Simons Collaborations in Mathematics and the Physical Sciences

Important Dates
  • LOI Deadline
  • LOI Notification
  • Full Proposal Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Award Start Date
Contact Info

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 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 (PIs)

Each collaboration is led by a collaboration director, who is expected to determine the scientific agenda, coordinate the scientific activities of the other members, determine (in collaboration with the other members) the scientific themes, coordinate a collaboration website, and organize collaboration meetings and activities as appropriate, including a two-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 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 million per year for an initial period of four years. The scientific impact of the collaboration will be evaluated at the year-four annual meeting and an extension of three additional years may be granted. The foundation would allow the annual budget to vary somewhat from $2 million, as long as the total four-year budget is no more than $8 million.

Please be cognizant of the notification and award start dates when preparing the year-one budget, particularly with regards to the hiring of postdoctoral fellows.

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/co-I — These salary funds are not substitutional (cannot be used to relieve a university of salary costs) and cannot be used to reduce teaching loads below the departmental norm. They can only be used to supplement the salary similarly to a summer salary in the U.S. system.
  • Conferences and working meetings appropriate to the needs of the collaboration.
  • Teaching reduction down to the level of only one course per semester for the collaboration director — Teaching reduction for other collaboration members is not an allowable expense.
  • Salary support and related benefits, including tuition support, for staff/research scientists and postdoctoral, graduate and/or undergraduate research assistants.
  • Support for visitors and collaborators, including travel, meals and lodging expenses.
  • Research equipment, supplies and other expenses directly related to the research, including computers, computer support, professional literature, publication expenses and professional membership dues.
  • Collaboration-related domestic or international travel for collaboration members per the institution’s travel policies — Parking, hotel, taxi, registration and other related travel and conference costs are allowable.
  • Support costs for a Collaboration administrator.
  • Other expenses related to the support and administration of the Collaboration (i.e., web design).

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

Please see the foundation’s grant policies on our website for further guidelines. Note that travel expenses are not capped at $4,000 per year per individual for this program.

The collaboration budget must include discretionary funds, amounting to at least 10 percent of the collaboration budget, to be held at the foundation and made available to be used at the discretion of the director for the annual meeting, workshops, the addition of PIs to the collaboration and other related collaboration expenses. Please note that typical annual collaboration meetings hosted at the Simons Foundation with around 60 participants cost $100,000; this includes travel to/from the meeting. Please factor this in when preparing the budget. Costs for meetings and workshops held at the foundation will be paid directly by the foundation from the discretionary funds.

Eligibility

Personnel: The collaboration director must hold a tenured faculty, or equivalent, position at a U.S. or Canadian institution with a Ph.D. program in the director’s department. PIs must hold a tenured or tenure-track faculty, or equivalent, position at an educational institution. There are no restrictions on the department and/or discipline of the director or PIs. PIs and other collaboration participants may be from non-U.S. institutions.

An individual may be part of more than one letter of intent (LOI) or full proposal, as long as all eligibility requirements are met. There is no LOI limit per institution or individual. A PI on a currently funded collaboration project cannot be part of an LOI or proposal. Additionally, current Math+X Investigators cannot be funded PIs in a collaboration.

Institutions: Funding to U.S. national labs or salary support of scientists employed at these labs is not allowed. Scientists employed at national labs may be non-funded collaboration members, and collaboration funding may be used to support travel or local expenses related to the participation of the lab-based scientist in collaboration activities, or to support travel and local expenses of students or postdoctoral fellows appointed at universities who work with collaboration members at national labs.

For-profit institutions are also not eligible to receive grant funds.

Unspent Funds

Unexpended funds totaling 25 percent or less of the approved annual budget will automatically carry forward to the next funding year. A carry forward of unexpended funds totaling more than 25 percent of the approved annual budget will require formal approval. The director and PIs may apply for up to a 12-month no-cost extension request for non-PI summer salary and fringe benefit funds unexpended at the conclusion of the collaboration. Unspent funds at the end of the collaboration must be returned to the foundation.

Reporting

The director will provide the foundation with one 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.

Number of Awards

The foundation expects to make up to two awards in 2019.

How to Apply

Letter of Intent:
Collaboration directors must submit an LOI through proposalCENTRAL (https://proposalcentral.altum.com/default.asp). LOIs are due by October 3, 2018, at 11:59:59 p.m. EDT.

Please refer to the How to Apply tab for further instructions.

Notification of the status of the LOI will be sent by December 1, 2018.

Please note that the volume of interest in this program is such that the foundation is not able to provide advance guidance on potential proposals. We use the LOI stage to assess suitability and novelty. The foundation recommends submitting an LOI if an applicant believes his/her research meets the criteria outlined in the RFA.

Full Proposal

A review of the LOI may lead to a request for a full proposal, which will be due by February 15, 2019, at 11:59:59 p.m. EDT.

After review of the full proposals, project teams may be invited to come to the foundation to present their research plan.

 

 

 

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Important Dates
  • LOI Deadline
  • LOI Notification
  • Full Proposal Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Award Start Date
Contact Info

Please see the general instructions for application submission.

Important Note: The collaboration director (referred to below as the ‘applicant PI’) and his/her institution must submit the Letter of Intent (LOI) and full proposal application. The director, also considered a founding PI, will be the designated contact for the collaboration and will act as the applicant. The director will be responsible for coordinating all proposal attachments as outlined below. If awarded, each collaboration PI will be given an individual award and his/her institution paid separately.

Please be sure to submit an LOI using the appropriate application (Mathematics and Physical Sciences — Simons Collaborations in Mathematics and the Physical Sciences).

LOI and proposal attachments should be single-spaced and in typeface no smaller than 10-point font. Margins, in all directions, must be at least ½ inch.

Please complete the application as follows:

LOI:

  1. Title Page: Enter the title of the application.
  2. Enable Other Users to Access this Proposal: This screen allows users to give other users access to the grant application, if necessary.
  3. Applicant: This information is preloaded from the applicant PI’s professional profile. The applicant’s name should reflect the name of the collaboration director.
  4. Organization/Institution: This information is preloaded from the institutional profile and should reflect the applicant PI’s institution. For both pre- and post-award management, select the appropriate signing official and financial officer from the drop-down list or enter the email address of a new official and click on Add. Click on the Save or Close Window link; the official will now be listed as the assigned signing official or financial/fiscal officer. Please see the Simons Foundation grant policies for a description of the responsibilities of the signing official and financial officer.
  5. Key Personnel: Indicate all key personnel, and corresponding institution, other than the applicant PI, including additional founding PIs, co-investigators, collaborators, consultants, postdoctoral research associates and others. Key Personnel includes the PI and other individuals who contribute to the scientific development or execution of a project in a substantive, measurable way, whether or not they request salaries or compensation.
  6. LOI Attachments (attachments must be uploaded as unlocked PDFs; please confirm this before uploading):
    • Project Narrative (three-page limit, plus up to one page for references and figures, which can be embedded within the text): Signed by the collaboration director on letterhead and outlining the topic, scientific approach and any relevant preliminary results, the project narrative should explain the logistics of the collaboration.
    • An NIH- or NSF-style Biosketch: A biosketch is to be submitted for each founding PI and must include:
      • 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; and
      • a list of up to 10 relevant publications.
      NOTE: Any biosketches uploaded in the professional profile will NOT be included as part of the LOI.
    • Statement of Current and Pending Support: A statement should be submitted for each founding PI (current and pending support should not be submitted for non-funded collaborators). NSF format is sufficient. The statement should at least provide the award number, source of funding, title of award, dates of project and annual direct costs for each support item listed.
  7. Validate: Click the Validate button to check for any missing required information or files. All missing required information will be listed on the screen and must be corrected before the application can be submitted.
  8. Submit: This section will only appear if the deadline has not passed.

LOI Approval:
A submitted LOI will remain in the queue of the Proposals tab in proposalCENTRAL. If an LOI is approved, the LOI status changes to LOI: Approved and the Proposal status changes to Proposal: In Progress in the Status column. Click the Edit button to gain access to the full proposal application.

Full Proposal:

  1. Title Page: The application title will be prepopulated with the title entered in the LOI section.
  2. Download Templates & Instructions:

    • A “Signed Signature Page” template is provided for each non-applicant founding PI to use. The institution for each non-applicant founding PI should complete the blank signature page available as appropriate. The signing official name and contact information should be provided in the signing official placeholder on the first page. Each institution must also provide the name and contact information of the financial officer on the second page of contacts. Please see the Simons Foundation grant policies for a description of the responsibilities of the signing official and financial officer. Completed and signed signature pages should then be re-uploaded as proposal attachments in the Proposal Attachments section of the application. Only the signature of the signing official is required for each institution.
    • A “Collaboration Summary Budget” template is provided, to be completed by the director, showing the annual amounts allocated to the director, each founding PI and the director’s discretionary fund, which should amount to at least 10 percent of the collaboration budget and will be held at the foundation for future use. Please add additional lines as necessary for the founding PIs.
    • A “PI Budget & Justification” template is provided and must be completed by each non-applicant founding PI and his/her institution (excludes non-funded collaborators). For founding PIs with subcontracts, a subcontract budget and budget justification for each subcontract must be included. All budgets must be in U.S. dollars. The “Complete 1st-Detail Yr1” worksheet should be completed first. The “PI Budget Summary” worksheet will auto-populate with the amounts provided in the corresponding worksheets; the institution’s Signing Official must sign this worksheet. The consortium and contractual costs in the detail yearly budgets will auto-populate with the total costs in the sub-budget yearly worksheets.
  3. Enable Other Users to Access this Proposal: This screen allows users to give other users access to the grant application, if necessary.
  4. Applicant: This information is preloaded from the applicant’s professional profile. The applicant’s name should reflect the name of the collaboration director.
  5. Organization/Institution: This information is pre-loaded from the institutional profile and should reflect the applicant PI’s institution. For both pre- and post-award management, select the appropriate signing official and financial officer from the drop-down list or enter the email address of a new official and click on Add. Click on the Save or Close Window link; the official will now be listed as the assigned signing official or financial/fiscal officer. Please see the Simons Foundation grant policies for a description of the responsibilities of the signing official and financial officer.
  6. Key Personnel: Indicate all key personnel, and corresponding institution, other than the applicant PI, including additional founding PIs, co-investigators, collaborators, consultants, postdoctoral research associates and others. Key Personnel includes the PI and other individuals who contribute to the scientific development or execution of a project in a substantive, measurable way, whether or not they request salaries or compensation.
  7. Budget Period Detail: Provide a detailed, four-year budget for the applicant PI/director’s funds. This does not include the discretionary funds held at the foundation. All other budgets for non-applicant founding PIs and the collaboration summary budget must be uploaded in the Proposal Attachments section using the provided templates. All budgets must be in U.S. dollars.
  8. Budget Summary & Justification: This section summarizes the applicant PI/director’s four-year budget entered in the Budget Period Detail section. Please provide justification for categories noted. The character limit for each box is 8,000. Please note that the budget justification should be detailed and appropriate for the funds being requested. An insufficient budget justification may result in the proposal not being considered further.
  9. Proposal Attachments (attachments must be uploaded as unlocked PDFs; please confirm this before uploading):
    • Scientific Questions and Research Goals (12-page limit, plus up to two pages for references and figures, which can be embedded within the text): A summary of the scientific questions and research goals, including an outline of relevant previous work of each PI and others involved, and a description of the planned research, including preliminary results (if relevant) and an explanation of how the research of the different PIs will be coordinated.
    • Collaboration Summary Budget: A summary budget to be completed by the director, using the provided template, showing the annual amounts allocated to the director, each founding PI and the director’s discretionary fund, which should amount to at least 10 percent of the collaboration budget and will be held at the foundation for future use.
    • PI Budget & Justification: A detailed, four-year budget and justification to be completed by each non-applicant founding PI and his/her institution (excludes non-funded collaborators) using the provided template. For founding PIs with sub-contracts, a sub-contract budget and budget justification for each sub-contract must be included. All budgets must be in U.S. dollars. The “Complete 1st-Detail Yr1” worksheet should be completed first. The “PI Budget Summary” worksheet will auto-populate with the amounts provided in the corresponding worksheets; the institution’s Signing Official must sign this worksheet. The consortium and contractual costs in the detail yearly budgets will auto-populate with the total costs in the sub-budget yearly worksheets.

      Please note that budget justifications should be detailed and appropriate for the funds being requested. Insufficient budget justifications may result in the proposal not being considered further.

    • An NIH- or NSF-style Biosketch: A biosketch is to be submitted for each founding PI and must include:
      • 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; and
      • a list of up to 10 relevant publications.
    • Statement of Current and Pending Support: A statement should be submitted for each founding PI (current and pending support should not be submitted for non-funded collaborators). NSF format is sufficient. It should at least provide the award number, source of funding, title of award, dates of project and annual direct costs for each support item listed.
    • 501(c)(3) Equivalency Determination Letter from the IRS (if applicable):
      • See Simons Foundation policies for requirements for grants to international institutions.
      • For international institutions, upload a copy of the institution’s equivalency determination letter from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stating exemption under 501(c)(3) and, furthermore, either a 509(a)(1), (2) or (3) classification.
      • If an international institution does not have this letter at the application stage, do not upload anything for this attachment type.
      • If an international institution is selected for funding and does not have the aforementioned documentation, the foundation will require that the institution complete an equivalency determination with NGOsource. The foundation will handle all administrative and financial aspects of this determination.
      • IRS letters should not be uploaded for U.S. institutions.
    • Signed Signature Page: A signature page must be submitted from all founding PI institutions.
      • Applicant/Director: the signature page for the application can be downloaded in the Signature Page(s) section. It should be signed by the designated signing official from the applicant’s institution’s sponsored research office (or equivalent). Please note that not all fields on the generated signature page will be populated. Only the signed first page of the applicant’s signature page PDF file needs to be uploaded.
      • Non-Director Founding PIs: a blank signature page is available in the Download Templates & Instructions section and should be completed and signed as appropriate, and as outlined above, by each institution and then re-uploaded as proposal attachments. The signed signature page will indicate that the program terms and applicable proposal attachments have been reviewed and approved by each PI’s institution.
  10. Validate: Click the Validate button to check for any missing required information or files. All missing required information will be listed on the screen and must be corrected before the application can be submitted.
  11. Signature Page(s): Once all sections are completed, the signed signature page is to be downloaded in this section of the application, signed by the signing official from the applicant’s institution’s sponsored research office (or equivalent) and then re-uploaded as a proposal attachment.
  12. Submit: This section will only appear if the deadline has not passed.
Important Dates
  • LOI Deadline
  • LOI Notification
  • Full Proposal Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Award Start Date
Contact Info
  1. Can the director upload the proposal attachments for the founding PIs, or do the individual PIs/institutions need to do this?plus--large

    It does not matter who uploads the required information to the application, as long as the required signatures are present on the signature pages.

  2. How will discretionary funds held at the foundation be made available to the director or PIs?plus--large

    Depending on the proposed use, the funds will be provided to the director and/or one or more PIs, as supplements to existing grants, or can be used to fund new awards. Funds will be disbursed on request of the director after approval by the foundation.

  3. Is this program explicitly or implicitly aiming to fund multi-institutional collaborations?plus--large

    There is no explicit or implicit aim to fund multi-institutional collaborations. There is no requirement that at least one of the PIs be from a different department, university, state or nation. However, this is the likely scenario for many of the proposals.

  4. How important is it to have the full group of PIs in place for the LOI or full proposal? Can we add more PIs if we are selected to submit a full proposal or if our proposal is funded?plus--large

    More PIs can be added at the full proposal stage or after the award is made as long as it is within the budget guidelines. However, LOIs and full proposals will be judged in part on the quality of the proposed PIs.

  5. Can the collaboration project include an experimental component?plus--large

    The foundation would allow experimental components if they are essential to the science. A proposal primarily for experiment would not be appropriate.

  6. To whom is the collaboration project awarded?plus--large

    The institutions for the director of the collaboration and each founding PI will receive individual awards as part of the collaboration.

  7. Is there a typical number of founding PIs that is envisioned?plus--large

    No, but we would suggest at least three to four.

  8. If my LOI is not approved this year, may I reapply next year?plus--large

    Yes, there is no limit to the number of times one can reapply.

  9. I currently hold a Simons Fellowship or a Simons Investigator award. Am I eligible to be a collaboration director or founding PI?plus--large

    Yes, being a Simons Fellow or a Simons Investigator (in either math, physics, astrophysics, computer science or MMLS) does not disqualify you from applying as part of a collaboration project. However, Math+X Investigators cannot be funded PIs in a collaboration.

  10. Does the letter of intent (LOI) submission require institutional signature(s)?plus--large

    In the LOI section of the application, the applicant needs to select the signing official and financial officer from a list of officials associated with his/her university or add a new official by entering his/her email address. The signature page is only required for the full proposal. The project narrative component of the LOI requires a signature by the collaboration director on institutional letterhead.

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