...and they really are here to help you. I'm speaking about the National Science Foundation, and specifically about its Law and Social Sciences (LSS) Program. For the folks reading this, the LSS Program is probably the single best source for external funding of one's research; yet it's received relatively little exposure on this blog. While details about proposal submission deadlines, proposal formats, etc. can all be found on the Program's website, I want to highlight three common misconceptions about the LSS program that should be of particular interest to ELSBlog readers.
Misconception #1. The LSS Program (and/or the NSF in general) only funds quantitative research.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Not only does LSS (and NSF) fund qualitative research (for examples, take a look at some of the recent awards made by the program), but the Program and the Foundation have been active in helping to developing standards for evaluating qualitative research, and in strengthening qualitative methods in the social sciences.
Misconception #2. There's not enough money there to bother going after.
The last time I checked, the LSS program was awarding grants totalling around $3.5 million a year. That's not crazy money, but it is a substantial amount nonetheless. And, as I often reminded researchers when I oversaw the Program, somebody's going to get it.
Misconception #3. It is improper/inappropriate to discuss my project/proposal with the NSF program officer.
Again, nothing could be further from the truth. NSF program officers (POs) are the individuals who oversee the proposal, review, and award process; their job is to serve their program's research community. As long as you don't try to bribe them, threaten them, or otherwise violate federal law, they are generally happy to answer questions about the proposal process, review criteria, and other aspects of the funding game, and even to offer suggestions. In fact, a short discussion with a program's director is probably the best place to start a proposal, since POs can often tell you immediately whether or not your idea is a good "fit" for their program (and suggest an alternative if it is not). (FYI, the current LSS Program's officers are Isaac Unah and Kevin Gotham).