I plan to submit an NSF CAREER proposal this Summer. From what I have heard, the review process will take several months, and most likely I won't receive a decision until the next year.

In December, I would also like to submit a regular NSF proposal that describes exactly the first 3 (out of 5) years of the research plan in the CAREER proposal. So I will have two overlapping proposals being reviewed at the same time by the end of this year.

The reason for the overlap is that both of these describe a project that I feel very passionate about. I will focus on this project in the next 5 years no matter what. So if the CAREER proposal is not funded, I would like to have a shot to be supported by a regular grant as soon as possible. Plus, it seems CAREER is very competitive, so my chance of getting funded is not much above zero.

My question is: Will the two overlapping proposals be in conflict with one another? If not, what is the right way to clarify this situation to the program officer and panel?

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    NSF told me they spend a lot of their time preventing people from doing that. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 6:25
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    Email or call the relevant program manager. Answering such questions is part of their job. Plus it's not bad for them to have had some contact with you before seeing your proposal. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 7:17

1 Answer 1


From your description, there is too much overlap.

One option is to figure out how to split off pieces of the project that can be done in parallel. I’ve currently got a CAREER award that focuses on a core theoretical topic, a standard NSF grant (with a collaborator) that focuses on how this theory interacts with non-ideal physics and measurement, and am part of a team on a third (special-program) NSF grant for which my responsibility is using the theory as a framework to guide my collaborators’ hardware development.

The work on each of these grants drives forward my overall research agenda, but is distinct enough from the others that there is no conflict on the grants.

Definitely talk with your program manager as you develop your proposals —they can give you feedback as to whether they agree that your ideas are distinct before you put in the full proposal effort (and having a good relationship with them is always a good idea in any case).

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