Cottrell Scholars

Frequently Asked Questions


Q: Is a list of references for the research and education narratives required in the Cottrell Scholar pre-proposal application?

A: References are not required in the pre-proposal application. Applicants should include them as footnotes within the page limit only if they are absolutely necessary to support narrative claims. If invited for a full proposal, applicants will have the opportunity to provide full references.


Q. Does my Cottrell Scholar Award application include a budget, and what categories and items may be included?

A. There is no provision for a budget in the Cottrell Scholar application. A Cottrell Scholar award provides $100,000 over a period of three years with considerable discretion for the PI. Expenditures need only conform to the RCSA spending guidelines provided at the time of funding.


Q. Will a proposal that arrives after the August deadline be accepted?

A. No.

Q. Before I began my present tenure-track position in calendar year 2013, I held a tenure-track position at another institution. Am I eligible to apply?

A. No. In 2016, eligible applicants must have started their first tenure-track position anytime in calendar year 2013. Previous positions could render an applicant ineligible. It is advisable to consult with a program director on eligibility issues.

Q. I began my appointment in January. When should I apply?

A. Your application will be accepted in the third academic year of your first tenure-track position. For example, if your appointment began in January (or September) 2013, you would be eligible for the August 2016 deadline.

Q. Is there any restriction on the number of faculty from the same institution who are eligible to apply in the same program year?

A. No. The Cottrell Scholars program accepts proposals from all eligible faculty without numerical restriction.  There is a past record in this program of more than one awardee in the same department of the same university in a given year.

Q. If I fail to receive an award, may I reapply the next year?

A. No. There is only one opportunity for application to this program.

Q. I submitted twice to the Cottrell College Science Award (CCSA) program but was declined an award both times. Am I eligible to submit a proposal for the new Cottrell Scholar Award? I am eligible with regards to all other criteria including the 2013 tenure track position.

A. Yes. The Cottrell Scholar program has no restrictions with regards to previous submissions to CCSA, even if they were successful.

Q. I have an active Cottrell College Science Award and started my first faculty position in 2013. Am I eligible to submit even if my CCSA is still open?

A. Yes

Educational Proposal

Q. I know how to construct a research proposal, but I don't have similar experience in writing an educational proposal. What do you really want here?

A. Each applicant should propose an educational plan that contains the following elements: (1) what you are doing now and have done in the past that can be used to measure your commitment and potential to excel at undergraduate or graduate education, and; (2) what you plan to do in the immediate and longer-term future. The program identifies unique proposals that show potential for transforming undergraduate or graduate science education. All faculty are expected to mentor undergraduates in their labs and thus, this should not be a major component of your educational proposal.

An educational proposal is a critical component of the application and undergoes rigorous review, which includes evaluation by science education experts.

Research Proposal

Q. Which research proposal should I use, one in which I am currently successfully engaged, or a new proposal for which I have limited or no preliminary results?

A. We ask you for your "best" project or research idea(s). Existing research funding does not negatively influence evaluation of Cottrell Scholar applicants. We like to see proposals that tell us something about the long-term direction of the applicant's research. Either a successful project currently underway or a new plan that you wish to promote are acceptable. Prior independent publication and funding are viewed as positive indications of the potential of the program.

Q. Is there a font and font size requirement for the proposal?

A. Yes. Arial 11 point or greater is required for a proposal to be eligible for review.

Research and Education Support

Q. Where do I list existing support and proposals under consideration?

A. Active and pending research and education grants should be listed on the application page designated “Financial Support.” Complete information should be provided, including funding agency, title, period of support, dollar amount, and portion awarded to the applicant in the case of multiple investigators.


Q. How much detail is expected on the first page of the CS application for "Education and Experience?"

A. You should list the institution and department/division specified for bachelor and advanced degrees, year of award, and, as applicable, research mentor. Institution, research mentor and dates of engagement should be included for postdoctoral positions. Other employment should follow a similar format, but include the address of the employer. Use of the abbreviations employed by "American Men & Women of Science" will conserve time and space.

Q. How much detail is expected for the list of publications of the principle investigator and for the list of references?

A. Include authors, titles and complete scientific citation.


Q. Who are "inside" and "outside" reviewers?

A. An inside reviewer or "insider" is a person who knows you and can assess your abilities. Former mentors/advisors and collaborators are insiders. In a court trial these reviewers would be called character witnesses. Their assessment of you is critical to the overall evaluation of your proposal. An "outsider" is a person with whom you have had no substantive personal or professional contact who is an expert in the research field.

The opinions of outside experts are critical to the decision made regarding the award, so their selection is important. Often these are individuals whose research is referenced in your proposal. Your list may be incomplete if it does not include scientists whose research is referenced. The listing of outsiders who are not experts lessens reviewer confidence in your understanding of the field. We are discouraged when reported "outsiders" say they know you well and have spent a considerable amount of time with you. We are similarly discouraged when a designated "outsider" sends your proposal back to us with the comment that the research you propose is outside their field of expertise.

Q. How many reviewers should be listed, and what format should be used?

A. On no more than one page, provide the complete names, titles, complete addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses of at least 10 potential reviewers. At least eight reviewers should be "outsiders," and there should be a minimum of two "insiders." Verify the accuracy of the information, since incorrect information may result in delays in the review of your application. Clearly distinguish "outsiders" from "insiders" and, if possible, use the letter address format. Do not forget to include a brief indication of your relationship to both inside (e.g., “Ph.D. mentor”) and outside reviewers (“never met,” "met once at a meeting,” etc).

Q. Are only those reviewers whom I have listed used in the evaluation of my proposal?

A. No. Program directors select reviewers from those in their experience and your listing whom they believe most suitable to provide assessment of the research that you propose. If you know of "insiders" or "outsiders" to whom the proposal should not be sent, please provide that information via email to a program director.

Q. I work in a very narrow subfield within my scientific discipline and I know everyone in my field. How do I select "outside" reviewers?

A. It is very much to your advantage to have reviews from people who are not at all acquainted with you. In their efforts to list the most qualified experts in their area of research, most applicants narrow the field of potential reviewers too much. In our experience, individuals working in broader areas that encompass your subfield are often well qualified to review your proposal and should be included in your reviewer list. Also, be aware that we are willing to seek reviews from qualified experts anywhere in the world. However, it is advisable to list at least three outside reviewers from U.S. academia.

Reviewer Comments

Q. Can I obtain external reviewer comments on my proposal after the final decision on awards has been made?

A. Not typically. Reviewer comments are confidential. At the program directors' discretion some comments may be provided.

Funding Rate

Q. What are my chances, and how are the Cottrell Scholars proposals evaluated?

A. The competition in the Cottrell Scholars program is keen. Since 2010 the funding rate has been about 14 percent. Proposal review is a three-tiered process. After a proposal has been received and processed for conformity to guidelines, RCSA program directors evaluate the teaching plan. Those that pass this review are sent out for external peer review of the research and teaching plans. Finally, when a proposal has the appropriate complement of reviews, the Science Advisory Committee evaluates the proposal in light of its reviews and then makes the final recommendation to RCSA’s Board of Directors.