National Science Foundation Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)

Institutional Eligibility:  An institution or organization may serve as lead on no more than three (3) proposals submitted to the November deadline. However, an institution or organization may partner as a subaward on other proposals submitted.

PI Eligibility:  An individual may be included as a Principal Investigator (PI) /Co-PI on no more than three (3) proposals submitted to the November deadline.

Limited Submission Deadline: 5:00pm Friday, September 28th

Click here for Syracuse University limited submission form

Notification to PIs of Limited Submission Results: On or before Tuesday, October 2nd

Sponsor Deadline:  November 7th, 2018

Program Summary

The AISL program is situated within the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL). DRL’s mission is to cultivate and catalyze fundamental and applied research and development (R&D) to improve the learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for the nation. In support of this mission, AISL seeks to (a) advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments; (b) provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; (c) advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments; and (d) engage the public of all ages in learning STEM in informal environments.

The solicitation describes six priorities that the AISL program believes are essential for achieving its goals. These priorities are also strategies to incorporate as approaches to the work. Every project does not need to address every priority. Thus, proposals should be clear about how the priorities are being addressed:

  1. Maximizing Strategic Impact
  2. Enhancing Knowledge-building
  3. Promoting Innovation
  4. Advancing Collaboration
  5. Strengthening Infrastructure and Building Capacity
  6. Broadening Participation.

Through these priorities, described in more detail throughout the solicitation, the program contributes to STEM engagement and literacy, workforce development, and educational success. It may also narrow the gap between the advancements in scientific discovery and the public’s understanding of science.

AISL program investments should be of interest and utility to public audiences, informal STEM practitioners, and decision-makers. All proposals must articulate clear rationales describing why a project is primarily informal and how it adds value to the informal STEM learning community.

The products of AISL investments may include, but are not limited to, exhibitions and programs in museums, zoos, aquaria, botanic gardens/arboreta, planetariums, nature centers, parks, libraries, and other environments; science communication; after-school and out-of-school time (OST) programs; radio, television, film, or media programs or series; Do-It-Yourself (DIY)/maker initiatives; opportunities for the public to engage in research including crowd-sourcing and citizen science; on-line and other digital experiences (e.g., games, simulations, social media, mobile computing, distributed networks, and massive online open courses); and research findings that articulate what works, for whom, why, and in what contexts.

Given that almost any environment can support informal science learning, there is an opportunity to understand how learners can be supported to make bridges between what they learn in one setting and what they learn in another setting. Thus, projects may choose to include how informal learning practices connect with STEM-related frameworks and curricula, college and career readiness standards, or other educational settings.

AISL projects engage participants drawn from both public and professional audiences. Content may focus on any areas of STEM that NSF supports, including interdisciplinary learning and learning that positions STEM within meaningful personal, cultural or societal frameworks. The proposals should discuss the STEM content area(s) in sufficient depth to provide a clear understanding of concepts, topics, processes, and associated skills that are conveyed to the target audience. Topics should be relevant to the age levels of proposed target audience(s). Projects may integrate STEM and art or the humanities, as long as the primary goal is to enhance STEM learning.


Limits for funding requests of AISL proposals are as follows:

  1. Pilots and Feasibility projects: up to $300,000 with durations up to two years;
  2. Research in Service to Practice projects: from $300,000 to $2,000,000 with durations from two to five years;
  3. Innovations in Development projects: $500,000 to $3,000,000 with durations from two to five years;
  4. Broad Implementation projects from $1,000,000 to $3,000,000 with durations from three to five years;
  5. Literature Reviews, Syntheses, or Meta-analyses projects up to $250,000 with durations of up to two years; and
  6. Conferences up to $250,000 with durations of up to two years.


Click here for Syracuse University limited submission form


Link to Solicitation RFP