Small-Scale Experiments for Fundamental Physics

Important Dates
  • LOI Deadline
Important Dates
  • LOI Deadline
Contact Info

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation and the Simons Foundation (“the funders”) invite applications to a one-time call aimed at advancing fundamental physics by funding small-scale experiments that explore physics which has typically been explored at large-scale facilities (e.g., CERN, LIGO).

Applications from scientists from underrepresented groups are especially encouraged.


The program is intended to support high-risk and potentially high-return small-scale experimental projects aimed at new, ambitious discoveries beyond the current frontier of fundamental physics. “Small-scale” refers to table-top-size experiments or to ones that could fit in a typical university physics research lab. Examples of such projects include, but are not limited to, tests of basic principles of quantum physics, tests of interaction laws and established symmetry principles, and searches for new particles.

Application Process

Applicants must submit, via email to [email protected], a brief letter of intent (LOI) describing the proposed research. The deadline for submitting the LOI is October 31, 2022. The LOI should consist of a two-page summary of the proposed research program, a one-page estimate of the total requested budget that includes estimated line items for salaries, equipment, travel and lodging and other major expenses (each of which must be specified), and one-page CVs of all of the proposed PIs and co-Investigators (co-Is). References should be kept to a minimum in the LOI stage (3 or less), or they should be removed completely. For the LOI stage, an indirect cost rate of 20 percent can be used. Note that each proposal must select one person to serve as the contact PI, although several PIs or co-Is are permitted. All documents should be combined into a single PDF and have typeface and margins consistent with standard NSF-style proposals.

Applicants selected from the LOI stage will be invited to submit full proposals and may ultimately be invited to present their research to a panel of experts and foundation representatives in the spring of 2023.

Each selected applicant will be directed to the appropriate funder’s regular intake systems and applicable grant policies, including IDC rates ranging from 12.5 percent to 20 percent of applicable expenses, and provided with instructions for submitting a full proposal to that funder.

By putting forward an LOI as described above, the applicant consents to all submitted information being shared among the funders, as well as with additional potential funders and external advisors for this program.

Funding and Allowable Expenses

This program will provide funding for up to five years. The funding level and duration of each proposal should be appropriate to the proposed research goals. There is no recommended funding level for this program, but we expect typical annual project budgets to fall between $300,000 and $1,000,000, including indirect costs per each funder’s policies. Further budget guidance will be provided to those invited to submit full proposals. The combined support provided by all foundations is expected to be up to $20,000,000 over the five years of this program.

Selection Process

LOI applications will be reviewed by foundation staff. Full proposals will be jointly reviewed by representatives of the funders as well as external reviewers. Applications will be judged primarily on alignment between proposed activities and program goals, novelty and scientific merit, potential for success in advancing fundamental physics, capacity of the researchers and project design. Any full proposal submitted to an individual funder will be reviewed in accordance with that funder’s policies, guidelines and processes, and the decision to approve or decline such a proposal will be made at that funder’s sole discretion.


LOIs may be submitted by established U.S. and foreign public and private educational institutions and stand-alone research centers. Some of the participating foundations would be willing to consider applications from government labs. PIs and co-Is must have a Ph.D. and a tenure-track or tenured position (or equivalent) at the time of application. There are no citizenship or department requirements for PIs.

Contact Information

Any questions about the application should be addressed to Liz Roy at [email protected].

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Many of the greatest ideas and discoveries come from a diverse mix of minds, backgrounds and experiences. The Simons Foundation is committed to grantmaking that inspires and supports greater diversity and inclusiveness by cultivating a funding environment that ensures representation of all identities and differences and equitable access to information and resources for all applicants and grantees.

The Simons Foundation provides equal opportunities to all applicants for funding without regard to race, religion, color, age, sex, pregnancy, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic disposition, neurodiversity, disability, veteran status or any other protected category under federal, state and local law. The foundation also funds programs directed at supporting scientists from disadvantaged backgrounds or underrepresented groups, often working closely with professional societies and other funding agencies.

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Important Dates
  • LOI Deadline
Contact Info
Important Dates
  • LOI Deadline
Contact Info
  1. Is this program aiming to fund multi-institutional collaborations?plus--large

    There is no explicit or implicit aim to fund multi-institutional collaborations, nor are there any prohibitions on this. There is also no requirement that at least one of the PIs be from a different department, university, state or nation. However, this might be a scenario for many of the proposals.

  2. How important is it to have the full group of PIs in place for the letter of intent (LOI) or full proposal? Can we add more PIs if we are selected to submit a full proposal?plus--large

    More PIs can be added at the full proposal stage. However, LOIs and full proposals will be judged in part on the abilities of the proposed PIs to carry out the research.

  3. Can the project include both experimental and theoretical components? plus--large

    This is a program in experimental physics. The foundations would allow theoretical or computational components only if they serve the proposed experimental project. A primarily theoretical or computational proposal would not be appropriate.

  4. Is there a typical number of PIs that is envisioned for the proposal?plus--large

    No, we will consider proposals with varied compositions.

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

    This is a one-time call, and there is no plan for a similar announcement next year.

  6. I currently hold award(s) from at least one of the four foundations. Am I eligible to be a PI in this program?plus--large

    Yes, being a recipient of an award from one of the four foundations does not disqualify you from applying as part of this funding call.

  7. How do subawards work for these awards?plus--large

    Each foundation has specific rules on subawards that you will need to adhere to. For your LOI please include all costs including personnel in your budget regardless of institution.

  8. Who should be listed in the personnel section of the LOI? plus--large

    List only principal investigators (PIs) and co-investigators (co-Is).

  9. What is the timeline for decisions?plus--large

    LOIs are due on October 31, 2022. We expect to make decisions on soliciting full proposals by December 2022. Final funding should be available by the fall of 2023.

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