The Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI) is designed to improve the condition of scientific and engineering equipment for research and research training in our Nation’s academic institutions. This program seeks to improve the quality and expand the scope of research and research training in science and engineering, and to foster the integration of research and education by providing instrumentation for research-intensive learning environments.
Proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation will be competing for about $50 million in Fiscal Year 1999. The overall proposal funding rate for the FY 1998 MRI competition was approximately 34%.
The goals of the MRI Program are to:
The MRI Program assists in the acquisition or development of major research instrumentation by U.S. institutions that is, in general, too costly for support through other NSF programs. The maintenance and technical support associated with these instruments are also supported. Proposals may be for a single instrument, a large system of instruments, or multiple instruments that share a common or specific research focus. Computer systems, clusters of advanced workstations, networks, and other information infrastructure components necessary for research are encouraged. Proposals for computer networks as general purpose equipment will not be reviewed. A list of assorted instruments or general lab equipment that do not share a common or specific research or research training focus will not be reviewed. Instrumentation requested exclusively for standard Science and Engineering (S&E) courses will also not be reviewed. This program will not support renovation or modernization of research facilities or fixed equipment (see definitions). Note: The MRI Program will not review a duplicate proposal submitted to another NSF instrumentation program.
Awards for instrumentation will range from $100,000 to $2 million. Lesser amounts will be considered in proposals from non-Ph.D. granting institutions, from the mathematical sciences community, or from the social, behavioral and economic science community.
Proposals may be submitted by U.S. institutions of higher education, independent nonprofit research institutions, research museums, and legally documented incorporated consortia thereof. An institution may submit up to three proposals: two proposals for instrument acquisition or development, plus a third solely for instrument development. In addition, an institution may be included as a member of a legally established consortium submitting a separate proposal, clearly labeled as such in the proposal’s title. A consortium may also submit a proposal, through a U.S. university, for instrumentation to be used at a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC). Small businesses are eligible for instrument development support as private sector partners with submitting universities.
ELIGIBLE FIELDS OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
Proposals will be considered for instrumentation used for any NSF-supported field of science, mathematics, and engineering. The research activities using this instrumentation need not be supported by NSF or the Federal government. The Program will not provide support for instrumentation to be used in the conduct of disease-oriented research, including the etiology, diagnosis or treatment of physical or mental disease, abnormality or malfunction in human beings or animals, or the design and testing of drugs for treatment of such conditions.
The academic research enterprise relies on and produces new generations of sophisticated research instrumentation and software simulations thereof. The right design, development, and manufacturing processes can yield new instruments that are more widely used, open up new areas of research and research training, and have potential as commercial products. This competition seeks to expand the research community’s capabilities by supporting the development of new instruments (or their software simulations) with enhanced performance. "Performance" includes: accuracy; reliability; resolving power; throughput speed; sample capacity; flexibility of operation; breadth of application; user-friendliness; and cost of acquisition, operation, and maintenance.
Individual investigators and teams of researchers are encouraged to apply for instrument development support. NSF is taking the initiative in stimulating development of the next generation of research instrumentation by allowing institutions to submit a third proposal that targets instrument development. NSF particularly encourages collaborations between disciplinary scientists who are knowledgeable in unique instrumentation areas and private sector experts in the area of instrument manufacture. Working together within a framework of concurrent engineering, such partnerships have the potential to create new products with wide scientific and commercial impact. (NSF does not consider the acquisition of individual pieces of equipment to be combined in a new system to be instrument development.) These academic research/private sector partnerships must be performed in the United States. The "United States" is defined as the 50 states, territories and possessions of the United States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and the District of Columbia.
ELIGIBLE PROJECT COSTS
Eligible project costs are those total project costs (comprising the NSF award plus the institution’s cost sharing) that are properly and reasonably allocable to the research instrumentation based on the percentage of time that it is used for research and research training. For instrument acquisition proposals, eligible project costs include: costs of instrument purchase, installation, commissioning, and calibration. The direct and indirect costs of operation, maintenance, and other appropriate technical support during the award period are also eligible. For instrument development proposals, eligible project costs include all of the items listed above, as well as the direct and indirect costs associated with support for personnel engaged in the instrument development effort.
COST SHARING/MATCHING REQUIREMENTS
Cost sharing at a level of 30% of total eligible project costs is required. The proposed cost sharing must be shown on line M on the proposal budget (NSF Form 1030). The minimum award from NSF will be $100,000 (except for awards associated with non-Ph.D. granting institutions, mathematical sciences, and the social, behavioral and economic sciences), and the maximum award will be $2 million. The minimum total project cost will therefore be $143,000 (assuming 30% cost sharing).
Only items which would be allowable under the applicable cost principles, if charged to the project, may be included as the grantee’s contribution to cost sharing. The cost sharing may come from any private or non-Federal public source and may be in cash or in kind, fairly valuated (see OMB Circular A-110, Section.23). Manufacturers' discounts are encouraged for reducing total project costs, but are not eligible institutional cost sharing. For instrument acquisition projects, eligible cost sharing may include partial purchase of the instrumentation and costs of instrument installation and calibration. In addition, an institution may provide as cost sharing the direct and indirect costs of supplies and personnel directly associated with operation and maintenance of the instrumentation, up to a yearly limit equivalent to 10% of the total instrument hardware cost in each year of the award period (up to three years). For instrument development projects, eligible cost sharing includes all items eligible for instrument acquisition projects. In addition, an institution may provide as cost sharing the direct and indirect costs of supplies and personnel directly associated with instrument design, development, operation, and maintenance, up to a yearly limit equivalent to 10% of the total instrument hardware cost in each year of the award period (up to five years).
The amount of cost sharing must be shown in the proposal in enough detail to allow NSF to determine its impact on the proposed project. Documentation of availability of cost sharing must be included in the proposal. It should be noted that contributions counted as cost-sharing toward projects of another Federal agency may not be counted towards meeting the specific cost-sharing requirements of the NSF grant. All cost-sharing amounts are subject to audit. Failure to provide the level of cost-sharing reflected in the approved grant may result in termination of the NSF grant, disallowance of grant costs and/or refund of grant funds to NSF.
Cost sharing must occur during the award period.
PROPOSAL FORMAT REQUIREMENTS
In order to use NSF FastLane to prepare and submit a proposal, you must have the following software: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above, or Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01 or above; Adobe Acrobat Reader 3.0 or above for viewing PDF files; and Adobe Acrobat 3.X or Aladdin Ghostscript 5.10 or above for converting files to PDF.
In order to use the FastLane "proposal preparation" application, your institution needs to be a registered FastLane institution. A list of registered institutions and the FastLane registration form are located on the FastLane Home Page.
For questions or problems concerning submitting a MRI proposal via FastLane, please contact a FastLane User Support person at electronic mail: email@example.com or phone (703) 306-1040. For non-FastLane questions related to the MRI competition, please contact the MRI program at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (703) 306-1040.
Proposals that do not adhere to the format below or the stated page limitations will not be reviewed.
Submission Deadline and Timing:
Proposals must be received electronically by 5 PM, local time, February 16, 1999. A signed paper copy of the Proposal Cover Sheet, Certification Page, letters of support, letters of commitment to institutional cost-sharing, and quotes from manufacturers must arrive by
Structure and Content:
The project title should identify the scientific discipline(s) for which the instrumentation is requested, should convey the primary purpose of the proposal, e.g., "Acquisition of ____" or "Development of ____," and should specify if the proposal is being submitted by a consortium. The requested amount shown on the cover page should be the amount requested from NSF, not the total eligible project costs.
NOTE: No other items are to be included. Proposals containing items other than those required above will not be reviewed.
Proposals for the Major Research Instrumentation Program must be submitted electronically to NSF no later than 5 PM, local time, on February 16, 1999. Note: A signed paper copy of the Proposal Cover Sheet, Certification Page, letters of support, letters of commitment to institutional cost-sharing and industrial partnerships, and quotes from manufacturers must be mailed to the address below to arrive by February 22, 1999.
Office of Integrative Activities
REVIEW AND SELECTION
Proposals will be reviewed in the appropriate NSF division. PIs will receive an acknowledgment with a proposal number and a three-letter prefix for the cognizant division. Proposals will be evaluated in accordance with established NSF procedures and the revised merit review criteria described in the GPG.
How important is the requested instrument in advancing knowledge and understanding within the proposed field or across different fields? How well qualified is the proposer (individual or team) who will use or develop the instrumentation? (If appropriate, the reviewer will comment on the quality of prior work.) To what extent does the use of the requested instrumentation in the research activity suggest and explore creative and original concepts? How well conceived and organized is the proposed activity? Is the instrumentation appropriate and required for current and expected research and training activities? Are there sufficient institutional resources to maintain and operate the requested instrument?
Will the proposed acquisition or development of the instrumentation advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning? How well does the proposed instrumentation help broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic areas, etc.) in research and training activities? To what extent will the proposed instrumentation be used to enhance the institution's academic scientific and engineering infrastructure for research and education? Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?
In addition to the two evaluation criteria stated above, NSF will consider the following factors in making MRI awards:
Integration of Research and Education
One of the principal strategies in support of NSF’s goals is to foster integration of research and education through the programs, projects, and activities it supports at academic and research institutions. These institutions provide abundant opportunities where individuals may concurrently assume responsibilities as researchers, educators, and students and where all can engage in joint efforts that infuse education with the excitement of discovery and enrich research through the diversity of learner perspectives. Principal Investigators should address this issue in their proposal to provide reviewers with the information necessary to respond fully to both NSF merit review criteria. NSF staff will give it careful consideration in making funding decisions.
Integrating Diversity into NSF Programs, Projects, and Activities
Broadening opportunities and enabling the participation of all citizens – women and men, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities – is essential to the health and vitality of science and engineering. NSF is committed to this principle of diversity and deems it central to the programs, projects, and activities it considers and supports. Principal Investigators should address this issue in their proposal to provide reviewers with the information necessary to respond fully to both NSF merit review criteria. NSF staff will give it careful consideration in making funding decisions.
NSF awards will be grants that range from approximately $100,000 (exceptions listed above) to a maximum of $2 million. Award durations are not expected to exceed three years, except awards for the development of major research instrumentation which may be made for up to five years. It is anticipated that award decisions will be announced in the Fall 1999.
NSF awards will stipulate that the awardee is responsible for contributing the specified and agreed upon amount of cost sharing during the award period. In light of this requirement, NSF funds will not be awarded until required cost-sharing commitments have been assured. A letter from an institutional officer stating the amount and source of eligible cost sharing, and assuring availability and commitment of these funds during the proposed award period must accompany the signed cover sheet for an award recommendation to be processed. In addition, NSF award conditions may specify special reports, on-site inspections, or other requirements.
NSF requires prospective grantees to furnish, upon request by NSF’s Division of Grants and Agreements, basic organization and management information that will assist the NSF Grant Officers in assessing their financial and managerial responsibility. These requirements are described in the NSF Grant Policy Manual (July 1995), particularly Chapters IV and V. Grants awarded as a result of this solicitation are administered in accordance with the terms and conditions of NSF GC-1, "Grant General Conditions," or FDP-III, "Federal Demonstration Partnership General Terms and Conditions," depending on the grantee organization.
Inquiries about the NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program should be addressed to:
Office of Integrative Activities
The following definitions apply to the Major Research Instrumentation Program and this program solicitation:
Consortia: Legally recognized groups consisting exclusively of two or more eligible institutions. For the purposes of evaluation and review, a consortium proposal will be identified with the institution where the requested research instrumentation is located.
Fixed Equipment: The permanent components of a research facility that are integral (i.e., built in, rather than affixed) to the facility (e.g., clean rooms, fume hoods, elevators, laboratory casework); their removal would affect the integrity or basic operation of the facility.
Independent Nonprofit Research Institutions: Independent legal entities, other than institutions of higher education, which are generally recognized as separately incorporated, nonprofit, tax exempt organizations, and which conduct research as one of their primary purposes.
Institution: A separate legal and fiscal entity, whether at the central or system level, main campus level, or branch campus level, which can receive awards and which is separately and consistently identified at that level by NSF.
Institutions of Higher Education: Institutions legally authorized and accredited at the college level by a nationally recognized accrediting agency to offer and which are offering at least a two-year program of college-level studies leading toward a degree.
Instrument Development: Development of new instruments (or their software simulations) with enhanced performance. "Performance" includes: accuracy; reliability; resolving power; throughput speed; sample capacity; flexibility of operation; breadth of application; and user-friendliness. NSF does not consider the acquisition of individual pieces of equipment to be combined in a new system to be instrument development.
Minority Institutions: Historically Black Colleges and Universities defined as "part B institutions" by section 322(2) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1061(2)) and other institutions whose enrollments are: (a) more than 50 percent of a combination of any of the following groups: Alaskan Native (Eskimo or Aleut), American Indian, Black or African American, Hispanic, or Native Pacific Islander; or (b) 20 percent or more of any one of the above eligible minorities.
Non-Ph.D. Granting Institutions: Two- and four-year colleges and universities that have produced fewer than 20 Ph.D.s or D.Sci.s in all NSF-supported disciplines during the two previous academic years.
Private Sector: A business that is: 1) independently owned and operated, has its principal place of business in the United States, and is organized for profit; and 2) at least 51 percent owned, or in the case of a publicly owned business, at least 51 percent of its voting stock is owned by United States citizens or lawfully admitted permanent resident aliens.
Research Facilities: The bricks-and-mortar physical plant in which sponsored or unsponsored research activities (including research training) take place, including related infrastructure, systems (e.g., HVAC and power systems, toxic waste removal systems), and fixed equipment.
Research Museums: Independent nonprofit science museums, zoological parks, aquaria, natural history museums, etc., which conduct research as one of their primary purposes.
Research Training: Training of individuals (including advanced undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty) in research techniques where such activities utilize the same facilities as research activities. Research training does not include introductory science or engineering instruction, whether in a classroom or instructional laboratory.
RELATED NSF PROGRAMS FOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION
Information on the above NSF Instrumentation Programs can be retrieved by accessing the individual Directorate websites on the NSF Home page (http://www.nsf.gov).