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How to Propose a Program at MSRI

We invite the submission of preproposals for full- or half-year programs to be held at MSRI. Planning of such programs is generally done about three years ahead. Except in extraordinary cases, a subject is the focus of a program not more than once in ten years. MSRI maintains a list of past and currently scheduled programs.

Proposals for other scientific activities, such as workshops and conferences outside the scope of the long-term programs, are also welcome. In particular, note the possibility of proposing a ``Hot Topic Workshop'' before November to take place in the spring. In proposals of an activity outside a long-term program (such as a workshop or other special event), please include estimated date(s) of the activity, noting alternate dates to allow coordination with other MSRI events.

A scientific program at MSRI generally consists of up to one year (10 months) of concentrated activity in a specific area of current research interest in the mathematical sciences. MSRI usually runs two programs simultaneously, each with about thirty mathematicians in residence at any given time. The most common program lengths are one-year and five-months (typically in the form of a Fall or Spring semester program). Each program begins with an introductory workshop, the purpose of which is to introduce the subject to the broader mathematical community. There are also periods of expanded activity such as lecture series and workshops. The programs receive administrative and financial support from the Institute, allowing organizers to focus on the scientific aspects of the activities.

How to submit a program preproposal:

The Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Institute meets in January and November each year to consider preproposals for programs. Proposals for special events or conferences outside the programs are considered in a much shorter time-frame. The deadlines to submit proposals of any kind for review by the SAC are October 15 and December 15.

Successful proposals are usually developed from the preproposal in a collaborative process between the proposers, the Directorate and the SAC, and may be considered at more than one meeting of the SAC before selection.

The scientific planning and organization of each program are the responsibility of a committee of organizers (aided in some cases by a liaison of the Directorate and the SAC). The organizers recommend participants in the program; they also plan workshops and lecture series within the program, which many more participants may attend. Each program is allocated a budget for subsistence and travel expenses.

Preproposals are expected to include the following information:


  1. Title and scientific description.
  2. The description should include a background of the topic, relationships with other parts of mathematics or other disciplines, goals and areas of potential progress, an outline of the proposed program's structure, proposed involvement of postdocs and interactions with other scientists, and why the proposal is particularly suited to MSRI. It is highly desirable that the program show the breadth of the mathematical field being treated, and take into special account its relation to other fields of mathematics and (in appropriate cases) other sciences and engineering.
  3. Related Programs.
  4. The proposer should include information on recent and planned programs in the area held at other Institutes and Universities. Have there been related programs at MSRI?
  5. Program Organizers.
  6. The proposer should indicate a tentative list of program organizers and their affiliations. The program organizing committee has primary responsibility for the operation of the scientific program, including the choice of participants.
  7. Key participants.
  8. Identify key possible participants and their affiliations. A program should contain a significant component for postdoctoral fellows, including facilitating access to long-term senior visitors.
  9. Topical workshop.
  10. Each program starts with a Connection for Women (CfW) workshop, followed by an introductory workshop. A topical workshop is offered later on during the semester. The preproposal should contain a tentative topic for the topical workshop.

Copies of the preproposal will be distributed to the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), which is responsible for the selection. Proposers may be asked for further information or revisions pending final selection. The SAC meets in January and November of each year, and proposals are considered during the first such meeting after submission. The deadlines to submit proposals of any kind for review by the SAC are October 15 and December 15.

From Preproposal to Proposal

In developing a proposal from a preproposal, the following should be considered:

  • Organizers and Key Participants.
  • Members of the committee are expected to be in attendance for a significant portion of the program, and a commitment of this kind is required for a successful proposal. It is particularly desirable that at least one member attend for the duration of the program. The organizers should indicate their commitments of time. The organizers should also contact some of the key participants, to ascertain whether they are available.
  • Workshops.
    • Connections for Women workshop: Each program should plan for these 2-day workshops, preferably the first Thursday and Friday of the program. Connections for Women workshops are designed to attract women participants in particular. There are several successful models for this workshop; the format is best determined by the number of women active in the featured field. If the area of mathematics is one which traditionally has a large number of women, then the workshop can be used to highlight and showcase their individual work. However if the number of women in the field is low, then the workshop should attempt to attract a wider audience in efforts to stimulate interest in the area, as well as to encourage new connections among the women early in the program as a catalyst for eventual collaborations. Such a workshop is typically followed by a 5-day (Monday-Friday):
    • Introductory Workshop: These 5-day workshops are directed toward the mathematical community at large, designed to interest and attract young researchers and other mathematicians not necessarily active in the field. Lastly, sometime during the program a Topical workshop is held.
    • Topical workshop: Also directed toward the mathematical community at large, designed to interest and attract young researchers and other mathematicians active in the field.
  • Plans should be presented for three (3) workshops:
  • Human Resources.
  • The proposal must include a section describing in detail a plan to ensure the participation of women and underrepresented groups at the organizer and participant level, in both programs and workshops. This plan should include a list of potential participants among women and other underrepresented groups. A member of the organizing committee must be identified as the overseer of the plan. The MSRI Human Resources Advisory Committee chairperson will receive a copy of approved proposals and may be invited to assist the organizing committee with this task.
  • One Page Overview.
  • A one page summary describing the program and its place in mathematics in general terms is required for posting on our website and distribution to sponsors. If possible it should have some simple graphic. It should be informative and attractive to an audience at the level of beginning graduate students. Successful examples of this genre are available for consultation.

Proposals can be submitted to the Director or any member of the Scientific Advisory Committee with a copy to proposals AT msri.orgThe deadlines to submit proposals of any kind for review by the SAC are October 15 and December 15.