The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) is seeking to build research capacity and fund behavioral science research that will improve the critical infrastructure of the United States. According to NSF, creating effective infrastructure in the physical, cyber, and social settings lays the foundation for broad quality of life improvements. For this reason, NSF has opened a special call for Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) which specifically encourages psychological scientists to apply, potentially investigating the social and behavioral dynamics of building and maintaining American infrastructure.
Strong infrastructure brings with it a wealth of societal and socioeconomic benefits. It can promote equal opportunity, protect the natural environment, and enhance national security. To build this robust infrastructure requires a person centric approach to which psychological and behavioral scientists can lend expert insights.
“Using psychological science to put people first can help improve the design, use, and rehabilitation of U.S. infrastructure,” emphasized Marc Sebrechts, division director of behavioral and cognitive sciences at NSF, to APS.
The solicitation further highlights that NSF has a particular interest in proposals that integrate a deep understanding of human cognition, perception, information processing, decision making, social and cultural behavior, and more. In other words, participation of psychological sciences is critical to the success of NSF’s new opportunity.
Psychological science can inform many aspects of infrastructure used in everyday life, from purchasing a home, registering to vote, enrolling children in school, to checking a cellphone for warning of storms. It is even more important to make sure then that improved infrastructure is person-centered to ensure the best outcomes for the people that rely on them.
NSF offers several examples as to how behavioral and social science lends itself to improving infrastructure are. For example, when building an infrastructure for automated vehicles, it will take a deep understanding of people’s transportation choices, human perception and cognition, and decision-making scenarios to create a strong system for automated vehicle use. Expanding economic opportunity through infrastructure development will also require a deep understanding of implicit bias and the social structures that affect opportunity across social groups. Even when it comes to disaster relief, a knowledge of human trust and cultural differences in group access to resources is important to developing human-centered infrastructure to which psychological scientists are positioned to improve.
Psychological scientists applying to this opportunity should show in their application their demonstrated expertise in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences as well as how the their discipline will contribute to the intellectual merit and broader impact to improving infrastructure in America.
EAGER concept outlines should be submitted by December 11, 2020; full proposals are due January 15, 2021.
Conference proposals under this category should be submitted by November 30, 2020.