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The Innovators 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.

Eligibility Criteria

Who may submit applications to the Innovators Program

Early career faculty at a U.S. university (includes universities in U.S. territories) who:

  • Hold a doctoral degree in the Social, Policy, or Behavioral Sciences;

  • Are employed full-time at a U.S. University in a tenure-track (or tenure-track-equivalent, see below) position at the time of the proposal submission;

  • Have NOT been previously funded by the Innovator Program as a faculty PI, including funding for pilot studies. Previous students of the Innovator Program, who are now faculty at a U.S. university, are eligible to apply if they meet the eligibility criteria.

  • Are “early career” per the following definition: By the start of the award period (Sept. 2023), the applicant has completed no more than 1 year in a tenured faculty position (e.g., Associate Professor) at a U.S. university. Faculty are not eligible if they have achieved a tenured (or similar) position at a university outside the U.S. 

  • If the applicant is in a tenure-track equivalent position*, then they can have no more than 6 years in this position.

  • Are a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or U.S. permanent resident by the time of application. If you are a visa holder, please contact us.

  • Can nominate a graduate student (must be from your university and you must be their primary faculty advisor) who participates in the Innovator Program for the duration of the fellowship period. Prospective faculty applicants do not need to identify a graduate student to apply to the Innovator Program. We prefer that graduate students are pursuing a doctoral degree and can participate for the entire 2 year fellowship. However, we acknowledge individual circumstances may not make this possible, and we can accommodate unique situations with advanced notice.

  • Are able to visit NCAR campuses, located in Boulder, Colorado, for a total of eight weeks each year, three of which will be during the summer when the entire cohort will gather.

*Tenure-track equivalency - For a position to be considered a tenure-track-equivalent position, it must meet all of the following requirements: (1) the employee has a continuing appointment at a US university that is expected to last the two years of the Innovator Program appointment; (2) the faculty appointment has substantial research and educational responsibilities; (3) the employee is the primary faculty advisor for the graduate student they nominate (see above); and (4) the proposed project relates to the employee's career goals and job responsibilities as well as to the mission of the applicant’s department or university.

Not eligible

  • Faculty who hold Adjunct Faculty or equivalent appointments.
  • Faculty who have been tenured (e.g., Associate Professor) for more than 1 year
  • Faculty who achieved tenure (or similar) position at a university outside of the U.S.
  • Faculty who have been in a tenure-track equivalent position for more than 6 years

Please See our FAQ page for more information.


We are now accepting Letters of Intent from university faculty for the 2023-2025 Early Career Faculty Innovators program. Applications are open now through May 1st, 2022.  For updates join our email list.

How to Apply

Step 1: Fill out the following google form.

Step 2: Submit a Cover Sheet, an inclusion statement, a Letter of Intent (LOI) with references, Curriculum Vitae (CV), and any supplemental documents to These can be combined into a single PDF or sent separately (please use descriptive file names). Address your application package to the Program Coordinator, Cassie O’Lenick, with the subject line “2023 Innovators Program - [Last Name] Letter of Intent”

General Guidance

  • The proposed research needs to align with NCAR strategic goals and the program theme of “actionable Earth system science”.
  • Your Inclusion statement will be evaluated and taken into consideration when determining who to invite to a full proposal and for final selection to the program
  • Before submitting an LOI, we strongly recommend reaching out to so that we may leverage our resources to help identify relevant connections to NCAR’s expertise.
  • You DO NOT need to identify NCAR scientists with which to collaborate to submit the Letter of Intent (LOI). The Innovator Program staff will endeavor to find potential collaborators for all LOIs submitted.


  • Letters of Intent are due to NCAR on May 1, 2022. Please email with your application package. 


  1. Cover Sheet
  • Project Title: Descriptive title of the proposed research
  • Principal Investigator’s Information
    • Full name, Job title, Academic Department and/or Program, University of employment, University address
  • Collaborators and their affiliations, if known (can be unknown at time of submission)
  • 200-300 word abstract
  • Up to 7 keywords
  1. Inclusion Statement (Personal And Diversity Statement)
  • Discuss why the Innovator Program appeals to you and how it can support your personal and professional growth. NCAR embraces an inclusive, diverse, and equitable workplace. Please address how you will contribute to a diverse and inclusive cohort, including how your work will broaden participation in your field and the geosciences in general. (1 page)
  1. Letters Of Intent
  • Format: 
    • No more than 3 pages
    • 1 inch margins, size 11 font, single spaced
  • Content
    • Project Title: Descriptive title of the proposed research
    • Research Proposal:  Please briefly describe an interdisciplinary research plan showing clearly how it builds on the expertise of the applicant and leverages NCAR science. If known, you may use the LOI to identify NCAR programs and/or scientists with whom you would like to collaborate. The research plan needs to articulate how it relates to the research theme “Actionable Earth System Science with and for Society” and NCAR’s Strategic Goals.
    • Suggested reviewers for full proposal (if LOI is selected). Full proposals will be reviewed by at least three external (to NCAR) reviewers. 
  1. References (no page limit) 
  1. Curriculum Vitae (C.V.)
  1. For Visa Holders
  • ​​​​​​​Before being invited to submit a full proposal, faculty with Visas will be required to submit a statement from their sponsoring Institution that the applicant can accept a $200K subaward per year and spend it on the required elements outlined on our main webpage (e.g. graduate student tuition, salary, and benefits; travel to and accommodation in Boulder; research costs; etc.). While faculty do not need to submit this documentation at the same time as the LOI, we recommend getting university approval before applying. A statement supporting the application of a Visa holder can be submitted at any time and up until decisions are made on invited proposals.
  1. For Non-Tenure Track Faculty
  • ​​​​​​​Please include a statement by the Departmental Chair that the applicant satisfies all the requirements of tenure-track equivalency as defined in the eligibility criteria.

General evaluation criteria (and weights) for the inclusion statement, letter of Intent (LOI), and faculty C.V. A rubric will be used to evaluate the application package (inclusion statement, letter of intent and CV) to determine who will be invited to submit a full proposal. The application package will be scored across four categories with different weighting factors (below). The most important category is the potential for robust collaborations with NCAR scientists and labs.

  1. Qualifications: PI is appropriately accomplished (papers, students, service, community engagement) [note this accounts for different experience levels] (15%)
  2. Diversity and Inclusion: Applicant brings a compelling diversity component to their collaboration, as evidenced by their inclusion statement, their project objectives, or both. (15%)
  3. Appropriateness of Topic: Proposed research will contribute novel social science methodologies, approaches, and theoretical frameworks to the project (20%)
  4. Connection to NCAR: Potential collaborations of PI with NCAR scientists and labs are evident, necessary for the project to succeed, and mutually beneficial. [one-way data provisioning, for example, is not compelling] (50%)