Research Infrastructure

Dear Colleague Letter: Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure (Mid-scale RI) Opportunities

Monday, October 22, 2018

NSF DCL 19-013


October 15, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure (Mid-scale RI) is an NSF-wide Big Idea designed to address the research community's growing needs for contemporary research infrastructure to support the advancement of science and engineering research, as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics education research. Mid-scale RI will fund the implementation of experimental research capabilities in the mid-scale range (i.e., with a total project cost of between $6 million and $70 million). The overall objective of Mid-scale RI is to transform scientific and engineering research fields by making available new capabilities, while simultaneously training researchers in the acquisition, implementation, development, design, and/or construction of cutting-edge infrastructure.

Mid-scale research infrastructure has been identified as critical for scientific advances in many research areas. In recognition of this scientific importance, the 2017 American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA) directed NSF to "evaluate the existing and future needs, across all disciplines supported by the Foundation, for mid-scale projects" and to "develop a strategy to address the needs identified." NSF issued a Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 18-0131) and received responses whose execution would require $8 billion to $10 billion in funding for projects in the $20 million to $100 million range.

This fall, NSF intends to announce Mid-scale RI funding opportunities. These will be for research infrastructure that will advance the frontiers of discovery in any of the research domains supported by NSF.2 These forthcoming funding opportunities are intended to encompass research infrastructure broadly defined, from the creation of mid-scale disciplinary instrumentation to the implementation (including acquisition and construction) of mid-scale facilities, cyberinfrastructure and other infrastructure that are demonstrated to be necessary to support specific science, engineering or education research objectives associated with current or future NSF-supported research activities. This portfolio may also include mid-scale upgrades to existing research infrastructure.

NSF anticipates that one solicitation will include an opportunity to propose Mid-scale RI projects with a total project cost of between approximately $6 million and approximately $20 million, pending the availability of funds. A second solicitation is expected to include an opportunity to propose Mid-scale RI projects with a total project cost of between approximately $20 million and approximately $70 million, pending the availability of funds.

Both Mid-scale RI programs will emphasize strong scientific merit, responsiveness to an identified need of the research community, technical readiness for implementation, sound management, and a well-developed plan for training students and involving a diverse workforce in mid-scale facility development and/or data management.


Information regarding the Mid-scale RI funding opportunities will be available this fall via the NSF website. The funding opportunities will list NSF-wide and directorate-specific points of contact. In the meantime, general questions about this Dear Colleague Letter may be addressed to:

MSRI [at] nsf [dot] gov


Joanne S. Tornow, Assistant Director (Acting), BIO
James Kurose, Assistant Director, CISE
Karen Marrongelle, Assistant Director, EHR
Dawn M. Tilbury, Assistant Director, ENG
William E. Easterling, Assistant Director, GEO
Anne Kinney, Assistant Director, MPS
C. Suzanne Iacono, Office Head, OIA
Rebecca L. Keiser, Office Head, OISE
Arthur W. Lupia, Assistant Director, SBE

1NSF 18-013, Dear Colleague Letter: Request for Information on Mid-scale Research Infrastructure.

2 See the NSF 18-1, Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide and subsequent revisions for a description of the fields of research supported by NSF.

Dear Colleague Letter: Request for Information on Mid-scale Research Infrastructure

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


This Request for Information (RFI) is issued in response to the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA, Public Law No. 114-329), Section 109. NSF seeks information on existing and future needs for mid-scale research infrastructure projects from the US-based NSF science and engineering community.


For the purposes of this RFI, NSF defines Research Infrastructure (RI) as any combination of facilities, equipment, instrumentation, computational hardware and software, and the necessary human capital in support of the same. This includes upgrades to existing major research facilities. Mid-scale RI requires an investment that falls between the maximum award funded by NSF's Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI; $4 million) and that of a major multi-user research facility project ($100 million or more), as defined in AICA.


Enabling Mid-scale Research Infrastructure is one of NSF's Ten Big Ideas. Given priorities in the current budget climate, NSF has been able to fund smaller mid-scale RI projects through its individual scientific directorates. Instrumentation and equipment up to $4 million has been routinely funded through the MRI program. Large-scale RI projects have been successfully funded through the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) Account. In November 2016, the eligibility threshold for potential inclusion in the MREFC Account was lowered from approximately a $100 million Total Project Cost (TPC), i.e., total cost to NSF, depending on the directorate, to a fixed $70 million TPC. This adjustment was an initial step to support potential priorities in mid-scale science and infrastructure.


The purpose of this RFI is to assess the needs for mid-scale RI from the US-based NSF science and engineering community in order to develop a strategy, in accordance with the AICA. The AICA requires NSF to "evaluate the existing and future needs, across all disciplines supported by the Foundation, for mid-scale projects" and "develop a strategy to address the needs." This RFI focuses on mid-scale research infrastructure projects with an anticipated NSF contribution of between $20 million and $100 million towards construction and/or acquisition. This range is of primary interest to NSF as it will help us anticipate the potential impact of lowering the MREFC threshold as well as identifying promising projects that remain difficult to address within program budgets due to the comparatively large investment needed in a relatively short period of time. After the submission period ends, and the information is analyzed, NSF will summarize the high-level insights drawn from this analysis for the science community and internal NSF use. Please note that funding for mid-scale RI projects in this range of investment has not been identified; nor does this RFI imply an intent on the part of NSF to issue a call for proposals. In addition, responses to this RFI do not constitute any commitment on behalf of the submitters or their institutions to submit a proposal or carry out an RI project.

What We Are Looking For

Submissions should identify ideas for mid-scale RI projects in the following format:

  1. Concept title and description. The description should include the potential for any inter-agency or international partnerships and contributions that are part of the TPC;
  2. Point of contact (in case additional clarification is needed);
  3. Contact of your Authorized Organizational Representative. Note, this contact will receive a copy of the survey submission;
  4. New, transformative science or scientific breakthroughs to be enabled by project;
  5. Evidence of research community support (list of reports, decadal surveys, other publications);
  6. Rough order of magnitude TPC (fully loaded, i.e. inclusive of indirect and/or Facility and Administration costs) with a percentage breakdown by the following major budget categories: (1) physical components including structures, equipment, instrumentation, and hardware; (2) other computational resources, including software and firmware; and (3) human capital;
  7. Concept of operations: anticipated duration and level of federal and non-federal support.

Who should respond

Researchers, users, and leaders at US based colleges and universities as well as non-profits who are well positioned to advance and support a mid-scale project throughout its lifecycle.

How should you respond

To submit your concept, please use this link: and complete the online questionnaire no later than December 8, 2017. Please use the email contact field provided to enable a courtesy copy of your response to your Authorized Organizational Representative or institutional leadership to ensure institutional awareness of your submission.

What We Will Do with the Information

All information submitted is subject to the Privacy Act. Summary information would be presented in aggregate form as part of the high-level analysis shared publicly.