Average grant size at the AFOSR is about $ 125,000 per year, so about 20 university PIs are in the program at any one time. Other AFOSR funds support AMO research done at Air Force labs. University funding applications proceed along both informal and formal lines, often beginning with a telephone call or an e-mail. Most ideas are turned away at this stage. But if the idea is interesting, a white paper is solicited or a proposal is requested. If a proposal is requested funding will be supplied if at all possible. Young people are encouraged. Program turnover is about 5 percent per year.
AFOSR does not track demographics in detail, but estimates are that roughly 10 percent of grantees are women and about 7 percent are minorities. The agency does send some funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Roughly speaking, each PI has an associated graduate student, so about 20 are supported in the program. Roughly four doctoral degrees are granted each year.
A good rule of thumb at the ARO is that there is roughly one grantee per $115,000 of funding (with a range of $80,000 to $200,000). Thus on average, ARO is supporting somewhere between 20 and 60 senior investigators depending on the year. The number of awards hovers around 30. Almost all applications start with a phone call or e-mail. Perhaps 90 percent are not encouraged any further. Of the applicants who submit white papers, perhaps 30 to 50 percent are encouraged to submit a proposal. Of submitted proposals, perhaps 30–50 percent are funded.
Turnover occurs as a result of deliberate changes in direction or a deliberate desire to change the mix of people. Over the last 2 years 50 percent of the atomic and molecular part of the core program has turned over. The Special Programs typically last 3–5 years and are not renewable. Thus they automatically turn over. The average number of new starts per year is perhaps 5 (out of the ~30 awards in place on average). ARO is constantly introducing new young investigators to the program while a seasoned crew ages.
Like its sister agencies, the ARO does not track demographics in detail. Women have averaged about 10 percent of the program over the years. The number of underrepresented minority PIs is probably less than 5 percent but with only about 30 awards the statistics are too poor to be more than simply indicative of very low participation.
Roughly speaking, each $100,000 award corresponds to one graduate student. With an average budget of about $5 million per year, this is approximately 50 graduate students. ARO does not track the number of Ph.D.s awarded but guesses it would be about 10 per year. ARO supports about 30 postdocs each year.