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Like volcanoes the world over, the Small Research Grants (SmRG) program has gone dormant. Begun in 1979 by the AAS Executive Office, the program was funded by a series of grants from NASA to support U.S. astronomers working on NASA-relevant projects. A small amount of additional funding was provided occasionally by income from the AAS operating-reserve fund to support meritorious proposals from outside the U.S. and/or not strictly relevant to current or future NASA missions. Over the last 13 years the SmRG program has awarded more than $1 million in small grants ($500 to $7,000 each) to more than 500 researchers.

With Council approval, the AAS Executive Office has decided not to pursue renewal of our NASA SmRG grant. Managing the program takes a considerable amount of staff time that we feel should be devoted to other AAS activities that are better aligned with our mission and strategic plan. Another scientific society has expressed interest in taking over the SmRG program and is submitting a proposal to NASA with our help and encouragement. We hope that this proposal will be successful and that we’ll be able to announce the resumption of the SmRG program under new management in the very near future.

Meanwhile, I’d like to thank the many AAS members who volunteered to review SmRG proposals over the years. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Kevin B. Marvel
AAS Executive Officer
5 July 2012

For reference, a complete description of the (former) AAS SmRG program appears below.

Other Small Grant Programs

Here are some other small grant programs in astronomy. None are affiliated with the American Astronomical Society.

The Fund for Astrophysical Research: Theodore Dunham Jr. Grants for Research in Astronomy

Grants up to $3,000 (rarely higher) are awarded for equipment, computer time, computer hardware, or software to be used in research. Preference is given to proposals for facilities that will be used by a number of astronomers. This program does not fund salaries, administrative costs, overhead, publication costs, travel costs to attend meetings, or equipment intended only for teaching. Grants are generally made to colleges, universities, and not-for-profit observatories and only rarely to individuals. Principal investigators are astronomers engaged in research and residing in North America. Annual application deadline: late October.

Dudley Observatory: Herbert C. Pollock Award

Award of up to $5,000 to support an innovative project in the history of astronomy or astrophysics. Generally goes to a faculty member, research associate, or postdoctoral fellow associated with a college, university, nonprofit research institution, or observatory located in North America. Applications from persons not currently affiliated with any institution will also be considered. Special consideration will be given to proposals that involve the use of the Dudley Observatory Archives, the Dudley Collection of early astronomical works housed at Union College, or the Benjamin A. Gould Jr. Library. Annual application deadline: late November.

American Philosophical Society: Franklin Research Grants

Maximum of $6,000 for noncommercial research leading to publication in any area of knowledge. Supports travel to libraries and archives, costs of photocopies and related materials, costs associated with fieldwork, and non-capital laboratory expenses; does not cover travel to meetings, costs of publication, or equipment purchases. Applicants must have a Ph.D. or equivalent; young scholars, including recent recipients of the doctorate, are encouraged to apply. Open to both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals; the latter must do their research in the U.S. Two annual application deadlines: early October and early December.

American Philosophical Society: Lewis & Clark Fund for Field Research in Astrobiology

Grants up to $5,000 for exploration and field research in any area of interest to astrobiology, including astronomy, chemistry, biology, geology, oceanography, paleontology, and planetary science. Funded in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute. Applicants must be formally affiliated with a U.S.-based institution and may include graduate students, postdocs, and junior scientists no more than 5 years beyond receipt of their Ph.D. or equivalent degree. Awards fund travel and related expenses, including personal field equipment. Annual application deadline: mid-February.

American Institute of Physics: History of Modern Physics & Allied Fields

Grants up to $2,500 for research in the history of modern physics and allied sciences, including astronomy, geophysics, and optics, and their social interactions. Administered by the AIP Center for History of Physics. Covers direct expenses such as travel and subsistence to use the Niels Bohr Library in College Park, Maryland, or to record oral history interviews or copy archival materials for deposit in the library. Applicants should either be working toward a graduate degree in the history of science or have a record of publication in the field. Two annual application deadlines: mid-April and mid-November.

AAS Small Research Grant (SmRG) Program (ended July 5, 2012)

NASAThe Small Research Grant (SmRG) Program is administered by the AAS Executive Office. The program is funded by a grant from NASA and is thus intended mainly to support investigators in the U.S. working on NASA-relevant projects. A small amount of additional funding may be provided by income from the AAS operating-reserve fund to support particularly meritorious proposals from outside the U.S. and/or not strictly relevant to current or future NASA missions. The amount of money available during any proposal cycle depends on the sources of support available to the Society at that time.

There are two opportunities to apply each year, one in May and the other in November. Upcoming deadlines are listed below.

Purpose

To cover costs associated with any type of astronomical research.

Amount

Awards range from $500 to a maximum of $7,000 (U.S. dollars).

Eligibility

Open to both U.S. and international astronomers with a Ph.D. or equivalent; graduate students are not eligible. Astronomers living outside the U.S. are eligible only for AAS funds, which are limited and may not always be available. Astronomers from smaller, less endowed institutions will be given priority. Proposals are welcome from individuals not associated with an institution.

Eligible Expenses

Acceptable expenses are those normally associated with research: computing costs; equipment purchases, upgrades, and repairs; equipment transport/shipping; travel (including student travel) to observatories and/or scientific meetings, but not travel to AAS or Division meetings; and page charges. Please note that requests to fund page charges should be made only when papers are written and ready for publication, or in the publication pipeline (submitted or accepted), or already published.

Limitations

  • No salaries, wages, consultants' fees, or institutional overhead will be paid. (Note that no institutional endorsement is required on proposals.)
  • Grant checks will be made out to individual proposers, not to institutions.
  • For observing runs and scientific meetings both travel and subsistence costs may be requested, provided that these costs will not otherwise be reimbursed.
  • If use of a facility other than that in the original proposal is involved, such use must be approved in writing before funds are actually awarded. If possible, include such contingencies in the original proposal.
  • NASA funds are not available to astronomers living/working outside the U.S.
  • When NASA funds are used, all travel must be made on U.S. flag carriers whenever possible.
  • Funds for non-NASA-relevant research and/or non-U.S. investigators are extremely limited (if they're available at all).
  • Travel to AAS and Division meetings is not supported.

Proposal Requirements

In the following, page refers to a single-sided page. A double-sided page is equivalent to two single-sided pages.

Cover/Signature Page (one page)

The cover/signature page should contain on separate lines:

  • Project title.
  • Total amount requested (maximum $7,000).
  • Proposer’s name, institution (if applicable), postal address, e-mail address, and phone number.
  • If the applicant works for the U.S. Government, indicate to whom the check should be made out.
  • A summary statement (maximum 200 words) of the project and its expected results.
  • A statement that funds will be used for the requested purpose and that an accounting will be furnished to the AAS within 8 months after receipt of the grant.
  • Signatures of proposer and his or her immediate supervisor. Supervisor’s signature indicates that he or she is aware of the proposal and does not constitute an official endorsement from the proposer's institution.
  • Date of submission.
  • Click to download a PDF or Word doc of the cover/signature page template.

Project Description (maximum two pages)

  • Please include a broad statement explaining why your project is important and how the results will advance our knowledge of astronomy and astrophysics. The committee judging your proposal will not necessarily be familiar with your area of research.
  • Project and budget justification.
  • What the expected results will be.
  • The degree to which undergraduate and/or graduate students will be involved in your project.
  • The relevance of your proposed research to a NASA mission or to the determination of the direction of a future NASA mission. The SmRG program is funded by NASA, and a statement of relevance to NASA programs is necessary to determine whether NASA funds may be used. Proposals for non-NASA-related projects, if funded, will be paid with money from other sources — but note that such other funds are extremely limited and not always available.
  • If you've applied for observing time as part of your SmRG project, please indicate either (i) how much time you've been awarded or (ii) when you expect to hear from the Telescope Allocation Committee and whether you've been awarded time for similar work in the past. If you hear from the TAC after you submit your SmRG proposal but before you hear back from us, please relay the TAC's decision to Rick Fienberg at your earliest convenience.
  • You must indicate what other efforts have been made to obtain funding and what other funds are available for the proposed project. It is not sufficient to merely state "no other funds are available." If your project includes collaborators from other institutions, have those institutions been asked for support?

Budget Page (one page)

Itemize the proposed expenditures, line item by line item. The review committee may elect to award partial funding, so it is crucial that each component of your budget be listed separately.

If you haven't already done so in the project description, use the budget page to justify each proposed expenditure. For example, why do you need so much RAM in your new computer? Why can't you do your observations remotely, i.e., why do you need to travel to the telescope in person? Why do you need three students to accompany you on your observing trip, rather than just one or two? Why do you need to attend this particular conference?

Curriculum Vita (maximum two pages)

Provide a résumé/CV including your education and only the most recent relevant publications. A short description of the applicant’s position at his or her institution (if applicable) is helpful to the committee, particularly if there are any special circumstances, such as a recent change of jobs.

Application Checklist

One copy of the complete proposal, including:

  • Cover page (Word doc, PDF) with signatures.
  • Project description (max. two pages).
  • Budget page (one page).
  • CV (max. two pages).

Proposals longer than six pages in total will not be considered.

Deadlines

Completed proposals are due in the AAS Executive Office by 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time on:

28 November 2011 for funds to be awarded in early 2012.

7 May 2012 for funds to be awarded in mid-2012.

Proposals should be sent to:

Small Research Grant Program
American Astronomical Society
2000 Florida Avenue, NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20009-1231

You may submit your proposal by e-mail as a PDF to AAS Press Officer and Education & Outreach Coordinator Rick Fienberg by the deadline. You must, however, mail a hardcopy of the entire proposal, including a signed hardcopy of the cover page, to arrive at the AAS Executive Office no more than a week later, or your proposal will not be considered.

Proposals are reviewed by a committee of four AAS-appointed astronomers via teleconference shortly after each deadline. The SmRG review committee will confer within eight weeks of the proposal deadline, and results will be communicated to applicants soon thereafter.

Review Criteria

Evaluation criteria of proposals include:

  • scientific merit
  • student participation
  • relevance to specific NASA missions or programs
  • budget with sufficient detail and justification
  • indication of what other efforts have been made to obtain funding and what other funds are available for the proposed project
  • as noted above, astronomers from smaller, less endowed institutions will be given priority.

Reporting Requirements

Within 8 months of receiving a Small Research Grant, the successful proposer must submit a final report to the AAS office on his or her project or, with justification, request an extension from Rick Fienberg.

The final report should include a detailed description of the expenditure of the funds with supporting receipts (or photocopies) and a brief (no more than one-page) summary of the project's activities and results. Any unused SmRG monies must be refunded to the AAS by check.

If a paper has resulted from the project, researchers are asked to include the following text in their acknowledgements, including the portions in [square brackets] as appropriate:

This research was supported [in part] by [NASA through] the American Astronomical Society's Small Research Grant Program.

A copy of a preprint for a submitted, accepted, or published paper should also be submitted with the final report.

Questions regarding SmRG reporting requirements may be e-mailed to Rick Fienberg.

Interim Proposals

As noted above, the AAS Small Research Grant Program receives proposals twice a year, in May and November. Interim proposals are discouraged. Occasionally, however, an astronomer may come upon an unexpected research opportunity for which he or she needs to submit a proposal between regular deadlines. BEFORE submitting a proposal outside one of the two formal review periods, contact Rick Fienberg. If your project is deemed eligible for a grant, the AAS will convene an ad-hoc committee to review your proposal, which must comply with all the guidelines listed above. Funding will be awarded only if the ad-hoc committee agrees unanimously. Interim proposals must comply with all budget and reporting requirements as well.

Acknowledgements

The AAS thanks the following members for their recent service on the Small Research Grant Committee:

  • Douglas N. Arion (Carthage College)
  • Dmitry Bizyaev (New Mexico State Univ.)
  • Grant R. Denn (Metropolitan State College of Denver)
  • Linda M. French (Illinois Wesleyan Univ.)
  • Arne Henden (American Assoc. of Variable Star Observers)
  • Michele M. Montgomery (Univ. of Central Florida)
  • Emily Rice (American Museum of Natural History)
  • Jeffrey A. Sabby (Southern Illinois Univ., Edwardsville)
  • Mangala Sharma (Space Telescope Science Institute)
  • J. Allyn Smith (Austin Peay State Univ.)
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