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The Early Career Faculty Innovator Program provides funding for faculty in the social, policy, and behavioral sciences to co-develop interdisciplinary and actionable research projects in partnership with scientists and engineers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. Eligibility criteria is detailed here.

A primary goal of the Innovator Program is to address complex research problems by building partnerships between NCAR scientists and early career faculty. The Innovator Program supports faculty and their graduate student(s) for two years. Research themes that align with NSF and NCAR strategic priorities are selected for each two-year cohort.

2019-2021 Cohort: Coastal Regions and Human Settlements

2021-2023 Cohort: Actionable Earth System Science

2023-2025 Cohort: (Announcement coming soon)

The application period for the 2021-2023 cohort is closed. Information regarding the 2023-2025 cohort will be announced January 2022.

Interested in learning more?

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Innovator Program strives to have a diverse representation of universities and encourages applications from early career faculty who are members of a group that are historically under-represented in social sciences and STEM, including faculty who are Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Hispanic or Latino, female, and those with disabilities, Veterans and LGBTQA. NCAR is committed to broadening participation in the geosciences and specifically invites scholars from Minority Serving Institutions and those from groups who traditionally have been underrepresented in the sciences to apply.


Faculty participants will receive up to $200,000 per year to fund the proposed interdisciplinary project. Through that funding or other university resources, faculty must fund:

  • Year-round salary and benefits for one graduate student per faculty
  • Tuition for graduate student
  • Summer research sabbatical (summer 2022 and 2023) at NCAR for each faculty and their graduate student (includes travel and housing costs) for a minimum of two months each
  • Research funds for costs associated with the project such as surveys, computing, etc.
  • Any remaining funding can be used for faculty summer salary

Additional NCAR funding includes:

  • Conference travel to one STEM national meeting, i.e. AGU, AMS, etc.
  • PI workshop to discuss science, career development, and program aspects with faculty, graduate students, NCAR scientists and other collaborators
  • Workshops hosted by the Innovator Program

Program structure

The program will be overseen by a Science committee composed of representatives from NCAR. The Science committee, together with NCAR leadership will guide the selection of a Research Theme, invite proposals, and support the selection of early career faculty. During the two-year research period, NCAR scientists and engineers, faculty and their graduate students will form interdisciplinary research teams. Faculty-led proposals are envisioned as a result of the collaborations and research established within the program. At the end of their appointment, by mutual agreement, the early career faculty could be appointed as an NCAR affiliate scientist to continue the scientific relationship, and develop joint research proposals for extramural funding.

Program objectives

  • Address complex research problems by partnering with faculty in STEM and social science fields that complement NCAR’s core programs
  • In collaboration with NCAR scientists, co-develop interdisciplinary research projects and future funding proposals for sustained partnerships
  • Rejuvenate NCAR’s scientific and engineering workforce and enhance strategic, interdisciplinary connections with university scientists
  • Accelerate innovation and discovery in Earth system science and improve the creation and delivery of scientific information that is responsive to societal needs

The 2019-2021 Innovator Program Cohort

  • 9 early career faculty were selected to the 2019-2021 Innovator Cohort. Faculty have expertise in a broad range of disciplines from anthropology and geography to environmental design and civil engineering.

The 2021-2023 Innovator Program Cohort

  • 12 early career faculty were selected to the 2021-2023 Innovator Cohort. Faculty have expertise in a broad range of disciplines from climate resilience and agribusiness to environmental policy and risk communication.