Letter to Colleagues: Limited Submission: NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI)

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Dear Colleagues:

The next deadline for submission of proposals to the NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program is January 01st to January 22nd, 2019. Given that NSF limits the number of MRI applications that an organization can submit each year to three, SFSU has a formal procedure for selecting the proposals that can go forward to the NSF. If you are interested in applying for an MRI grant by the February 2019 deadline, please continue reading.

Please Note:  As of last year, the number of MRI proposal acquisition/development submissions allowed per institution was increased to three but is now based on the dollar value of the request to the NSF for funding.   No more than two submissions are permitted in a newly-defined Track 1 (Track 1 proposals are those requesting from NSF $100,000 to less than $1 million) and no more than one submission is permitted in a newly defined Track 2 (Track 2 proposals are those requesting from NSF $1 million up to and including $4 million). Proposal submissions within the two tracks may be either for acquisition or development of a research instrument. NSF strongly values MRI proposals that seek to develop next-generation research instruments that open new frontiers of research.

Call for Pre-proposals:  NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program

MRI Program Solicitation  18-513


Frequently Asked Questions (Please note this has not been updated to reflect the new solicitation)


Pre-Proposal Due Date

October 22, 2018, 9 am

Submit pre-proposals in PDF format as email attachment to:              

     Uschi Simonis     uschi@sfsu.edu         AND

     Michael Scott      mjscott@sfsu.edu

Limit Number of Proposals per Organization:

Three:    Two for instrument acquisition/development below $1 million

                One for instrument acquisition/development above $1 million

NSF Proposal Due Date

Submission Window - January 01st to January 22nd, 2019      


If you like to submit an MRI grant proposal by the January 2019 deadline, please email a preproposal containing a cover sheet and a one-page Project Summary in PDF format to Michael J. Scott (mjscott@sfsu.edu), and Uschi Simonis (uschi@sfsu.edu) no later than October 22, 2018, 9 am. Please provide the following information:

The cover sheet should include

  • Name(s) of the principal investigator (PI) and co-principal investigator(s) [co-PI(s)].
  • Name(s) of the participating department(s).
  •  Project title that must be concise and convey the primary purpose of the proposal, e.g., "MRI: Acquisition of ____," or "MRI: Development of ____." Consortium project titles must also be identified in the title: "MRI Consortium: Acquisition of ___," or "MRI Consortium: Development of ___."

The body of the proposal should include:

  • Type of instrument to be acquired or developed and approximate cost-estimate.
  • Short-term and long-term plan for maintaining the instrument – maximum of 2 pages.
  • Need for the instrument – maximum of 2 pages.
  • Please outline the specific need of each PI/co-PI for the instrument and identify the co-PI that would be responsible for the award if the PI was no longer available – maximum of 2 pages.
  • Benefits to SFSU, its students, and faculty members – maximum of 2 pages.

The Project Summary is a required part of the NSF proposal. It should be written according to the NSF guidelines (1 page maximum length, written in the third person, see also the attachment) and contain the following sections:

  • Project Overview
  • Intellectual Merit of the proposed activity, and
  • Broader Impacts of the proposed activity.

The information on the cover page and project summary will be used to decide which of the proposals can go forward. For evaluation, we will use the same standards as is used by the NSF, which means that the one-page Project Summary should have three separate sections – Project Overview, a statement on the Intellectual Merit of the proposed activity, and a statement of the Broader Impacts of the proposed activity. Please note that multi-investigator and multi-disciplinary proposals will be given preference. A decision about which proposals are selected for submission to the NSF will be made in a timely fashion, such that proposers have time to develop and prepare the full proposal.  

SFSU has been very successful in receiving NSF MRI awards in recent years, averaging one award a year for the last 10 years. In total, CoSE faculty received 16 MRI awards since 2005 totaling $6.83 M. Let’s hope that we can continue this remarkable record of success.

In the attachment are included the NSF guidelines for writing the summary page, the MRI review criteria, and examples for illustrating the Broader Impacts. Please note that the MRI program does not support the acquisition or development of a suite of instruments to outfit research laboratories or facilities, or that can be used to conduct independent research activities simultaneously.

We are looking forward to your applications.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact Uschi and me.