So, you’re a Postdoc! You may be wondering how you can wade into the NSF ecosystem during this phase of your career. The truth is there are many ways to get involved on both sides of the merit review process.
The most obvious is to apply to the Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology (PRFB). In sum, this fellowship encourages individuals to pursue their selected area of life sciences while integrating broadening participation of underrepresented groups. Our Virtual Office Hours team hosts an annual explainer with detailed FAQs that can answer some questions you may have about PRFB. We also encourage you to contact the cognizant Program Officers who can be found at the bottom of the program page for more information.
But maybe you don’t want to pursue a PRFB and you’d like to know if you can submit a regular proposal to our Core Programs. The answer: Maybe. NSF allows Postdocs to be Principal Investigators (PIs) on proposals but the policy at your institution is the key factor here: Some institutions allow postdocs as PIs or CO-PIs, others do not. Check with your sponsoring scientist or reach out to your Sponsored Research Office (SRO) to understand your options for submitting full proposals.
If your institution does allow for you, the postdoc, to serve as PI/CO-PI, then a postdoc mentoring plan is not required. Your name and budget for your salary will be on the PI line, not the postdoc budget line and you will not have an option to upload a mentoring plan (also it would be odd to mentor yourself). If your institution does NOT allow you to be a PI, but you are responsible for the intellectual backbone of the proposal, it is of course especially critical that you are credited for this effort in letters of recommendation and such from your PI.
On the flip side, we’d welcome your expertise as an ad hoc reviewer. As explained in an earlier post, “An ad hoc reviewer is asked to review just one proposal at a time (rarely two) and does not attend the panel…” If you’d like to be an ad hoc reviewer, please fill out this questionnaire and complete your Reviewer Profile in Fastlane so we can find you. Experience as an ad hoc reviewer is a great entry into the NSF review process and many programs require ad hoc experience prior to serving as a panel reviewer.
In conclusion, there are many ways to join the NSF community. If you are ever feeling stumped or are having a difficult time navigating the NSF website, reach out to a Program Officer or drop us a note at email@example.com.