Grants & Awards

Cottrell College Science Awards


Frequently Asked Questions

Concurrent Proposals

Q. Can the same proposal submitted to RCSA be submitted to another agency or foundation?

A. Yes. However, if funding is received from another source for the research proposed, you may be asked to withdraw your Cottrell College application. You should speak with a program director if you receive funding for work related to the proposed research from another source.


Q. I thought that RCSA accepted proposals only from faculty in chemistry, physics or astronomy departments. It now looks like that has changed. Why?

A. For some time we have been funding biochemistry, materials science and other research projects that are at the interdisciplinary boundaries of the three core disciplines -- as long as the proposals came from a faculty member with an appointment in one of the three core departments. Our change in policy in this regard reflects the realization that faculty doing nearly identical research and with equivalent relevance to the core disciplines have appointments in other science departments. The change in approach reflects the Foundation’s desire to allow the science proposed, rather than department affiliation, to drive eligibility.

Q. Is a faculty member from a Ph.D.-granting department eligible for a Cottrell College Science Award if no Ph.D. degrees have been awarded in the department for a specific length of time?

A. No. Faculty members in Ph.D.-granting departments may be eligible to apply for a Cottrell Scholar Award. See individual program announcements on this site for eligibility.

Q. Is a faculty member on a term appointment eligible for a Cottrell College Science Award?

A. No. Only faculty in the first three years of their tenure-track (or equivalent) academic appointment are eligible.

Q. Is a faculty member in a biology department eligible for a Cottrell College Science Award?

A. Yes, provided the research being proposed meets the criterion for “significant overlap” with one or more of the core programmatic disciplines of astronomy, chemistry or physics, and the research topic is not listed as "not funded" in the CCSA Guidelines section.

Q. I'm confused about eligibility for faculty in their third year of appointment. Could you please clarify?

A. Third-year faculty are only allowed to apply if their submission is the second attempt to receive funding from CCSA. Third-year faculty who have already been denied twice in the program, or who are applying for the first time, are not eligible.

Q. Am I eligible for a Cottrell College Science Award if I am a faculty member in a science division that does not maintain traditional science departments?

A. Possibly. In such cases eligibility will be determined by the discipline in which the principal investigator's degree(s) was awarded and the function of the individual within the science division. This division must have a major program in the relevant discipline that can provide students a bachelor’s degree. In addition, the research being proposed must meet the criteria described in the Guidelines section. If you are confused or not sure about your eligibility, please contact an RCSA program director.

Q. Can a tenured faculty member who has previously received RCSA funding in the Cottrell College Science Award program apply for funding?

A. No. Eligibility is limited to faculty within the first three years of their first faculty appointment. No renewal or follow-on awards are possible. 

Q. If, as a beginning faculty member, my application is denied during my second year of eligibility, may I submit the following year?

A. Only if it was a first-time submission. CCSA allows a maximum of two submissions during that three-year period.

Q. My research is aimed at developing (for example) a “new electronic device” or “new biomedical device” or ”other application” based on the latest technology coming from state-of-the-art basic research in the field.  Would my project be eligible for support in this program?

A. The prime criterion for funding in this program is to add to fundamental scientific knowledge in the three core disciplines or in research that significantly overlaps with these disciplines.  Applied research without a significant fundamental or basic research component intrinsic to the project is not funded.  Likewise, methods or technology development that does not have a specific fundamental research component is not generally funded. Thus, a project aimed primarily at developing new electronic devices or other devices or applications would not be funded, unless a compelling case was made that this development would add to fundamental scientific knowledge.

Q. The significance of my research is that it may lead to important applications. Does this mean the research is too applied?
A. No. As long as the research itself adds to fundamental scientific knowledge, it may be funded under the CCSA program. For example, the significance of a fundamental advance in understanding the chemical or physical function of a biological molecule may be that this advance in fundamental knowledge could lead to a new treatment for cancer.  If a clear rationale for such a potential application could be made, that would serve to buttress the claim that the fundamental research is significant, and add to the strength of the application rather than detract.


Q. How much detail is expected on the first page of the CCSA application for "Education and Experience?"

A. You should include the institution and department/division specified for bachelor and advanced degrees, year of award, and, as applicable, research mentor. Postdoctoral positions should be identified by institution, research mentor and dates of engagement. Other employment should follow a similar format, but include the address of the employer. Use of the abbreviations employed by American Men & Women of Science will conserve time and space.

Q. How extensive is the proposal?

A. Samples of the preproposal and full proposal can be viewed below.

View a sample of the pre-proposal here

View a sample of the full application here

Q. Is there a font size restriction for the proposal?

A. Yes. Font sizes less than Arial 11-point are ineligible for review.

Matching Costs

Q. What are "matching costs" for a CCSA proposal?

A. Matching costs are funds specifically committed by the institution/department if the proposal that you have submitted is funded. An institutional matching contribution of $15,000 is required for all applicants. The matching funds may be provided in any combination of the five allowed budget categories (equipment, supplies, student stipends, faculty stipends, travel to conduct research) that are allowed for RCSA funds. Start-up funds may not be used as matching funds, nor may funds from other grants or awards to the applicant. Institutional support in other categories (i.e., fringe benefits, academic year time release, equipment maintenance, student housing, etc.) as well as start-up funding may be listed on the budget page under “Additional Support.” The composite of matching funds as well as all “Additional Support” provided for the research of a newly appointed faculty member are taken into account in evaluating institutional contribution.

Q. Can indirect costs be an institutional contribution to matching costs?

A. No.

Q. Are there "matching costs" that are not suitable as contributions of the institution toward the proposed research?

A. Yes. Matching is required in the same five categories allowed in the budget for RCSA support. Thus, indirect costs, academic year time release, service provisions, retirement benefits, student tuition, student housing, pre-tenure sabbaticals, travel to professional meetings for faculty and/or students, do not constitute matching support on our awards. All of these items may be included under “Additional Support.”

Additional Support

Q. How do I account for start-up cost provisions? Must I allocate a fraction of these funds to match the budget of the current proposal?

A. The total start-up funding provided by the institution should be listed under “Additional Support.” Start-up funds do not have to be allocated to the proposed project, but if start-up funds are being used on the project, the amount should be specifically stated under “Additional Support.”


Q. My institution allows me to take up to two months summer salary from external grants. RCSA provides a stipend of up to $9,000 for eight weeks of participation. How are these reconciled?

A. You may supplement the RCSA stipend with funds from the institution, or from other research grants, up to the institutional limit for an eight-week period. However, you may not accept a teaching appointment during the period in which you take a stipend from an RCSA award. Teaching during any portion of the summer period is strongly discouraged. Monies used to supplement RCSA stipends must not require the awardee to carry out activities other than research.


Q. Who are "inside" and "outside" reviewers?

A. An inside reviewer or "insider" is a person who knows you and can assess your abilities. Former mentors/advisors, other scientists who know you well, and collaborators are insiders. Their assessment of you is critical to the overall evaluation of your background and capability to do the research. An "outsider" is a person with whom you have had no substantive personal or professional contact.

The opinions of outside experts are critical to the decision made regarding the award, so their selection is important. Among the best outside reviewers are the corresponding authors whose research is referenced in your proposal. Your list may be incomplete if it does not include scientists whose research is referenced. The listing of outsiders who are not experts lessens reviewer confidence in your understanding of the field. Your credibility may be compromised when reported "outsiders" say they know you well and have spent a considerable amount of time with you. Likewise your credibility may be compromised when reviewers you recommend are not experts in the science proposed.

Q. How many reviewers should be listed, and what format should be used?

A. On no more than one page, provide the complete names, current titles, addresses, phone and fax  numbers, and email addresses of at least 10 potential reviewers. At least eight reviewers should be "outsiders," and there should be a minimum of two "insiders." Identify your relationship, if any, with both inside and outside reviewers. Verify the accuracy of the information, since incorrect information may result in delays in the review of your application. Clearly distinguish "outsiders" from "insiders" and, if possible, use the letter address format.

Q. Are only those reviewers I have listed used in the evaluation of my proposal?

A. No. Program directors select reviewers from those in their experience and your listing who they believe most suitable to provide assessment of the research that you propose. If you know of "insiders" or "outsiders" to whom the proposal should not be sent, please provide that information in an email to a program officer when you apply.

Reviewer Comments

Q. Can I obtain reviewer comments on my proposal after the final decision on awards has been made?

A. Yes. All reviewer comments on the proposed science are routinely conveyed to the applicant once a funding decision has been made, excepting those that a particular reviewer has requested not to be conveyed. Once you have had time to reflect on your reviewers’ comments and the accompanying program director’s email, you may want to speak with a program director who may be able to help to put the comments in context.

Proposal Submission

Q. The CCSA program lists a target instead of a deadline. How rigid is this date?

A. A target date is not a deadline. It is, in our experience, a date for proposal submission that would allow us to process and review the proposal adequately so that a decision could be reached at a scheduled Advisory Committee meeting. While a delay of one or two days is rarely a problem, a delay of more than a week could cause the proposal to receive insufficient review and require it to be deferred to a subsequent meeting of the Advisory Committee.




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