University of Southern California


NSF-17-592: Mid-Scale Innovations Program in Astronomical Sciences (MSIP)

Slots:                                                     3

Internal Deadline:                          Contact the Office of Research if interested.

Preliminary Proposal:                    November 20, 2017, 5pm PT                                                                                   

External Deadline:                          April 6, 2018, 5pm PT

Award Information:                        Type:  Standard or Continuing Grant or Cooperative Agreement

Estimated Number of Awards: 1 – 4

Anticipated Amount: $4 million – $30 million

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:                    No restrictions or limits.


In order to organize this diverse range of project type and cost for strategic evaluation and review, the MSIP competition will be divided into the following four categories:

  1. Mid-Scale Science Projects: Self-contained, limited term projects with well-defined construction and science utilization phases.
  2. Mid-Scale Facilities: Construction or operation of stand-alone, long-term, mid-scale facilities.
  3. Development Investments: Design and development for future large mid-scale and large-scale facilities.
  4. Open Access Capabilities:
    1. New instruments for existing telescopes, both national and private, in return for US community access.
    2. Provision of observing time for US community access on existing telescopes (e.g. providing open access nights in return for partial support of operational costs of a facility).
    3. Data archiving and data management projects leading to public access to data resources.

Mid-scale projects are recognized as ideal incubators for the next generation of leaders in astronomical technology and creators of cutting edge new capabilities. Solving the most pressing problems of the day — such as those called out in the decadal surveys* — using new technologies, techniques, and concepts is encouraged in this competition. As such, MSIP categories 1-3 will focus on innovative, potentially transformative, research programs that include a strong component of student training in instrumentation and facility development. For proposals in category 4, the science justification must demonstrate the uniqueness of the proposed capability relative to what is currently available to the general US astronomical community. Student training in instrumentation will not be required for proposals in Category 4. The lower limit of $4M on proposal budgets will be waived for category 4.


*A vigorous Mid-Scale Innovations Program (MSIP) was recommended by the 2010 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey, citing “many highly promising projects for achieving diverse and timely science.” As described in this solicitation, the Division of Astronomical Sciences has established a mid-scale program to support a variety of astronomical activities within a cost range up to $30M.

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