02-151 July 2002
IX - Reconsideration/Suspension and Termination/Disputes/Research
This chapter provides basic information regarding the NSF reconsideration process,
resolution of problems arising from the performance of a grant and research misconduct.
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 RESEARCH MISCONDUCT
900 RECONSIDERATION OF PROPOSALS DECLINED OR RETURNED BY THE FOUNDATION
This section describes the types of reconsideration that NSF makes available to individuals
and organizations concerning proposals for grants. It does not apply to:
procurements governed by the Federal Property and Administrative Services
Act or the Federal Acquisition Regulations;
"discourage" (i.e., non-binding)
decisions resulting from submission of a preliminary proposal;
Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER); or
Phase I proposals
submitted under the SBIR program.
proposals returned without review
by NSF for failure to:
provide sufficient lead time before activity
is to begin;
meet announced proposal deadline date requirements;
comply with proposal formatting requirements stipulated in the
Proposal Guide or
A proposer 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.
When a proposal has been returned by the Foundation as
being inappropriate for NSF consideration, the proposer may request reconsideration
of such a determination.
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.
Award of NSF assistance
is discretionary and reconsideration is not an adversarial process.
A formal hearing, therefore, is not provided. Because factors such as program
budget and priorities factor into the decision on a proposal, NSF cannot
ensure proposers that reconsideration will result in an award even if error
is established in connection with the initial review.
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. 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 also will 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
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.
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. If additional reviews are sought, they are subject to standard
review procedures (e.g., instructions must be provided to reviewers and
conflicts-of-interest policies must be followed). 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.
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 below.
905 Further Reconsideration by the Deputy Director
Within 60 days after the AD/Office Head has notified the PI/PD of the
results of the reconsideration, the proposing organization or an unaffiliated
PI/PD may request further reconsideration by the Deputy Director of NSF.
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 NSF consideration.
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 proposing organization and may obtain
additional reviews. If additional reviews are sought, they are subject
to standard review procedures (e.g., instructions must be provided to reviewers
and conflicts-of-interest policies must be followed).
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.
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.
made by the Deputy Director is final.
910 SUSPENSION AND TERMINATION PROCEDURES
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.
- 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 grant may be suspended or terminated
in whole or in part in any of the following situations by:
NSF when the grantee
has materially failed to comply with the terms and conditions of
NSF when the Foundation has other reasonable cause;
NSF when ordered
by the Deputy Director under NSF's Regulation on Research Misconduct
(45 CFR §689);
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 fur-nished to DFM and
to the NSF Program Officer. The notice will set forth the terms of the
suspension and its effective date.
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.
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.
or termination due to research misconduct 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.
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.
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
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."
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
The disputes below are covered under the process described in GPM
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;
termination orders; and
the final settlement amount under a termination.
Requests for reconsideration
of a declined proposal or a proposal returned without review by NSF
are covered in GPM 900, "Reconsideration of Proposals
Declined or Returned by the Foundation."
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.
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.
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.
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 that 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.
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
GPM 922.a.1 and 3, 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.
GPM 922a.2, the report will be completed
within 90 days and forwarded to the NSF Deputy Director or his/her designee.
The NSF Deputy 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 RESEARCH MISCONDUCT
RESEARCH MISCONDUCT means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing or
performing research funded by NSF, reviewing research proposals submitted to NSF, or in
reporting research results funded by NSF.
931 NSF Policies and Responsibilities
The NSF will take appropriate action against individuals or organizations
upon a determination that misconduct has occurred. 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.
will find misconduct only after careful inquiry and investigation by
a grantee organization, by another Federal agency or by NSF. An "inquiry" consists of preliminary
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 development, examination, and evaluation of a factual
record to determine whether misconduct has taken place or, if misconduct
has already been confirmed, to assess its extent and consequences or determine
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 or adjudicating the same allegation of misconduct.
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.
OIG (GPM 118, "Office of Inspector General")
oversees investigations of research misconduct and conducts any
NSF inquiries and investigations into suspected or alleged research
The Deputy Director adjudicates research misconduct
proceedings and the Director decides appeals.
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
Grantees bear primary responsibility
for prevention and detection of misconduct. In most instances, NSF will rely
on grantees to promptly:
initiate an inquiry into any suspected or alleged
conduct a subsequent investigation, if the inquiry finds
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; and
appropriate safeguards for subjects of allegations as well as informants.
a grantee wishes NSF to defer independent inquiry or investigation,
inform NSF immediately if an initial inquiry finds
keep NSF informed during such an investigation;
notify NSF even before
deciding to initiate an investigation or as required during an
if there is reasonable indication of possible violations
of civil or criminal law;
if public health or safety are at
if NSF's resources, reputation, or other interests need
if Federal action may be needed to protect the
interests of a subject of the investigation or of others
potentially affected; or
if the research community or the public
should be informed;
if research activities should be suspended;
provide NSF with the final report from any investigation.
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.
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) 292-7100 or (800) 428-2189 or via e-mail at email@example.com