Focused Research Groups in the Mathematical Sciences (FRGMS)

Grants to USA Nonprofits, For-Profits, IHEs, Agencies,
Individuals for Collaborative Mathematical Sciences Research

GrantWatch ID#: 175936
Agency Type:


National Science Foundation (NSF) - Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS)

09/13/17 5:00 PM (submitter's local time)

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Grants to USA nonprofits, for-profits, IHEs, government agencies, and individuals for collaborative research projects to solve major challenges within the discipline of mathematical sciences. Groups may include mathematicians and statisticians, as well as researchers representing other engineering or science disciplines.

Through the mechanism of the Focused Research Group activity, the Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) aims to foster collaborative research projects that:

-Address major research challenges of recognized importance to the mathematical sciences, are likely to produce substantial progress on these problems, and require the group’s coordinated efforts to achieve that progress.

-Risky projects, in which the likelihood of success is not certain, are welcomed. Interdisciplinary projects are welcomed. For all Focused Research Group projects, substantial progress on the problems should have widely felt consequences for mathematics or statistics.

-Each Focused Research Group proposal should provide a focused plan for making significant progress on a research challenge of recognized importance to the mathematical sciences, should describe the novel, innovative, and creative aspects of the planned research, and should explain why the success of the proposed research project depends in a crucial way upon a group effort by the collaborators.

Program Description:

The purpose of the Focused Research Group activity is to support synergistic research collaborations that respond to recognized scientific needs of pressing importance or that take advantage of current scientific opportunities; in each case, progress must depend on developing significant new advances in mathematics or statistics. Groups may include, in addition to mathematicians and statisticians, researchers from other scientific and engineering disciplines appropriate to the proposed research. Projects supported under this activity should be essentially collaborative in nature and depend for their advancement on the coordinated interaction of a group of researchers.

Each project should be focused on a significant and well-delineated major research challenge. A major challenge is an outstanding problem of significant importance whose solution will have wide impacts in the mathematical sciences and potentially in other areas; it is more than a collection of questions. It is not the intent of this activity to provide general support for group infrastructure. Projects should be timely, limited in duration to up to three years, and substantial in both their scope and likely impact. DMS anticipates that those funded Focused Research Group projects showing substantial progress in their first two years, consistent with the criteria for creativity extensions, could be recommended for a creativity extension for up to two additional years to foster breakthrough advances and innovations. However, Focused Research Group projects are intended to be time-limited. Therefore, no Focused Research Group project will be supported for more than five years. Proposed continuations of previously funded Focused Research Group projects may be appropriate for other competitions but are unlikely to be suitable for the FRGMS activity. Proposals to this program solicitation for work based on topics or approaches for which group members previously received Focused Research Group support will be returned without review. Questions about the suitability of a project for the FRGMS competition may be sent to a program officer for one of the relevant DMS programs.

Here is a list, by no means exhaustive, of indicators suggesting that a Focused Research Group approach might be appropriate. In each case, anticipated advances in other disciplines must be accompanied by significant anticipated advances and innovations in mathematics or statistics.

-Accumulated scientific results point to the possibility of a major, innovative breakthrough.

-A major recent breakthrough has created new possibilities for significant progress.

-New, interdisciplinary collaboration has revealed means to achieve accelerated progress through such cooperation, with corresponding advances and impacts in the mathematical sciences.

The aim of the activity is to support projects for which the collective effort by a group of researchers is necessary to reach the scientific goals in a timely manner. The advantages of pooled insights, complementary expertise, diverse points of view, and shared tasks make a successful research group more than the sum of its parts. Thus, Focused Research Group proposals must explain how interaction and group effort are critical to the success of the project. See the Additional Solicitation Specific Review Criteria.

The research group must include at least three senior personnel or other professionals. The group members may, but need not, come from more than one institution or discipline. Awards made under the Focused Research Group activity are intended to foster a crucial and unusual synergy between the group members that cannot be achieved with individual or ordinary collaborative grants. Focused Research Group researchers are expected to collaborate closely and intensely on the well-delineated, focused topic of the project. At the same time, the impact and promise of supported projects should be broad, significant, and long-term. Focused Research Group proposals are likely to be read by non-specialists at some stage of the review process. It is therefore particularly important that they be written to emphasize the impact of the projects in a broad mathematical context.

Examples of possible outcomes for Focused Research Group projects include the following:

-Through development of mathematical/statistical innovations, substantial progress is made toward the solution of a set of major open questions.

-New research directions that have become possible due to recent advances are explored, and significant progress is achieved.

-As a direct result of the group effort, an important focused research agenda in mathematics or statistics as well as in science or engineering is advanced significantly.

Additional outcomes, such as training of students and postdoctoral researchers, are beneficial but secondary to the research outcomes of these projects. Focused Research Group projects should take advantage of opportunities and resources at or near the institutions at which the research will be performed. Research groups are required to disseminate the results of their work in a timely and effective fashion.


DMS expects to fund approximately five to ten awards annually.

Proposals may be submitted for any funding amount from $150,000 up to $500,000 per year for up to three years.

Proposals may be submitted for funding up to three years.

The anticipated date of awards is April of each year.

In cases of exceptional progress shown in the first two years and high likelihood of further developments, DMS expects to recommend creativity extensions for up to two additional years.

The categories of proposers eligible to submit proposals to the National Science Foundation are identified in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG), Chapter I.E., which may be found here:

NSF welcomes proposals on behalf of all qualified scientists, engineers and educators. The Foundation strongly encourages women, minorities and persons with disabilities to participate fully in its programs. In accordance with Federal statutes, regulations and NSF policies, no person on grounds of race, color, age, sex, national origin or disability shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under, any program or activity receiving financial assistance from NSF, although some programs may have special requirements that limit eligibility.

Scientists, engineers and educators usually initiate proposals that are officially submitted by their employing organization. Before formal submission, the proposal may be discussed with appropriate NSF program staff. Graduate students are not encouraged to submit research proposals, but should arrange to serve as research assistants to faculty members. Some NSF divisions accept proposals for Doctoral Dissertation Research Grants when submitted by a faculty member on behalf of the graduate student.

Categories of Proposers

Except where a program solicitation establishes more restrictive eligibility criteria, individuals and organizations in the following categories may submit proposals:

1. 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. Academic institutions located outside the US fall under paragraph 6. below.

2. Nonprofit, Non-academic Organizations - Independent museums, observatories, research laboratories, professional societies and similar organizations located in the US that are directly associated with educational or research activities.

3. For-profit Organizations - US commercial organizations, especially small businesses with strong capabilities in scientific or engineering research or education. An unsolicited proposal from a commercial organization may be funded when the project is of special concern from a national point of view, special resources are available for the work, or the proposed project is especially meritorious. NSF is interested in supporting projects that couple industrial research resources and perspectives with those of universities; therefore, it especially welcomes proposals for cooperative projects involving both universities and the private commercial sector.

4. State and Local Governments - State educational offices or organizations and local school districts may submit proposals intended to broaden the impact, accelerate the pace, and increase the effectiveness of improvements in science, mathematics and engineering education in both K-12 and post-secondary levels.

5. Unaffiliated Individuals - Unaffiliated individuals in the US and US citizens rarely receive direct funding support from NSF. Recipients of Federal funds must be able to demonstrate their ability to fully comply with the requirements specified in 2 CFR § 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. As such, unaffiliated individuals are strongly encouraged to affiliate with an organization that is able to meet the requirements specified in 2 CFR § 200.

Unaffiliated individuals must contact the cognizant Program Officer prior to preparing and submitting a proposal to NSF.

6. Foreign organizations - NSF rarely provides support to foreign organizations. NSF will consider proposals for cooperative projects involving US and foreign organizations, provided support is requested only for the US portion of the collaborative effort.

7. Other Federal Agencies - NSF does not normally support research or education activities by scientists, engineers or educators employed by Federal agencies or FFRDCs. Under unusual circumstances, other Federal agencies and FFRDCs may submit proposals directly to NSF. A proposed project is only eligible for support if it meets one or more of the following exceptions, as determined by a cognizant NSF Program Officer:

-Special Projects. Under exceptional circumstances, research or education projects at other Federal agencies or FFRDCs that can make unique contributions to the needs of researchers elsewhere or to other specific NSF objectives may receive NSF support.

-National and International Programs. The Foundation may fund research and logistical support activities of other Government agencies or FFRDCs directed at meeting the goals of special national and international research programs for which the Foundation bears special responsibility, such as the US Antarctic Research Program.

-International Travel Awards. In order to ensure appropriate representation or availability of a particular expertise at an international conference, staff researchers of other Federal agencies may receive NSF international travel awards.

Proposers who think their project may meet one of the exceptions listed above must contact a cognizant NSF Program Officer before preparing a proposal for submission. In addition, a scientist, engineer or educator who has a joint appointment with a university and a Federal agency (such as a Veterans Administration Hospital, or with a university and a FFRDC) may submit proposals through the university and may receive support if he/she is a faculty member (or equivalent) of the university, although part of his/her salary may be provided by the Federal agency. Preliminary inquiry must be made to the appropriate program before preparing a proposal for submission.

The full proposal deadline is September 13, 2017 (due by 5:00 PM submitter's local time). Proposals will be due the second Wednesday in September, annually thereafter.

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

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

Tomek Bartoszynski
(703) 292-4885

Kevin Clancey
(703) 292-4870

Pedro F. Embid
(703) 292-4859

Thomas A. Ivey
(703) 292-2858

Leland M. Jameson
(703) 292-4883

Anatoly Libgober
(703) 292-4777

Gabor Szekely
(703) 292-8869

Jacques Verstraete
(703) 292-2189


NSF 16-577

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