CISE Engagement with NSF's 10 Big Ideas

CISE Engagement with NSF's 10 Big Ideas

In 2017, Director Dr. France A. Córdova first unveiled NSF’s 10 Big Ideas as a means to enable transformative, convergent research that advances the frontiers of science and engineering. Opportunities for CISE research, infrastructure, and workforce development span nearly all of the Big Ideas — and we believe it’s critical that researchers and educators from the CISE community, including the advanced cyberinfrastructure community, are fully engaged in these activities.

Below we call your attention to funding opportunities that intersect with a range of disciplines, and that truly demand engagement and expertise from the CISE community (in chronological order by submission deadline):

1. Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF)

The FW-HTF Big Idea encourages the NSF research community to collaborate in fundamental scientific and engineering research at the interaction of humans, society, and technology to help shape the future of work in ways that increase opportunities for workers and productivity for the American economy.

    • Open Funding Opportunity: Cyberlearning for Work at the Human-Technology Frontier
      • The Cyberlearning for Work at the Human-Technology Frontier program supports exploratory and synergistic research in learning technologies to prepare learners to excel in work at the human-technology frontier. This program responds to the pressing societal need to educate and re-educate learners of all ages (students, teachers, and workers) in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) content areas to ultimately function in highly technological environments, including in collaboration with intelligent systems.
      • Proposal deadline: January 13, 2020
    • Open Funding Opportunity: Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Core Research
      • The FW-HTF: Core Research program aims to support convergent research to understand and develop the human-technology partnership, design new technologies to augment human performance, illuminate the emerging socio-technological landscape, understand the risks and benefits of new technologies, understand and influence the impact of artificial intelligence on workers and work, and foster lifelong and pervasive learning.
      • Proposal deadline: March 9, 2020
    • CISE Cognizant Program Officer(s): Prabha Balakrishnan

2. Growing Convergence Research (GCR)

Convergence research is a means for solving vexing research problems addressing societal needs. It entails integrating knowledge, methods, and expertise from different disciplines and forming novel frameworks to catalyze scientific discovery and innovation. Convergence research has two characteristics: (i) it is driven by a specific and compelling problem, and (ii) it features deep integration across disciplines.

    • Open Funding Opportunity: Growing Convergence Research (GCR)
      • The GCR program supports multi-disciplinary team research that crosses NSF directorate or division boundaries and is currently not supported by NSF programs and initiatives, including the other Big Ideas. 
      • The GCR program is hosting a webinar from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM EST on Wednesday January 8, 2020, to provide general information about the upcoming funding opportunity and include a Q&A session. All interested researchers are welcome to join the webinar. Register here to receive join instructions.
      • Proposal Deadline: February 3, 2020
    • CISE Cognizant Program Officer(s): Wendy Nilsen and Mimi McClure

3. Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL)

The URoL Big Idea aims to advance understanding of life across levels of organization and across scales of time and space. It also aims to develop research tools and infrastructure to approach ever more complex questions; to train the next generation of researchers to tackle questions that cross scales and disciplines; and to foster collaboration and convergent research in the life sciences.

    • Open Funding Opportunity: Microbiome Theory and Mechanisms (URoL:MTM)
      • The objective of the URoL:MTM program is to understand and establish the theory and mechanisms that govern the structure and function of microbiomes, a collection of microbes in a specific habitat/environment. Topics of interest could include development of new artificial intelligence approaches that can be constrained by mechanisms, models, and/or theories to reveal the underlying principles governing the microbiome and its association with a host or habitat, where applicable.
      • Letter of Intent: January 17, 2020
      • Full proposal deadline: March 2, 2020
    • Open Funding Opportunity: Epigenetics (URoL:Epigenetics)
      • The URoL:Epigenetics program supports the use of complementary, interdisciplinary approaches to investigate how epigenetic phenomena lead to emergent properties that explain the fundamental behavior of living systems. It encourages collaborations among computer and information science, biology, and engineering researchers to assimilate information on genomic data into causal, mechanistic, and/or predictive relationships (e.g., using machine learning tools) to explain and predict the characteristics of living systems.
      • Proposal deadline: Feb 6, 2020
    • CISE Cognizant Program Officer(s): Mitra Basu and Sylvia Spengler

4. Navigating the New Arctic (NNA)

NNA seeks innovations in fundamental convergent research across the social, natural, environmental, and computing and information sciences as well as engineering that address the interactions or connections between natural and built environments and social systems and how these connections inform our understanding of Arctic change and its local and global effects. Sensing and data analytics are critical to furthering this understanding.

    • Open Funding Opportunity: Navigating the New Arctic (NNA)
      • The NNA program invites proposals in two tracks: (i) research grants, which tackle convergent scientific and engineering challenges related to the rapidly changing Arctic; and (ii) planning grants, which develop convergence research team to tackle projects of larger scope in the future.
      • Proposal deadline: February 11, 2020
    • CISE Cognizant Program Officer(s): Micah Beck


NSF INCLUDES aims to transform education and career pathways to help broaden participation in science and engineering. Projects span a number of broadening participation activities from STEM engagement and preparatory experiences for students and other community members to educator training to new academic programs that expand access to STEM education.

    • Open Funding Opportunity: INCLUDES Planning Grants
      • INCLUDES Planning Grants are intended to build capacity in the community to undertake the activities necessary to establish future centers, alliances, or other large-scale networks to address a broadening participation challenge at scale.
      • Proposal deadline: July 13, 2020
    • CISE Cognizant Program Officer(s): Fay Cobb Payton

6. Quantum Leap (QL)

QL aims to advance quantum technologies of the future, to include quantum computing, communication, simulation, and sensing. Recent advances in understanding and exploiting quantum mechanics are laying the foundation for generations of new discoveries that can benefit society in unforeseen ways. This “quantum revolution” also requires a highly-trained workforce that can advance the envelope of what is possible through research and development of practical solutions for quantum technologies. 

7. Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR) 

HDR encourages NSF's research community to pursue a broad, interdisciplinary research agenda in data science and engineering, exploring the foundations and applications of data science in the context of nearly all areas of science, engineering, and society. HDR enables the pursuit of fundamental research in data science and engineering, the development of a cohesive, federated, national-scale approach to research data infrastructure, and the development of a 21st-century data-capable workforce.

  • 8. Mid-Scale Infrastructure

  • NSF-funded science and engineering increasingly requires experimental infrastructure -- from major observatories to nationwide sensor networks to smaller instrumentation. There are many important potential experiments and facilities that fall between these; this gap results in missed opportunities that leave essential science undone. The Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure Big Idea aims to address a gap between NSF’s Large Facilities and the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program, affording a new, dynamic, flexible approach to funding research infrastructure .

    For more information on NSF’s 10 Big Ideas, visit: