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National Science Foundation

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Dear Colleague Letter


This International Research and Education in Engineering (IREE) Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) seeks to provide supplemental funding to current awardees to support international travel by early-career researchers in the United States to enable them to gain international research experience and perspective, and to enable closer research interaction between U.S. institutions and their foreign counterparts.

This DCL concerns opportunities for international research and education for early-career researchers, i.e., undergraduates and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early-career faculty members. The National Science Foundation (NSF), through the Divisions in the Directorate for Engineering (ENG) and the Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE), announces the International Research and Education in Engineering (IREE) initiative. NSF will entertain proposals for supplemental funding for existing awardees aimed at providing early-career researchers in engineering with international experience in research and education. IREE also seeks to enhance and broaden engineering research and education activities in current engineering awards by initiating closer linkages between awardees and their foreign counterparts. IREE will support medium-duration visits by U.S. early-career researchers to collaborating institutions/laboratories outside of the United States. The visits must be related to the objectives of ongoing work in current projects, augmented by evidence of engagement with the cultural activities in the countries visited.


Supplement Request Deadline Date and Time: Due by June 8, 2006, 5 p.m. submitter’s local time.


Eligible proposers are limited to current awardees of the Divisions in the Directorate for Engineering that include:

  • Engineering Education and Centers
  • Electrical and Communications Systems
  • Bioengineering and Environmental Systems
  • Chemical and Transport Systems
  • Civil and Mechanical Systems
  • Design and Manufacturing Innovation

To be eligible, the expiration dates, including no-cost extension, of current awards must fall on or after September 1, 2007. The maximum duration for IREE supplements is one (1) year.


Increasing economic globalization is making it essential that the education experience of engineering students include a global perspective and an appreciation of the societal implication of their work. Today, the conceptualization, design, and manufacture of devices and systems involve global market analyses and implementation through distributed work centers and worldwide supply chains. Often, engineers are assigned overseas and must deal with foreign manufacturing units and multinational design and marketing teams. In this new environment, it is important for engineering students to be proficient in the technical subjects, informed about international technological trends and business practice, and be familiar with foreign languages and cultures.

Data from the Institute of International Education and the Chronicle of Higher Education show that only about 1 percent of U.S. students in colleges and universities go abroad each year on international educational exchanges. Furthermore, among the students going abroad on international educational exchanges, engineering as a discipline ranks next to the lowest, surpassing only the field of agriculture. Industry, academic, and government experts generally agree that past hindrances to participation in international engineering education include the lack of proficiency in foreign languages and the perception by students that corporations do not value international experience among new hires. These obstacles, however, are fast disappearing as students become much more proficient in foreign languages, and businesses and governments are increasingly looking for new employees with international expertise. The principal obstacle today lies in the lack of support for integrating international experience into the mainstream engineering programs at academic institutions.

Each year, the various Divisions in the Directorate for Engineering at NSF make approximately 1,000 awards in research and education to institutions in the United States. Although there are numerous instances of faculty access to foreign laboratories in short-term informal visits, the non-inclusion of, and the absence of funding for, international activities in these awards is depriving faculty of the opportunity to expand the scope and increase innovation and productivity of their research programs. This lack of support contributes to a majority of engineering students graduating without acquiring a substantive international perspective.

An extended-stay visit to one or more foreign institutions/laboratories, including industrial laboratories, by early-career U.S. researchers such as students, and assistant and associate professors who are supported by current NSF-funded awards can potentially bring more direct benefit to the funded projects by fostering stronger project-based collaborative partnerships between the home and hosting laboratories, and enhance the education experience of the students. International cooperation that is based on this type of direct linkage will enhance innovations and productivity of the research and education efforts underway in each institution/laboratory. Such a win-win scenario is made possible by a new global reality fueled by increasing investments for research and education by many foreign governments. Cooperation also promotes faster progress and spurs development in new directions.


NSF will accept requests for supplements to existing awardees to support early-career researchers who have established meaningful and potentially productive contacts with their counterparts in other countries. Supplementary funding may be requested to support the incremental costs of foreign travel for U.S. early-career researchers – undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and tenure-track or tenured faculty members who are assistant or associate professors or their equivalent – who are working on current NSF awards. The participation of members of underrepresented groups is strongly encouraged.

NSF will provide allowances for travel expenses for the U.S. component of such collaborations. These allowances will include nominal and reasonable amounts for local research expenses at the host institutions/laboratories. The proposed foreign activities should fall within the general scope of the existing NSF-funded project for which supplemental funding is requested. Incremental participant support for international travel, including local expenses are included. The funded time spent in foreign institutions/laboratories for each researcher must be between three (3) to six (6) months.

It is expected that the major portion of the NSF funding will go toward the travel-related expenses, as noted below, of early-career U.S. researchers and travel support for faculty advisors for program coordination and supervision.

Supplement requests to support the travel of researchers at the assistant or associate professor levels must also include at least one student.

General guidelines for allowable budget categories and maximum allowable amounts are:

  • Up to $1,500 transportation costs for each researcher;
  • Local subsistence allowance of up to $3,500 per month for each undergraduate and graduate student;
  • Local subsistence allowance of up to $4,500 per month for each post-doctoral fellow and assistant and associate professor;
  • Up to $2,250 travel funds for faculty advisors’ short visits for purposes of supervision and coordination;
  • Up to $1,500 for administrative expenses associated with the international cooperation;
  • Up to $1,200 per month stipend for each researcher; and
  • The budget must include the costs of one domestic trip per year for researcher(s) and faculty advisor to travel to Washington, D.C. to attend a conference for up to three days and provide a report at a meeting for all awardees.

All supplement awards are subject to the availability of funds, review of the quality of proposals, and divisional acceptance.

Indirect Costs are not allowed. The supplement request and the budget must be submitted through FastLane. See instructions below.

Qualifying U.S. researchers are undergraduate or graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, tenure-track or tenured faculty members who are at the assistant or associate professor or equivalent levels.


Principal Investigators must contact the NSF program officer responsible for their grants to be supplemented in advance of submitting a request. The title of the request should begin with the acronym IREE. The supplement request must describe the U.S. part of the cooperative project in sufficient detail to enable the program officer and reviewers to evaluate (1) its intellectual merit and (2) the broader impacts of the proposed activity. In addition to these review criteria, NSF will take into consideration the value added by the proposed international cooperation, and the extent to which the proposal integrates research and education and promotes diversity.

The request must include the following information:

  1. Limit: 5 pages: A concise, substantive summary of the proposed plan for research and general interaction between the U.S. researchers and the foreign partners, including the anticipated benefits of the plan and how the proposed interaction with the foreign institutions/laboratories could be leveraged to foster even closer future interaction between the U.S. and foreign institutions/laboratories. This summary should comment specifically on the researchers’ activities in the foreign country, and make clear whether the research program is within the current scope of work at the home institution in the United States or is meant to extend it. Activities aimed at increasing the researchers’ familiarity with the foreign language, culture, and applicable technological trends and business practice should be included also.

  2. Limit 1 page: Information clearly identifying the foreign counterpart institutions/laboratories, and a brief description of its research focus and recent accomplishments.

  3. A letter from the coordinator of the foreign partner laboratory certifying its agreement to accept the U.S. researcher(s) as proposed in the supplement request.

  4. Limit: 1 page: A brief description of the process and criteria for selection of the U.S. researcher(s). If a researcher has been selected, then the grounds for selection and a brief biographical sketch of the researcher, including identification of his/her home country, should be included. Also describe how the proposed researchers have been prepared for the visit. Describe any program of orientation/instruction that will be done before, during, and after the visit.

  5. A proposed budget submitted through Fastlane.

Where applicable, awardees are encouraged to make use of collaborative mechanisms available through existing research centers such as those in earthquake engineering research.

It is the responsibility of the U.S. institution requesting the supplement to obtain passports, visas, and any other documents needed for international travel for each of the early-career researchers.

Disciplinary NSF program officers in the Directorate for Engineering and the Office of International Science and Engineering Programs will manage the review of requests. Requests must be submitted through FastLane in accordance Sec. II.D.2.b of NSF Grant Proposal Guide, NSF 04-23, accessible through http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/gpg/nsf04_23/.

In preparing the budget, refer to NSF Grant Policy Manual (nsf05131; http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=gpm), and put applicable budget items under Participants Support; see Sec. 618 for more information.


All proposals received by the due date will be reviewed by NSF program officers using NSF merit review criteria; see Sec. III.A of NSF 04-23.


Within three months after completion of the trip, faculty advisors and researchers are expected to prepare a paper or trip report to be submitted to NSF that details the experience of the trip.

Researchers and their faculty are expected to attend and present their report at a post-visit workshop/conference in Washington, D.C. that can last up to three days.


If you are interested in submitting a supplemental request, you must contact your NSF program officer. If you have questions concerning this solicitation, please contact one of the NSF staff listed below:

  • Win Aung, Division of Engineering Education and Centers, Directorate for Engineering, (703) 292-5341. E-mail: waung@nsf.gov.

  • Gary Gabriele, Division of Engineering Education and Centers, Directorate for Engineering, (703) 292-5346. E-mail: ggabriel@nsf.gov.

  • Jeanne Hudson, Office of International Science and Engineering, (703) 292-8252. E-mail: jhudson@nsf.gov.

  • Marshall Lih, Division of Bioengineering and Environmental Systems, Directorate for Engineering, (703) 292-4608. E-mail: mlih@nsf.gov.

  • Eduardo A. Misawa, Division of Civil and Mechanical Systems, Directorate for Engineering, (703) 292-5353. E-mail: emisawa@nsf.gov.

  • Mary Lynn Realff, Division of Design and Manufacturing Innovations, Directorate for Engineering, (703) 292-8330. E-mail: mlrealff@nsf.gov.

  • Judy Raper, Division of Chemical and Transport Systems, Directorate for Engineering, (703) 292-5382. E-mail: jraper@nsf.gov.

  • Kevin Tomsovic, Division of Electrical and Communications Systems, Directorate for Engineering, (703) 292-8339. E-mail: ktomsovi@nsf.gov.


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