Student Submissions

This information is for doctoral students interested in applying for grants that will be administered by ISERP. ISERP supports researchs in History, Sociology, Political Science, Anthropology, Economics, and African American & African Diaspora Studies, as well as SIPA.


Once you have identified a funding opportunity, the first step is to recruit a faculty principal investigator. Columbia policy does not allow graduate students to be sole PI on grants. The 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 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 Proposal Tracker for internal approval. (If an IRB protocol is required, this is the responsibility of the student and the PI).

Step seven - wait! Months will pass before you receive the results of your proposal. If you receive any award documents directly, forward them to for review. Do NOT sign on behalf of the university. 

Step eight - If your proposal is awarded, ISERP will set up the grant account and reach out with further instructions.


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. You should request a start date on the first day 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 project must be approved or deemed exempt in order for you to begin any human subjects research. If NSF recommends your project for funding, the Program Officer will request the IRB approval letter.

Q. What is the statement called "Results from 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 faculty PI can provide this information. The GRFP is considered prior NSF support.

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 if applicable.

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, it's only required that the faculty PI and the student Co-PI be affiliated with a US institution.

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 (also known as "overhead" or "facilities and administration") on the award. ISERP will ensure that the overhead charges are budgeted correctly, subject to SPA approval.

Q. May I have an NSF award simultaneously with another grant or 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. Overlapping costs are prohibited, so in any situation where the same costs are included in multiple proposals that are subsequently awarded, rebudgeting will be required.

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 reviewers change every round. 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. NSF does not make public information about the funding rates in any particular category.


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