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NSF Funding for Statisticians by Directorate

1 February 2016 546 views No Comment

Opportunities across directorates

Steve Pierson, ASA Director of Science Policy

    Statisticians receive funding from across the National Science Foundation (NSF) but, because it is not straightforward to find out the funding by directorate, the ASA sought to estimate this funding.

    By examining the department listed in all active NSF awards as of February 2015, we obtained the estimates in Table 1 of funding for statisticians by directorate for that time period. The table—the amounts for which were obtained by dividing the total award amount by duration in years—shows statisticians being primarily funded by the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) Directorate (home of the Division of Mathematical Sciences—DMS), followed by the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate; the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate; and the Computer and Information Science & Engineering (CISE) Directorate.

    Table 1

    Table 1— Approximate Annual NSF Funding by Directorate to Statisticians Based Largely on the Academic Department Listing of the Principal Investigator and Estimated from Active NSF Awards as of February 2015

    With the amount of funding for (bio)statistics departments coming from outside MPS/DMS amounting to about 60% of the amount coming from MPS/DMS, it is important for statisticians to keep in mind the other directorates for funding opportunities, especially statisticians engaged in interdisciplinary research. The relatively small amounts of funding in the Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Geoscience directorates also may indicate unexploited opportunities for statisticians. (See sidebar for advice about applying for funding outside DMS.)

    The funding levels in Table 1 represent 350 awards and are likely to be lower bounds for NSF funding for statisticians at that time since they generally do not include funding to statisticians who are not in statistics-centric departments. (The levels also assume all PIs in statistics departments are statisticians.)

    In the data provided to the ASA, there were 93 department categories—representing 625 awards—that included “statistic.” The main department listings included in Table 1 are statistics, biostatistics, biostatistics and statistics, and statistical science. The rest of the 93 listings are a combination of statistics or biostatistics and one—or two—of the following: mathematics, informatics, actuarial science, computer science, applied mathematics, and operations research.

    To elaborate, 286 of the 350 awards were to PIs belonging to departments where “statistics” was in the listing, 20 for biostatistics, and 14 for statistical science. For comparison, some 100 awards had department listings of “mathematics and statistics” and around 1,600 for both “mathematics” and “computer science.”

    Tips for Applying for Funding Outside the NSF Division
    of Mathematical Sciences

      • Keep in mind the DMS Mathematical Sciences Innovation Incubator program, whereby mathematicians and statisticians applying to NSF non-DMS solicitations make DMS aware of the solicitation. The application would support a new collaboration area, DMS will consider the application for co-review and co-funding.
      • Call solicitation program officers to discuss your proposal idea.
      • Review awards funded by a solicitation/program, including details such as dates and amounts.
      • Do not torque your research beyond a reasonable point; there may not be a perfect fit, but one needs to find the best and most reasonable fit.
      • Look for explicitly interdisciplinary solicitations.
      • Apply as part of interdisciplinary teams.
      • For newer faculty, form deep and meaningful collaborations with domain area scientists early in your career. This means working in partnership with scientists to develop statistical solutions to their most pressing problems (versus simply getting a data set and proposing to analyze/develop new statistical methods for the data set.)
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