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Dear Colleague:

I am writing to call your attention to important opportunities that are available for the support of creative research and education projects in the mathematical and physical sciences.

In February 1995, the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) established the Office of Multidisciplinary Activities (OMA) and charged it with facilitating and supporting opportunities that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. This Office derived from the recommendation of the external MPS Advisory Committee that the Directorate should be able to respond to proposals from the community that, because of their subject, scope, or multi-investigator or multidisciplinary nature of the activity, did not readily fit the pre-existing MPS program structure. Dr. Henry Blount heads the OMA and can be reached at 703-306-1946 or by e-mail as

OMA does not function as a program. It does not accept, review, or fund proposals by itself. Rather, it works with the five MPS Divisions - Astronomical Sciences, Chemistry, Materials Research, Mathematical Sciences, and Physics - to respond more effectively to the excellence and creativity of the MPS communities. The OMA provides a focal point in the Directorate for partnerships (e.g., with other agencies, industry, national laboratories, state and local governments, international organizations), seeds cross-cutting research in areas of particular promise, and supports innovative experiments in education that could lead to new paradigms in graduate and undergraduate education in the mathematical and physical sciences, particularly in multidisciplinary settings.

OMA is open to creative ideas from all segments of the MPS community, ranging from individual investigators to centers. It especially encourages initiatives by multi-investigator, multidisciplinary teams pursuing problems on a scale that exceeds the capacity of individual investigators. OMA is particularly receptive to projects incorporating education and research training experiences that contribute to a diverse, high quality workforce with technical and professional skills, career path flexibility, and appetite for lifelong learning appropriate to the dynamic, global science and technology enterprise of the 21st century.

In addition to encouraging creative proposals from the community, OMA can help Divisions identify areas of research and education that are seen as particularly timely and promising. These areas are identified through various means, including interactions of the Divisions with their communities via workshops and conferences; through interactive partnerships between MPS and other parts of NSF; and through interactions between MPS and other agencies.

I would like to call your attention to three areas which OMA expects to emphasize in FY 1999 for co-investment with MPS Divisions. These are:

* The development of next-generation instrumentation to enable fundamental advances within disciplines and across disciplinary boundaries. Holistic, intelligent instruments that integrate sensing, computation, modeling, and informatics are of high priority.

* Innovations in education, particularly at the graduate and undergraduate levels, that broaden the backgrounds and strengthen the technical, professional, and personal skills of graduates. Research-based activities that produce scientists who are well prepared for a broad spectrum of career opportunities are encouraged. Activities that provide assessable models for education and training are especially useful. I call your attention to the innovative use of information technologies in education, and to the opportunities for the MPS communities in the preparation and continued professional development of K-12 teachers. Activities that draw upon the collective synergy afforded by group grants and by centers and facilities are often well positioned to make important contributions to educational innovation.

* The MPS interface with biological sciences offers extraordinary opportunities for mathematical and physical scientists to utilize their expertise in addressing significant research and instrumentation challenges in the bio- and biomedical related sciences. Recently, NSF and NIH announced the NSF Scholars-in-Residence at NIH activity as a partnership to enable investigators in the mathematical and physical sciences and engineering to develop research collaborations within the intramural research environment at NIH. This experiment is designed to help bridge the interests of the research communities served by the MPS and ENG Directorates at NSF and by NIH, and to catalyze productive interactions which can enrich both. (Details of that activity are available on the NSF Home Page as document NSF 98-48 I invite creative ideas from the research communities of the MPS Divisions that address important research problems at the interface with biological sciences in this and other appropriate venues.

The areas cited above are important to all of the MPS Divisions. I strongly encourage your involvement in these activities. The MPS Divisions and OMA welcome the opportunity to discuss your ideas with you.

The Foundation provides awards for research and education in the sciences and engineering. The awardee is wholly responsible for the conduct of such research and preparation of the results for publication. The Foundation, therefore, does not assume responsibility for the research findings or their interpretation.

The Foundation welcomes proposals from all qualified scientists and engineers and strongly encourages women, minorities, and persons with disabilities to compete fully in any of the research and education related programs described here. 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 subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving financial assistance from the National Science Foundation.

Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities (FASED) provide funding for special assistance or equipment to enable persons with disabilities (investigators and other staff, including student research assistants) to work on NSF projects. See the program announcement or contact the program coordinator at (703) 306-1636.

The National Science Foundation has TDD (Telephonic Device for the Deaf) capability, which enables individuals with hearing impairment to communicate with the Foundation about NSF programs, employment, or general information. To access NSF TDD, dial (703) 306-0090; for FIRS, 1-800-877-8339.


The information requested on proposal forms and project reports is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended. The information on proposal forms will be used in connection with the selection of qualified proposals; project reports submitted by awardees will be used for program evaluation and reporting within the Executive Branch and to Congress. The information requested may be disclosed to qualified reviewers and staff assistants as part of the application review process; to applicant institutions/grantees to provide or obtain data regarding the application review process, award decisions, or the administration of awards; to government contractors, experts, volunteers and researchers as necessary to complete assigned work; to other government agencies needing information as part of the review process or in order to coordinate programs; and to another Federal agency, court or party in a court or Federal administrative proceeding if the government is a party. Information about Principal Investigators may be added to the Reviewer file and used to select potential candidates to serve as peer reviewers or advisory committee members. See Systems of Records, NSF-50, "Principal Investigator/Proposal File and Associated Records," 63 Federal Register 267 (January 5, 1998), and NSF-51, "Reviewer/Proposal File and Associated Records," 63 Federal Register 268 (January 5, 1998). Submission of the information is voluntary. Failure to provide full and complete information, however, may reduce the possibility of receiving an award.

Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 120 hours per response, including the time for reviewing instructions. Send comments regarding this burden estimate and any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to: Gail A. McHenry, Reports Clearance Officer; Information Dissemination Branch, DAS; National Science Foundation; Arlington, VA 22230.

OMB# 3145-0058

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance:

47.049 Mathematical and Physical Sciences

P.T. 18; 34; 44 and K.W. 1002000; 1003000; 1009000; 1010000; 1013000; 1013002