New Principal Investigator (PI) Resources
2021 Virtual PI Launchpad
NASA SMD, the University of Arizona, the University of Michigan, JPL, and the Heising-Simons Foundation held a virtual workshop in June of 2021 for researchers and engineers who would like to submit a NASA space mission proposal in the next few years but don’t know where to start. We are interested in broadening the pool of potential NASA space mission PI’s.
Welcome to the web pages for scientists and engineers who plan to propose to a NASA Research Opportunity (NRA) (like Research Opportunites in Space and Earth Science) or an announcement of opportunity (AO) for a flight mission or mission of opportunity from the Science Mission Directorate. This page provides prospective mission principal investigators with resources that may be useful as they develop their mission concepts, as well as information on developmental opportunities to prepare future mission leaders.
Writing Successful Mission Proposals
On June 5, 2019, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen gave a colloquium entitled “Writing Successful Proposals: Observations from NASA.” The talk detailed the process to develop and submit a mission proposal, and relevant stakeholders along the way. The talk also highlighted characteristics of proposals submitted during the last 20 years to share lessons learned about what makes a proposal successful, common mistakes, and experiences from the point of view from both proposers and the NASA selection official. Copies of the slides are available here, and the video can be viewed here.
Writing Successful Research (ROSES) Proposals
You may sign up for a JPL proposal writing workshop at https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/go/proposalworkshop. On the library page, down in the links section below the documents, there are links presentations on how to write better proposals including: A few talks from the CRESST Proposal Writing Seminar at GSFC February 2022, the ORAU NASA Postdoc Program Webinar on the "ROSES" solicitation and writing proposals June 2022, ROSES Solicitation and Proposal writing advice from the SMD New Hires Orientation Workshop May 2022, and a Youtube video of a proposal writing talk by Christina Richey of JPL given at the SETI Institute in 2019. On the navigation list on the top right of this page you will also find links to pages devoted to various aspects of the proposal writing and review process, including a web page devoted to Dual-Anonymous Peer Review, No Due Date Programs, and how to Volunteer to serve on an SMD Review Panel.
Resources for grant proposals:
All of SMD’s grant solicitations are contained in the Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science (ROSES) solicitation that is issued every year near Valentine’s Day (February 14th). ROSES can be found at the website for the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES).
All members of a grant proposal team must be registered in the NSPIRES system AND must confirm their participation before a proposal is submitted. In addition to being able to create and participate on proposals, once registered in NSPIRES, individuals may subscribe to email lists that announce the release of new NRAs and AOs, may review proposals, and may submit notices of intent. To register in NSPIRES click the button on right side of the NSPIRES home page that says 'Create an Account'. Once your team member is registered then you can invite them to participate on your proposal and can confirm participation. See NSPIRES basics: adding team members."
Default rules for all NASA solicitations (for grants and cooperative agreements) are presented in the NASA guidebook for proposers. This is an Agency document that sets the default rules, e.g., if the solicitation is silent on a certain subject. However, if the solicitation (like ROSES) says something different than the guidebook, then the solicitation takes precedence.
Further information about NASA’s proposal, evaluation, and selection processes and much more may be found at the SARA website. Included on this site is a way to volunteer to serve on a NASA grant peer reveiew panel. Serving on a panel is a great way to learn about what NASA values in proposals.
Proposers are encouraged to begin their proposal preparation and submission process early. Start your proposal in NSPIRES, invite team members online early so that they are confirmed via NSPIRES in advance of submission. There are some walk throughs with screen captures and extensive tutorials and other NSPIRES help topics on the NSPIRES help site. For any questions that cannot be resolved with the available online help menus, requests for assistance may be directed by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone to (202) 479-9376, 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday - Friday, excluding Federal Holidays.
Finally, NASA grant management recipient training is available at https://www.nssc.nasa.gov/grants. This training goes into great detail on the management of NASA grants from the recipient’s point of view.
Planning Resources for AO’s:
SMD’s AO’s are based on a standard template. The current version of this template is version 5.0 and it may be found at https://soma.larc.nasa.gov/standardao/index.html
The Science Office for Mission Assessments maintains a website (https://soma.larc.nasa.gov) with information on all of the competed opportunities and lessons learned from past Technical, Management, and Cost (TMC) review of proposals. Prospective principal investigators should review this information well in advance of submitting a proposal to NASA.
Prospective principal investigators are encouraged to review the Planning List for SMD Solicitations at https://soma.larc.nasa.gov/. This list represents a snapshot of SMD's plans as of the revision date. These are projected solicitations and planning dates only. NASA cannot guarantee that the final solicitations will be released, or that they will be released by the planning date.
Mission Management Resources:
Proposers new to the mission management process are encouraged to review NASA Procedural Requirement 7120.5, NASA Space Flight Program and Project Management Requirements, for information on how NASA formulates and implements space flight programs and projects. Information on both NPR 7120.5 and the accompanying handbook are available here: https://nodis3.gsfc.nasa.gov/displayDir.cfm?t=NPR&c=7120&s=5E
NASA Procedural Requirement 7123.1, NASA Systems Engineering Processes and Requirements, provides information on the system engineering requirements for NASA Projects. Information on both NPR 7123.1 and the accompanying handbook are available here: https://nodis3.gsfc.nasa.gov/displayDir.cfm?t=NPR&c=7123&s=1B
Professional Development Resources:
NASA offers a number of fellowships and postdoctoral opportunities for early career researchers, including those with an interest in hardware development and future mission leadership. Information about these opportunities is available here: learners/learner-opportunities#postops
SMD is developing information sessions and workshops for prospective mission principals investigators. These will include overview sessions at upcoming science conferences and hands-on workshops targeted towards people who are in the process of developing their first proposals. Information on the first workshop, the PI Launchpad, is available at https://science.nasa.gov/researchers/pi-launchpad. To subscribe to the mailing list to learn about these opportunities, please visit https://lists.hq.nasa.gov/mailman/listinfo/hq-smdpi-workshop-outreach.
Dr. Elizabeth Frank organized and led a panel discussion via Zoom with current and past mission leaders about the skills needed to lead a mission or instrument team. The focus of the discussion was to be on those skills that are not talked about in the science community much — people skills. The discussion was edited into an hour-long video available at https://youtu.be/8Rgf2XNb1yY.
Resources on NASA’s Policies on Harassment and Discrimination:
Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen has written that “We are all responsible for addressing harassment in the workplace. All too often bystanders have failed to intervene, allowing predators to continue harassment for years or even decades.
On September 11, 2018, Administrator Bridenstine signed the NASA Policy Statement on Antidiscrimination in NASA Conducted or Funded Program, Activities, and Institutions. Let me reinforce the Administrator's policy that discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin, sex (including sexual harassment), disability and age is not acceptable.
Harassment is a serious violation of professional ethics, and should be regarded and treated as such within NASA, as well as our contractor and associated academic communities. I would like to encourage everyone related to NASA science to report harassment claims directly utilizing the information provided in the NASA policy statement signed by Administrator Bridenstine.”
The Administrator's policy can be found at: https://missionstem.nasa.gov/docs/Bridenstine_Title_IX_Policy_Statement_TAGGED.pdf
Other information on NASA’s policies may be found at the “MissionSTEM” website, managed by NASA’s Office of Discrimination and Equal Opportunity (ODEO). Among the information found there is NASA Form 1206, the Civil Rights Assurance Form (https://missionstem.nasa.gov/docs/NF2021.pdf) which is a certification filed by entities receiving NASA grant awards (usually Universities) that they are not engaging in illegal discrimination, including harassment. The form provides a host of information on specific requirements, such as institutional discrimination complaint procedures.
NASA’s official statement on nondiscrimination is contained in NASA Policy Directive (NPD) 2081.1, Nondiscrimination in Federally Assisted and Conducted Programs of NASA. This NPD is a statement of NASA’s policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment among programs and activities receiving NASA grant awards or conducted by the Agency, for example, the process of awarding grants. This directive also sets forth NASA’s expectations, as a matter of policy, for diversity and inclusion among grantee institutions. The policy may be accessed at:https://nodis3.gsfc.nasa.gov/displayDir.cfm?t=NPD&c=2081&s=1B.
Finally, the processes for raising concerns regarding discrimination or harassment are varied depending on many factors. A summary is provided in the brief document Information Statement on Raising Discrimination or Harassment Concerns that is intended to inform individuals who are members of various constituencies associated with NASA, including civil servants, contractors, and grantee beneficiaries, the available process(es) and resources for filing a complaint. This document is located at: https://missionstem.nasa.gov/filing-a-complaint.html.