Student Submissions

This information is for doctoral students interested in applying for grants housed at the university.


Once you have identified a funding opportunity, the first step is to recruit a faculty principal investigator. Columbia does not permit graduate students to serve as PI. This faculty member must be appointed at Columbia as a full-time tenure-track professor.

Step two is to set up a meeting with ISERP to discuss the requirements and the submission process. ISERP will work with you to develop your budget.

Step three is to make sure you have any registrations required such as NSF Fastlane or NIH eRA Commons.

Step four - make sure your conflict of interest disclosure is updated in RASCAL. 

Step five  is to write the proposal and assemble any other documents required, such as CVs, letters, etc.

Step six - approvals. ISERP will prepare the RASCAL for internal approval.


NSF Information

Due to the large volume of NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant proposals we submit, ISERP has assembled this list of FAQs specifically for these opportunities.

Q. How long is the proposal narrative?

A. Most NSF dissertation grant proposals are capped at 10 pages, but some allow up to 15. Read the solicitation carefully.

Q. What is a biosketch?

A. It is a short CV. ISERP will provide a template with the NSF's requirements and limits.

Q. How do I choose a start and end date?

A. It generally takes the NSF at least six months to review proposals, so don't plan to receive notification sooner than that. Dissertation grants are generally one year in length, but some solicitations allow for two years. While you may plan to spend the money is less than one year, we recommend that you request a full year in order to prepare the data and reports that NSF requires. You should request a start date on the first date of the month in which you plan to begin.

Q. What is IRB and must I have IRB approval at the time of submission?

A. The Institutional Review Board monitors research involving human subjects. NSF does not require you to have IRB approval at the time of submission, but your research must be approved or deemed exempt in order for you to begin research. 

Q. Can I buy a computer with an NSF grant?

A. Generally the answer is no. You may be able to budget for some equipment that is directly related to your dissertation research and justified in the budget narrative. You may choose to purchase cloud space or access to Columbia's high-performance computing cluster. However,  NSF does not usually allow for the purchase of a laptop or other general use equipment as part of direct project expenses. Any equipment that is purchased with grant funds would be Columbia property.

Q. What is the statement of prior NSF support?

A. Most NSF dissertation grants do not require this portion, but read the instructions carefully. In cases where it is required, your PI can provide this information.

Q. Do I need a recommendation letter?

A. Most NSF dissertation grants require a form letter, but not a traditional reference. NSF will provide the template in the solicitation.

Q. Must I be a US citizen or permanent resident to apply for an NSF grant?

A. Some students confuse these grants with the GRFP, or Graduate Research Fellowship Program. What we are talking about  here are dissertation improvement grants, and they are awarded to the university for the researchers to do a specific project outlined in the proposal. For the dissertation improvement grants, there are no citizenship requirements.

Q. How much money may I request?

A. This varies widely depending on the discipline and the nature of your research. Read the solicitation carefully to see your limit. Additionally, Columbia will charge indirect costs (overhead) on the award. ISERP will ensure that the overhead charges are budgeted correctly.

Q. May I have an NSF award simultaneously with another grant of fellowship?

A. It depends. The NSF does not prohibit this, but other sponsors do. Always read the guidelines and conditions for all awards, and ask if you're not sure.

Q. What are the odds of my proposal being funded?

A. It's hard to say. The NSF does receive many more proposals than it is able to fund. The application pool and the review panel change every time. Additionally, NSF's own budget changes from year to year. Some offices within NSF have bigger budgets than others. Unfortnately many worthy proposals do not receive funding.

Q. Can I see an example of a proposal?

A. Professor David Stark posted some examples of successful proposals on his website, and you will find the link under our resources page.


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