Catalyst Social Science Fellowship

Credit: LSST-DA/R. Quinn (Urban Abstrakt)

The LSST Discovery Alliance (LSST-DA) Catalyst Fellowship in Social Science is not accepting applications at this time. Below we have archived the 2023 announcement. Although details may change from year to year, this information should be informative for those interested in applying for future cohorts.

Social Science Fellowship Selection Criteria

LSST-DA  is seeking applicants with accomplishments and promise in two main areas:

  1. Original social scientific, interdisciplinary, or humanistic research related to the Rubin Observatory and/or the LSST project
  2. Meaningful participation in and contribution to the Rubin LSST community, including its diversity, equity, and inclusiveness (DEI)

View a detailed description of the 2023 selection criteria.

Fall 2023 Call for Applications

The LSST Discovery Alliance (LSST-DA) announces a call for applications for postdoctoral fellows who will design and conduct social scientific, interdisciplinary, or humanistic research related to the Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). Up to two positions will begin on or around September 1, 2023. These LSST-DA Catalyst Fellowships, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, also support cohorts of astrophysics postdocs working to realize the full potential of the Rubin Observatory (Chile). 

Applicants can propose to work at any eligible host institution and identify a faculty site supervisor of their choice. In addition, each fellow will also be supported by a larger mentorship committee consisting of social scientists and astrophysicists who are part of the LSST community. 


The goal of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory project is to conduct the 10-year Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). LSST will deliver a 500-petabyte set of images and data products that will address some of the most pressing questions about the structure and evolution of the universe and the objects in it. It provides unprecedented data to astronomers and a unique opportunity for social and computational scientists to explore how new techniques and data inform open science, data access, equity and inclusion, STEM careers, and collaboration patterns. 

The Fellowships in Social Science support early-career scholars who will use a variety of methods to study social aspects of this large-scale and innovative scientific endeavor, such as: how collaboration and co-publishing networks evolve; how interdisciplinary research is conducted and received; how original contributions are jointly developed; how gender, race, and other sociodemographic features influence scientific practice and mentoring; and how scientific practices are evolving with new, big, and open datasets. 

Opportunities and Benefits

LSST-DA Catalyst Fellows in the social sciences will be uniquely situated to take advantage of the following opportunities and benefits:

  1. Academic freedom to propose an independent research agenda.
  2. A front-row seat to important developments in the organization of astronomical research and the production of knowledge about the universe.
  3. Research budget of up to $15,000 (USD) per year.
  4. Time to work on projects unrelated to the fellow’s primary, LSST-focused research (e.g. producing publications from a doctoral thesis, sustaining collaborations from ongoing prior work).
  5. Participation in a cross-disciplinary fellowship program that also includes astronomers. Please review the information on the LSST-DA Catalyst Fellowship for Astrophysics to understand the expectations and structure of those positions. 
  6. Access to a community of study eager to work with and learn from social scientific and humanistic researchers. We will invite all members of the LSST community, including fellows, to participate in surveys, interviews, and focus groups for research and assessment purposes.
  7. Structured mentoring along with leadership training.
  8. A large selection of potential host institutions, including some outside the US (in Brazil, Chile, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK).


The term of the fellowship is up to three years. The starting stipend for all Catalyst Fellows in 2023 is US$72,100 per year. For fellows working outside of the US, the stipend will be as close to this value as is consistent with local laws and regulations. Fellows will receive fringe benefits as well as a research budget of up to US$15,000 per year. 

Eligibility and Qualifications

Catalyst Fellowships in the social sciences are open to English-speaking applicants of any nationality who earned their doctoral degree between January 1, 2019, and August 1, 2023, in a social science, computational/information science, or humanities field. Women and members of minority groups are strongly encouraged to apply.  All applicants will receive consideration without regard to race, creed, color, age, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or national origin. Competitive candidates will have experience studying the social dimensions of scientific work, will develop and submit a proposal for original and high-quality research, will be eager to investigate the sociotechnical arrangements that produce astronomy research and will be interested in the broader social implications of astronomical science. 

Ideas Lab

Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to register to attend a virtual Ideas Lab workshop about the fellowship, to take place on October 6, 2022. This online informational and networking event is designed to help applicants learn more about the fellowship, meet the Rubin LSST community, connect with the Senior Social Science team, and think about the research they would be interested in conducting as an LSST-DA Catalyst Fellow.   

The event is not mandatory and is intended to help applicants craft strong applications by enabling social science postdoc candidates to learn more about the Rubin LSST project and the fellowship. We will record and post the first hour of the Ideas Lab, consisting of informational presentations.

How to Apply

Applicants should submit a research statement, community impact statement, CV, and list of references. Additionally, applicants must specify a desired host institution and submit a pro forma letter of support from their prospective site supervisor at that institution. 

Please review the detailed selection criteria and application instructions for more information. The submission portal will likely open in mid-October 2022, after the Ideas Lab virtual networking event. The application deadline is January 15, 2023. We also encourage you to read the frequently asked questions. Please contact us with any further inquiries.

Important Dates

  • Ideas Lab virtual workshop: October 6, 2022 10:00 am-1:00 pm PDST(UTC-7)
  • Application portal opens – October 10, 2022
  • Social Science application deadline – January 15, 2023 
  • Social Science offers made – Around April 15, 2023
  • Appointments begin – On or around September 1, 2023