An academic career often does not provide the uninterrupted stretches of time necessary for acquiring and building new skills to enhance and advance one’s research program. Mid-career scientists in particular are at a critical career stage where they need to advance their research programs to ensure long-term productivity and creativity but are often constrained by service, teaching, or other activities that limit the amount of time devoted to research.
The MCA offers an opportunity for scientists and engineers at the Associate Professor rank (or equivalent) to substantively enhance and advance their research program through synergistic and mutually beneficial partnerships, typically at an institution other than their home institution. Projects that envision new insights on existing problems or identify new but related problems previously inaccessible without new methodology or expertise from other fields are encouraged.
Partners from outside the PI's own subdiscipline or discipline are encouraged, but not required, to enhance interdisciplinary networking and convergence across science and engineering fields.
By (re)-investing in mid-career investigators, NSF aims to enable and grow a more diverse scientific workforce (more women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities) at high academic ranks, who remain engaged and active in cutting-edge research.
The MCA is the only cross-directorate NSF program specifically aimed at providing protected time and resources to established scientists and engineers targeted at the mid-career (Associate Professor rank or equivalent) stage. Participating programs in the Directorates for Biological Sciences (BIO), Geosciences (GEO), Engineering (ENG), Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE), and Education and Human Resources (EHR) will accept MCA proposals. PIs are encouraged to discuss the suitability of their MCA proposal with a program officer from the appropriate directorate (see https://www.nsf.gov/bio/MCA_contacts.jsp).