University of Southern California


NSF-17-573: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)

Slots:                                                     An institution or organization may serve as lead on no more than three (3) proposals submitted to the November deadline. However, an institution or organization may partner as a subaward on other proposals submitted.

Internal Deadline:                          Contact the Office of Research if interested.

External Deadline:                          November 6, 2019, 5pm local time

Award Information:                        Type:  Grant

Estimated Number of Awards: 60-85: Pending availability of funds, it is anticipated that about 15-20 Pilots and Feasibility Studies awards, 8-10 Research in Service To Practice awards, 10-15 Innovations in Development awards, 4-6 Broad Implementation awards, 8-10 Literature Reviews, Syntheses, and/or Meta-analyses awards, and 12-18 Conference awards will be made. AISL will also fund 8-10 awards made through the EAGER, RAPID, Research Coordination Networks (RCN) mechanisms and 2-4 each CAREER awards and REU supplements.

Anticipated Amount: $33,000,000 to $44,000,000 total (see NSF’s Program Description for maximum amount of funding per sub-category of proposal): Limits for funding requests of AISL proposals are as follows: (1) Pilots and Feasibility projects: up to $300,000 with durations up to two years; (2) Research in Service to Practice projects: from $300,000 to $2,000,000 with durations from two to five years; (3) Innovations in Development projects: $500,000 to $3,000,000 with durations from two to five years; (4) Broad Implementation projects from $1,000,000 to $3,000,000 with durations from three to five years; (5) Literature Reviews, Syntheses, or Meta-analyses projects up to $250,000 with durations of up to two years; and (6) Conferences up to $250,000 with durations of up to two years.

Submission Process:                     PIs must submit their application as a Limited Submission through the Office of Research Application Portal:

Materials to submit:

Link to Award:                        

Who May Serve as PI:                    A Principal Investigator may serve in the role of PI or Co-PI on only one proposal per competition if they are at the sole-submitting institution or the lead institution of a collaborative project, but may serve as the Co-PI for a non-lead institution of a collaborative project more than once per competition.


The AISL program is situated within the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL). DRL’s mission is to cultivate and catalyze fundamental and applied research and development (R&D) to improve the learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for the nation. In support of this mission, AISL seeks to (a) advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments; (b) provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; (c) advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments; and (d) engage the public of all ages in learning STEM in informal environments.

The AISL program’s priorities are: (1) Maximizing Strategic Impact, (2) Enhancing Knowledge-Building, (3) Promoting Innovation, (4) Advancing Collaboration, (5) Strengthening Infrastructure and Building Capacity, and (6) Broadening Participation. Through these priorities, described in more detail throughout the solicitation, the program contributes to STEM engagement and literacy, workforce development, and educational success. It may also narrow the gap between the advancements in scientific discovery and the public’s understanding of science.

AISL program investments should be of interest and utility to public audiences, informal STEM practitioners, and decision-makers. All proposals must articulate clear rationales describing why a project is primarily informal and how it adds value to the informal STEM learning community.

The products of AISL investments may include, but are not limited to, exhibitions and programs in museums, zoos, aquaria, botanic gardens/arboreta, planetariums, nature centers, parks, libraries, and other environments; science communication; after-school and out-of-school time (OST) programs; radio, television, film, or media programs or series; Do-It-Yourself (DIY)/maker initiatives; opportunities for the public to engage in research including crowd-sourcing and citizen science; on-line and other digital experiences (e.g., games, simulations, social media, mobile computing, distributed networks, and massive online open courses); and research findings that articulate what works, for whom, why, and in what contexts.

Given that almost any environment can support informal science learning, there is an opportunity to understand how learners can be supported to make bridges between what they learn in one setting and what they learn in another setting. Thus, projects may choose to include how informal learning practices connect with STEM-related frameworks and curricula, college and career readiness standards, or other educational settings.

Visit our Institutionally Limited Submission webpage for updates and other announcements.