What Is Required?

The application comprises 12 sections. Each one is designed to encourage a brief but detailed explanation of the most important elements of your proposed competition. The last section is optional, but we encourage you to submit a short video presentation in which you can offer a personal appeal for why your idea will motivate a wide range of meaningful, achievable, innovative, and compelling solutions to your challenge.

Here are detailed descriptions for each section of the application.

Instructions: Please select one or more categories that most closely define your competition idea. These categories will be used primarily for sorting purposes. If your competition idea does not fit into one of these categories, please mark “other” and describe your prize category.

Issues and matters concerning food security, production, and safety.

The Ancient World

Issues surrounding the discovery, conservation, and protection of artifacts, fossils, and other evidence of social and biological evolution.

Big Data

Topics concerning the collection, distribution, and analysis of data.

Climate Change and the Environment

Issues related to changing climate patterns due to human and natural events. This could include matters related but not limited to human and natural impacts on air quality, sanitation, plants, and wildlife.


Issues and matters concerning energy access, conservation, and technology.


Issues and matters concerning freshwater resources.

Humans: Their Bodies and Environments

Issues and matters concerning the physical human body including health and the relationship between humans and their natural, social, cultural, and constructed environments.


Topics related to ocean health and marine life.

The Unseen World

Issues and matters concerning the impact of microbes and forces not visible to the human eye.

Space Exploration

Issues and matters related to better understanding the universe.


Issues and matters concerning wildlife conservation and trafficking.


Submit one line of text (up to 10 words)
Give your proposed competition a name. It should represent a precise and compelling challenge, one that clearly conveys your intended outcome(s). This is a working title that may change later.
Submit up to one page of text (up to 250 words)
Give a description of your proposed problem and describe why it is worth solving. Your problem statement needs to underscore the importance of the challenge that you are trying to solve, both for the general public and within one or more targeted areas of conservation, exploration, and/or scientific discovery. The problem that you describe here needs to be meaningful and compelling, and you need to consider whether any likely solutions are achievable. Explain why the problem has not yet been solved. Outline the barriers that have inhibited progress and how will they be addressed through fresh thinking or new technical approaches to the solution.
Submit a half-page of text (up to 125 words)
Offer a strong but brief explanation of your proposed competition. Describe the key elements, starting with your intended outcome and including any essential measures of success. It is not necessary to prescribe the solution (i.e., you do not need to share how your challenge should be solved)—instead, you are encouraged to remain impartial to any technical approach and to present the most compelling incentives that inspire others to think creatively and to contribute to your intended outcome.
Submit a half-page of text (up to 125 words)
Indicate how a successful outcome will be determined. If it is a subjective process, describe how it would be arbitrated (e.g., best cause marketing campaign in support of a conservation initiative). If it is an objective measure, please describe the metric and explain why this particular metric was selected over potential alternatives. Simple measures, such as “first to discover” or “most units obtained” don’t require explanations, but you must explain how claims would be validated in a simple but precise explanation that the general public would understand.
Submit a half-page of text (up to 125 words)
Explain how a successful outcome will have a meaningful, if not breakthrough, impact on the world and/or one or more fields of scientific discovery and/or exploration.
Submit up to one page of text (up to 250 words)
Describe the proposed process of participation and any constraints or rules governing the participants (e.g., environmental impact requirements, time and resource limitations, etc.). Consider how your proposed competition would work and what would be required to ensure a fair and manageable process. Think about what rules are required to ensure the intended outcome while protecting against any potentially negative consequences.
Submit up to one page of text (up to 250 words)
Use this section to make a compelling case for why this challenge could change perceptions and engage the general public to understand the importance of the outlined problem and intended outcome. If your competition idea were to be selected, describe the activities that a team or individual would experience during the competition. Outline risks they would need to take or likely obstacles they would need to overcome. Imagine how their story might be told.
Submit a half-page of text (up to 125 words)
From a total available pool of $250,000 to $1 million (USD) or more, please describe how you would allocate cash prizes. For example, if a single award of $500,000 is necessary, please explain why. However, if you feel that you should break the total pool into increments (e.g., $150,000 for first place and $100,000 for second place, etc.), then please explain. As you formulate these recommendations, please consider the likely cost of producing a winning solution and address the questions: Are your proposed incentives enough to warrant serious participation, or would the likely costs of winning the prize exceed your proposed cash rewards?

Additionally, please note that National Geographic will investigate setting aside funds to support the winning idea in order to shape it into a real competition, but to warrant larger cash amounts, our judges have been asked to scrutinize the feasibility and/or appeal of your idea according to the likely cost. For example, if you are recommending multimillion dollar prize(s), please take the time to consider the feasibility of raising funds to support your idea. More expensive ideas often require more attention to feasibility.
Submit a half-page of text (up to 125 words)
Provide a brief description of how long a solution to your problem would take to develop and demonstrate. If your proposed competition requires multiple stages of development (phases), then please indicate the likely amount of time required for each phase. Provide any supporting evidence or rationale for these assumptions. To offer further direction, we recommend setting a minimum duration of 12 months and only projecting a longer timeline where there is a specific justification. Consider the time required to produce a solution, and please be conservative in your estimation. If your competition is selected, we may work with you to refine your assumptions and to set the final timeline.
Submit a half-page of text (up to 125 words)
Please use this section to share any additional thoughts or considerations not covered in the other sections.
Submit a maximum five-minute video presentation
This is your opportunity to present your proposed competition in a way that reflects your personal commitment to the targeted problem and your particular challenge for solving it. You are encouraged to feature one or two individuals who can speak passionately about your proposal. You are welcome to use a smartphone or webcam. Please note that the video pitch is optional. If you choose to offer one, we do not expect you to spend considerable time and resources producing it. Sincere and compelling remarks from you are the most important consideration. Judges are instructed to reward substance over style.

You must register to apply by 11:59pm, EDT, on Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Only those who have registered can apply, and all applications are due by 11:59pm, EDT, on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. You are welcome to review a more comprehensive timeline, where each phase and deadline is described. And, please take time to understand how each application will be scored before composing your response. Finally, we are offering the names and credentials of each judge for your review, so that you can better understand who will be providing scores and feedback for each completed application.

We look forward to hearing from you.






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