Grants & Awards


Solar Energy Conversion

Frequently Asked Questions

Faculty Eligibility

Q. For individual awards, faculty members must be within five years from their date of tenure. For team award applications, is it also required that each member of the team be within five years of their tenure date, or would you consider a lead PI that meets that requirement paired with other more junior or senior faculty members?

A. The applicant eligibility requirement for multi-investigator Scialog proposals is that each applicant must meet the condition of being “within five years of their tenure date.” Therefore, a pre-tenure faculty member would not be eligible to apply as a member of a multi-investigator team. The choice of this window was a deeply considered one. Our sense was that opening the program to scientists at all career stages could result in the majority of our awards going to well-established and well-funded scientists and their teams. We want to target early career faculty who are well positioned to take significant research risk, and that is why we decided to start eligibility at the tenure date. Such faculty have just achieved tenure, undergoing rigorous peer review in the process, and are now well positioned to take research risks that they may not have been able to take pre-tenure. In sum, we thought the particular five-year window immediately after the tenure decision would attract early career scientists prepared to venture into new areas of solar energy conversion, but who had not yet risen to prominence in the field nor achieved large federal funding from DOE, NSF or others. We believe that Scialog will be able to help a significant number of them make this important transition.

Q. My research program is highly interdisciplinary and my Scialog project will likely involve a number of collaborations with scientists from the industry and national laboratories. Is that a conflict with the requirements for team members?

A. No. Although all funded PIs must be faculty within five years of the start of their tenured contract, we strongly encourage collaborations with scientists who fall outside our eligibility requirements. Although such collaborators are not considered principal investigators and not directly funded, expenses incurred in collaborative work can be supported with Scialog funds.

Q. Do all PIs have to be from the same institution? From the same department?

A. No. Eligible faculty may be from the same or different departments and institutions.

Proposal Evaluation

Q. Is there a specific number of awards to be granted?

A. No. The single most important characteristic of a successful proposal is that it presents truly innovative ideas that have potential to result in transformative breakthroughs in the fundamental scientific understanding of solar energy conversion to electricity or fuels. The Scialog Review Panel determines which proposals meet this standard. The purpose of Scialog is to enable higher-risk potentially transformative research that might fall outside the boundaries of traditional federal funding streams. Only those proposals that have potential to meet this purpose will be deemed fundable. This program is an opportunity to obtain funding for that truly special idea that you have been carrying around in your back pocket, but for which you have not yet obtained funding.

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

A. One of the criteria for funding in this program is to add to fundamental scientific knowledge in solar energy conversion. Applied research without a significant fundamental or basic research component intrinsic to the project will not be funded. Likewise, methods or technology development that does not have a specific fundamental research component will generally not be funded. Thus, a project aimed primarily at developing new 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 supported under the Scialog program. If a clear rationale for such a potential application could be made, that would buttress the claim that the fundamental research is significant and add to the strength of the application rather than detract.

Scialog Conference 

Q. What about the annual conference? Do I have to go? Who pays? When is it held?

A. The Scialog initiative is a critically important experiment in collaboration and community building as a means of promoting great science. Scialog has been conceived as a research grant program emphasizing annual meetings and the opportunity, encouragement and expectation to form cross-disciplinary teams. The Scialog Conference will be held annually to give Scialog awardees the opportunity to share information and network with other solar energy conversion researchers who have worked on many different projects. Participation in the conference is a required part of the program. There is no registration fee, and room and board are provided at the conference. Costs of transportation to and from the conference are to be paid by the Scialog awardees, and award funds can be used to cover these expenses. Keynote speakers will be invited and address a variety of topics. See Dates and Deadlines page for exact dates.

Proposal Preparation

Q. How much detail is expected on the first page of the Scialog 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. Where do I list existing support and proposals under consideration?

A. Active and pending research and education grants should be listed on the application page designated “Financial Support.” Complete information should be provided, including funding agency, title, period of support, dollar amount, and portion directly awarded to the applicant in the case of multiple investigators.

Q. Will funding from other agencies for similar research hurt my chances for an award, that is, do I need to propose an idea for which I have no other funding?

A. No. The Awards under Scialog are intended to support your most creative research ideas in solar energy research whether or not you currently have other funding for that work.  However, the purpose of this program is to enable higher-risk research that might fall outside the boundaries of traditional federal funding streams.  This program is an opportunity to obtain funding for a potentially breakthrough idea for which you not yet obtained funding.

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

A. Yes. Use Arial 11-point font.


Q. Should my Scialog application include a budget, and if so, what categories and items may be included?

A. There is no requirement for a budget in the Scialog application. A Scialog award provides $100,000 for an individual or $250,000 for a team award with considerable discretion for the PI. Expenditures need to conform to the RCSA spending guidelines provided at the time of funding.

Q. Are indirect or overhead costs included in the award amount?

A. No. The award (either $100,000 for a single investigator or $250,000 for a team) may only be used for direct costs related to the research.

Reviewer Comments

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

A. No. We consider the outcome of the internal and external reviews confidential. Therefore, reviewer comments are not provided.

Other Questions

Q. I still have questions. Who can I call or email?

A. You may contact a RCSA Program Director.

Program Directors are:

Richard Wiener

Silvia Ronco

or call 520-571-1111




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