Kickstarter Grants FAQ


Absolutely! The program is designed to encourage all contributions to Science Collaborations, since they benefit the wider community.

No, you should decide who cares for your children! You only need to describe in your proposal how funding childcare will enable your Rubin-related science.

The ongoing pandemic and uneven availability of vaccines means that we all face rapidly changing travel restrictions, which are different in different parts of the world. You are welcome to propose for travel funds, but we recommend that you include a contingency plan describing how the work will proceed in the event that travel is not possible.

Members of the three participating Science Collaborations who are based outside the US/Chile are welcome to submit proposals, regardless of the status of any In-kind proposal they are involved with. Although the topic of your proposal should not directly overlap with the activities covered in your in-kind program, complementary activities are encouraged, particularly those that benefit underserved communities and the Science Collaborations in general.

You are encouraged to contact the Program Lead directly to discuss your situation in detail. In general, we prefer to distribute the awards as grants but we can do so as gifts if necessary to US-based institutions. The limit of 15% on any institutional overhead remains the same.

This program is funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation via a grant to Las Cumbres Observatory, who are handling the administration of the kickstarter grant awards. For these purposes, the sponsor organization is therefore Las Cumbres Observatory.

Yes, you may apply for funds to put towards a student or post-doc position, provided that you already have funding secured for the rest of that position. You should explain in your proposal how the full position will be funded, and how this proposal will enable Rubin-research by you and your post-doc/student.

If your proposal is successful, we prefer that the funds be awarded through your home institution.

However, we are aware of a few instances where some or all of the elements of a proposal cannot be handled through the administration of some institutions.

If this is the case, you are strongly encouraged to discuss the issues with the Program Lead, Rachel Street.

We can issue grants to individuals, independently of their institution, for all or part of their proposal. In these cases, the individual receiving the funds will be responsible for ensuring that they are legally allowed to receive funds this way, and for compiling with any legal, tax, immigration or other requirement.

For example, students in the US with J1 visas may not receive funds except through their employer, and so would have to have the grant received by their institution.

It is not necessary for PIs to describe how they will receive funds in the proposal itself. Successful PIs will be contacted once the awards are made with administrative instructions.

Anyone who would receive funds from the proposal, if it is successful, should provide details of any other resources, funds and grants they have access to, either from grants or through their institution or other avenue. Collaborators on the grant who will not receive funds from the proposal do not need to provide these details.

The main criterion for selecting partnership proposals is that the proposal should be focused on overcoming barriers to participation in research for communities that have historically had fewer opporunties, particularly those that have historically suffered from discrimination.

One common barrier to entry that newcomers to the Rubin science community have raised is that Rubin is a very large, multi-faceted project, and it can be difficult to know how to get involved unless you have connections or join an established research program.

Encouraging Partnership between institutes to enable and enhance research programs by all partners, making this kind of institutional knowledge and experience more widely accessible, is one example of how this kind of barrier can be overcome.

It is worth noting that this is just one example of a partnership, and many others are possible; the definition is not intended to be restrictive. Rather the program emphasizes that partnerships should be meaningful and equitable collaborations. PIs are encouraged to consider how collaborating wih the Science Collaborations could help to enhance their research goals and opportunities for communities that have historically been witheld from astronomy.

Program Scope

The program is highly flexible in the kinds of proposal that can be supported. Here are just a few examples:

A Task Force from one or more of the participating Science Collaborations applies as a team for funds to organize a hackathon to work on the tasks necessary to achieve the Task Force's research goals.

The PI is a faculty member at a small university, with undergraduate teaching responsibilities. She proposes for funds to enable 3 students (PhD students or undergraduates) to attend an (online) data science training course that will enable them to contribute to LSST research in future. The students would be tasked with performing anticipated analysis tasks (such as estimating the ages of a sample of Globular clusters) using the Rubin Science Platform (RSP) on simulated preview data. This will serve several goals: 1. It will give junior researchers an opportunity to learn astronomical analysis tasks; 2. It will help the less junior researchers climb the learning curve of the new analysis environment; 3. It will help the community (at all levels) gain experience in formulating the kind of scientific questions that the RSP will be able to answer.

The PI is a member of the teaching staff at an institute which requires its astronomy staff to bring in external grants to cover their summer salary. He regularly participates in his Science Collaboration, but the majority of his time is taken up with either teaching duties or commitments to other projects, leaving no opportunity to work on LSST-themed research, for which he has no other funds available. He applies for 2 months of summer salary costs to enable him to work on one of the key research goals for his Science Collaboration and to dedicate time to a leadership role providing service to the Science Collaboration.

The proposal is submitted jointly by PIs from two institutions. One has an established research program dedicated to LSST, while the other institute has not previously been involved and has no funds available for LSST research but has interested members of staff. (Applications including institutions serving populations traditionally witheld from astronomy are particularly encouraged.) The proposal requests funds to enable a student or postdoc and her mentor at the second institute to contribute research to one of the participating Science Collaborations, and includes some funds to enable their partner at the first institution to co-mentor the work.

A proposal PI has held an unfunded but elected leadership and service role within her Science Collaboration for some time. She would like to dedicate more time to the role in order to coordinate and enable research through several subgroups and Task Forces that would benefit the Collaboration as a whole, but this would currently come at the expense of other commitments. She requests funds to cover 1 month of her time to enable her to meet the needs of the community. Her proposal clearly delineates her goals and the tasks to be performed, and demonstrates their importance for the Science Collaboration.

The PI has a substantial track record of volunteering his time to support his Science Collaboration. He is also the parent of a young child, and the lack of availability of school/childcare during the pandemic has severely impacted the time he has had available for research over the last year. He applies for funds to cover childcare costs during the summer break, to enable him to dedicate time to contribute to a Science Collaboration Task Force.

A Task Force from one of the participating Science Collaborations applies as a group to cover the costs of storing a dataset of shared interest in a Cloud-hosting service, so that it is generally accessible by Science Collaboration members. The proposal also includes funds to enable a postdoc to develop software tools to enable the group to perform work of relevance to the Task Force goals using the Cloud-based dataset.

The PI is a soft-money researcher who must fund all of her work time. She is an active member of one of the participating Science Collaborations but without any LSST-directed funding she cannot contribute any concentrated effort to developing tools or preparing for LSST science. She applies for 2 months of salary costs to enable her to work on one of the key research goals for her Science Collaboration.

The Science Collaboration chairs and/JEDI group propose to host bystander intervention training via an online colloquium and make it available to all Science Collaboration members. They submit a small grant proposal to cover the $5000 fee of a training organization such as National Conflict Resolution Center.

A researcher requests funds to enable them to visit another institution for collaborative work. The visit would be expected to last ~2 weeks, requiring funds of ~$3,000 per visit per visitor, to fund lodging, travel and subsistence for visitors to collaborate with colleagues. The program would include a deliverable (e.g. a paper draft or funding proposal) as part of the program. Six such visitors could be funded annually for a cost of $18,000 per year for the visitor program.

Please note: This will only be included in the program if the pandemic situation is safe enough for it to be viable, and that it can be safely offered to all members on a fair basis.

Partnership Proposals

The goal of Partnership proposals is to foster a meaningful and productive long-term partnerships between groups and institutions, with the specific aim of enhancing diversity and equity in science.

Programs that aim to develop series of seminars, webinars or bootcamps to get new partner institutes up to speed about the potential of LSST and to help them navigate the opportunities that it offers would also be welcome.

The program recognizes that cultivating real partnerships takes time, and we encourage proposals that aim to lay groundwork for longer-term initiatives. At the time of proposal, it is envisaged that these partnerships should involve at least two active and equal partners (as opposed to seeking partners at a later stage), but the program plans may be in a nascent state and we encourage programs designed to identify barriers to participation in research and explore ways to overcome them.

The following examples are given as a guide:

The Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Group from a participating Science Collaboration has existing links with university serving a community traditionally witheld from astronomy. The university has a small astronomy department with one member of staff who has both teaching and research duties, and a scientific interest in Rubin.

Together, they propose to develop a partnership to incorporate Rubin research into the staff member's research and the student training program in a sustainable way. The practical goals of the proposal include holding regular meetings designed to understand the challenges faced by the students and staff at the university, and develop the means to overcome them, including laying the groundwork for future development and fund raising activities. The proposal requests funding to enable both staff and students at the university, and members of the JEDI group to dedicate time to these activities.

Two Science Collaboration members at neighboring institutions share scientific interests in Rubin, and are long-standing collaborators. Both institutions serve students from communities traditionally witheld from astronomy.

They propose to explore how their complementary skill sets can be combined to further the goals of a topical Task Force within the Science Collaboration, and identify infrastructural limitations standing in the way of their progress. They propose to explore whether computing resources provided by the Rubin international in-kind program can be used to address these limitations.

A Science Collaboration Working Group with existing links to a regional university would like to develop a Citizen Science Program to encourage members of the public to engage with their science. The regional university brings expertise in web development and its students gain credit for the development project.

They propose for funds to enable the proposing team to dedicate time to the project, and for equipment for the students.