Logo

Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

Home > Scientific > Request for Proposals > Propose a Program

How to Propose a Program at MSRI

We invite the submission of proposals 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.

MSRI also invites the submission of proposals for Hot Topics workshops and Summer Graduate Schools.


A scientific program at MSRI generally consists of up to 9 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 forty mathematicians in residence at any given time. The most common program length is four months (typically in the form of a Fall or Spring semester program). Each program begins with Connections for Women and Introductory workshops, the purpose of which is to introduce the subject to the broader mathematical community. The programs receive administrative and financial support from the Institute, allowing organizers to focus on the scientific aspects of the activities.


Submission Deadlines

The Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Institute meets in January, May and November each year to consider proposals for programs. The deadlines to submit proposals of any kind for review by the SAC are April 15, October 15 and December 15.

How to submit a Letter of Intent

The initial step is often to submit a Letter of Intent (LOI). An LOI should state which areas would be studied; who the organizers would be, confirming that three organizers would be in residence for the duration of the program; and why it would be a good idea to have this program at the proposed time. LOI need not be more than 2-3 pages and will be reviewed at the SAC meetings in January, May and November.

From Letter of Intent to Preproposal

If an LOI is reviewed favorably by the SAC, the organizers will be asked to submit a pre-proposal. Preproposals and proposals are developed 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 by a liaison of the Directorate and the SAC). Each program is allocated a budget for subsistence and travel expenses.


Preproposals, generally under 10 pages, are expected to include the following information:

Title and scientific description
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.

Math Subject Classification
The proposer should include a primary and secondary Mathematics Subject Classification Code

Related Programs
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?

Program Organizers
The proposer should include a list of program organizers, their affiliations, and their anticipated length of stay. All programs must have at least three organizers who will be in residence for the duration of the program. The program organizing committee has primary responsibility for the operation of the scientific program, including the choice of participants. It is an advantage that the organizing committee has a strong representation of women and U.S. based researchers, as we have found that this helps in recruiting women and U.S. based participants.

Key participants
Identify potential key senior participants and their affiliations. A program should contain a significant component for postdoctoral fellows, including facilitating access to long-term senior visitors.  We strive for diverse programs that include a strong representation of women, members of underrepresented minorities, and U.S. based researchers from a wide range of institutions.

Topical workshop
Each program starts with a Connection for Women (CfW) workshop, which is immediately 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 of the programs. Proposers may be asked for further information or revisions pending final selection. The SAC meets in January, May and November of each year, and proposals are generally considered during the first such meeting after submission.

From Preproposal to Proposal

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

Organizers and Key Participants
Members of the organizing 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. At least three organizers must commit to be in attendance 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
The organizing committees for each of the three workshops should have been selected. The workshop organizers can be selected from the mathematical community and need not be restricted to the organizers of the program. Again, it is an advantage to have a diverse organizing committee for each workshop. 

  • Connections for Women workshop: Each program should plan for a 2-day workshop, 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. Women attending the Connections for Women workshop are particularly encouraged to attend the introductory workshop.
  • Introductory Workshop: The Connections for Women is immediately followed by the 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. The proposal must address how the organizers will ensure that the introductory workshop will be truly introductory.
  • Topical workshop: Lastly, sometime during the program a Topical workshop is held. This workshop is for a specialized audience of researchers.
Plans should be presented for these three (3) workshops. Note that all workshops begin with a short “perspective” talk. 

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. A member of the Human Resources Advisory Committee will be assigned to the program to work with the Human Resources designated organizer. 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. The list of anticipated participants should have at least 60% U.S. based researchers.  It should also be noted that for the last 15 years, 30% of Ph.D. recipients in mathematics have been women, with around 24% from Group I Institutions. Moreover, female faculty hires at Research I Universities have been on the rise. The latest statistics from AMS show that the percentage of female Ph.Ds. being hired by the Mathematics Departments at Research I Universities is at 24% (28% in public Research I Universities and 22% at Private Research I Universities). MSRI will provide a participant list spreadsheet to be completed by the organizers. 

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, Deputy Director, or any member of the Scientific Advisory Committee with a copy to proposals AT msri.org. The deadlines to submit proposals of any kind for review by the SAC are April 15, October 15 and December 15.