NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Pathways into the Earth, Ocean, Polar and Atmospheric & Geospace Sciences (IUSE:GEOPAths)

Please see the full solicitation for complete information about the funding opportunity. Below is a summary assembled by the Research & Innovation Office (RIO).

Program Summary

The National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) Initiative is a Foundation-wide effort to accelerate improvements in the quality and effectiveness of undergraduate education in all STEM fields including the learning, social, behavioral, and economic sciences. Undergraduate STEM education is critical for preparing both a diverse STEM workforce and a STEM-literate public that is ready to support and benefit from the progress of science [Reference 1]. The IUSE initiative provides a Foundation-wide framework of investments to support the agency's commitment to the highest caliber undergraduate STEM education. By improving the quality and effectiveness of undergraduate education in all STEM fields, IUSE investments enable NSF to lead national progress toward a diverse and innovative workforce and a STEM-literate public.

Through the IUSE framework, NSF coordinates its investments in undergraduate programs and undergraduate STEM education to maximize impact, and to use shared metrics and appropriate program evaluation approaches. These investments are made across all directorates and address both STEM education in general and specific disciplinary needs. IUSE investments support a variety of activities including the inclusion of inquiry-based and active learning approaches in undergraduate STEM instruction, efforts to increase undergraduate STEM research experiences and courses, and research on the persistence and graduation of students in STEM programs. In addition, specific emerging cross-disciplinary needs include data science preparation for students in all majors, recruitment and retention of women and of students from underrepresented groups in STEM degree programs, incorporation of undergraduate research in STEM fields for STEM majors and non-majors, and re-envisioning of introductory courses in light of new research findings and theories. IUSE also seeks to broaden participation in STEM fields from all sectors and groups in society and proposers are encouraged to establish linkages, as appropriate, with components of the national network of NSF INCLUDES projects [Reference 2 in the Program Description section].

The Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) contributes to the IUSE initiative through the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Pathways into the Geosciences - Earth, Ocean, Polar and Atmospheric Sciences (IUSE:GEOPAths) funding opportunity. IUSE:GEOPAths invites proposals that specifically address the current needs and opportunities related to education within the geosciences community through the formation of STEM Learning Ecosystems that engage students in the study of the Earth, its oceans, polar regions and atmosphere. The primary goal of the IUSE:GEOPAths funding opportunity is to increase the number of students pursuing undergraduate and/or postgraduate degrees through the design and testing of novel approaches that engage students in authentic, career-relevant experiences in geoscience. In order to broaden participation in the geosciences, engaging students from historically excluded groups or from non-geoscience degree programs is a priority. While maintaining elements from the legacy tracks of GEOPATHS, this solicitation features three new funding tracks that focus on Geoscience Learning Ecosystems (GLEs):

1. GEOPAths: Informal Networks (IN). Collaborative projects in this track will support geoscience learning and experiences in informal settings for teachers, pre-college (e.g., upper level high school) students, and early undergraduates in the geosciences.

2. GEOPAths: Undergraduate Preparation (UP). Projects in this track will engage pre-college and undergraduate students in extra-curricular experiences and training in the geosciences with a focus on service learning [Reference 3 in the Program Description section] and workplace skill building.

3. GEOPAths: Graduate Opportunities (GO). Projects in this track will improve research and career-related pathways into the geosciences for undergraduate and graduate students through institutional collaborations with a focus on service learning and workplace skill building.


CU Internal Deadline: 11:59pm MST October 19, 2020

NSF Letter of Intent Deadline: 5:00pm MST November 17, 2020

NSF Full Proposal Deadline: 5:00pm MST January 26, 2021

Internal Application Requirements (all in PDF format)

  • Project Summary (2-3 pages maximum)
    • Describe the overall goals and objectives of the project;
    • Identify the track under which the proposal will be submitted;
    • Identify which geoscience sub-fields (e.g., oceanography) or employment sectors (e.g., mining) are being addressed, if relevant;
    • Describe the project design and activities (less than 2,500 characters);
    • If the project will be leveraging a named research facility or program (e.g., NCAR, LSAMP), identify this facility/program
  • PI Curriculum Vitae
  • List of Co-PIs and other Key Personnel
  • Budget Overview (1 page maximum): A basic budget outlining project costs is sufficient; detailed OCG budgets are not required.

To access the online application, visit: https://cuboulderovcr.secure-platform.com/a/solicitations/6548/home


There are no special eligibility stipulations.

Limited Submission Guidelines

An organization may serve as sole submitting organization or as lead organization of a collaborative project on only one submission per competition, regardless of track, but may serve as the non-lead organization of a collaborative project more than once per competition. Additional eligibility requirements are described later in the solicitation.

Award Information

Award Amount: $300,000 - $350,000

Award Duration: Up to 3 years

Approximate Number of Awards: 18

Review Criteria

In addition to the standard NSF criteria of intellectual merit and broader impacts, please note the following solicitation specific criteria below.

  • Participant Recruitment: Is the recruitment and selection process described with sufficient detail? Is the recruitment plan likely to attract a diverse population of students that would benefit from the proposed activities?
  • PI Team: Does the project team have sufficient experience in supporting students in the types of activities being proposed?
  • Organizational Commitment: Is organizational commitment outlined well in the proposal and is the evidence of support for the project sufficient to achieve the goals and objectives?
  • Connection to Research on Geoscience Education: How well informed are the vision and execution plan by the literature and prior attempts, if applicable, to implement change. Is the expectation of success well-justified?
  • Connection to Careers: Is there a sufficient connection in the proposed project to viable workforce paths in the geosciences?
  • Student Recruitment/Mentoring Plan: Is there a mentoring plan in place for student participants? The plan should emphasize strategies to ensure inclusive environments, programming and experiences with a focus on retention and movement of participants to the next appropriate level of education and research acumen (including but not limited to sufficient training for faculty and staff to successfully undertake their roles as mentors and supervisors of the student participants).
  • Project Evaluation and Reporting: Will the evaluation and monitoring plan provide sufficient documentation that project goals and outcomes have been realized?
  • Potential for Sustainability: What is the potential for sustaining project activities and/or institutional collaborations after funding ends?