About the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program

Some background about my project and how I came to be a lucky participant. I’ll be going to Antarctica with the Artist and Writers Program, a program run by the NSF. How the program came to be is an entire post in itself, which I’ll write about later. This is a program that anyone can apply for. You go through the exact same process that all the science projects which are proposed to the NSF go through.  You write a proposal to the NSF for work that you need to complete in Antarctica. The project is then submitted, after jumping through many hoops during the submittal process. The project then goes through an initial peer review, then a panel review. If you make the cut, which about 10% of the proposals seem to, it get designated as a highly competitive proposal. Your not there yet however.

One of the challenges of proposing a project is finding something that no one else has done before, then proving that you are the right person to do it. So if you are considering applying to the program, play to your strengths and have a history of the work you are proposing. The more work you can show, the more history you have of that work being seen and published, the better your chances are. All kinds of artists are accepted into the program, writers, sculptors, painters, photographers, film makers, poets, musicians. Even puppeteers.

Once your project is designated as highly competitive, a final selection is made of projects that will go to the Ice. This part of the process is less transparent, and communication from the NSF at this point in the process tends to be slow and non-committal. They are a huge governmental agency, and are busy with hundreds of active projects and project applications. It appears that something like 2-3% of applications get supported in the end. So it’s a very competitive program, but the rewards are pretty astonishing. In my case, two month on the Ice photographing subjects of my own choosing, helicopter transportation to remote locations, spending time with scientists working in field camps, access to areas that no one else has access too through special permits, to name a few.

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