Chapter 2. How to Get Started

The prospective program director with an idea for an international Research Experience for Undergraduates site program quickly confronts the question, "How do I begin?" Some essential first steps begin the successful transformation of the idea to reality. Devise a plan for developing the program and apply the expert advice of experienced international REU site directors contained in this manual to guide that evolution.

2.1 Develop an outline for the international REU activity

Begin the planning phase with a clear exposition of program objectives. Consider how the proposed activity will benefit the specific scientific discipline and how it will also benefit the scientific community more broadly.

Investigate other domestic and international REU site programs. Join an existing REU "community," if one exists, and make contact with other REU program directors for advice and information.

Prepare an outline of the basic framework for the student research-centered research program, including the basic timeframe (approximate dates and duration) of the international experience.

2.2 Explore and develop partnerships

A domestic institutional home and a willing international colleague with institutional backing are critical to realizing the program, but additional domestic and international partnerships with departments, centers and institutions are valuable assets in many ways. Identify potential partnerships and affiliations and develop these resources.

2.3 Understand the National Science Foundation REU program

During the early stages of program development, prospective international REU program directors should read carefully the NSF program announcement for REU site activities. In designing an international REU activity, it is essential that the proposed international site program offer the same level of scientific focus, research training for students, and education and human resource development as that expected from domestic REU site programs. The National Science Foundation's REU Program Web page is located on-line at:
In internationalizing the objectives of an REU program, the prospective U.S. director builds upon a solid REU platform; the proposed activity additionally addresses the need for a globally competent S&T workforce and takes maximum advantage of a unique or complementary foreign resource appropriate to the field of study. Because of the increased amount of time and resources required to realize an international REU program, consider whether the foreign site provides an experience unavailable in the United States.

Explore existing REU programs. The NSF Web site includes a catalog listing of REU programs at:

On-line resources for existing international REU and REU-like programs are listed in Appendix 1.

2.4 Discuss the proposed program with NSF staff

Do this using the outline for the proposed activity. Early discussions with program officers about the "appropriateness" of the REU site program to the field and for potential Foundation support, and the scale of the proposed site activity will lay the groundwork for all future interactions. Make a point to engage program officers in both the disciplinary program and the Office of International Science and Engineering. Prepare for these conversations by becoming familiar with the NSF REU program. Using a timetable for implementation, determine the necessary lead-time for a funding request.

2.5 Prepare a funding request for a planning visit and/or developmental support

On the advice of NSF program staff, seek funds for planning and development. Do not neglect special initiative funding, if available from the home institution or elsewhere. Identify the critical foreign counterparts (individuals and institutions), and schedule a planning visit to discuss their participation. If the proposed activity represents an extension of a core grant, supplemental funding may be possible to cover some of these development expenses or even a test program.

2.6 Plan and execute the initial, or test, program

Use a pilot program, if possible, to "test" the proposed REU plan. This can be accomplished on a modest supplemental budget prior to a request for full funding. Use the opportunity to fine tune program logistics and to generate more informed estimates of anticipated expenses. Practically speaking, for a trial offering most program aspects (applicant recruitment and selection, host scholar matching, travel and housing) can be handled with a small commitment of staff time.

2.7 Grow the program

Following a successful test program, finalize a plan for program growth. Decide whether to gradually "ramp-up" (over 2-3 cycles) to some target level, or to abruptly "step up" to that level. Coordinate this decision with the foreign host-director, who must cultivate host scholar-mentors for the program and manage many on-site arrangements, and then build this growth plan into the budget request.

Allow for mid-course correction during program development and growth. Use regular program evaluation and review to isolate weak program elements, and promptly take corrective action. Stay in contact with program officers at the Foundation, and share the experience of your successes.

Chapter 3 - Program Development

Last updated July, 2002