Hold your own Meeting

MARGINS-sponsored workshops can be fully or partially granted by the NSF-MARGINS program, either directly via NSF proposal submission or through the MARGINS office. MARGINS can also sponsor Mini-Workshops held at national meetings (such proposals should be submitted through the MARGINS office, and are subject to distinct submission guidelines and with limited funding provided). Proposals for any of the workshops outlined above receive full logistical support when submitted through the office.

Here is a summary of the subjects linked above with thorough information for those planning to submit a workshop proposal sponsored by MARGINS.
  • Workshop Proposals: the guidelines to submit a proposal to host a MARGINS-related workshop or a Theoretical and Experimental Institute workshop, for conveners wanting to submit a proposal through the MARGINS Office.
  • Workshop Timeline: For workshop proposals submitted through the MARGINS Office, the different responsibilities assumed in a timely manner by the MARGINS Office (MO) and by the workshop conveners to prepare the meeting, including post-meeting arrangements.
  • Proposal Examples: Examples of past workshop proposals funded.

Also see NSF 2008 Conference Proposals Guidelines and the Fly America Act for more information on participant travel restrictions.

Guidelines for workshop proposals submitted through the MARGINS Office [PDF]

Ideally, the MARGINS Office (MO) would work with the conveners to submit a workshop proposal 12-15 months ahead of the planned meeting.  This timeline is especially important if the meeting involves a large number of participants or the logistics are complicated.  For smaller meetings with simple logistics, 6 months is the minimum time between submitting a proposal and holding the meeting, and 8-9 months is preferable.  What follows is guidance for conveners wanting to submit a proposal through the MARGINS Office.  The advantage to the conveners of this route is that the MARGINS Office will help the conveners with much of the logistics, as outlined in the following document describing timelines and division of duties between the conveners and the MARGINS Office. A possible detriment for the conveners is that the grant is awarded to the MARGINS Office rather than the convener’s home institution. (Note, however the MARGINS Office will only be able to handle financial matters such as hotel deposits and travel reimbursal, etc., if the grant is to the Office).  Whatever route the conveners decide to take, scientific decisions about conference content and format are made by the conveners, with the MARGINS Office supplying experience from past meetings and providing hands to execute the conveners decisions. Workshop proposals may be submitted at any time; NSF typically takes 3-4 months to reach decisions about whether to fund a workshop proposal.

Workshop proposal content if submitted through the MARGINS Office:

  1. Proposal text can be 4-5 pages and should include:
    1. Need for the meeting, reason for its timeliness, scientific context
    2. Target audience in general (scientifically and in terms of # of participants)
    3. Actual or approximate dates
    4. Overview of meeting structure, including key topics to be addressed and some keynote speakers. (Note, NSF generally will not pay for participants from outside US institutions, unless they are identified as key meeting conveners, keynote speakers, essential field trip leaders)
    5. Overview of field trips: their scientific focus and contribution to the meeting; field trip leaders, and their credentials for leading the trip
    6. Method of advertising meeting (typically advertised via EOS, MARGINS website, and any list-servers provided by conveners) and selecting participants (typically via on-line application form, selection by conveners and approval from MSC and NSF)
    7. Outcomes from the meeting: website posting of presentations and posters; a meeting summary (for website and newsletter); possibly a book
    8. Plans for a day spent revising the initiative science plan, if appropriate
    9. Broader impacts of the meeting including educational goals, science planning, international cooperation (*** see statement below re: supporting international participation).
    10. Identify a local convener if possible, to help coordinate on-site logistics and supply minor items as needed for meeting
  2. Project summary, summarizing the above
  3. Budget. Conveners must provide MARGINS Office with:
    • target dates for meeting,
    • number of participants including student helpers,
    • hotels or conference centers that are of the right size and facilities to host a meeting (and contact info) or willingness to use facilities previously used by MARGINS meetings (e.g. Snowbird Conference Center)
    • field trip details including number and size of vehicles needed, miles to be drivenon field trip, names of hotels that can provide lodging and meals, any equipment needed for safety (including walkie-talkies, or satellite radio)
    • >
    • Presentation needs for meeting (av equipment, internet access, poster supports and materials, large-screen video capacity, etc).

    With this information from the conveners, the MARGINS Office (MO) can work with the hotels to determine lodging, catering and meeting costs.  Such costs will typically include double occupancy rooms for participants (single occupancy for conveners), 3 meals and 2 coffee breaks a day, opening reception, and meeting room set up with tables for participants plus necessary presentation equipment. The MO will also budget for airfares.  All these costs come under the heading of “participant support” on the NSF budget, and carry no overhead.  The MO will also budget for advertising costs, and travel costs for MO personnel to attend the meeting.  These costs do have overhead associated.  There will be no salary support in the workshop proposal for the MO personnel for the work done to assist the workshop planning and execution.

    As a matter of philosophy, we want the meeting budget to cover full costs for all conveners, keynote speakers and field trip leaders (including a few non-Americans if appropriate), along with all direct meeting costs (meeting rooms, presentation equipment, coffee breaks).  We will budget to provide full support to all other US applicants; however, we’d prefer to guarantee something like “75% or better support” to those not playing an essential role in the meeting.  In this way, we can have some reserve if meeting costs, field trip costs or unanticipated expenses are greater than expected.  If we’ve budgeted correctly and nothing unexpected happens, then we’d reimburse US participants completely.

  4. NSF-style 2-page CVs for each meeting convener

***NB.  Getting international participation can be difficult.  So, look at point 1d above.  Other options include having collaborators in other countries submit copies of the proposal to their funding agencies to provide travel costs for participants from non-American institutions or working with NSF International Programs to fund travel support from other countries.

For planning purposes, the meeting conveners should send the MO a draft proposal as early as possible.  The MO will review it and suggest changes based on experience, while respecting the conveners rights to make policy and science decisions.  Given the back and forth on the text, and the time required to get the budgetary details right and agreed to by the MO and conveners, it can take several months from starting a draft version of the proposal to its submittal to NSF by the MARGINS Office. The more cohesive the conveners are in their initial plan, the easier this process will be.

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Workshop Timeline/Responsibilities [PDF]

NOTE: This timetable does not take into account the time required to accommodate any Visa requirements for participants traveling from outside the host country.  Any participants from countries requiring extended times for visa processing should preferably be identified and invited shortly after funding is approved.

This timeline assumes funding via a supplemental grant to the MARGINS Office. If the Workshop is supported via a standalone grant then financial/contract responsibilities will be transferred to the conveners.

+9-15 Months Prior

Clarify roles of all parties involved

  • Conveners (CS) provide MARGINS Office (MO) w/ proposal text & work with MO to develop budgetCS decide on official (short and sweet) name of Workshop; MO create Workshop logo with CS oversight
  • CS identify tentative list of invited speakers
  • CS provide information about basic needs and wishes & MO/CS make initial inquiries regarding Workshop details, including
    • Ground Transportation
    • Lodging
    • Travel
    • Meeting space and conference amenities
    • Field equipment (e.g., radios, etc.)
    • Numbers of grad student participants/workers/drivers for which financial support will be needed
    • The conveners may also choose to request funds for a planning and selection meeting to be held after the participant application deadline has passed.
  • Proposal submitted by MO if supplemental grant, or by CS otherwise

Once funding is approved (c. + 6-9 Months Prior)

  • MO to design website
  • CS identify Grad Student participants/workers/drivers
  • Conveners invite keynote speakers and inform MARGINS Office
  • MO/CS produce and distribute advertisement (EOS, e-mail lists, others) inviting applications by way of abstract of relevant work and resume.
  • MO accepts applications via Workshop website, creates Filemaker Pro (FMP) database to hold responses. Text, PDF, or FMP files of any or all application data may be periodically (or on demand) distributed to CS for evaluation prior to application deadline
  • CS make own arrangements for a planning meeting if required after applications for the workshop have closed and abstracts are in hand. MARGINS Office to provide conveners with a Wash U. Travel Expense Sheet for reimbursement
  • CS draft acceptance letters (MO can provide draft version) which would provide
    • Level of support for each participant
    • Access to host country Visa applications (if applicable)
    • Travel Instructions and “tips” for field trip and visiting host country
    • Offer shared accommodations and state single room surcharge (to be paid by participant rather than NSF)
    • Inform participants that they are expected to provide the meeting website with a copy of their presentation to go online after the meeting (either powerpoint or pdf)
    • Circulate preliminary Agenda
  • MO signs contracts for main conference elements (sleeping rooms, meeting space) at designated hotel (make deposits with exact participant numbers TBD)
  • If applicable, CS identify hotels for field trips and nights lodging required;

MO signs contract & makes deposit w/ field trip hotels

Confirmation of participants (c. +4 Months Prior)

  • Participant list is selected by conveners and reviewed by MARGINS Steering Committee
  • MO sends acceptance letters to invited participants over CS signature
  • Participants complete on-line MO form regarding acceptance of invitation, desired accommodations, presentation equipment requirements, field trip acceptance (if optional), open comments
  • CS identify tentative vehicle drivers & ensure that all license, insurance matters are OK
  • MARGINS Office personnel book their flights for workshop
  • CS provide MO with any additional info re: other field trip needs (e.g., vehicle rental & source; restaurants for any group meal(s) to be arranged in advance; radios/GPS units) that MO can arrange in advance
  • MO creates PDF Abstracts document based on those submitted by accepted applicants, and distributes to CS for approval.

+3 Months Prior

  • MO to match roommates and confirm final count with Hotel(s)/Conference Center, including meeting space and conference amenities
  • MO to confirm ground transport arrangements to/from airport to meeting hotel
  • MO to confirm all Field Trip arrangements
  • MO to finalize catering requirements (meet and greet, business session breaks, meals, etc.) after CS make catering selections
  • MO finalize on-line Abstracts document
  • MO supplies CS with questionnaire re: AV and poster presentation needs
  • MO arranges AV and poster needs with meeting site
  • Identify all items that may need to be shipped to meeting site

+1 Month Prior

  •  MO identify and obtain all items that will need to be taken with MARGINS Office personnel. Examples include:
    • Digital projector, computer, laser pointer
    • Presentation markers
    • Tacks
    • Participant folders
  • CS finalize Agenda

+Two Weeks Prior

  • MO to circulate emergency contact numbers, hotel confirmations, and ground transport arrangements, URL for abstract volume to participants
  • MO to prepare Folder materials
    • List of Participants
    • Travel Expense Reports and envelopes
    • Badges
    • Final Agenda (available through Workshop website)
    • Final Abstracts (available through Workshop website)
    • Notepad and pen?
    • Field trip information (available through Workshop website)

Days of conference

  • *MARGINS Office staff will typically arrive one day early to ensure all arrangements in place*
  • CS ensure collection and return of rental vehicles by drivers
  • MARGINS Office:
    • Participant logistics support
    • IT support
    • Obtaining copies of presentations
    • Liaising with hotel re: facilities, costs, etc.


  • MO finalizes payment to all workshop contractors (hotel, transport, etc.)
  • MO accept updated presentations for website and reminds participants of their obligation
  • MO prepares an on-line workshop evaluation form with a deadline for responses after which results are made available to CS for reports/presentations
  • MO finalizes post-Workshop website for public perusal
  • CS prepares workshop summary for MARGINS Newsletter
  • CS serve as editors for MARGINS book, if one is to be produced
  • MO reimburses participants for approved travel expenses
  • MO reimburses CS and field trip leaders for any out-of-pocket expenses based on receipts provided
  • MO summarizes results of workshop evaluation, supplies to CS and makes publicly available via meeting website

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Proposal Examples

The most efficient way for MARGINS to be converted into a program (rather than simply a collection of funded proposals) is by the sharing of results and technology across the four intitatives via workshops, theoretical institutes, AGU & GSA special sessions and town meetings.

In order to encourage these activities, the MARGINS Office is making a number of successful workshop and theoretical institute proposals available to the community, to be used as a guide or template for subsequent proposals. The proposal abstracts on this page summarize the objectives and expectations for the various workshops and theoretical institutes, and below each abstract are links to the full proposal texts as PDF files.

Workshop to Integrate Subduction Factory and Seismogenic Zone Studies in Central America. Heredia, Costa Rica; June 18-22, 2007 [full proposal available as a PDF 2.5MB]

We propose a five-day workshop in Costa Rica in July of 2007 in order to integrate studies aimed at the convergent margin in Central America, one of the MARGINS focus sites for the Subduction Factory (SubFac) and Seismogenic Zone (SEIZE) Initiatives. This is the first Integration and Synthesis workshop proposed for the MARGINS program, as work in
Central America over the past five years has matured to the stage where a large number of on-shore and off-shore studies have been completed. Several major geophysical experiments will also be generating new results in the timeframe of the workshop. Most of these studies have been carried out independently, and thus a workshop at this time is critical to bringing together scientists from multiple disciplines and countries to make progress on the goals in the MARGINS Science Plan. For example, one of the major objectives of SEIZE is to identify the controls on the updip and downdip limits of the seismogenic zone. Recent work in Central America finds a relationship between the updip limit of seismicity and the modeled 100-150 °C
isotherm. Laboratory studies have ruled out the formation of illite as a critical mechanical transition, so what other processes control the onset of seismicity? Likewise, the cycling of H2O and CO2 is a major function of the Subduction Factory, but recent work in Central American has found surprisingly low volcanic CO2 fluxes. Such observations provide critical constraints on
current and future generations of coupled geodynamic-thermodynamic models of slab decarbonation. The proposed workshop would provide the forum necessary to synthesize such recent discoveries into clear predictions for other regions and directives for future work.

The workshop would bring together approximately 100 scientists, with major participation from the US, Germany and C. America. In particular, the workshop would enable cross-fertilization between the US MARGINS community and the Germany Collaborative Research Center (SFB574), which is a major program that has been running parallel to MARGINS for five years, with a similar focus on fluid cycling and hazards in Central America. The SFB will be co-sponsoring the workshop, providing significant participant, planning and publication funds. The University of Costa Rica and National University of Costa Rica will co-
host the workshop, providing scientific expertise and logistical support. The workshop will involve keynote talks, group discussions, poster sessions, breakout groups, student presentations and optional field trips. Participation will be solicited among investigators, students and postdocs currently working in Central America, as well as those who have had no prior work in this area, but bring critical expertise from numerical experiments, laboratory work or other field areas.

Other sample proposals and sample budgets available upon request, please contact the MARGINS Office.

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MARGINS is an NSF funded program


The MARGINS Office is hosted by Columbia University

Last updated Friday, August 1, 2008