NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program

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Call for white papers

Lehigh University is eligible to submit three applications to NSF under the 2024 Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) solicitation. For this year and the next three years, MRI will have no cost share requirement so we view this program as an important strategic opportunity for Lehigh.

The solicitation includes three tracks: We are eligible for no more than two “Track 1” proposals for requesting funds from NSF of less than $1,400,000, and no more than one “Track 2” proposal for funds from NSF of more than $1,400,000 to $4 million. “Track 3” proposals are only for requests that will reduce consumption of helium. NSF encourages proposals for development of new instruments as well as purchases.

The purpose of this call is to identify instruments that are important to the future productivity and competitiveness of Lehigh research programs, and for which proposals are likely to be competitive in NSF review.

See the instructions at the end of these guidelines for information on white paper submission, including the required notice of intent to submit.


Intent to submit due April 5, 2024
White papers due April 19, 2024
Selected white papers notice to authors May 10, 2024
Final budgets determined . October 1, 2024
Full proposal window for submission opens October 15, 2024
All final documents in LIRA for ORSP review. November 1, 2024
Final submission to NSF by ORSP November 8,  2024









Intent to submit and full white papers should both be submitted via the InfoReady system.

Selection criteria

Through the MRI program, NSF heavily subsidizes the costs of meeting certain strategic capital equipment needs. Accordingly, white papers will be evaluated as expressions of such needs:

Looking ahead, is having the equipment important to our success in areas of research to which we are committed? Is the proposed configuration of the equipment devised to meet the ongoing needs of significant numbers of current faculty? Might it contribute to success in hiring in key areas? Does it connect to the research topics named in the strategic plan?

Selection will also include consideration of likelihood of success at NSF.

At present, is there a portfolio of faculty research at Lehigh that would be made substantially more productive by having the equipment in place? Is the instrument configured to best serve those research uses? Will the instrument, in Lehigh investigators’ hands, make research that is (a) not currently possible, and (b) very important to advancement of NSF-funded field(s)?  To the degree that the instrument will catalyze growth of new research projects, it is critical that NSF reviewers be fully confident that this will happen.

Finally, both practical value to the university user community and success in NSF review require

  • a suitable site for locating the equipment, whether existing or to be prepared using resources provided by colleges, departments or research centers.
  • clear and unqualified assurance that all Lehigh investigators who are can benefit from use of the equipment will have ready access to it, and that the equipment will be managed and supported in a way that assures its utility to the full scope of potential users. availability of personnel who are well prepared to provide necessary technical and user support.
  • clarity with regard to the ability to maintain the equipment, and with regard to responsibility for doing so.

Sound management and user support are critical considerations.

Final decisions on the proposals to go forward from Lehigh will be made by the Vice Provost for Research and the Deans/Associate Deans of the colleges. The deans’ understanding of strategic directions in and across their colleges, of priorities for hiring and other investments over the next few years, and of related capital equipment needs will be key factors in making selections. Conferral within and across colleges, and composing white papers in a manner that maximally informs the process, are encouraged.

Application instructions

InfoReady will require the following information for the Letter of Intent:

  1. A descriptive title
  2. Name(s) of key faculty member(s) submitting the proposal. The first individual listed will be considered to be the contact person for the group and will take responsibility for the budget.
  3. Name(s) of department chair(s), center director(s) and/or dean(s) responsible for facilities, renovation, and oversight of technical support and operation costs identified in the section on operating plans. They will receive an email to sign off.

Each white paper must be organized as follows:

  1. Instrument description. Limit to one page. Briefly describe the proposed instrument, or instrument development effort. This section may be supplemented by attachments that explain operation and features, but it must stand on its own. Reviewers will not be obligated to read all attachments. Clearly identify whether you plan instrument acquisition or development.
  2. Proposed acquisition or development budget.

For acquisitions, quotations should be provided if at all possible. Aggressive pursuit of discounts is expected. While, as described below, long-term plans for maintenance must be part of the operating plans for the equipment, NSF allows, and we encourage, inclusion of service agreements for up to the first three years of ownership in the acquisition cost.

For instrument development, provide a budget including faculty and staff time commitments, necessary supplies associated with the acquisition or development, preparation of space, installation, and allowable costs for service contracts. Please use ORSP’s Researcher’s Toolbox to ensure correct rates.

PLEASE NOTE: For an acquisition, NSF will provide funding only for equipment. The total project costs may also include facility preparation, installation costs and service contracts for up to the full duration of the project period (up to three years from the date of the award).

Clearly show any and all costs to be borne by the University. Because of NSF’s limits on expenditures other than for the instrument itself, other sources may be dedicated to necessary renovations and other costs needed to realize the full potential of the equipment. All necessary costs, and their sources, must be identified. We will be verifying these estimates with facilities.

  1. Statement of need and impact. Limit to one page, exclusive of the table described below. Explain how the instrument will advance research programs at Lehigh. Be certain to
    1. identify areas of rising and future importance in which we intend to be competitive.
    2. specifically identify current faculty members and the research programs that will be enhanced or enabled by the acquisition. As applicable, also reference capital equipment planning being done in coordination with hiring plans. The white paper must include, for each existing research program listed, a statement written by the individual or a member of the group, describing the importance of the instrument to their research. Use the tabular format at the end of these guidelines, a copy of which can be provided in Word or GDoc format for incorporation into white papers.
    3. explain how investigators have been getting along without the equipment, and/or what plans for filling the need are in the absence of MRI support.
  2. Team members and users.  
    1. Responsible individuals. For an acquisition, identify who will be responsible for the instrument's installation and operation. For instrument development, list the key people who will be responsible for the development work and their anticipated levels of effort.
    2. Users. For both acquisition and development, list the investigators who expect to use the equipment. These should be documented as indicated in section 3. Individuals may be contacted for more details. As applicable, list expected new hires where the equipment is expected to be a necessity or attractor.
  3. Operating plans. Limit to one page. Succinctly describe plans for assuring ongoing operation and availability of the equipment, including
    1. where it will be housed and how any necessary adaptation of facilities will be accomplished.
    2. how the equipment will be made broadly available to those whose programs can benefit from its use and, as applicable, to catalyze formation of team projects.
    3. how necessary technical and user support and maintenance will be accomplished, and consumable supplies provided, including sources of support for personnel.
    4. Summarize the operating costs, including service contracts and supplies. Estimate user fees necessary to sustain instrument operation, and compare these with projections for instrument use. Consider whether the instrument will be added to the instrument suite of an existing laboratory, the impact on use of other instruments, and any economies that can be gained by sharing personnel or other resources. 
  4. Prior and related submissions. If you have submitted this proposal to NSF before, you must provide copies of the reviewers’ comments. Describe any other proposals planned or pending for the same or similar instrument. Describe any proposals pending or under development that would complement this proposal.


Listing of research program impacts

Project or line of research:

Investigators (name, department)


Status (check all that apply)

☐  Externally funded

☐  Published

☐  Illustrative data suitable for inclusion in the MRI proposal

☐  Extension/expansion/enhancement of existing line of research

☐  New line of research

Description (limit to about 300 words)



Copy/paste the table above for each project. The headings (“Project,” “Investigators,” “Description”) may be omitted.