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NSF 2026 Idea Machine Call for Entries


by SIOP Administrative Office

Help Shape the Future of NSF Research

The NSF 2026 Idea Machine is a competition to help set the U.S. agenda for fundamental research in science and engineering. Participants can earn prizes and receive public recognition by suggesting the pressing research questions that need to be answered in the coming decade, the next set of “Big Ideas” for future investment by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The competition is an opportunity for researchers, the public, and other interested stakeholders to contribute to NSF's mission to support basic research and enable new discoveries that drive the U.S. economy, enhance national security, and advance knowledge to sustain the country's global leadership in science and engineering.

The NSF 2026 Big Idea website defines a big idea as a compelling research challenge in fundamental STEM or STEM education that is large in scope, is innovative in character, and requires a long-term commitment (i.e., 10 years or more) to address. Further, the definition includes opportunity for cross discipline collaboration and may require a paradigm shift in thinking. The goal is to have significant societal and scientific impact that would benefit many stakeholders, both inside and outside the research community.

The NSF 2026 Idea Machine Competition is divided into four stages, with this tentative timeline:

  • Stage 1: Bid Idea Development and Submission: Closes October 26, 2018
  • Stage 2: Video Pitches and Public Comment: January 10 - March 15, 2019
  • Stage 3: Blue-Ribbon Panel Virtual Interviews: March 15 – May 15, 2019
  • Stage 4: Selection of Winners and Awarding of Prizes: May 25 – August, 2019

Find more details about the competition schedule here.

Each final winning entry will receive a cash price of $26,000, and its authors (individuals or teams) will be invited to a recognition event in the Washington, DC area. In addition, there will be recognition of entries that reach different stages of the competition, as outlined here.

The NSF has provided extensive information on different aspects of the competition on its website, including judging, eligibility, and how to enter.

The NSF 2026 Idea Machine is an unprecedented opportunity to promote a new area of research that is important and exciting but not currently addressed by NSF. It is also a chance to participate in a crucial visioning exercise to identify future research priorities at the national level and help define critical, new, long-term research directions that promote the progress of science.