Billy Lightsey, Nancy Grace Roman Technology Fellowships Program Officer
The Astrophysics Division initiated the Nancy Grace Roman Technology Fellowships (RTF) Program in 2011 in response to a recommendation from the Astrophysics Subcommittee (APS). RTF proposals are solicited through Element D.9 of the annual Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) solicitation. The purpose of the RTF program is to foster the career development of astrophysics instrumentation technologists who are within seven years of obtaining a PhD. The program provides the leverage of a named fellowship title and laboratory startup funds to help advance the Fellow’s career.
The original RTF solicitation involved a two-step process, where, during the first phase called the Concept Phase, selected applicants developed an in-depth plan and proposal for a four-year Development Phase effort. This Development Phase proposal was peer reviewed approximately nine months after the start of the Concept Phase, and the successful proposers continued their technology development efforts as Fellows for an additional four years.
The number of proposals submitted to the RTF solicitation has steadily declined since inception of the program, with only five proposals submitted in response to the 2015 solicitation. In an attempt to address this problem, the program has been restructured to simplify the application and review processes. The new RTF program is modeled after the Planetary Science Division’s (PSD) Early Career Fellowship (ECF) program.
Under the new RTF program, early career candidates (as defined in the RTF solicitation, but generally those within seven years of their Ph.D.) will submit technical proposals in response to the Astrophysics Research and Analysis (APRA) Program Element (D.3) of the annual ROSES solicitation, and indicate on the proposal cover page the desire to be considered for RTF. Early career candidates will also submit a one-page bio/application along with their proposal to establish eligibility for the RTF award. The same peer review panel that reviews the technical proposal will assess this one-page bio/application as well. Applicants that are selected for an APRA award and fulfill the RTF early-career criteria become eligible to receive an RTF fellowship, but the fellowship is not automatically conveyed upon receiving an APRA award. Additional criteria are considered prior to naming a Fellow.
The program is designed to provide incentives to help the Fellow establish a long-term position at their institution. Candidates in a permanent-track position at the time of receiving the fellowship are eligible to submit a (simple) proposal requesting fellowship funds to establish a lab or research group. Candidates not in a permanent-track position at the time of receiving the fellowship become eligible to submit a fellowship funds proposal once they obtain a permanent-track position. Fellowship funds proposals can request up to $300,000, and should demonstrate the employing institution’s long-term commitment to the early career researcher’s career development.
The fellowship funds awards are independent of the APRA award that initially enabled the fellowship, and the funds do not have to be used in direct support of the APRA effort. The fellowship remains in place for 10 years from the date of receiving the PhD, and fellowship funds proposals can be submitted at any time during this period. Thus, it is possible to submit the fellowship funds proposal even after the enabling APRA effort has ended.
The ROSES 2016 solicitation was amended in early January 2017 to include the restructured RTF solicitation. Interested candidates should consult Element D.9 of the ROSES solicitation. Proposals are due March 17, 2017. It is anticipated that RTF will again be solicited in ROSES 2017.