Program Director (Astronomy)

Division: Astronomical Sciences (MPS/AST)
Directorate: Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS)
Job Type:
Appointment Type:
Temporary / Rotator
Pay Grade/Scale:
This job is open to the public

Application timeline

Date Posted:
Closing date: Open until filled
Formal consideration of interested applicants will begin and will continue until a selection is made.

Position Summary

The National Science Foundation is seeking qualified candidates to fill a Program Director position in the Division of Astronomical Sciences (AST), Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Alexandria, VA.

The mission of AST is to support forefront research in ground-based astronomy; to help ensure the scientific excellence of the U.S. astronomical community; to provide access to world-class research facilities through merit review; to support the development of new instrumentation and next-generation facilities; and to encourage broad understanding of the astronomical sciences by a diverse population of scientists, policy makers, educators, and the public at large. The Division supports research in all areas of astronomy and astrophysics as well as related multidisciplinary studies. Because of the scale of modern astronomical research, the Division engages in numerous interagency and international collaborations. Areas of emphasis and the priorities of specific programs are guided by community recommendations, which have been developed and transmitted by National Academies decadal surveys and reports, and by federal advisory committees.

The candidates selected for this position will have responsibility in one or more of the following areas: management of proposal merit review and award recommendations; management oversight of one or more mid-scale instrumentation/science awards; and interacting with other NSF programs, Federal and international agencies and organizations. Program Directors are expected to bring their scientific expertise to the activities of the Division, and to serve as a liaison between the astronomical community and NSF, disseminating information about NSF and Division activities and opportunities. Candidates are expected to work with the astronomical research and education community to broaden the diversity of participants in NSF programs.

Position Description

The responsibilities of the NSF Program Director are constantly evolving. The Program Director is guided by the goals of NSF’s Strategic Plan: (1) transform the frontiers of science and engineering; (2) stimulate innovation and address societal needs through research and education; and (3) excel as a Federal Science Agency. The core strategies NSF staff employ include developing intellectual capital, strengthening the physical infrastructure, integrating research and education, and promoting partnerships. Duties include the following:

• Managing proposal processing from receipt through merit review to final recommendation.

• Working with colleagues to organize merit review using the full range of NSF options, ensuring appropriate and comprehensive evaluation of each proposal.

• Recommending a balanced suite of awards and monitoring progress and evaluating changes during the execution of awarded projects.

• Advising and assisting in the development of short-and long-range plans and establishing goals and objectives for research programs. Incorporating recommendations of Federal advisory committees (such as the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee and the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Advisory Committee) and their subcommittees, and of National Academies studies, into these plans.

• Managing the merit review, award recommendation, and post-award oversight for research proposals related to exoplanets and solar system science. Advising division management about astronomical community activities related to planetary science. liaising with NASA Planetary Science Division and other entities that provide research support for Planetary Science

The position recruited under this announcement will be filled under the following appointment option(s):

Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) Assignment: Individuals eligible for an IPA assignment with a Federal agency include employees of State and local government agencies or institutions of higher education, Indian tribal governments, and other eligible organizations in instances where such assignments would be of mutual benefit to the organizations involved. Initial assignments under IPA provisions may be made for a period up to two years, with a possible extension for up to an additional two-year period. The individual remains an employee of the home institution and NSF provides the negotiated funding toward the assignee's salary and benefits. Initial IPA assignments are made for a one-year period and may be extended by mutual agreement. 

Temporary Excepted Service Appointment: Appointment to this position will be made under the Excepted Authority of the NSF Act. Candidates who do not have civil service status or reinstatement eligibility will not obtain civil service status if selected. Candidates currently in the competitive service will be required to waive competitive civil service rights if selected. Usual civil service benefits (retirement, health benefits and life insurance) are applicable for appointments of more than one year. Temporary appointments may not exceed three years.

Visiting Scientist, Engineer, and Educator (VSEE) Program: Appointment to this position will be made under the Excepted Authority of the NSF Act. Visiting Scientists are on non-paid leave status from their home institution and placed on the NSF payroll. NSF withholds Social Security taxes and pays the home institution's contributions to maintain retirement and fringe benefits (i.e., health benefits and life insurance), either directly to the home institution or to the carrier. Appointments are usually made for a one-year period and may be extended for an additional year by mutual agreement.

It is NSF policy that NSF personnel employed at or IPAs detailed to NSF are not permitted to participate in foreign government talent recruitment programs.  Failure to comply with this NSF policy could result in disciplinary action up to and including removal from Federal Service or termination of an IPA assignment and referral to the Office of Inspector General.

Applications will be accepted from U.S. Citizens. Recent changes in Federal Appropriations Law require Non-Citizens to meet certain eligibility criteria to be considered. Therefore, Non-Citizens must certify eligibility by signing and attaching this Citizenship Affidavit to their application. Non-Citizens who do not provide the affidavit at the time of application will not be considered eligible. Non-Citizens are not eligible for positions requiring a security clearance.

To ensure compliance with an applicable preliminary nationwide injunction, which may be supplemented, modified, or vacated, depending on the course of ongoing litigation, the Federal Government will take no action to implement or enforce the COVID-19 vaccination requirement pursuant to Executive Order 14043 on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees. Federal agencies may request information regarding the vaccination status of selected applicants for the purposes of implementing other workplace safety protocols, such as protocols related to masking, physical distancing, testing, travel, and quarantine.

Candidates must have a Ph.D. in astronomy, astrophysics, physics, engineering, solar physics, computer science, or a closely related field, plus after award of the Ph.D., six or more years of successful research, research administration, and/or managerial experience pertinent to the position.

Some of the education and/or experience must be in a field of research directly supported by the Division of Astronomical Sciences

Should you be interested in a Program Director position, please e-mail a current CV accompanied by a cover letter highlighting the background that specifically relates to the program objectives to:


Dr. Debra Fischer, Division Director

Division of Astronomy

National Science Foundation


Apply by Email