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In accordance with the agreement between the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), United States, both parties will launch a call for collaborative research proposals in the field of Sustainable Regional Systems (SRS) in 2022 to further promote cooperation between China and the United States in the field of environmental sustainability.

I. Program Information

i. Subjects covered

Through this mutual agreement, NSFC and NSF will conduct joint funding in 2022 in areas related to Sustainable Regional Systems (SRS). SRS refers to interconnected urban and rural systems, and all systems in between. This joint research program aims to fund application-oriented convergent research with significant sustainability and social impact. It aims to deepen the understanding of social, environmental, and technological systems. Finally, it strives to promote the development of scientific and engineering research on sustainable regional systems, thereby contributing to the transformation of current regional systems and enhancing sustainability. SRS research requires deep interdisciplinary integration and is driven by a specific and compelling issue, including but not limited to the following:

1. The study of single urban systems/metropolitan regions and their connected rural systems where multiple sustainability outcomes are addressed from a multi-scale system perspective that connects homes, businesses, and communities at regional and global scales.

2. The study of multiple urban systems and their connected rural systems, exploring inter-relationships among networks of urban and rural systems, and identifying urban-rural typologies for the study of cohort groups and comparison groups.

3. The study of the supra-aggregation of connected urban-rural systems, e.g., of all urban-rural systems in an electrical grid region, a nation, a world region, or the world, in order to assess the collective impact of urban-rural transformation on both people and the planet.

The U.S. call for research proposals guidelines can be found at:

ii. Acceptance code and application codes

Chinese applicants should first select the acceptance code T04 of the Division of Interdisciplinary Sciences (convergence science field), and then fill out the Chinese application form by selecting no less than two science division application codes from A-H according to the research content. For further details on application codes, please refer to the "NSFC Application Codes" section in the National Natural Science Fund Guide to Programs 2021. Important:

1. When selecting an application code, try to select up to the secondary application code (4 digits);

2. When filling out the application form, please ensure the "research direction" and "key word" fields are filled in accurately.

iii. Scale of funding

The number of proposals to be funded cannot exceed six.

iv. Value of funding

The Chinese funding may not exceed CNY 3 million per proposal (direct expenses), including research funding and all international cooperation and exchange-related expenses. US funding may not exceed USD 500,000 per proposal.

v. Duration of funding

The duration of funding is four years, and the research period in the application form must be filled in between the dates of October 1, 2022 to September 30, 2026.

II. Application Eligibility

Applicants should meet the following requirements.

i. They should assume senior professional and technical positions or have senior professional and technical titles.

ii. They have undertaken or are undertaking NSFC projects with a duration of at least three years as project leaders.

iii. They should maintain solid fundation cooperation with foreign (regional) collaborators.

iv. For detailed instructions on application eligibility, please see the National Natural Science Fund Guide to Programs 2021. Advance notice will be given in the event significant adjustments are made to the application requirements contained within the National Natural Science Fund Guide to Programs 2022.

III. Provisions on Application Restrictions

NSFC international (regional) collaborative research programs include both inter-organizational and key international (regional) collaborative research programs. This program is an inter-organizational international (regional) collaborative research program. Applicants must therefore comply with the following project restrictions when applying for funding:

i. Applicants (excluding major participants) may only apply for one international (regional) collaborative research program within a single calendar year.

ii. The person in charge of an international (regional) cooperative research program is not allowed to apply for this program as an applicant.

iii. Researchers in senior professional and technical positions or with senior professional and technical titles are limited to two projects (excluding inter-organizational collaboration projects) when applying (as the applicant/major participant) for and assuming (as project leader/major participants) the projects under the collaborative programs in the Guide.

iv. Other restrictions on the number of applications in the National Natural Science Foundation of China Guide to Programs 2021. Notice will be given in the event significant adjustments are made to the provisions on restrictions contained within the National Natural Science Foundation of China Guide to Programs 2022.

IV. Submission Instructions

i. Notes for applicants

Applications for the program should be filled in online, with specific requirements for applicants as follows:

1. Before filling out the application form, applicants should carefully read the relevant information contained in this guide as well as the National Natural Science Foundation of China Guide to Programs 2021. Proposal applications that do not meet the conditions contained within the guide and relevant requirements will not be accepted.

2. Applicants must visit the Internet-based Science Information System (ISIS) ( and fill out the Application Form for International (Regional) Collaborative Research Programs of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (hereinafter referred to as the "Chinese Application") online. The detailed process is as follows:

Select the "Principal Investigator" user group to log into the system, then click "Online Application" to enter the application interface. Click the "New Project Application" button to enter the interface and select the science division to which the project belongs. Click "Apply for Project o Division of Interdisciplinary Sciences" to select the project category. Click the "+" sign on the left side of "International (Regional) Cooperation and Exchange Programs" or the "Unfold" button on the right side to open the drop-down menu. Click the "Fill out the Application" button on the right side of "Inter-organizational Collaborative Research (Inter-organizational Cooperation Agreement Programs)" to proceed to the next page. First click on the "Please Select a Cooperation Agreement" interface, then select "NSFC-NSF (China-US)" in the drop-down menu. Then, enter the approval number of the supporting NSFC project according to the system requirements and jump to the specific Chinese Application filling interface after passing the qualification certification.

3. Inter-organizational collaborative research programs are funded with a flat-rate grant. Applicants should carefully read the requirements for budget preparation in the "Application Information" section of the National Natural Science Fund Guide to Programs 2021. They must strictly follow the requirements stipulated in the following documents: Management Measures for the Funds for Projects Financed by the National Natural Science Fund, Supplementary Notice on Issues Related to the Management of Funds for Projects Financed by the National Natural Science Fund (Cai Ke Jjiao [2016] No. 19), Notice of the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Ministry of Finance on Further Improving Science Fund Programs and Fund Management (Guo Ke Jin Fa Cai [2019] No. 31), and Instructions for the Preparation of the Budget Table of National Natural Science Fund Programs. Applicants must carefully and truthfully compile a National Natural Science Fund Programs Budget Table.

4. Requirements for application materials. After the applicant completes the application form, he/she may submit the digital application form and attached materials online, without having to submit a paper copy of the application form. The attached materials include:

A. A complete copy of the English application form submitted to NSF by the U.S. collaborator.

B. Cooperation confirmation letter. The U.S. applicant must provide a signed cooperation confirmation letter.

5. The English title of the collaborative research proposal in the Chinese application form must be identical to the English title submitted to NSF by the U.S. collaborator. Applicants should indicate "SRS: US-China" before the specific collaborative research title when filling in the Chinese name of the proposal to help the project management department in identifying these proposals.

ii. Precautions for host organizations

The host organization should review the authenticity, completeness and compliance of the application materials submitted by the applicant, as well as the target relevance, policy compliance and economic rationality of the budget. This program implements the paperless application. The host organization must submit the digital version application form and attached materials before the specified deadline for project application. Please upload the project application list through the Internet-based Science Information System. No paper copy is required.

For matters such as the submission of the organization's commitment to scientific research integrity, please refer to the Notice on Matters Related to the Application and Completion of 2022 Programs of the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

After the proposal is approved, the signed and stamped page of the application form should be attached at the end of the Funding Project Proposal and submitted together. The signed and stamped information should be kept identical to information on the digital version of the application form.

iii. Project application acceptance

The ISIS system is open for online application and acceptance from January 15, 2022 to 16:00 on January 24, 2022 (U.S. deadline is 17:00 on January 17, 2022 local time).

Note: Please fill out the application form in strict accordance with the requirements of this guide. Proposal applications that do not meet the above requirements will be declined. If you have any questions, please call the contact person of the program.

V. Announcement of Proposed Grant Approval Results

Notification of proposed grant approval will be published in the International column on NSFC's website.

VI. Contact Information

i. Contact person (NSFC)

Tang Rongda, Chen Jing

Phone: +86-10-62327145, +86-10-62326877


Chinese applicants can contact ISIS technical support if they encounter technical problems when filling out the application form online. Phone: +86-10-62317474.

ii. Contact person (NFC, US)

Bruce Hamilton


Brandi Schottel


National Natural Science Foundation of China

Bureau of International Cooperation

August 17, 2021


Chinese Application Form (Proposals) Preparation Outline

Body of the report

i. Project basis

1. Significance and scientific basis of the research project;

2. Analysis of the status of research at home and abroad

3. Necessity for international collaborative research

4. Bibliography

ii. Collaborative research content and scheme

1. Research objectives and content, and key scientific problems to be addressed;

2. The proposed research scheme, technical route and feasibility analysis (with emphasis on the important role of convergent research tools and collaborative research approaches in solving the key scientific problems of the project);

3. Innovations and expected research results

iii. Basis for cooperation

1. Strengths and characteristics of both parties, accumulation of research work related to the proposal, and research results already achieved;

2. Existing experimental conditions, missing experimental conditions, and proposed solutions (including planning and implementation of using experimental conditions of other institutions).

iv. Inputs from the collaborator: matching funds, instruments and equipment, key technologies, etc.

v. Information about the application of different types of NSFC projects by the applicant in the same year (list the types and titles of other projects applied for in the same year, and explain the differences and connections between them and this project).

(Note: Content source is from NCSTI.)