Simons Collaborations in Mathematics and the Physical Sciences

The Simons Foundation’s Mathematics and Physical Sciences (MPS) division invites applications for the Simons Collaborations in MPS program.

Rationale: The aim of the Simons Collaborations in MPS program is to stimulate progress on fundamental scientific questions of major importance in mathematics, theoretical physics, and theoretical computer science.

Basis for Awards: A Simons Collaboration in MPS should address a mathematical or theoretical topic of fundamental scientific importance, where a significant new development creates a novel area for exploration or provides a new direction for progress in an established field. The questions addressed by the collaboration may be concrete or conceptual, but there should be little doubt that answering them would constitute a major scientific milestone. The project should have clearly defined initial activities and goals by which their progress and success can be measured. The support from the foundation should be seen as critical for the objectives of the project.

The project should involve outstanding researchers with a range of career stages. Excellence of the scientific leadership is one of the main criteria in the selection process. The project should be organized and managed in a manner engendering a high level of collaboration.

Collaboration Director and Principal Investigators: Each collaboration is led by a collaboration director, who is expected to determine the scientific agenda, to coordinate the scientific activities of the other members, to determine (in collaboration with the other members) the scientific themes, and to organize collaboration meetings and activities as appropriate, including a one-day annual conference at the foundation. The director will be the foundation’s main point of contact for the activities of the collaboration and will be responsible for coordinating all administrative deliverables. The director is also responsible for monitoring the overall progress of the research effort and deciding on research directions and personnel as the collaboration evolves.

PIs are expected to perform research that advances the goals of the collaboration and to collaborate as appropriate with other members of the collaboration. PIs are also expected to assist the director and other PIs in fulfilling the additional collaboration obligations outlined above.

Attendance at the annual conference, monthly meetings, and other lectures is expected for each collaboration member.

Proposals should specify a core group of founding PIs. Additional PIs may be added at later stages as the collaboration evolves. Inter-institutional and international collaborations are allowed.

Level and Duration of Funding: A Simons Collaboration in MPS is budgeted at up to $2.5 million per year for an initial period of four years. After a review in year three, when the scientific impact of the collaboration has been evaluated, an extension of three additional years may be granted. The foundation would allow the annual budget to vary somewhat from $2.5 million as long as the total four-year budget is no more than $10 million.

Allowable Expenses: The funding provided under a Simons Collaboration in MPS may be used to support research expenses in the following categories:

  • Up to one month of summer salary support and related benefits for the collaboration director and each PI.
  • Teaching reduction down to the level of only one course/semester for the collaboration director.
  • Salary support and related benefits, including tuition support, for staff/research scientists and postdoctoral, graduate, and/or undergraduate research assistants.
  • Support for visitors, including travel, meals, and lodging expenses.
  • Research equipment, supplies, and other expenses directly related to the research, including computers, computer support, professional literature, and publication expenses.
  • Domestic or international travel for collaboration members per the institution’s travel policies.

Indirect costs are limited to 20 percent of the modified total direct costs, with the following exceptions for which indirect costs are not allowed: equipment, tuition, and any subcontracts with budgets that include indirect expenses. Indirect costs paid to a subcontractor may not exceed 20 percent of the direct costs paid to the subcontractor. Indirect costs on equipment costing up to $5,000 are permissible.

Expenditures in other expense categories may be possible but must be approved in advance by the foundation.

Unspent Funds: Funds allocated for postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, or other junior researchers may be carried over from year to year, as appropriate, until the end of the collaboration. Unspent PI salary and fringe benefit funds at the end of the funding year must be returned to the foundation within 60 days.

A carry-forward request is required only if the unexpended balance exceeds $20,000 of the previous year’s funding, and is due at least 30 days prior to the end date of the funding year.

Unspent funds at the end of the collaboration must be returned to the foundation unless express permission is obtained for a specified future use. Requests for no-cost extensions may be considered.

Reporting: The director will provide the foundation with one overall progress report for the entire collaboration within 60 days after the completion of each grant year. The institution of each PI will be responsible for submitting a separate financial statement for each award within 60 days after the completion of each grant year.

Eligibility: The collaboration director should hold a faculty, or equivalent, position at a U.S. or Canadian institution with a Ph.D. program. PIs must also hold a faculty, or equivalent, position at an educational institution with a Ph.D. program. There are no restrictions on the department and/or discipline of the director or PIs. Other collaboration participants may be from non-U.S. institutions.

An individual may be part of more than one letter of intent or full proposal, as long as all eligibility requirements are met. There is no application limit per institution or individual. For-profit institutions are not eligible to receive grant funds.

Number of Awards: The foundation expects to make up to two awards in 2016.

How to Apply: Please coordinate submission of the letter of intent and full proposal with the appropriate officials in accordance with institution policies. Please refer to the Application Instructions for further information on and requirements for submitting an application.

Letter of Intent (LOI): Collaboration directors should submit an LOI through proposalCENTRAL (https://proposalcentral.altum.com/default.asp). LOIs are due by October 1, 2015 at midnight EST.

LOI Requirements Include:

  • A project narrative, signed by the collaboration director on letterhead, outlining the topic, scientific approach, and any relevant preliminary results. The project narrative should explain the logistics of the collaboration, including a brief discussion of the role of each founding PI. (Three-page limit, plus up to one page for references and figures.)
  • An NSF-style biosketch for each founding PI, which should include:
    • Information about professional preparation, positions held, and honors and awards,
    • A list of current and former collaborators, postdoctoral fellows supervised, and Ph.D. students trained within the past five years,
    • A list of up to ten relevant publications.
  • A statement of current and pending support for all founding PIs (current and pending support should not be submitted for non-funded collaborators). NSF format is sufficient.

Notification of the status of the LOI will be sent by December 31, 2015.

Full Proposal:
A review of the LOI may lead to a request for a full proposal, which will be due by February 29, 2016, at midnight EST.

The collaboration director and his/her institution must submit the full proposal via proposalCENTRAL. The applicant PI/director will be the designated contact for the collaboration. The applicant will be responsible for coordinating all proposal attachments.

If awarded, each collaboration PI will be given an individual award and his/her institution paid separately. For each PI, a signed signature page, budget template, and budget justification must be submitted with the application. The signed signature page will indicate that the program terms and applicable proposal attachments have been reviewed and approved by each PI and his/her institution.

NOTE: Your submitted LOI will remain in the IN PROGRESS queue of the MANAGE PROPOSALS tab in proposalCENTRAL. If your LOI is approved, you will be able to access the full proposal application under this IN PROGRESS queue. If the LOI status changes to LOI: APPROVED, you may click the EDIT button to gain access to the full application. See the Application Instructions for further information.

Full Proposal Requirements Include:

  • A summary of the scientific questions and research goals, including an outline of relevant previous work of each founding PI and others involved in the proposal, as well as a description of the planned research, including preliminary results (if relevant) and an organizational plan describing how the collaboration of PIs will be engendered and coordinated. (12-page limit, plus up to two pages for references and figures.)
  • A detailed four-year budget and justification from each founding PI and his/her institution (excludes non-funded collaborators). Founding PIs with subcontracts must submit a subcontract budget and budget justification for each subcontract. All budgets must be in U.S. dollars. The budget for discretionary funds that will be held at the foundation (to be used for conferences, meetings, etc.) should be included as a line item in the director’s budget. Indirect costs should not be taken on the discretionary funds.
  • An NSF-style biosketch for each founding PI, which should include:
    • Information about professional preparation, positions held, and accolades,
    • A list of current and former collaborators, postdoctoral fellows supervised, and Ph.D. students trained within the past five years,
    • A list of up to ten relevant publications.
  • A statement of current and pending support for all founding PIs (current and pending support should not be submitted for non-funded collaborators). NSF format is sufficient.
  • 501(c)(3) equivalency determination letter from the IRS for international institutions.

Funding decisions will be announced by July 1, 2016, and funding will begin on September 1, 2016.

Important Dates:

Application
Available
LOI
Deadline
LOI
Notification
Full Proposal
Deadline
Award
Notification
Award
Start Date
August 1,
2015
October 1,
2015
December 31,
2015
February 29,
2016
July 1,
2016
September 1,
2016

Contact Information:
mps(replace this with the @ sign)simonsfoundation.org

Elizabeth Roy
Program Manager, Mathematics and the Physical Sciences
212-524-6966
eroy(replace this with the @ sign)simonsfoundation.org

Further Information: