES students/participants will be recruited and trained by the U.S. PI(s). Students/participants will travel to the foreign site to conduct research, participate in training and professional development activities or other tasks (as appropriate for the specific track of the project) under the direct supervision of the foreign research mentor(s) (Track I), or joint mentorship of US and international lecturers/researchers/scholars (Tracks II and III).

The duration of IRES awards may vary by the scope of proposed activity. It is expected that Track I awards will last three years; Track II awards - two-four years; and Track III awards - three-four years. All proposals should include a robust evaluation plan to assess learning and skill development of the participants and to inform future plans and activities. This plan should include the names of students involved in the project along with the project(s) in which they participate.

Awardees will be required to participate in program-level evaluation by NSF. NSF, an NSF contractor, or a grantee on behalf of NSF, may periodically conduct program evaluations or special projects that necessitate access to project level staff and data. This activity may occur at any time during the grant period and could occur after the grant has ended. Project-level participation includes responding to inquiries, interviews and other methods of common data collection and/or aggregation across individual grants.

Track - I: IRES Sites (IS)

IRES Site proposals must have a unifying research theme that enables a cohort experience for participating undergraduate and/or graduate students to collaborate with international partners. The cohort concept requires that within an IRES project, each participating student must have an individual research project for which he/she is responsible. Individual student projects must be coordinated to address the unifying research theme. To provide the best cohort experience and to simplify logistical burdens, it is suggested that all students supported by a given IRES project travel to the foreign location(s) at the same time. However well-justified alternative approaches will be considered. If students are to be hosted at more than one location, it is expected that their projects will address a common scientific theme across locations. The proposal should include a plan for all participants to be reunited at one foreign location at least once during the overseas trip.

IRES Sites support projects of three year duration. Projects should support separate student cohorts each year. IRES Sites projects should give as many students as feasible, within budgetary and project constraints, the opportunity for a meaningful research experience abroad. Projects which include fewer than four U.S. students per year, or whose annual duration of research conducted abroad is less than four weeks, should be justified by exceptional conditions or circumstances. Longer duration projects, and/or those involving more students, are generally preferable to shorter duration projects with fewer students.

Significant research mentorship must be provided by foreign mentors. The U.S. PI is responsible for recruiting and preparing U.S. student participants, ensuring the quality of the research experience, and the appropriateness of the foreign research mentorship. It may be necessary for U.S. PIs to spend a short period of time with the U.S. students to help with the transition to the foreign site and mentors. U.S. PIs are not required to remain on-site with the U.S. students throughout the period abroad, but are encouraged to use remote means to co-mentor.

Recruitment of the U.S. student participants may occur locally, or may involve wider regional or national recruitment plans. In all cases, the proposal must clearly describe the plan for recruiting candidates, including how the project will broaden participation from underrepresented groups. The plan should also address the process for selecting and preparing the students who will participate. IRES support must be given to students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The intent of the program is to broaden the international experience of U.S. students. Preparation of the students to enable maximum benefit during the period spent abroad is particularly important, and should be both scientific and location-specific, including practical and cultural information. The IRES program does not support coursework or development of instructional materials for teaching.

Proposals should describe the research focus of the proposed activity; the intellectual collaboration with and mutual benefit for the foreign team; the plan for enhancement of student training and professional development; details of the mentoring plan; recruitment and broadening participation plans; selection process; the pre-departure preparation of students; arrangements for housing, health insurance, and other logistics; plans for leveraging U.S. and foreign resources to strengthen the project; the plan to assess the impact of the IRES project; and strategies for disseminating project results.

Research Experiences for Teachers (RET):

NSF encourages research experiences for K-12 teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and the coordination of these experiences with IRES projects. Teachers may be included in IRES Site projects. Applicants who wish to include an RET in an IRES proposal should contact the cognizant IRES program officer for guidance.

Track - II: Advanced Studies Institutes (ASI)

Track II invites proposals for a single advanced studies institute or for a series of ASIs over several years. ASI themes/topics must address a meaningful spectrum within a broad area or subfield of a chosen discipline, or a suitably defined multi-disciplinary theme. PIs proposing a series of ASIs should enumerate the entire set of topics they wish to address during the life of the grant. Proposals with bold vision are encouraged.

Advanced Studies Institutes focus on advanced graduate students. Faculty and research scientists serve as lecturers and mentors. PIs are encouraged to include students from the host country or from other countries. Foreign students are expected to obtain their own source of support and should not exceed 50% of the total number of student participants. PIs are encouraged to explore ways of leveraging support from relevant institutions in the host country. ASI projects will typically be 2-3 years in duration, although up to 4 years will be considered if strongly motivated and justified. All ASI proposals must include a syllabus, a rationale for the choice of topics, and a justification for the geographic location (or set of locations throughout the project duration). ASI proposals will be accepted in all NSF-supported fields, including interdisciplinary or convergent topics.

The PI is responsible for:
-Preparation of the scientific and/or engineering program,
-Selection of lecturers/researchers and student participants with an emphasis on broadening participation,
-Administration of the ASI
-Publication of lectures and proceedings from the activity through various media, and dissemination including the development of a website for the ASI.

The PI should be assisted by an Organizing Committee. Brief professional background summaries and descriptions of the role to be played by each member of the Organizing Committee are required for the proposal. Proposals that are of an applied nature, and especially where relevance to industry is claimed, should include a noted industrial scientist or engineer on the Organizing Committee.

The choice of ASI lecturers and graduate student participants is the responsibility of the PI assisted by the Organizing Committee. The procedure for such choices must be clearly outlined in the proposal. The selection procedures should serve to recruit a highly qualified and diverse group of lecturers and participants.

ASI lecturers should be chosen on the basis of their scientific, engineering, and training qualifications. Lecturers should be contacted before submission of the proposal. An indication of their commitment (Letters of Support) must be included in the proposal.

Proposers must develop a publicly available web page of sufficient duration to provide up-to-date information on the ASI. The website should include details on the activity including recruitment procedures, meeting topics, related activities, lecture notes, and links to publications, seminars, and collaborative research. Plans for dissemination of results of the meeting, including lecture notes and web- related instructional materials, must be part of the proposal.

Track - III: New Concepts in International Graduate Experience

This IRES track seeks novel, high-impact, large-scale approaches and innovative models for providing international research and/or research-related professional development experiences to U.S. graduate students in NSF-supported disciplines, multidisciplinary fields and convergent topics.

To fully participate and engage in today’s global science and engineering enterprise, U.S. graduate students need international exposure and experience to develop skills and build professional networks in international collaborative environments.

The IGE track invites proposals for innovative approaches to incorporate international research and research-related experience into the professional development of graduate students. Proposals are invited from professional societies and similar associations in the U.S. that are directly associated with educational or research activities in NSF supported disciplines. Universities and colleges may participate in an IGE proposal as partners of professional societies or associations.

Proposals that provide graduate students with new, transferable skills that transcend their disciplinary training, and build their professional networks, are encouraged. Graduate students recruited from a broad, diverse, multi-university or nationwide applicant pool should travel to non-US locations for periods of several weeks to a full semester for immersive experiences in research, education and/or professional development under the mentorship of appropriate partners and collaborators in the U.S. and foreign locations. The proposed approaches and implementation mechanisms of graduate student international professional development should be evidence-based. They may focus on research and research-related activities in any NSF-funded area. The proposed activities may target individual graduate student international experiences or opportunities for graduate students as a group. Proposals that utilize (and potentially expand) existing global networks and infrastructure are encouraged.

Each Track III proposal will provide an international research-related professional development experience to a significant number of graduate students. Proposals should present the proposed concept and implementation mechanism, including rationale and expected professional development impact on target graduate students; description of proposed international activities, along with plan for recruitment, selection, preparation, mentoring and evaluation; and description of the administrative and management structure for the program. The main features of the program are:

-The student experiences may include any of a wide variety of international collaborative activities, but must go beyond solely data collection, fieldwork or conference attendance to include active engagement with researchers at the international location.
-The duration of the international component of each international experience is flexible, e.g., from several weeks to a full academic term.
-The proposed activities may involve one or more locations, as appropriate to the proposed approach.
-Each year a new set of graduate students should be supported, with special attention given to broadening participation of underrepresented minorities and those without prior international research experience.
-Proposals must include letters of support from key international collaborators outlining commitment to the project and mutual benefits of the proposed graduate student activity(ies).

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 174400

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:

Approximately 20-25 awards will be made in Track 1; approximately 10-12 awards will be made in Track 2; and approximately 3-5 awards will be made in Track 3.

Estimated Size of Grant:

Track - I: IRES Sites. Up to $300,000 per award. For exceptionally creative proposals, awards up to $400,000 will be considered.

Track - II: Advanced Studies Institutes. As appropriate. Typically, an average ASI budget is $150,000 per award.

Track - III: New Concepts in International Graduate Experience. Up to $1,000,000 per award.

Term of Contract:

Typical Activity Duration/Award Duration

-I: IRES Sites: 6-8 wks per year; Award for 3 yrs

-II: Advanced Studies Institutes: 1-3 wks; Award for 2-4 years

-III: New Concepts in International Graduate Experience: Varies with the proposed approach; Award for 3-4 years

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

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.

Additional Eligibility Info:

Track III only:
To be eligible to submit a Track III proposal, US nonprofit, non-academic organizations must be professional/scientific/engineering societies, associations and similar organizations that are directly associated with educational or research activities. Eligible nonprofit organizations may submit a proposal on their own or may serve as the lead or a non-lead partner on a collaborative proposal. US universities and colleges that grant graduate degrees in NSF-funded STEM fields may only submit in partnership with an eligible nonprofit, non-academic organization. In such cases, the US academic institution may serve as lead or non-lead partner, but the partnership must include an eligible nonprofit, non-academic organization. Other types of organizations eligible to submit proposals to NSF may participate as non-lead or subawardee partners on Track III proposals.

Pre-proposal Conference:

Please click on the link below to access the video of the IRES Q&A Webinar, which was held on November 30, 2017: .

Pre-Application Information:

Full Proposal Preparation Instructions: Proposers may opt to submit proposals in response to this Program Solicitation via or via the NSF FastLane system.

Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. submitter's local time):

January 30, 2018
-Track - I: IRES Sites

February 06, 2018
-Track-II: Advanced Studies Institutes

September 11, 2018 (Second Tuesday in September, Annually Thereafter)
-Track - I: IRES Sites

September 18, 2018 (Third Tuesday in September, Annually Thereafter)
-Track-II: Advanced Studies Institutes

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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.

Maija M. Kukla
(703) 292-4940

Fahmida N. Chowdhury
(703) 292-4672

CFDA Number:

47.041 --- Engineering / 47.049 --- Mathematical and Physical Sciences / 47.050 --- Geosciences / 47.070 --- Computer and Information Science and Engineering / 47.074 --- Biological Sciences / 47.075 --- Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences / 47.076 --- Education and Human Resources / 47.079 --- Office of International Science and Engineering / 47.083 --- Office of Integrative Activities (OIA)

Funding or Pin Number:

NSF 18-505

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming