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Deadline: Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier – Core Research

Grants.gov Announcement

Program Title:

Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Core Research (FW-HTF)

Synopsis of Program:

In 2016, the National Science Foundation (NSF) unveiled a set of “Big Ideas,” 10 bold, long-term research and process ideas that identify areas for future investment at the frontiers of science and engineering (see https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/big_ideas/index.jsp). The Big Ideas represent unique opportunities to position our Nation at the cutting edge of global science and engineering leadership by bringing together diverse disciplinary perspectives to support convergence research. As such, when responding to this solicitation, even though proposals must be submitted to the Directorate for Engineering (ENG), Office of Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities (ENG/EFMA), once received the proposals will be managed by a cross-disciplinary team of NSF Program Directors.

The Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF), one of the Big Ideas, is one mechanism by which NSF is responding to the challenges and opportunities for the future of jobs and work. The overarching vision is to support convergent research to understand and develop the human-technology partnership, design new technologies to augment human performance, illuminate the emerging socio-technological landscape, understand the risks and benefits of new technologies, understand and influence the impact of artificial intelligence on workers and work, and foster lifelong and pervasive learning.

The landscape of jobs and work is changing at unprecedented speed, enabled by advances in computer and engineering technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics, deeper understanding of societal and environmental change, advances in the learning sciences, pervasive, intelligent, and autonomous systems, and new conceptions of work and workplaces. This technological and scientific revolution presents a historical opportunity to the Nation and its people, in the creation of new industries and occupations, enhanced productivity and quality of work life, and the potential for more people to participate in the workforce, ultimately yielding sustained innovation and global leadership. But, as history teaches, such changes also come with risks. Some risks are immediate, such as jobs lost to automation or demand for skills not met by current educational pathways. Other equally important risks include new security threats, algorithmic biases, unanticipated legal consequences including privacy implications, dependence on technology and erosion of human knowledge and skills, inadequate workplace policies and practices, or undesirable impact on the built environment.

The specific objectives of the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier program are (1) to facilitate convergent research that employs the joint perspectives, methods, and knowledge of computer science, engineering, learning sciences, research on education and workforce training, and social, behavioral, and economic sciences; (2) to encourage the development of a research community dedicated to designing intelligent technologies and work organization and modes inspired by their positive impact on individual workers, the work at hand, the way people learn and adapt to technological change, creative and supportive workplaces (including remote locations, homes, classrooms, or virtual spaces), and benefits for social, economic, and environmental systems at different scales; (3) to promote deeper basic understanding of the interdependent human-technology partnership to advance societal needs by advancing design of intelligent work technologies that operate in harmony with human workers, including consideration of how adults learn the new skills needed to interact with these technologies in the workplace, and by enabling broad workforce participation, including improving accessibility for those challenged by physical or cognitive impairment; and (4) to understand, anticipate, and explore ways of mitigating potential risks arising from future work at the human-technology frontier. Ultimately, this research will advance our understanding of how technology and people interact, distribute tasks, cooperate, and complement each other in different specific work contexts of significant societal importance. It will advance the knowledge base related to worker education and training and formal and informal learning to enable all potential workers to adapt to changing work environments. It will advance our understanding of the links between the future of work at the human-technology frontier and the surrounding society, including the intended potential of new technologies and the unintended consequences for workers and the well-being of society.

For the purposes of this solicitation, work is defined as mental or physical activity to achieve tangible benefit such as income, profit, or community welfare. The Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier is, in turn, a conceptualization of work in the future that will be enabled or improved by advances in intelligent technology and their synergistic integration with human skill to achieve broad participation in the workforce and improve the social, economic, and environmental well-being of society. To reach this goal, research is sought that is anchored in work. Proposals must clearly define the work and work context addressed by the research. Technology should be integrated with learning sciences, research on education and workforce training, and social, behavioral, and economic science perspectives to advance the science of the human-technology team. Potential results should contribute to fundamental advances in the science and technology of future workforce development and education, work environments, and positive work outcomes for workers and society at large. Proposals are encouraged that are oriented toward the future of work at the human-technology frontier and that are not overly couched in current technology or work practices.

A proposal for a research grant in this program must focus on advancing fundamental understanding of future work, and potential improvements to work, workplaces, workforce preparation, or work outcomes for workers and society. It must be convergent research that addresses the technological as well as the human and societal dimensions and potential impact of future work, and in doing so, make significant contributions to both intellectual merit and broader impact. Achieving this goal requires integration and convergence of disciplines across computer science, engineering, learning sciences, research on education and workforce training, and social, behavioral, and economic sciences. A convergent perspective is essential to understand and shape long-term social and economic drivers, so that advanced intelligent technology will strengthen the social fabric. A convergent perspective also provides insights into education and re-skilling, so that the benefits of emerging technology can be conferred upon all citizens.

Cognizant Program Officer(s):

Please note that the following information is current at the time of publishing. See program website for any updates to the points of contact.

  • Stephanie E. August, EHR/DUE, telephone: (703) 292-5128, email: saugust@nsf.gov
  • Amy L. Baylor, EHR/DRL, telephone: (703) 292-5126, email: abaylor@nsf.gov
  • Jordan Berg, ENG/CMMI, telephone: (703) 292-5365, email: jberg@nsf.gov
  • David Corman, CISE/CNS, telephone: (703) 292-8754, email: dcorman@nsf.gov
  • Shubhra Gangopadhyay, ENG/ECCS, telephone: (703) 292-2485, email: sgangopa@nsf.gov
  • Tatiana Korelsky, CISE/IIS, telephone: (703) 292-8930, email: tkorelsk@nsf.gov
  • Todd Leen, CISE/IIS, telephone: (703) 292-8930, email: tleen@nsf.gov
  • Nancy A. Lutz, SBE/SES, telephone: (703) 292-7280, email: nlutz@nsf.gov
  • Alexandra Medina-Borja, EHR/DUE, telephone: (703) 292-7557, email: amedinab@nsf.gov
  • Betty K. Tuller, SBE/BCS, telephone: (703) 292-7238, email: btuller@nsf.gov

Applicable Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number(s):

  • 47.041 — Engineering
  • 47.049 — Mathematical and Physical Sciences
  • 47.050 — Geosciences
  • 47.070 — Computer and Information Science and Engineering
  • 47.074 — Biological Sciences
  • 47.075 — Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences
  • 47.076 — Education and Human Resources
  • 47.079 — Office of International Science and Engineering
  • 47.083 — Office of Integrative Activities (OIA)

Award Information

Anticipated Type of Award: Standard Grant

Estimated Number of Awards: 30

Up to 15 Planning Grant Awards and up to 15 Research Grant Awards.

The number of awards is dependent upon the proposals received and the degree to which proposals meet the solicitation goals and NSF merit review criteria.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $30,000,000

Two classes of proposals will be considered through this solicitation:

  1. FW-HTF Planning Grants (FW-HTF-P) may be requested for a total budget not to exceed $150,000 for a period of 1 year.
  2. FW-HTF Research Grants (FW-HTF-R) may be requested at two levels:
    1. Medium FW-HTF-R proposals may request support for a period of up to 3 years, with a total budget not to exceed $1,500,000.
    2. Large FW-HTF-R proposals may request support for a period of up to 4 years, with a total budget between $1,500,001 and $3,000,000.

FW-HTF program funding is pending the availability of funds.

Eligibility Information

Who May Submit Proposals:

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) – Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.

Who May Serve as PI:

PIs must hold appointments at U.S.-based campuses/offices of eligible organizations (IHEs or Non-profit, non-academic organizations). There are no restrictions, beyond the eligibility outlined in the PAPPG Chapter I.E, on who may serve as Co-PIs, Senior Personnel or Consultant (see Categories of Proposers in PAPPG Chapter I.E).

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization:

There are no restrictions or limits.

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI: 1

An individual may appear as PI, Co-PI, Senior Personnel, Other Personnel, or Consultant on only one proposal submitted in response to this solicitation. This eligibility constraint will be strictly enforced. In the event an individual exceeds this limit, the first proposal received prior to the deadline will be accepted and the remainder will be returned without review. This limitation includes proposals submitted by a lead organization, collaborative non-lead proposals, and any subawards included as part of a collaborative proposal involving multiple institutions. No exceptions will be made.