NSF Graduate Fellows Get Chance to Work Overseas

Grads going global. NSF Director Subra Suresh announced an expansion to NSF's Graduate Research Fellowship Program to provide more international research experience to its fellows.

National Science Foundation

As many as 400 U.S. graduate students will be able to work abroad in 2014 under a new program at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Yesterday, NSF officials unveiled the Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) program as part of a celebration of the 60th anniversary of its Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Launched in 1952 as the agency's flagship effort to strengthen U.S. graduate training in the sciences, GRFP has funded more than 46,500 budding scientists, including 40 eventual Nobel Prize winners.

The GROW program is intended to address the increasingly international scope of research, said NSF Director Subra Suresh. "Global enterprise doesn't have any borders," he said. "Innovation doesn't have any borders. Funding doesn't have any borders."

To that end, NSF will offer all GRFP fellows—both current and future—the opportunity to apply for a GROW award. These awards will give research fellows $5000 to pay for travel and relocation expenses to one of eight partner nations: Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, France, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. Federal science agencies in those host nations will pay research fellows a living allowance and cover research costs for between 3 and 12 months. NSF expects the first year of the GROW program to cost $2 million, with the money coming from the agency's Office of International Science and Engineering and the Division of Graduate Education.

Research fellows will benefit from exposure to a different culture, a different language, new infrastructure, and a new set of peers, Suresh said, while the host nations benefit from having promising scientists come work in their labs, raising their prestige and credibility. It's also a good return on investment for NSF, says Anne Emig, program manager for GROW. "We're looking to leverage prior NSF investment in its graduate research fellows with a very small new investment, with the help of partner science agencies internationally."

GROW will replace NSF's smaller-in-scope Nordic Research Opportunity program, which between 2009 and 2012 sent NSF research fellows to Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Sweden under similar provisions as the new program.

NSF officials expect the GROW program to expand rapidly over the next few years. "If all goes well, by this time next year, we'll have twice as many partner [nations], if not three times as many," Emig says. And within 5 years, NSF hopes that half of GRFP's annual class of 2000 research fellows will be supported by GROW awards. "In the long term, we want every GRF fellow to consider an international experience an integral part of their research fellowship," she says.

The application deadline for the first round of GROW awards is 1 February.