National Science Foundation: Advancing Informal STEM Learning
The Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program seeks to advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning for the public in informal environments; provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments; and engage the public of all ages in STEM in informal environments. The products of AISL investments may include, but are not limited to, exhibitions and programs in museums, zoos, aquaria, botanic gardens/arboreta, 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; opportunities for the public to engage in research including crowd-sourcing and citizen science; on-line and other digital experiences (e.g., games, simulations, social media, mobile computing, distributed networks, and massive online open courses); and research findings that articulate what works, for whom, why, and in what contexts.
The AISL program supports the following six types of project types:
- Pilots and Feasibility Studies: Projects offer 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 initial exploratory development work and pilot or feasibility studies should produce evidence, findings, and/or prototype deliverables that help the team make critical decisions about future work.
- Research in Service to Practice (RSP): This 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, including the science of science communication. Genuine partnerships between researchers and practitioners are required, such that the project is important and relevant to both research and practice.
- Innovations in Development: This 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 research, design, practice, and development work. Innovations may take many forms and occur at different scales.
- Broad Implementation: This 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. The focus is on making innovations or approaches succeed when they are implemented at a larger scale. Sources of evidence may include summative evaluation or research data that indicate readiness for distribution to a broader population or new setting(s).
- Literature Reviews, Syntheses, or Meta-analyses: Capacity building is supported through literature reviews, syntheses, and meta-analyses. A proposal should focus on a question, issue, or topic of critical importance to the AISL program. Proposals should demonstrate a command of the literature on the question, issue, or topic, both breadth and depth.
- Conferences: Proposals should demonstrate a command of the literature and/or practice of the question, issue, or topic. Participant expertise and selection should be discussed. Conference proposals should include a conceptual framework for the conference, draft agenda, possible participant list, and the outcomes or products that will result. Proposals should address the need for the work, why it is timely, and the expected contributions to understanding or advancing the question, issue, or topic. All projects should generate a product usable by researchers and/or practitioners.
Amount: A total of $33,000,000-$44,000,000 is expected to be available with grants ranging per program, as follows:
- Pilots and Feasibility Studies: Grants range up to $150,000 with the duration of one year; 15-20 projects are expected to be funded per year
- Research in Service to Practice: Grants range from $300,000-$2,000,000 with durations from two to five years; 8-10 projects are expected to be funded per year
- Innovations in Development: Grants range $500,000-$3,000,000 with durations from two to five years; 10-15 projects are expected to be funded per year
- Broad Implementation: Grant range from $100,000,000-$3,000,000 with durations from two to five years; 4-6 projects are expected to be funded per year
- Literature Reviews, Syntheses, or Meta-analyses: Grants range up to $250,000 with durations of up to two years; 10 projects are expected to be funded per year
- Conference projects: Grants range up to $250,000 with the duration of up to two years; 18 projects are expected to be funded per year
Eligibility: Individuals and organizations in the following categories are eligible to submit proposals: universities and colleges; nonprofit, nonacademic organizations; for-profit organizations; local and state governments; unaffiliated individuals; and foreign agencies involved in cooperative projects that include U.S. organizations. There are no restrictions or limits regarding who may serve as the Principal Investigator.
Note: Additional deadlines will be held on November 7, 2018 and November 6, 2019.
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