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National Science Foundation: Advancing Informal STEM Learning

Deadline: November 8, 2016

The Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program seeks to advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) learning for the public in informal environments; provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; and advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments. The products of AISL investments may include, but are not limited to, exhibitions and programs in museums, zoos, aquaria, planetariums, nature centers, parks, libraries, and other environments; science communication; after-school and out-of-school time (OST) programs; radio, television, film, or media programs or series; Do-It-Yourself (DIY)/maker initiatives, research-related experiences such as citizen science, and on-line experiences (e.g., games, simulations, social media, mobile computing, distributed networks, and massive online open courses); and research findings that articulate what works, why, and in what contexts.

The program supports six types of projects: (1) Collaborative Planning, (2) Exploratory Pathways, (3) Research in Service to Practice, (4) Innovations in Development, (5) Broad Implementation, (6) Conferences, and (7) Informal STEM Learning Resource Center (FY 2016 only).

  1. Collaborative Planning projects provide groups of people and organizations the support necessary to increase partnerships, understanding, and influence, so that they can develop ideas and strategies to address the most complex issues of the field. Successfully attacking these complex problems will likely require a range of expertise including informal STEM practitioners, education and learning researchers, STEM discipline researchers, and others. AISL welcomes high risk/high reward and unexpected approaches to informal STEM learning and practice.
  2. Exploratory Pathways projects are opportunities for practitioners and researchers to investigate issues in and approaches to informal STEM learning and to establish the basis for future research, design, and development of innovations or approaches. Such exploratory development work or feasibility studies should produce evidence, findings, and/or prototype deliverables that help the team make critical decisions about future work.
  3. The Research in Service to Practice (RSP) project type focuses on research that advances knowledge and the evidence base for practices, assumptions, broadening participation, or emerging educational arrangements in STEM learning in informal environments. For these proposals, it is important for practice to inform the research as well as having research inform practice.
  4. The Innovations in Development project type is expected to result in deliverables such as exhibits, media products, afterschool programs, etc., and in innovative models, programs, technologies, assessments, resources, or systems for an area of STEM learning in informal environments. Projects should build on evidence from prior development and research efforts. It is understood that innovations take many forms and occur at different scales. Thus, projects may put forward small, medium, or larger scale innovations depending on the nature of what is being innovated.
  5. The Broad Implementation project type supports the expansion or reach of models, programs, technologies, assessments, resources, research, or systems that have a documented record of success, innovation, or evidence-based knowledge building. Sources of evidence may include summative evaluation or research data that indicate readiness for distribution to a broader population or new setting(s). Proposals must articulate a plan and process for the design, development, implementation, and evidence-building components of the proposed work. Project design may address innovative integration, incremental improvements, adaptations, or trials under typical conditions. Iterative, design-based, and improvement research approaches are encouraged. Proposals should discuss how evidence will be collected to understand the mechanisms enabling broad implementation.
  6. The Conferences category may be used for conferences, symposia, or workshops. These activities should be well-focused, relate to the goals of the AISL program, and generate product(s) usable by practitioners and researchers. The program is particularly interested in proposals that lead to, for example, the development of communities of practice, the formulation of field-advancing practice, assessments, and research agendas for the participating professional communities.
  7. As a special emphasis for professional audiences , AISL seeks proposals that will result in a single award for the development and implementation of an Informal STEM Learning Resource Center (ISLRC). The ISLRC supports the informal STEM Learning field, NSF Principal Investigators, and Advancing Informal STEM Learning and other NSF programs.

Amount: An anticipated $28,000,000-$38,000,000 is expected with grants ranging per program, as follows:

  • Collaborative Planning projects: Grants range up to $150,000 with the duration of one year
  • Exploratory Pathways projects: Grants range up to $300,000 with the duration of up to two years
  • Research in Service to Practice projects: Grants range from $300,000-$2,000,000 with the duration of two-five years
  • Innovations in Development Projects: Grants range $500,000-$3,000,000 with the duration of two-five years
  • Broad Implementation projects: Grant range from $500,000-$3,000,000 with the duration of two-five years
  • Conference projects: Grants range up to $250,000 with the duration of up to two years
  • STEM Learning Resource Center award: Up to $5,000,000 with the duration of five years (only one award will be made)

Eligibility: Individuals and organizations in the following categories are eligible to submit proposals: universities and colleges; not-for-profit and nonacademic organizations; for-profit organizations; local and state governments; unaffiliated individuals; foreign agencies; and other federal agencies.

Link: http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2015/nsf15593/nsf15593.htm

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