Reconsideration / Suspension and Termination / Disputes / Misconduct in Science
Chapter IX Contents
900 Reconsideration of Proposals Declined or Returned by the Foundation IX-1
901 General IX-1
902 Policy IX-1
903 Explanations by the NSF Program Officer or Division Director IX-1
904 Reconsideration by the Assistant Director IX-2
905 Further Reconsideration by the Deputy Director IX-2
910 Suspension and Termination Procedures IX-2
911 Definitions IX-2
912 Suspension and Termination IX-3
912.1 NSF Policy IX-3
912.2 Procedures for Suspension or Termination by NSF IX-3
913 Termination by Mutual Agreement IX-4
913.1 NSF Policy IX-4
913.2 Procedures IX-4
914 NSF Suspension or Termination Review Procedure IX-4
920 Informal Resolution of Grant Administration Disputes IX-4
921 Background IX-4
922 Scope of Post-Award Disputes Covered IX-4
923 Procedures IX-4
930 Misconduct in Science IX-5
931 NSF Policies and Responsibilities IX-5
932 Role of Grantees IX-5
933 Reporting Possible Misconduct IX-6
This chapter provides basic information regarding the NSF reconsideration process, resolution of problems arising from the performance of a grant and misconduct in science and engineering. Topics covered are:
900 RECONSIDERATION OF PROPOSALS DECLINED OR RETURNED BY THE FOUNDATION
910 SUSPENSION AND TERMINATION PROCEDURES
920 INFORMAL RESOLUTION OF GRANT ADMINISTRATION DISPUTES
930 MISCONDUCT IN SCIENCE
900 RECONSIDERATION OF PROPOSALS DECLINED OR RETURNED BY THE FOUNDATION
This section describes the types of reconsideration which NSF makes available to individuals and organizations concerning proposals for grants. It does not apply to:
a. procurements governed by the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act or the Federal Acquisition Regulations; or
b. applications for:
2. travel grants;
3. Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER); or
4. Phase I proposals submitted under the SBIR program.
a. An applicant for NSF assistance whose proposal has been declined may ask the cognizant NSF Program Officer or the cognizant Division Director for information over and above the explanatory materials received with the declination notice. If the PI/PD is not satisfied that the proposal was fairly handled and reasonably reviewed, he/she may request reconsideration by the responsible Assistant Director (AD) or Office Head. An organization (or an unaffiliated PI/PD) still not satisfied after reconsideration by the responsible AD/Office Head may request further reconsideration by the Deputy Director of the Foundation. If a proposal has been declined after review by the NSB, only an explanation will be available.
b. When a proposal has been returned by the Foundation as being inappropriate for NSF consideration, the PI/PD may also request reconsideration of such a determination.
c. The aim of any reconsideration is to ensure that NSF's review has been fair and reasonable, both substantively and procedurally. The scientific and technical merits may be examined within the context of budget availability and program priorities. Reconsideration may also address any procedural errors in peer review or other aspects of proposal review, including unaccounted-for conflict of interests or inappropriate consideration of records, information or rumor.
d. Award of NSF assistance is discretionary, reconsideration is not an adversarial process; a formal hearing is not provided. Because factors such as program budget and priorities factor into the decision on a proposal, NSF cannot ensure applicants that reconsideration will result in the award of a grant even if error is established in connection with the initial review.
e. No revisions made to the proposal after declination will be considered in connection with the original proposal. However, a substantially revised proposal may be submitted for review as a new proposal under the usual procedures.
f. NSF reserves the right to return without review a proposal that is substantially the same as one that was previously reviewed and declined whether or not a request for reconsideration was made.
903 Explanations by the NSF Program Officer or Division Director
When a proposal is declined, the PI/PD receives verbatim but unattributed copies of the ad hoc reviews and the panel summary (if applicable), a description of how the proposal was reviewed, and, if not otherwise provided in the panel summary, an explanation (written or telephoned) of the basis for the declination. A returned proposal will also be accompanied by an explanation. A PI/PD who is considering asking for reconsideration should first contact the cognizant NSF Program Officer or Division Director, who will afford the PI/PD an opportunity to present his/her point of view, provide additional information if any exists, and take any further action that seems appropriate.
904 Reconsideration by the Assistant Director
a. If dissatisfied with the explanation provided by the NSF Program Officer or Division Director, the PI/PD may request in writing that NSF reconsider its action. Such a request will be considered only if the PI/PD has first sought and obtained an explanation from the cognizant NSF Program Officer or Division Director and only if the request is received by the Foundation within 90 days after the declination or the return. The request should be addressed to the AD/Office Head for the directorate or office that handled the proposal and should explain why the PI/PD believes that the declination or return was unwarranted.
b. The AD/Office Head will reconsider the record to determine whether NSF's review of the declined proposal was fair and reasonable, substantively and procedurally, taking into account availability of funds and the policies and priorities of the program and NSF. In the case of a returned proposal, the record will be reviewed to determine whether the proposed project was inappropriate for NSF consideration. The AD/Office Head may request additional information from the PI/PD and may obtain additional reviews. The AD/Office Head may conduct the reconsideration personally or may designate another NSF official who had no part in the initial review to do so. As used here, "AD/Office Head" includes such a designated official.
c. Within 30 days after the date of the request, the AD/Office Head will furnish the results of the reconsideration, in writing, to the PI/PD. If results cannot be furnished within 30 days, the AD/Office Head will send the PI/PD a written explanation of the need for more time, indicating the date when the results can be expected. If the AD/Office Head reaffirms the declination or return, he/she will inform the PI/PD that the PI/PD's organization may obtain further reconsideration by the Deputy Director of NSF as provided.
905 Further Reconsideration by the Deputy Director
a. Within 60 days after the AD/Office Head has notified the PI/PD of the results of the reconsideration, the applicant organization or an unaffiliated PI/PD may request further reconsideration by the Deputy Director of NSF.
b. A request for further reconsideration need not be in any particular format, but it must be in writing, and must be signed by the organization's president or other chief executive officer and by the PI/PD. For declinations, it should explain why the organization believes that an error may have occurred in the initial evaluation and why it is not entirely satisfied with the reconsideration by the responsible AD/Office Head. For returned proposals, it should explain why the organization believes that an error may have occurred in the initial determination that the proposal was inappropriate for consideration by NSF.
c. The Deputy Director will review the request for further reconsideration and the record of earlier NSF actions, including the original review and the reconsideration by the AD/Office Head, to determine whether NSF's review of the declined proposal was fair and reasonable, or, in the case of a returned proposal, whether the proposed project was inappropriate for NSF consideration. The Deputy Director may request additional information from the PI/PD or the applicant organization and may obtain additional reviews.
d. The Deputy Director may conduct the further reconsideration personally or may designate another NSF official who had no part in the initial evaluation of the proposal or the earlier reconsideration to do so. As used here, "Deputy Director" includes such a designated official.
e. Within 30 days after a request for further reconsideration is received at NSF, the Deputy Director will furnish the results of the further reconsideration, in writing, to the organization. If results cannot be furnished within 30 days, the Deputy Director will send the organization a written explanation of the need for more time, indicating the date when the results can be expected.
f. The decision made by the Deputy Director is final.
910 SUSPENSION AND TERMINATION PROCEDURES
a. SUSPENSION is an action by NSF that temporarily withholds Federal support of a project pending corrective action by the grantee or a decision by NSF to terminate the grant.
b. TERMINATION is the cancellation of a grant, in whole or in part, at any time prior to its expiration.
912 Suspension and Termination
912.1 NSF Policy
a. A grant may be suspended or terminated in whole or in part in any of the following situations:
1. by NSF when the grantee has materially failed to comply with the terms and conditions of the grant;
2. by NSF when the Foundation has other reasonable cause;
3. by NSF when ordered by the Deputy Director under NSF's Regulation on Misconduct in Science and Engineering (45 CFR §689);
4. by NSF and the grantee by mutual agreement (if NSF and the grantee cannot reach an agreement, NSF reserves the right to unilaterally terminate the grant); or
5. by the grantee on written notice to NSF setting forth the reasons for such action, the effective date, and, in the case of partial termination, the portion to be terminated or suspended (with the understanding that if NSF determines that the unterminated portion will not accomplish the purposes of the grant it may suspend or terminate the entire grant).
b. Normally, action by NSF to suspend or terminate a grant will be taken only after the grantee has been informed by NSF of the proposed action, or informed of any deficiency on its part and given an opportunity to correct it. However, NSF may immediately suspend or terminate a grant without notice when it believes such action is reasonable to protect the interests of the government.
c. No costs incurred during a suspension period or after the effective date of a termination will be allowable, except those costs which, in the opinion of NSF, the grantee could not reasonably avoid or eliminate, or which were otherwise authorized by the suspension or termination notice, provided such costs would otherwise be allowable under the terms of the grant and the governing cost principles.
d. Within 30 days of the termination date the grantee will furnish a summary of progress under the grant and an itemized accounting of costs incurred prior to the termination date or pursuant to c, above. Final allowable costs under a termination settlement shall be in accordance with the terms of the grant, including this section, and the governing cost principles, giving due consideration to the progress under the grant. In no event will the total of NSF payments under a terminated grant exceed the grant amount or the NSF pro rata share when cost sharing was anticipated, whichever is less.
e. A notice of termination other than by mutual agreement and/or the final settlement amount may be subject to review pursuant to GPM 920, "Informal Resolution of Grant Administration Disputes."
912.2 Procedures for Suspension or Termination by NSF
a. When it is believed that a grantee has failed to comply with one or more of the terms and conditions of a grant, the NSF Grants Officer will normally advise the grantee in writing of the nature of the problem and that failure to correct the deficiency may result in suspension or termination of the grant. The grantee will be requested to respond in writing within 30 calendar days of the date of such letter, describing the action taken or the plan designed to correct the deficiency. Copies of such correspondence will be furnished to the PI/PD and to the NSF Program Officer. However, NSF may immediately suspend or terminate a grant without notice when it believes such action is reasonable to protect the interests of the government.
b. If a satisfactory response is not received within the above period, the NSF Grants Officer may issue a notice immediately suspending authority to further obligate grant funds, in whole or in part. Notice of suspension is sent by certified mail (return receipt requested) to the Authorized Organizational Representative, with a copy to the PI/PD. Within NSF, copies are furnished to DFM and to the NSF Program Officer. The notice will set forth the terms of the suspension and its effective date.
c. Normally, the suspension will remain in effect for a maximum of 60 days to allow the grantee to take corrective action. In the event that the deficiency is not corrected to the satisfaction of NSF, the NSF Grants Officer may issue a notice of termination, addressed as in b., above. The notice will set forth the reasons for the action and its effective date.
d. The remedies described in GPM 920, "Informal Resolution of Grant Administration Disputes," do not preclude a grantee being subject to Debarment and Suspension under the Government-wide Non-procurement Procedures published at 45 CFR §620.
e. Suspension or termination due to misconduct in science and engineering will be imposed as provided in that regulation.
913 Termination by Mutual Agreement
913.1 NSF Policy
Circumstances may arise in which either NSF or the grantee wishes to terminate a project. If both parties agree that continuation of the project would not produce results commensurate with the further expenditure of funds, or if there arises any other reason, the grant may be terminated by mutual agreement.
a. If the grantee wishes to terminate the project, the Authorized Organizational Representative should advise the NSF Grants Officer in writing and send a copy to the NSF Program Officer.
b. If NSF wishes to terminate the project, the NSF Grants Officer will advise the grantee's Authorized Organizational Representative in writing and send copies to the PI/PD and the NSF Program Officer.
c. Within 30 days after receipt of request from either party for termination by mutual agreement, the other party will provide an appropriate written response. In the event of disagreement between the parties, the NSF Grants Officer will make a final decision, subject to the review procedures prescribed by GPM 920 "Informal Resolution of Grant Administration Disputes."
d. Following termination, grant closeout procedures will be initiated.
914 NSF Suspension or Termination Review Procedure
Grantees should refer to GPM 923, "Procedures," for procedures to request review of a suspension or termination notice. Pending resolution of the request for review, a notice of termination shall remain in effect.
920 INFORMAL RESOLUTION OF GRANT ADMINISTRATION DISPUTES
Consistent with the Recommendation on Grant Disputes by the Administrative Conference of the U.S., and with the intent of the provisions of Alternative Dispute Resolution, the Foundation provides the informal resolution processes described below concerning disputes or disagreements that may arise over Grants Officer post-award decisions under an NSF grant.
922 Scope of Post-Award Disputes Covered
a. The disputes below are covered under the process described in GPM 923, "Procedures":
1. cost disallowances pursuant to a Grants Officer's decision, e.g., specific disallowances under an individual grant or as a result of an audit report;
2. suspensions over 60 days;
3. termination orders; and
4. the final settlement amount under a termination.
b. Requests for reconsideration of a declined proposal or a proposal returned as inappropriate for NSF consideration are covered in GPM 900, "Reconsideration of Proposals Declined or Returned by the Foundation."
a. The grantee should submit a certified letter to the Director, Division of Grants and Agreements, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22230, noting the grantee's disagreement or dispute and identifying the NSF Grants Officer's decision in question, giving reasons for the request for review and providing any other material pertinent to the request.
b. The letter to the Director, DGA, must be postmarked no later than 30 days after the date of the letter notifying the grantee of the decision in question. The time for filing a request for review is strictly enforced and no extensions for the purpose of preparing it will be granted.
c. The request for review need not follow a prescribed format; however, it must contain a full statement of the grantee's position with respect to the disputed matter and the facts and reasons in support of the grantee's position. Requests will be reviewed if the grantee submits new information (which was unavailable at the time of the original decision); if an error in fact or application of NSF policy is noted in the original decision; or improper procedures were followed in the original decision.
d. The Director, DGA, will review or designate one or more individuals to review the matter. One reviewing official will be at least at a management level equivalent to the official who made the decision which is being reviewed. In no case, will the review be undertaken by any individual involved with the decision or involved in recommending and/or monitoring the scientific and engineering aspects of the project or responsible for negotiating and/or administrating its business aspects.
e. The designated individual(s) will review and consider all relevant information available. A report which identifies the conclusion and recommendation will be completed and in disputes covered under:
1. GPM 922.a.1 and 4, the report will be completed within 30 days and forwarded to the Director, DGA or his/her designee for a final and unappealable written decision for the agency. The Director, DGA or his/her designee will communicate the decision in writing to the grantee, normally within 15 days of receipt of the report, unless otherwise specified by NSF.
2. GPM 922a.2 and 3, the report will be completed within 90 days and forwarded to the NSF Deputy Director or his/her designee. The NSF Director or his/her designee will make the final and unappealable decision for the agency and will communicate the decision in writing to the grantee within 15 days of receipt of the report unless otherwise specified by NSF.
930 MISCONDUCT IN SCIENCE
931 NSF Policies and Responsibilities
a. MISCONDUCT means: 1) fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or other serious deviation from accepted practices in proposing, carrying out or reporting results from activities funded by NSF; or 2) retaliation of any kind against a person who has reported or provided information about suspected or alleged misconduct and who has not acted in bad faith.
b. The NSF will take appropriate action against individuals or organizations upon a determination that misconduct has occurred in proposing, carrying out or reporting results from activities funded by NSF. It may also take interim action during an investigation. Possible actions include sending a letter of reprimand to the individual or organization, requiring prior NSF approval of particular activities by an individual or organization, requiring special assurances of compliance with particular policies, restricting designated activities or expenditures under particular grants, suspending or terminating grants, debarring or suspending an individual or organization and prohibiting participation by an individual as an NSF reviewer, advisor or consultant.
c. NSF will find misconduct only after careful inquiry and investigation by a grantee organization, by another Federal agency or by NSF. An "inquiry" consists of information-gathering and preliminary fact-finding to determine whether an allegation or apparent instance of misconduct has substance. An investigation must be undertaken if the inquiry determines the allegation or apparent instance of misconduct has substance. An "investigation" is a formal examination and evaluation of relevant facts to determine whether misconduct has taken place or, if misconduct has already been confirmed, to assess its extent and consequences or determine appropriate action.
d. Before NSF makes any final finding of misconduct or takes any final action on such a finding, NSF will normally afford the accused individual or organization notice, a chance to provide comments and rebuttal and a chance to appeal. In structuring procedures in individual cases, NSF may take into account procedures already followed by other entities investigating the same allegation of misconduct.
e. Debarment or suspension for misconduct will be imposed only after further procedures described in applicable debarment and suspension regulations (45 CFR §620). Severe misconduct is an independent cause for debarment or suspension.
f. The OIG (GPM 118, "Office of Inspector General") oversees and coordinates NSF activities related to misconduct, conducts any NSF inquiries and investigations into suspected or alleged misconduct in science and engineering, and except where otherwise provided, speaks and acts for NSF with affected individuals and organizations.
g. After receiving an investigation report, the subject's rebuttal and recommendations of the OIG, the NSF Deputy Director may initiate further investigation or hearings or order interim or final actions. A written disposition specifying actions to be taken will be sent to affected individuals or organizations and will include instructions on how to pursue an appeal to the Director of the Foundation.
932 Role of Grantees
a. Grantees bear primary responsibility for prevention and detection of misconduct. In most instances, NSF will rely on grantees to promptly:
1. initiate an inquiry into any suspected or alleged misconduct;
2. conduct a subsequent investigation, if the inquiry finds substance; and
3. take action necessary to ensure the integrity of research, the rights and interests of research subjects and the public and the observance of legal requirements or responsibilities.
b. If a grantee wishes NSF to defer independent inquiry or investigation, NSF expects it to:
1. inform NSF immediately if an initial inquiry finds substance;
2. keep NSF informed during such an investigation;
3. notify NSF even before deciding to initiate an investigation or as required during an investigation:
(a) if the seriousness of apparent misconduct warrants;
(b) if immediate health hazards are involved;
(c) if NSF's resources, reputation, or other interests need protecting;
(d) if Federal action may be needed to protect the interests of a subject of the investigation or of others potentially affected; or
(e) if the scientific and engineering community or the public should be informed; and
4. provide NSF with the final report from any investigation.
c. If a grantee wishes NSF to defer independent inquiry or investigation, it should complete any inquiry and decide whether an investigation is warranted within 90 days. It should similarly complete any investigation and reach a disposition within 180 days. If completion of an inquiry or investigation is delayed, but the grantee wishes NSF deferral to continue, NSF may require submission of periodic status reports.
d. Grantees should maintain and effectively communicate to their staffs appropriate policies and procedures relating to misconduct, which should indicate when NSF must or should be notified.
933 Reporting Possible Misconduct
Possible misconduct in activities funded by NSF should be reported to the Office of Inspector General, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22230, (703) 306-2006 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.