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How to Propose a Program at MSRI

We invite the submission of proposals for full- or half-year programs to be held at MSRI. Planning of such programs is generally done about three years in advance. Except in extraordinary cases, a subject is the focus of a program not more than once in ten years. MSRI maintains a list of past and currently scheduled programs.

MSRI also invites the submission of proposals for Hot Topics workshops and Summer Graduate Schools.


A scientific program at MSRI generally consists of up to 9 months of concentrated activity in a specific area of current research interest in the mathematical sciences. MSRI usually runs two programs simultaneously, each with about forty mathematicians in residence at any given time. The most common program length is four months (typically in the form of a Fall or Spring semester program). Each program begins with Connections for Women and Introductory workshops, the purpose of which is to introduce the subject to the broader mathematical community. The programs receive administrative and financial support from the Institute, allowing organizers to focus on the scientific aspects of the activities.


Submission Deadlines

The Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Institute meets in January, May and November each year to consider proposals for programs. The deadlines to submit proposals of any kind for review by the SAC are March 1st, October 1st and December 1st.

How to submit a Letter of Intent

The initial step is often to submit a Letter of Intent (LOI). An LOI should state the areas that would be studied, the names of at least an important subset of the organizers, and the timeliness of the program. The LOI should indicate the preferred semester, as well as several alternative semesters. Note that for a program to be successful, three of the organizers must be in residence for the entire program. Inclusivity is an important part of MSRI’s mission, and a diverse set of organizers is a good indication that the program would be able to reap the benefits of being inclusive. An LOI need not be more than 2-3 pages and will be reviewed at the SAC meetings in January, May or November.

From Letter of Intent to Preproposal

Click HERE to download a sample preproposal.

If an LOI is reviewed favorably by the SAC, the organizers will be asked to submit a pre-proposal. Pre-proposals and proposals are developed in a collaborative process between the proposers, the Directorate and the SAC, and may be considered at more than one meeting of the SAC before selection.

The scientific planning and organization of each program are the responsibility of a committee of organizers (aided by a liaison of the Directorate and the SAC). Each program is allocated a budget for subsistence and travel expenses.

Pre-proposals, generally under 10 pages, are expected to include the following information:

Program Organizers
List the program organizers, their affiliations, and their anticipated length of stay. All programs must have at least three organizers in residence for the duration of the program. We strongly recommend that at least two organizers be US-based mathematicians, and that at least two organizers be women. In our experience, when there is a diverse organizing committee, it generates a more diverse list of applicants and participants.

Scientific description
The description should include a background of the topic, relationships with other parts of mathematics or other disciplines, goals and areas of potential progress, an outline of the proposed program's structure, proposed involvement of postdocs and interactions with other scientists, and why the proposal is particularly suited to MSRI. It is highly desirable that the program show the breadth of the mathematical field being treated, and take into special account its relation to other fields of mathematics and (in appropriate cases) other sciences and engineering.

Planned Workshops
Every semester-long program will have three workshops: At the start of the program, there will be a Connections for Women (CfW) workshop, followed by an Introductory workshop. A topical workshop will be scheduled for some time later in the semester. At the pre-proposal stage, the only requirement is to indicate the topic of the topical workshop, though you are welcome to provide additional information including the organizing committee for each workshop.

Related Programs
Here one should list all programs, especially those held at US Math Institutes, that may have intersection with the proposed program. The intersection with your program should be explained as well as how your program would differ from the others and how strong is the intersection. If some programs seem to be intersecting yours but are quite different, it is good to mention it.

Key Participants
Identify potential key senior participants and their affiliations. A program should contain a significant component for postdoctoral fellows, including facilitating access to long-term senior visitors. We strive for diverse programs that include a strong representation of women, members of underrepresented minorities, and U.S. based researchers from a wide range of institutions.

Math Subject Classification and Keywords
The proposer should include primary and secondary Mathematics Subject Classification Codes as well as several keywords.

Preferred semester
The pre-proposal should indicate the preferred semester, as well as several alternate semesters when the program could take place. Be sure to indicate and explain any constraints that you may have.

Copies of the preproposal will be distributed to the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), which is responsible for the selection of the programs. Proposers may be asked for further information or revisions pending final selection. The SAC meets in January, May and November of each year, and proposals are generally considered during the first such meeting after submission.

From Preproposal to Proposal

Click HERE to download a sample proposal.

In developing a proposal from a preproposal, the following should be considered:

Organizing Committee
Members of the organizing committee are expected to be in attendance for a significant portion of the program, and a commitment of this kind is required for a successful proposal. At least three organizers must commit to be in attendance the duration of the program. The proposal should indicate the organizers’ commitments of time.

Companion Program(s)
List proposed companion programs, potential organizers, and describe the ways in which the suggested companion program would pair well with the proposed program.

Key Participants
A spreadsheet of potential participants containing, for each participant, the Family Name, First Name, Email address, Home Institution, Country of Home Institution, Gender, and US citizen minority status (if applicable). MSRI will provide a template for this section.

Mentoring Plan
Describe how the postdoctoral fellows will be mentored.

Human Resources
The proposal must include a section describing in detail a plan to ensure the participation of women and underrepresented groups at the organizer and participant level, in both programs and workshops. This plan should include a list of potential participants among women and other underrepresented groups. A member of the organizing committee must be identified as the overseer of the plan. A member of the Human Resources Advisory Committee will be assigned to the program to work with the Human Resources designated organizer. The MSRI Human Resources Advisory Committee chairperson will receive a copy of approved proposals and may be invited to assist the organizing committee with this task. The list of anticipated participants should have at least 60% U.S. based researchers. It should also be noted that for the last 15 years, 30% of Ph.D. recipients in mathematics have been women, with around 24% from Group I Institutions. Moreover, female faculty hires at Research I Universities have been on the rise. The latest statistics from AMS show that the percentage of female Ph.Ds. being hired by the Mathematics Departments at Research I Universities is at 24% (28% in public Research I Universities and 22% at Private Research I Universities). MSRI will provide a participant list spreadsheet to be completed by the organizers.

Workshops
The organizing committees for each of the three workshops should have been selected. The workshop organizers can be selected from the mathematical community and need not be restricted to the organizers of the program. Again, it is an advantage to have a diverse organizing committee for each workshop.

  • Connections for Women workshop: he CFW is a two-day workshop held immediately preceding the week of the Introductory Workshop. While different programs have approached these workshops in diverse ways, one of the principal objectives, strongly supported by the SAC and HRAC, is to provide an enhanced opportunity for female researchers to interact with other women with similar research interests. There is considerable flexibility for the organization of this two-day event, but MSRI does require good coordination between the Connections and Introductory workshop organizers so that as many female researchers as possible are supported to stay on for the Introductory Workshop. It is therefore customary to have one person be simultaneously on the organizing committees for both of these workshops. As is the case for all MSRI workshops, registration to attend Connections workshop lectures is open to all interested researchers regardless of gender. The proposal should contain a description, the organizing committee and their affiliations, and potential speakers and their affiliations.
  • Introductory Workshop: The Connections for Women is immediately followed by the Introductory Workshop, which is meant to set the stage and provide the context for the program, with the intended audience being researchers not in the program. This would include members in the other programs, members of the local mathematical community, and participants from outside the area selected especially for the workshop, particularly from groups underrepresented in research intensive contexts: women, minorities, mathematicians not located at research centers, and graduate students. In selecting participants, priority is given to these latter groups. When done well, these introductory workshops have been effective in broadcasting the goals, ideas and techniques of a particular program to the mathematical public at large, as well as in bringing the MSRI community together as a whole. The proposal should contain a description, the organizing committee and their affiliations, and potential speakers and their affiliations. The proposal must address how the organizers will ensure that the introductory workshop will be truly introductory .
  • Topical workshop: Lastly, sometime during the program a Topical workshop is held. This workshop is for a specialized audience of researchers. The proposal should contain a title and description, the organizing committee and their affiliations, and potential speakers and their affiliations.

Captioned Image
A high-resolution, non-copywrited image pertinent to the subject of the program should be provided, as well as a caption for the image.

One Page Overview
A one page summary describing the program and its place in mathematics in general terms is required for posting on our website and distribution to sponsors. If possible it should have some simple graphic. It should be informative and attractive to an audience at the level of beginning graduate students. Successful examples of this genre are available for consultation.

Proposals can be submitted to the Director, Deputy Director, or any member of the Scientific Advisory Committee with a copy to proposals AT msri.org. The deadlines to submit proposals of any kind for review by the SAC are March 1st, October 1st and December 1st.