Early Career Faculty Innovators Program


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 NSF National Center for Atmospheric Research (NSF 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 NSF 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 NCAR strategic priorities are selected for each two-year cohort.

2019-2021 CohortCoastal Regions and Human Settlements

2021-2023 Cohort: Actionable Earth System Science

2023-2025 Cohort: Actionable Earth System Science

2025-2027 Research Theme: Convergent and Actionable Earth System Science

Letters of Intent for the 2025-2027 cohort are due May 1st, 2024. Register for our Q&A sessions on March 6th and April 4th, 2024.


Join our mailing list to receive program updates. If you have specific questions that are not answered on our Eligibility & Application page, or our FAQ page, email us at ecinnovators@ucar.edu


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. NSF 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 receive up to $125,000 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
  • Tuition for graduate student
  • Travel and accommodation for  a one week research session at NSF NCAR for each faculty and their grad student for summer 2026 and 2027
  • Research funds for costs associated with the project such as surveys, computing, etc.
  • With any remaining funds after tuition, travel and research costs are covered, faculty may take summer salary support (up to two months)

Additional NCAR funding includes:

  • Salary support for NSF NCAR collaborators to use when working on Innovator projects
  • Travel to NSF NCAR for a week-long orientation prior to the award period in Summer 2025. Travel for faculty will be arranged and paid for by NSF NCAR


The program will be overseen by an advisory committee, known as the Core Science Team,  composed of representatives from NSF NCAR. The Core Science Team, together with NSF 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, NSF NCAR scientists and engineers, faculty and their graduate students will form interdisciplinary research teams. At the end of their appointment, by mutual agreement, the early-career faculty could be appointed as an NSF NCAR affiliate scientist to continue the scientific relationship, and develop joint research proposals for extramural funding.


We envision a community of physical, social, behavioral, and policy scientists who are empowered, valued and supported in conducting innovative interdisciplinary and convergent research that addresses complex societal problems. This community, facilitated and supported by NSF NCAR, builds upon a network of collaborations between NSF NCAR scientists and university faculty and students to augment the reach and breadth of NSF NCAR science. These inclusive partnerships will lead to more equitable access to and benefit from Earth system science.


The mission of the Innovator program is to extend the scope, approach, reach and benefit of NSF NCAR science to communities by developing lasting interdisciplinary, inclusive, and convergent research collaborations between early-career social, behavioral, and policy sciences faculty and their students and NSF NCAR researchers.


  • Address complex research problems by building partnerships between NSF NCAR scientists and early-career Innovator faculty and their students
  • In collaboration with NSF NCAR scientists, co-develop interdisciplinary research projects and future funding proposals for sustained partnerships
  • Build capacity within NSF NCAR’s 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


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 6 early-career faculty were selected to the 2023-2025 Innovator Cohort. Faculty have expertise in a broad range of disciplines from biology, geology and resource conservation to psychology, sociology, political science and economics.



Alexandra Ramos Valle

Program PI and Coordinator

Auliya McCauley-Hartner

Program Support Specialist


More Details

2025-2027 Research Theme

Read more about the call for our 2025-2027 cohort of the Early Career Faculty Innovator Program.

Eligibility and Application Instructions

See who is eligible to apply!

Innovator FAQs

More questions about the Innovator Program?

2021-2023 Research Theme and Awardees

Read more about the 2021-2023 cohort of the Early Career Faculty Innovator Program, focusing on Actionable Earth System Science with and for Society.

2019-2021 Research Theme and Awardees

Read more about the 2019-2021 cohort of the Early Career Faculty Innovator Program, focusing on Human and environmental impacts along our coastline for securing prosperity, sustainability, and national security.

Science and Administrative Staff

Meet the NCAR staff who guide and administer the Early Career Faculty Innovators Program.