Request for Proposals for the 2011 NSF-CBMS Regional Research Conferences in the Mathematical Sciences

Proposal Due Date: April 23, 2010

I. Program Description
A. Overview
B. Distinguishing Features
C. Eligibility
II. Review Criteria
III. Proposal Preparation
A. Submission of Proposals
B. Project Description
C. Biographical Sketches
D. Budget
E. Other Items
E. Further Information

I. Program Description

A. Overview

To stimulate interest and activity in mathematical research, the National Science Foundation intends to support up to seven NSF-CBMS Regional Research Conferences in 2010. A panel chosen by the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences will make the selections from among the submitted proposals. In the 41 year history of this NSF-CBMS Regional Research Conference Series, a total of 320 such conferences have been held.

Each five day conference features a distinguished lecturer who delivers ten lectures on a topic of important current research in one sharply focused area of the mathematical sciences. The lecturer subsequently prepares an expository monograph based upon these lectures, which is normally published as a part of a regional conference series. Depending upon the conference topic, the monograph is published by the American Mathematical Society, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, or jointly by the American Statistical Association and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics.

Support is provided for about 30 participants at each conference and the conference organizer invites both established researchers and interested newcomers, including postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, to attend.

B. Distinguishing Features of the Regional Research Conference Series

The continuing success and strength of this conference series over the past 40 years is due to certain distinguishing features which differentiate these conferences from typical research conferences. These are

  1. Focus on a single important and timely area of research by a leading practitioner.
    Each conference lecturer is a major contributor to the subject area of the conference and has a broad perspective on that area. The lectures pull together the major ideas and recent results and chart the possible future directions for the field. The purpose of this format is to ensure that the participants, especially the new or recent entrants to the field, gain a deeper understanding of the major outstanding problems and current directions of research in the field than they would get from the typical conference format where many people present talks on their own results.

  2. Published monograph for a wider audience.
    The monograph based on the lectures presents, to a much wider audience than the conference alone provides, a carefully prepared synthesis of and perspective on an active field of research by one of its leading contributors.

  3. Continued effect and local stimulation through regional emphasis.
    The purpose of the regional emphasis, with many of the participants drawn from areas geographically proximate to the host institution, is to provide a strong stimulus for increased local research activity and to assure that the contacts made during the conference will continue. Participants include not only established researchers but also newcomers to the field such as graduate students, postdocs, and faculty wishing to learn a new area.

  4. Panel review for quality, breadth, and timeliness.
    Each year a panel of distinguished research mathematicians, appointed by NSF and CBMS and reflecting the wide spectrum of research in the mathematical sciences, reviews all the proposals for individual conferences. Thus all the proposals compete against each other, and the decisions on which conferences to fund are made by leading representatives of the research community with a broad perspective on current research activity. This helps to ensure that the topics chosen are ripe for treatment in a conference of this type, that the principal lecturers are the most appropriate persons to head such a conference, and that the series of conferences as a whole reflects and contributes to the broad range of national research activity in the mathematical sciences.

C. Eligibility

Colleges or universities with at least some research competence in the field of the proposal are eligible to apply. Since a major goal of these conferences is to attract new researchers into the field of the conference and to stimulate new research activity, institutions that are interested in upgrading or improving their research efforts are especially encouraged to apply.

II. Review Criteria

In addition to the general NSF intellectual merit and broader impacts criteria, individual conference proposals are also evaluated on how well they satisfy the particular aims of this conference series.  Specific criteria for evaluation, which are implicit in the above description, are the following:
  1. The significance of the chosen topic and the ripeness of the field for such a conference.
  2. The competence of the proposed lecturer, both as a research leader in the field and as a lecturer and expositor.
  3. The extent to which the conference should be able to attract other researchers, mathematicians interested in entering the field, post doctoral fellows, and graduate students, and thus be able to stimulate additional research in the field.
  4. The anticipated value of the resulting monograph to the larger mathematical community.
  5. The effort made to include underrepresented groups such as women, minorities, and persons with disabilities.
  6. The value of the conference to its host institution and to its geographical region and the likelihood of continued interaction among the participants at the conference.
  7. The competence of the conference organizer (principal investigator) and the appropriateness of the host institution as evidenced by the quality of the proposal itself and the proposed local arrangements for housing, meals, etc.

III. Proposal Preparation

A. Submission of Proposals

As with all proposals submitted to NSF, proposals must be prepared in strict adherence to the current NSF Grant Proposal Guide. The NSF Fastlane website,, contains the current version of the Grant Proposal Guide and all the necessary electronic forms and instructions. Proposals must be submitted electronically via Fastlane.  The target date for submission of proposals is April 23, 2010. Principal investigators will be notified as soon as possible (usually late summer) as to the status of their proposals. Formal announcement of awards will be made in October, 2010.

Proposals should be submitted for consideration by the NSF unit "Division of Mathematical Sciences - Infrastructure Program." On the cover page, the title should be: NSF/CBMS Regional Conference in the Mathematical Sciences - ``Your Conference Title'' - ``Your Conference Dates.''  Note that the Project Summary must explicitly address both the intellectual merit and the broader impacts of the proposed conference.  

B. Project Description

The project description portion of the proposal presents most of the information that determines whether a grant will be awarded. The case for the importance of the subject of the conference and for the choice of lecturer must be made in the project description and should be written to be intelligible and convincing to a mathematician who may not be a specialist in the field of the conference. Proposals should be written to respond to the review criteria listed above. The project description must cover the following points:

1. Subject.  The subject of the conference should be a topic of current research interest and activity in one or more of the mathematical sciences. Here the mathematical sciences are understood to include pure and applied mathematics, mathematical logic, statistics, and operations research. The proposal must contain a sufficiently detailed description of the subject area, including a bibliography of important recent work in the field, to allow the review panel to make an assessment of the significance and timeliness of the proposed conference topic.

2. Principal Lecturer.  Each conference is to have a principal lecturer from outside the host institution. He or she should be both a leader in research in the proposed subject area and a good lecturer and expositor. The proposal should include a brief description of the lecturer's qualifications.

3. Description of Lectures.  The proposal must include a description of the topics to be covered in the ten lectures with sufficient detail to give the reader a clear idea of what will be covered.

4. Participants.  The proposal should describe the efforts the conference organizer will make to attract and include beginning researchers and underrepresented groups. Participants other than the principal lecturer are not normally named in advance in the proposal. Rather it is expected that after a conference is funded, the host institution will publicize the coming conference and invite applications from qualified participants. It is the host institution's responsibility to select the participants. These would normally be persons already working or beginning to work at the research level in some area of the mathematical sciences whose research activities would profit from the lectures and the other stimuli and interactions that the conference would provide.

5. Local Arrangements.  The conference organizer at the host institution is responsible for carrying out all local planning, arrangements, advertising, and management of the conference. In addition to the items already discussed this includes: arranging for appropriate lecture halls and informal meeting places, accommodations and meals for the participants, headquarters for email and information, secretarial services and duplicating facilities for schedules and announcements, reproduction of interim lecture notes, and any special equipment that may be needed.

6. Conference Dates. Conferences proposed for 2010 should normally be scheduled to occur sometime after the end of classes in May, 2010, and before the beginning of classes in September, 2010, but may also be scheduled during December, 2010, or January, 2011, when most colleges and universities are in recess.

7. Additional Speakers.  It is important that the conference provide ample free time for informal discussions among the participants about the principal lectures. Hence, contributed papers by participants are emphatically discouraged. Additional lectures by other leading researchers in the field may enhance the conference's value, but they should be kept to a very few and should be complementary to the main lectures.

C. Biographical Sketches

The proposal must include biographical sketches of the principal lecturer and the conference organizer(s). Note that the publication list in the biographical sketches is limited to the five publications most relevant to the proposal and up to five additional publications. In addition to the items requested in the Grant Proposal Guide, please include the social security number, telephone number, and email address of the principal lecturer.

D. Budget

A conference proposal should include funds to provide support for about 25 to 30 participants. Participants are provided with lodging, meals, and some travel support by the host institution's grant, but do not receive stipends. A reasonable allowance for participants' travel and subsistence should thus be the major budget item in the host institution's proposal. Other typical budget items that may be suitable are the following: travel and lodging for the principal lecturer, the conference organizer's salary (about one half month), a secretary's salary, printing of advertising materials, telephone, postage, and duplicating. As in the case of all NSF award decisions, the total cost of the proposal is a consideration in the evaluation and selection process. Budgetary items and their costs will vary considerably, depending on the location and character of the host institution, the estimated average distance participants will travel, the availability of low cost lodging in dormitories, and similar factors. Typical awards for these conferences vary between $33,000 and $35,000.

CBMS pays the lecturer a stipend of $2,000 for the delivery of the lectures and an additional stipend of $5,000 when the lecturer delivers to CBMS a manuscript for publication satisfactory to NSF. The lecturer's stipends are paid directly by CBMS and are not to be part of the budget of the host institution's proposal.

E. Other Items

Letter of Commitment.  The proposal must contain a letter of commitment from the principal lecturer stating that, if the conference is funded, the lecturer will deliver ten lectures during the five days of the conference and will submit to CBMS, within one year following the conference, an expository monograph based on the lectures. This may be included in the project description portion of the proposal.

Special Note on the Principal Lecturer.  Although the biographical sketch of the principal lecturer is limited in length and number of publications in the proposal to NSF, the proposer may, via regular mail or email, send a complete vita and list of publications of the principal lecturer to the CBMS office.

F. Further Information

Inquiries concerning this conference series or the preparation of proposals for conferences should be directed to

1529 Eighteenth Street NW
Washington DC 20036
Email: or
Tel: 202-293-1170
Fax: 202-293-3412