Antarctic Research
Aeronomy & Astrophysics, Biology & Medicine, Environmental Research, Geology & Geophysics, Glaciology, Ocean & Climate Sciences

Program Solicitation
NSF 04-559
Replaces Document 03-551

NSF Logo

National Science Foundation
Office of the Director
      Office of Polar Programs

Submission Window:
    April 15, 2004 - June 04, 2004 Later annual deadlines: June 2, 2005; June 7, 2006


General Information

Program Title:

Antarctic Research
Aeronomy & Astrophysics, Biology & Medicine, Geology & Geophysics, Ocean & Climate Sciences, Glaciology, Environmental Research

Synopsis of Program:

The United States Antarctic Program, National Science Foundation, invites proposals --

  • to perform research in Antarctica
  • to perform related research and data analysis in the United States

This document --

  • summarizes antarctic research opportunities
  • describes facilities and support in Antarctica
  • details how to write a successful antarctic proposal
  • links to an online system you must use to request field support in Antarctica
  • links to further information


  1. To request field support, use the Polar Ice worksheets as instructed in section V.  You must finish this substantial task before you submit your proposal to NSF.  Start on it 2 weeks or more before you plan to submit the proposal.
  2. To confirm to NSF that field support is not required, use the no-fieldwork worksheet described in section V.
  3. An antarctic proposal that does not contain fieldwork worksheets or the no-fieldwork worksheet is subject to return without review.
  4. Use this Antarctic Research document with the NSF-wide Grant Proposal Guide.

Cognizant Program Officer(s):

  • Please see the full text of this funding opportunity for contact information.

Applicable Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number(s):

  • 47.078 --- Office of Polar Programs

Eligibility Information

  • Organization Limit: None Specified.
  • PI Eligibility Limit: None Specified.
  • Limit on Number of Proposals: None Specified.

Award Information

  • Anticipated Type of Award: Standard or Continuing Grant
  • Estimated Number of Awards: 110
  • Anticipated Funding Amount: $15,000,000 per year pending availability of funds (see section IV)

Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions

A. Proposal Preparation Instructions
  • Full Proposal Preparation Instructions: This solicitation contains information that supplements the standard Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) proposal preparation guidelines. Please see the full text of this solicitation for further information.
B. Budgetary Information
  • Cost Sharing Requirements: Cost Sharing is not required.
  • Indirect Cost (F&A) Limitations: Not Applicable.
  • Other Budgetary Limitations: Not Applicable.
C. Due Dates
  • Submission Window:
    • April 15, 2004 - June 04, 2004 Later annual deadlines: June 2, 2005; June 7, 2006

Proposal Review Information

  • Merit Review Criteria: National Science Board approved criteria. Additional merit review considerations apply. Please see the full text of this solicitation for further information.

Award Administration Information

  • Award Conditions: Additional award conditions apply. Please see the full text of this solicitation for further information.
  • Reporting Requirements: Standard NSF reporting requirements apply.


Summary of Program Requirements

  1. Introduction

  2. Program Description

  3. Eligibility Information

  4. Award Information

  5. Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions
    1. Proposal Preparation Instructions
    2. Budgetary Information
    3. Due Dates
    4. FastLane Requirements

  6. Proposal Review Information
    1. NSF Proposal Review Process
    2. Review Protocol and Associated Customer Service Standard

  7. Award Administration Information
    1. Notification of the Award
    2. Award Conditions
    3. Reporting Requirements

  8. Contacts for Additional Information

  9. Other Programs of Interest


Scientific research, and operational support of that research, are the principal activities supported by the United States Government in Antarctica. The goals are to expand fundamental knowledge of the region, to foster research on global and regional problems of current scientific importance, and to utilize the region as a platform from which to support research. For projects involving fieldwork, the U.S. Antarctic Program supports only that research that can be done exclusively in Antarctica or that can be done best from Antarctica.  The program also supports analytical research performed at home organizations.

The program has been in continuous operation since the 1957-1958 International Geophysical Year; continuation into the foreseeable future is anticipated. U.S. activities in Antarctica support the Nation's adherence to the Antarctic Treaty, which reserves the region for peaceful purposes and encourages international cooperation in scientific research. At present, 45 nations adhere to the treaty, and 29 of them are involved in antarctic field activities. The United States cooperates scientifically and operationally with many of the Antarctic Treaty nations.

The National Science Foundation funds and manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, which supports research in the areas described in chapter II.



Aeronomy and astrophysics

The polar regions have been called Earth's window to outer space. This term originally applied to study of aurora and other phenomena related to interaction of solar plasmas and fields. In this context the polar upper atmosphere is a screen on which the results of such interactions can be viewed and through which other evidence of space physics processes can pass. Today, this concept of Earth's polar atmosphere as a window includes research in other fields as well. With discovery of polar stratospheric ozone depletions, a window previously thought "closed" (the ultraviolet window) is now known to "open" in certain seasons. In astronomy and astrophysics, favorable atmospheric conditions and the unique location of the South Pole enable scientists to use this window to probe the structure of the Sun and the Universe with unprecedented precision. Antarctica's deep, clear ice sheet also is a window, providing a medium for detection of neutrinos that pass through Earth, and a neutrino detector is installed in the ice sheet at the South Pole.

The aeronomy and astrophysics program supports studies of three major domains:

  • the stratosphere and the mesosphere. Current research focuses on stratospheric chemistry and aerosols, particularly in the context of the ozone hole. The polar stratosphere is expected to be a field of continued interest and growth.                                    
  • the thermosphere, the ionosphere, and the magnetosphere. These domains derive many of their characteristics from the interplay of ionized plasmas and energetic charged particles with geomagnetic and geoelectric fields. The upper atmosphere, particularly the ionospheric portion of it, is the ultimate sink of solar wind energy that is transported into the magnetosphere. Energy dissipates in the ionosphere because of particle precipitation, which is the result in part of resonant wave-particle interactions, and because of the Joule heating that is a result of currents driven by electric fields.                                    
  • astronomy and astrophysical studies of the Universe, including solar astronomy and cosmic ray physics. Astrophysical studies are primarily conducted at South Pole station or on long-duration balloon flights launched from McMurdo.

Major goals are to sponsor research that requires or would benefit from the unique conditions of the Antarctic, to contribute to understanding of the role of the Antarctic in global environmental change, to participate in interdisciplinary studies of geosphere-biosphere interactions in the middle and upper atmosphere, and to improve understanding of the coupling of the Earth's polar atmosphere with the magnetosphere and of the ways in which both are affected by solar activity.

Biology and medicine

The goal of the antarctic biology and medicine program is to improve understanding of life phenomena and processes. The program supports projects directed at all levels of organization from molecular, cellular, and organismal to communities, ecosystems, and global processes. Investigators should apply recent theory and technology to understanding how organisms, including humans, adapt and live in high latitude environments and how ecosystems may respond to global change. Support is focused on these areas:

  • Marine ecosystem dynamics. Understanding the natural variability of marine ecosystems is the goal. An important focus is an understanding of complex interactions among biotic and physical systems in marine environments, including the structure and function of the marginal ice-zone as well as shelf, polynya, and open-ocean systems. Topics include the interactions among trophic levels, factors influencing primary production, and the role of phytoplankton in biogeochemical cycling. Remote sensing techniques and long-term observations are appropriate tools to enhance this area of research.                                    
  • Terrestrial and limnetic ecosystems. Organisms in ice-free areas and in perennially ice-covered lakes show remarkable adaptations. Research is needed on adaptive mechanisms and evolutionary processes in the context of the physical environment. The McMurdo Dry Valleys of southern Victoria Land are of particular interest. Research in support of future field exploration of subglacial lakes is encouraged.                                    
  • Population biology and physiological ecology. Research is supported in population dynamics, especially metabolic, physiological, and behavioral adaptations of krill and other invertebrate and fish species. Marine mammals and birds have been the object of much research and merit further attention in some areas. Long-term observations are needed to improve understanding of manmade or natural changes.                                    
  • Adaptation. The extremes of light, temperature, and moisture have resulted in unusual adaptations. Research topics include low-temperature photosynthesis and respiration, enzymatic adaptations, adaptive strategies such as development of antifreeze compounds and modifications to circulation systems, and the response of organisms to increased UV-B from ozone depletion. The techniques of molecular biology and genomics offer unique approaches to addressing questions involving adaptation, and such applications are of special interest.   
  • Genomics. "Genome-enabled" biology provides opportunities to examine polar questions related to structure and function in the environment and to do so with extraordinary depth and precision. A National Research Council report addresses some of these opportunities.
  • Human behavior and medical research. Antarctica's extreme climate can induce social, psychological, and physiological stresses, particularly during the winter isolation, which can exceed 8 months. Research has applications to human health and performance both in the Antarctic and in other isolated environments such as space. Studies can focus on topics such as epidemiology, thermal regulation, immune system function, individual behavior, and group dynamics.

Geology and geophysics

Antarctica represents about 9 percent of Earth's continental crust and has been in a near-polar position for more than 100 million years. It is covered by a continental ice sheet with an average thickness of 3 km. There is unequivocal evidence that for a long period after the continent arrived at its high-latitude position, extensive continental ice sheets did not exist there. The ice sheets, through their interaction with and effect on oceanic and atmospheric circulation, play a key role in modulating global climate.

Some important program goals include:

  • determining the tectonic evolution of Antarctica and its relationship to the evolution of the continents from Precambrian time to the present                                    
  • determining Antarctica's crustal structure                                    
  • determining the effect of the dispersal of Gondwana continental fragments on the paleocirculation of the world oceans, on the evolution of life, and on global paleoclimates and present climate                                    
  • reconstructing a more detailed history of the ice sheets, identifying geological controls to ice sheet behavior, and defining geological responses to the ice sheets on regional and global scales                                    
  • determining the evolution of sedimentary basins within the continent and along continental margins as well as recovering and deciphering paleoenvironmental records

All of these problems involve the need for an improved understanding of where, when, and how Antarctica and its surrounding ocean basins were accommodated in the interplate movements inferred from studies of global plate kinematics. In short, the program encourages investigation of the relationships between the geological evolution of the antarctic plate and paleocirculation, paleoclimate, and the evolution of high-latitude biota.

In geophysics, the continent and its environs have a central role in the geodynamic processes that have shaped the present global environment. The tectonic role of the antarctic continent in the breakup of Gondwanaland, the close interaction of the antarctic crust and ice sheet with their attendant effects on the planet's fluid systems, and Antarctica's present-day seismically quiescent role defines the important thrusts of geophysical research in the high southern latitudes.

Ocean and climate systems

Antarctic oceanic and tropospheric studies focus on the structure and processes of the ocean-atmosphere environment and their relationships with the global ocean, the atmosphere, and the marine biosphere. As part of the global heat engine, the Antarctic has a major role in the world's transfer of energy. Its ocean/atmosphere system is known to be both an indicator and a component of climate change.

Research sponsored by the ocean and climate systems program is intended to improve understanding of the oceanic environment at high latitudes, including global exchange of heat, salt, water, and trace elements, sea-ice dynamics, and tropospheric chemistry and dynamics. Major program elements include:

  • Physical oceanography, concerned with understanding the dynamics and kinematics of the polar oceans, the effects of interface driving forces such as wind, solar radiation, and heat exchange, water mass production and modification processes, ocean dynamics at the pack ice edge, and the effect of polynyas on ventilation.                                    
  • Chemical oceanography, concerned with chemical composition of sea water and its global speciation, reactions among chemical elements and compounds in the ocean, fluxes of material within ocean basins and at their boundaries, and the use of chemical tracers to study time and space scales of oceanic processes.                                    
  • Sea ice dynamics, including study of the material characteristics of sea ice down to the individual crystal level and the large-scale patterns of freezing, deformation, and melting. These processes have implications for both atmospheric and oceanic "climates." Advances in instrumentation, including remote sensing or telemetering of ice type, thickness, motion, and growth, should enable large scale dynamics of sea ice to be monitored over long periods.                                    
  • Meteorology, concerned with atmospheric circulation systems and dynamics. Research areas include the energy budget; atmospheric chemistry; transport of atmospheric contaminants to the Antarctic; and the role of large and mesoscale systems in global exchange of heat, momentum, and trace constituents.


Snow and ice are pervasive elements of high latitude environmental systems and have an active role in the global environment. The glaciology program is concerned with the study of the history and dynamics of all naturally occurring forms of snow and ice, including floating ice shelves, glaciers, and continental and marine ice sheets. Program emphases include paleoenvironments from ice cores, ice dynamics, numerical modeling, glacial geology, and remote sensing of ice sheets. Some specific objectives are:

  • Correlation of climatic fluctuations evident in antarctic ice cores with data from arctic and lower-latitude ice cores, and integration of the ice record with the terrestrial and marine record.                                    
  • Documentation of the geographic extent of climatic events noted in paleoclimatic records; and the extension of the ice core time series to provide information on astronomical forcing of climate.                                    
  • Establishment of more precise dating methodologies for deep ice cores.                                    
  • Determination of the Cenozoic history of antarctic ice sheets and their interaction with global climate and uplift of the Transantarctic Mountains; response of the antarctic ice sheets to the Pliocene warming.                                    
  • Investigation of the physics of fast glacier flow with emphasis on processes at glacier beds.                                    
  • Investigation of ice-shelf stability.                                    
  • Identification and quantification of the feedback between ice dynamics and climate change.

Environmental research

Environmental research is integrated into the disciplinary programs described above. An emphasis is research to help reduce the environmental impact of activities in Antarctica. Areas of inquiry might include effects of past practices, materials and waste management, current impacts, resilience of ecosystems, and promising technologies. The goal is to foster and maintain Antarctica's natural conditions while supporting the range of scientific research that can be done best in Antarctica.  


Facilities for research in Antarctica include three year-round research stations with scientific equipment and laboratories, helicopters, ski-equipped airplanes, surface vehicles, a wide array of additional research facilities and temporary (usually summer) camps, two research icebreakers, and a logistics icebreaker. These facilities are operated under the guidance of NSF's Polar Research Support Section (703-292-8032) by a prime antarctic support contractor, its subcontractors, and other contractors, by military units of the Department of Defense, and by the U.S. Coast Guard.

During any austral summer and into the winter, approximately 140 research projects -- some continuing from prior years and some being initiated as a result of new NSF awards for which field work has been approved -- are likely to be active in the U.S. Antarctic Program at numerous locations throughout the continent and the Southern Ocean.

McMurdo Station 77°53'S 166°40'E

McMurdo, on Ross Island, is the hub of the U.S. Antarctic Program. Persons en route to South Pole and field camps pass through McMurdo. In the U.S. program, only Palmer Station is operationally separate. McMurdo is the largest station in Antarctica, accommodating up to 1,200 people in summer and 250 in winter.

McMurdo is the globe's farthest south land accessible by ship. It has a natural harbor, Winter Quarters Bay, accessed by a freighter and a tanker with Coast Guard icebreaker escort once a year in late summer.

U.S. antarctic air operations are centered at McMurdo. Nearby sea ice supports a runway for large transport planes between late September and early December, when flights are made between New Zealand and McMurdo several times per week. A second runway on groomed glacial ice (the Pegasus runway) can accept wheeled landings year-round. In mid-August it receives flights from New Zealand over several days to initiate preparations for the summer season, and typically in January and February a series of round-trip flights from New Zealand provides for the transition back to winter operations. A skiway on the adjacent Ross Ice Shelf can be used at any time of year by LC-130s -- ski-equipped, four-engine transports. LC-130s operated by the New York Air National Guard are stationed at McMurdo throughout the austral summer.

In winter the station historically has been isolated except for emergencies. However, scientific interest led to an NSF-sponsored workshop that could result in increased winter access. The workshop report, Year-Round Access to the McMurdo Region: Opportunities for Science and Education, discusses the winter potential. It is intended to stimulate further consideration by the community, but does not have specific Foundation endorsement. Research might include extending summer measurements into the dark months; winter "access" may include virtual access through remote instrumentation as well as transportation improvements and likely would extend to the McMurdo Dry Valleys.

Communications between McMurdo and the rest of the world, available year-round, 24 hours a day, include telephone, electronic mail, and the Internet. Regular U.S. mail service is provided in the austral summer.

McMurdo is a major research center. Science facilities include the modern Albert P. Crary Science and Engineering Center (more familiarly, the Crary lab). The laboratory is a large, state-of-the-art facility that enables sophisticated procedures in the disciplines appropriate to Antarctica. The lab's five wings total 4,320 square meters of working area for information, computing, and telecommunications including Internet; biology; earth sciences; atmospheric sciences; and an aquarium and wet lab. The lab has flexible-use laboratory space, environmental rooms, equipment rooms, microscope rooms, offices, facilities for handling hazardous chemicals including radioisotopes, and conference rooms. Most lab spaces have single-pass air and fume hoods. The facility has specialized benchtop equipment for use both in the building and remotely. It is stocked with scientific supplies, chemicals, and other consumables. It also supports environmental and ecological investigations, bioassays, industrial hygiene surveys, chemical analyses, and snow and ice mechanics and engineering. A meteorology center has AVHRR, HRPT, DMSP, and other data archives and an interactive data access system.

Additional McMurdo facilities provide direct support to science involving diving, balloon launches, field party training and outfitting, upper atmosphere investigations, etc. In summer, portable shelters and equipment aid research on and under the sea ice of adjacent McMurdo Sound. Helicopters support projects and camps within 150 kilometers of the station; and surface vehicles provide local transportation and support for traverses.

The McMurdo region has been the object of vigorous scientific attention. An abundant literature presents questions for further study in marine biology, earth sciences, and other areas. A McMurdo-Based Research Support Prospectus contains text and visual descriptions of capabilities for U.S. Antarctic Program researchers based out of McMurdo Station.

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (90°S)

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station has operated continuously since 1957.  In recent years it has undergone substantial renovation and improvement to handle increased research needs. The far-reaching modernization will substantially improve or replace existing structures and systems.

South Pole Station is at an elevation of 2,835 meters on the continental ice sheet and has a mean temperature of minus 49.3°C.

Flights between McMurdo and South Pole are frequent from late October to mid-February; the station is isolated at other times. February-to-October (austral winter) population is about 50, but more than 200 can be accommodated in the summer; these numbers include construction personnel for the modernization program.

The station has an Atmospheric Research Observatory, the Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory for astrophysics, and computer systems for research and communication including Internet access. It has collected the longest continuous set of meteorological data from Antarctica's vast interior ice plateau, and it is well located for studies of the cusp region of the magnetosphere. Astronomy and astrophysics have flourished in recent years, taking advantage of excellent optical properties of the atmosphere (resulting from its high elevation, low temperature, and low humidity) and, for neutrino detection, the extremely clear and homogeneous thick ice below. A small biomedical research facility is present. Other areas of interest include geophysics including seismology, upper atmosphere sciences, and glaciology.

Palmer Station (64°46'S 64°03'W)

Palmer, on Anvers Island off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, has been in operation since 1965. It is operated in conjunction with the icebreaking research ship Laurence M. Gould. Small boats are available for sampling in the sea and at nearby islands. Access to Palmer, which is year-round, generally is by ship from the southern tip of South America.

The climate at Palmer is less severe than that at the other U.S. stations, and the fauna and flora are diverse. There are many opportunities for biology at or near the station; other disciplines (e.g., meteorology, upper atmosphere physics) also are represented. Palmer has extensive biology laboratories, including wet lab areas and sea water aquaria. Palmer's population has ranged from 8 to 12 in winter to 43 in summer.

The Palmer Station area since 1990 has been a National Science Foundation Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site. For information contact the biology program manager at OPP.

Temporary camps

In the austral summer, aircraft from McMurdo can place scientific parties almost anywhere on the continent. Tents or heated shelters and snowmobiles can be provided. Helicopters sometimes are deployed to remote locations for close support of research parties. Substantial camps remote from McMurdo Station can be established for large research groups. Camps can be placed by ship in the Antarctic Peninsula area.  Summer research camps are a major strength of the U.S. Antarctic Program, and in a typical summer several dozen are in operation.

Automated data gatherers (AGO and AWS)

The program supports automated geophysical observatories (AGOs) for unmanned collection of data at remote locations. Investigators wishing to use these facilities or the resulting data should contact an Office of Polar Programs science program manager (roster).

Under NSF sponsorship, the University of Wisconsin has placed automatic weather stations (AWSs) at locations in Antarctica for research and operations. Information and data are freely available.

UV radiation monitoring network

The U.S. Antarctic Program supports the operation of precision spectroradiometers optimized for measuring solar ultraviolet radiation at South Pole, Palmer, and McMurdo in Antarctica and at Ushuaia, Argentina; Point Barrow, Alaska; and San Diego, California. Data are distributed regularly in support of seasonal research and are available annually on CD-ROM. The data include irradiance scans and databases of integrated UV exposure and a variety of dosages. Contact Biospherical Instruments.

Research ships

For capabilities and schedules of research icebreakers, visit the Marine Operations home page. Ship schedules are updated regularly. If your proposed field work conflicts with an already scheduled cruise, please contact your OPP science program manager or the ocean projects manager.

Laurence M. Gould. This icebreaking research and resupply ship accommodates 28 researchers and support technicians, most in double rooms with bathrooms. Another eight people can be accommodated in berthing vans for crossing the Drake Passage. It is equipped for marine biology, physical and chemical oceanography, and marine geophysics. It operates typically along the Antarctic Peninsula and in the South Shetland Islands; research cruises can be made elsewhere as required. Several trips are made between South American ports and Antarctica each austral summer; the ship regularly transports people and supplies between southern South America and Palmer Station. It entered into U.S. Antarctic Program service in 1997 under a 10-year charter from the builder and operator, Edison Chouest Offshore.

The hull has an ice classification of ABS-A1 rated for light icebreaking. The ship is thus permitted to perform missions in moderate pack ice, but must stay clear of heavy ice and consolidated pack to avoid besetment.

Research equipment includes a seismic system, a portable isotope laboratory, and dedicated oceanographic instrumentation (e.g., CTD). The ship has a deep sea trawl winch and hydrographic winches, cranes, an interior staging area with telescoping side boom, and starboard and aft A-frames. It has satellite navigation, radar, and precision depth recorders.

The ship's name commemorates Laurence M. Gould (1896-1995), chief scientist and second in command on Richard E. Byrd's first antarctic expedition, president of Carlton College, leader of the U.S. delegation to planning meetings for the antarctic portion of the International Geophysical Year, member of the National Science Board, and chairman of the National Academy of Sciences Polar Research Board, among other things.

Nathaniel B. Palmer. A research vessel with icebreaking capability, Nathaniel B. Palmer  began antarctic operations in 1992 with the builder and operator, Edison Chouest Offshore. The lease extends to 2008 with an option to extend further to 2012. The ship is a first-rate platform for global change studies, including biological, oceanographic, geological, and geophysical components. It can operate safely year-round in antarctic waters that often are stormy or covered with sea ice. It accommodates 37 scientists and support technicians, has a crew of 22, and is capable of up to 75-day missions. It has 4,100 sq ft (380 sq m) of working deck area, 4,000 sq ft (370 sq m) of laboratory spaces, and modern oceanographic equipment.

Research equipment includes a seismic system, a portable isotope laboratory, and dedicated oceanographic instrumentation (e.g., CTD). The ship has a deep sea trawl winch and hydrographic winches, cranes, an interior staging area with telescoping side boom, and starboard and aft A-frames. It has satellite navigation, radar, precision depth recorders, multichannel and single channel seismic system, multibeam swath bathymetry system, and acoustic doppler current profiler.

The ship is named Nathaniel B. Palmer to commemorate the American sealer credited with first seeing Antarctica, in 1820. Nathaniel Palmer later led a prosperous career as a sea captain and a designer and builder of clipper ships.

Underway measurements. Instruments on Nathaniel B. Palmer and Laurence M. Gould are available for not-to-interfere underway measurements on behalf of investigators who do not join a cruise. Instruments include Seacat 21 thermosalinograph, Turner model 10 fluorometer, Simrad EK500 scientific echo sounder and other acoustic and bathymetric systems, LaCoste-Romberg gravity meter, XBTs, and meteorological sensors. A multibeam swath bathymetry system is installed on the Nathaniel B. Palmer. Proposals for management of long-term measurements and data archiving will be considered. Identify technician staffing and other shipboard support both in the proposal and on the Nathaniel B. Palmer worksheet.

Other ships.  University-National Oceanographic Laboratory Systems ships operate in the Southern Ocean in some years; see also the NSF Division of Ocean Sciences Web page. The Coast Guard icebreaker that provides operational support near McMurdo can provide underway research support in the Southern Ocean and the Ross Sea; direct a proposal for such support to the NSF Office of Polar Programs. Research ships of other Antarctic Treaty nations operate in antarctic waters (see "Non-U.S. facilities; international cooperation").

High precision GPS

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a worldwide, all-weather navigation and positioning system operated by the Department of Defense. GPS has been used in Antarctica since the early 1990s. The use of GPS for high precision antarctic surveying (1 mm-10 m) is increasing, with applications including geodetic surveying, glacial flow measurement, aircraft position, velocity and acceleration determination, mapping, seismic instrument positioning on moving ice sheets, glacial geology, isostasy, and sample positioning.

The U.S. Antarctic Program has an agreement with UNAVCO, Inc. for GPS support including equipment and predeployment support. Support includes (1) a pool of geodetic quality receivers for the field season, (2) in-field equipment repair, (3) in-field engineering support, (4) in-field and predeployment training in the use of GPS receivers, (5) training in GPS data processing, (6) archiving of GPS data, and (7) assistance in project planning and experiment design.

UNAVCO's assistance in the design of projects includes advice about both field support and data processing. Resources are limited, and investigators who have their own receivers and field staff are encouraged to use them. Investigators who do not have access to geodetic-quality GPS receivers and are contemplating their use for high-precision surveying as part of their proposed work should contact UNAVCO to discuss the requirements. In general, proposals should build GPS expertise into the science project plan and the budget.

On the Operational Requirements worksheets (see section with this title), specify the number of receivers required, the time needed to complete the GPS field work, and the in-field engineering required from UNAVCO. Describe how the work will be done, including any need for permanent markers. Contact UNAVCO if you need help developing this information.

Synthetic aperture radar

NSF encourages proposals for use of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data in oceanography, sea-ice research, glaciology, and geology. Under an agreement between NASA and NSF, an earth station has been put into operation at McMurdo, enabling SAR data to be acquired from a large part of Antarctica.

For areas north of 79°S, data are available from the European Remote Sensing Satellites ERS-1 and ERS-2 and the Canadian satellite RADARSAT. Opportunities exist for interferometric studies using ERS-1 and -2 data collected with a 1-day separation between images. The first antarctic imaging campaign was completed with RADARSAT on 20 October 1997, and a mosaic map was completed in 2001.  A mission in 2002 mapped the perimeter of the continent and studied surface velocity of ice.

Access to data is regulated according to international agreements between NASA and the foreign flight agency responsible for the satellite. For ERS-1 and ERS-2, data received through McMurdo are available through the Alaska SAR Facility (ASF) at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, which is sponsored by NASA. All other antarctic SAR data from ERS-1 and ERS-2 must be requested through the European Space Agency.

Antarctic RADARSAT data are available through the ASF to NASA-approved investigators. Agreements between NASA and the space agencies require you to be an approved user to obtain ASF's SAR-related data. Investigators submitting proposals to the U.S. Antarctic Program for analysis of SAR data must also submit a copy of the proposal to NASA to receive data credits in accordance with the appropriate memorandum of understanding. Contacts for such proposals are Waleed Abdalati, NASA'S cryospheric sciences program manager (, 202-358-0746) and Craig Dobson, radar program manager (, 202-358-0254). 

For more information about SAR data, contact the Alaska SAR Facility. NASA's Earth Science Enterprise offers related opportunities. For U.S. Antarctic Program information, contact the OPP program officer for your area of research.

Polar ice core drilling services

The University of Wisconsin provides ice coring and drilling under NSF contract to meet technological requirements of glaciologists and others. Services include design, fabrication, and operation of ice drilling equipment in Antarctica, Greenland, and high alpine areas. Direct support to science parties as tasked by the Office of Polar Programs can include coordination of science support requirements, collection and dissemination of data, facilities and equipment, information systems, and logistics. Ice drilling and technical services include electro-mechanical ice core drills, hot water drill for deep access holes and shot holes, and sub-ice sampling. Notify the relevant NSF program manager (see roster) when you are requesting ice coring support.

Specimens for research

Specimens collected in the Antarctic are available to qualified investigators for study. For information, including the policies and procedures for obtaining samples, contact the facilities listed below.

Ice cores. The U.S. National Ice Core Laboratory, supported by USGS and NSF, houses approximately 12,000 meters of ice cores recovered from Greenland and Antarctica that are available for study.

Ocean-bottom sedimentary cores and grab samples; continental cores. Shipboard coring supported by the U.S. Antarctic Program over four decades has produced the world's largest collection of antarctic piston cores, housed at the Antarctic Research Facility, Florida State University. Investigators planning proposals that would result in collection of new marine sediment cores should contact the curation facility during proposal development. The facility can provide information about core handling protocols and, in special cases, can provide assistance to projects if planned and justified in the proposal. It should be considered the final repository for core material remaining from a project unless other specific arrangements are made.

Meteorite samples. More than half the world's meteorites available to science have been recovered from Antarctica since 1969. Samples collected under U.S. Antarctic Program sponsorship are managed, described, curated, and made available for research at Johnson Space Center, NASA, under an interagency agreement between NSF, NASA, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Biological specimens. Some 20,000 samples comprising hundreds of thousands of specimens of antarctic benthic invertebrates, plankton, algae, and fish collected by U.S. Antarctic Program researchers are available for study and identification. The Smithsonian Institution Department of Invertebrate Zoology handles the collection under a cooperative agreement with NSF. NSF-sponsored polar investigators continue to deposit specimens and data.

Maps, aerial photographs, and related information

The U.S. Antarctic Resource Center at the U.S. Geological Survey maintains the Nation's most comprehensive collection of antarctic maps, charts, satellite images and photographs. Formerly the United States SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) Library, the center is managed through an interagency agreement with the National Science Foundation that also supports USGS mapping and geodesy in the Antarctic.

Antarctic Bibliography

The Antarctic Bibliography covers all the world's research literature regarding the region back to 1951. It is produced by the American Geological Institute under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation and is available for searching and full-document retrieval. Proposers are encouraged to use the bibliography to broaden awareness of past research results relevant to their interests. Investigators are encouraged to provide copies of their published papers and to check the bibliography for completeness in their areas of expertise.

U.S. Antarctic Data Coordination Center

NSF funds the U.S. Antarctic Data Coordination Center to describe U.S.-funded antarctic data for the international Antarctic Master Directory, which contains thousands of data descriptions from over 20 countries.  NSF and the U.S. center are leaders in this international activity.  The Foundation requires its antarctic grantees to contribute metadata to the U.S. center as part of the Office of Polar Programs data policy.

Non-U.S. facilities; international cooperation

The United States cooperates in research with other Antarctic Treaty nations. U.S. scientists wishing to do research with other nations' programs are asked to contact an Office of Polar Programs program manager before submitting a formal proposal.

The U.S. Antarctic Program is enthusiastically open to cooperation with other Antarctic Treaty nations when mutually beneficial. These projects often occur because of initiative taken by individual scientists. In your discussions, remember that individuals cannot commit U.S. Antarctic Program resources. Your acceptance of a generous offer from another nation's antarctic program could be construed as commitment of U.S. resources for some later project.

Do not hesitate in your collaboration with overseas colleagues, but please contact an OPP program manager (703-292-8033) upon commencing discussions that could lead to U.S. Antarctic Program involvement.


Public Law 95-541, the Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978, requires your involvement from the time you write a proposal to the time you leave Antarctica.

The law protects native mammals, birds, and plants and their ecosystems. The law applies to all U.S. citizens, whether or not they go to Antarctica with the U.S. Antarctic Program. It applies to all expeditions to Antarctica that originate from the United States.

The Act makes it unlawful, unless authorized by permit --

  • to take native mammals or birds or harm associated ecosystems      
  • to engage in harmful interference      
  • to enter designated special areas      
  • to introduce species      
  • to introduce substances designated as pollutants      
  • to discharge designated pollutants      
  • to import certain antarctic items into the USA

The Act provides penalties of up to $25,000 and 1-year imprisonment for each violation. Other penalties could include removal from Antarctica, rescission of a grant, or sanctions by your employer.

The book Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978 (Public Law 95-541), with Regulations, Management Plans With Maps for Special Areas, Permit Application Form, and Protocol on Environmental Protection (NSF 01-151) is free from NSF.

The following paragraphs discuss major provisions of the Antarctic Conservation Act, which is the U.S. law implementing adherence to the international Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.

Taking native mammals or birds

It is unlawful, unless authorized by permit, to take antarctic native mammals or birds. To take means to remove, harass, molest, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, restrain, or tag a native mammal or bird or to try to do so.

If you are on the sea ice near McMurdo and try to hustle a Weddell seal into position for a photograph, you are breaking the law. If you are an ornithologist with a grant to band giant petrels, you may not do so until you apply for and receive a permit. A grant and a permit are two different things.

Mineral samples for scientific purposes normally may be collected and removed from Antarctica without an Antarctic Conservation Act permit. However, the Act requires a permit for "any activity that results in the significant adverse modification of habitats of any species or population of native mammal, bird, plant, or invertebrate." The Antarctic Protection Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-594) states, "it is unlawful for any person to engage in, finance, or otherwise knowingly provide assistance to any antarctic mineral resource activity." 

Meteorites.  A U.S. regulation governing antarctic meteorites ensures that meteorites in Antarctica will be collected for scientific research purposes only.  U.S. expedition organizers who plan to collect meteorites in Antarctica will ensure that any specimens collected must be properly collected, handled, documented, and curated to preserve their scientific value.

Entering designated special areas

A number of precisely defined places in Antarctica are designated under the Antarctic Treaty, and in the U.S. law, as Antarctic Specially Protected Areas. You must have a compelling need to enter one of these areas, and you must have a permit to do so.

Some of these special areas are near stations, such as Arrival Heights next to McMurdo or Litchfield Island near Palmer. Other special areas like the Barwick Valley are in remote locations in which geologists, for example, may want to work. The areas and their management plans, with which you must comply if you are permitted to enter, are described in publication NSF 01-151.

Introducing species

Introducing nonindigenous species to Antarctica (i.e., south of 60°S latitude) generally is prohibited. However, if your work requires it, a permit may be issued for the following species under controlled conditions:

  1. domestic animals and plants      
  2. laboratory animals and plants including viruses, bacteria, yeast, and fungi

Living nonindigenous species of birds may not be introduced into Antarctica.

If you are uncertain whether the species you need to take to Antarctica is considered an introduced species, please contact the antarctic biology program at NSF (see roster in the NSF Web site).

Introducing substances designated as pollutants

The Antarctic Conservation Act regulates what types of materials can be taken to Antarctica and specifies how these materials must be used, stored, and disposed of.

Banned substances. These substances are banned from Antarctica:

  1. pesticides (except those required for science or hygiene: a permit is needed)      
  2. polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)      
  3. nonsterile soil      
  4. polystyrene beads and plastic chips

Designated pollutants. This category is large and will require attention if you get a grant to work in Antarctica. Then, the Foundation's prime antarctic contractor will help you report the materials that fall in this category.

At the proposal stage, it is enough to think about how to minimize the types and amounts of substances you need, to substitute benign substances for designated pollutants wherever possible, and to handle the designated pollutants that you must take. In the proposal and, if you get a grant, in your later dealings with the prime antarctic support contractor, err on the side of disclosure. In the proposal's Operational Requirements package (see section with this title below), use the worksheet to list major amounts of waste you expect to generate.

Designated pollutants include any substance listed by name or characteristic (flammable, corrosive, reactive, toxic) in the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and other U.S. regulations. Waste containing designated pollutants is antarctic hazardous waste, and it has to be used, stored, and disposed of in controlled ways.

Many research and industrial supplies -- and common substances like lighter fluid and fingernail polish remover -- at U.S. antarctic stations are designated pollutants. Designated pollutants must be permitted to enter Antarctica. NSF's prime antarctic support contractor annually compiles an application for a master permit to cover common items. The task obviously requires the cooperation of grantees; this chore is part of preparing for research in Antarctica.

Discharging designated pollutants

Some categories of waste must be removed from Antarctica. The list includes radioactive materials, batteries, fuel, heavy metals, lubricants, treated timbers, plastic (except low density storage bags), solid noncombustibles, and drums that held oil or chemicals.

The U.S. Antarctic Program employs specialists to handle and remove designated pollutants in accordance with the regulations. Grantees receive assistance and instructions in the Antarctic, but are required to keep track of the designated pollutants they use, to sort and store them according to instructions provided, and to turn the waste over to U.S. Antarctic Program officials in accordance with specified procedures.

Open burning is prohibited in Antarctica. If your proposal will include the operation of a remote field camp, plan to haul all your trash back to the station or ship from which you began your sortie.

Import into and export from the USA

In the United States it is unlawful, unless authorized by regulation or permit, to have or sell, or to import or export, antarctic plants from Specially Protected Areas, antarctic mammals, or antarctic birds. An application for a permit must demonstrate that the import or export would further the purposes for which the species was taken or collected, demonstrate that the import or export is consistent with the purposes of the Antarctic Conservation Act, and state which U.S. port will be used. There are seven designated ports: New York, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans, Seattle, and Honolulu.

Mailing items to or from the United States constitutes import or export.

Applying to NSF for a permit

If NSF funds your proposal, you may require an Antarctic Conservation Act permit for the proposed activities. You are the person who initially decides if a permit is needed.  If there is any doubt, contact an Office of Polar Programs science program manager, the permit officer, or the environmental officer (see roster).

If a permit appears necessary, send the Antarctic Conservation Act Application and Permit Form to the National Science Foundation at the address shown on the permit.  Be sure NSF gets it no later than 90 days before field work is to start. During the 90 days, a summary of your application is published in the Federal Register, and the public is given 30 days to comment on it. The Foundation evaluates the public comments and performs an internal review. It then approves the application, approves it with modifications, or disapproves it. NSF will not allow work in Antarctica until a permit either has been approved and issued or is found to be not required. You may not conduct research or other activities that require a permit unless you have a permit. An application cannot be made retroactive.


The categories of proposers identified in the Grant Proposal Guide are eligible to submit proposals under this program announcement/solicitation.


In the U.S. Antarctic Program, NSF expects each year to fund approximately 110 new standard and continuing research grants (see definitions in chapter V.A. of the Grant Proposal Guide) with durations averaging 2 to 4 years depending on the quality of submissions and the availability of funds. In exceptional cases, awards for longer than 4 years may be considered if the justification and promise are compelling. Approximately $15 million per year may be available for new awards in FY 2005 and following years. If the award is a continuing grant, additional amounts will be forthcoming in future fiscal years. In addition, and separate from the award to your institution, field and laboratory support will be available in Antarctica for those projects for which field work has been proposed and approved. Anticipated date of awards: no earlier than October of the year in which the proposal is received.


A. Proposal Preparation Instructions

Full Proposal Instructions:

Proposals submitted in response to this program announcement/solicitation should be prepared and submitted in accordance with the general guidelines contained in the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (GPG). The complete text of the GPG is available electronically on the NSF Website at: Paper copies of the GPG may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from

The following instructions supplement the Grant Proposal Guide guidelines.

Page limit:

Single-investigator proposals must not exceed 15 pages in the project description section (see Grant Proposal Guide for details).

Multi-investigator proposals may add one page per additional investigator to the project description section.

Proposals not following these instructions are subject to return without review:


  1. Prepare, but do not yet submit, the proposal in FastLane.  Follow instructions in the Grant Proposal Guide and in Antarctic Research (this document).

  2. Read Worksheet for Proposals With No Fieldwork in Antarctica

  3. Does the worksheet apply to you?  If yes, fill it out and go to step 4.  If no, stop.  Use "Proposals with fieldwork," below. 

  4. Put the completed worksheet in the “Additional Single Copy Documents” section of the FastLane proposal before you submit the proposal to NSF.  External reviewers won’t see it.

  5. Submit the FastLane proposal.

  6. You are done!


  1. Prepare, but do not yet submit, the proposal in FastLane.  Follow instructions in the Grant Proposal Guide and in Antarctic Research (this document).

  2. Read Worksheet for Proposals With No Fieldwork in Antarctica.

  3. Does the worksheet apply to you?  If yes, stop.  Use “Proposals with no fieldwork” above.  If no, go to step 4 below.

  4. Log on to Polar Ice.  Click on "Launch POLAR ICE."  Apply for a new account.  You will be issued a password within 1 business day.

  5. Fill out the Operational Requirements Worksheets (discussed below) in Polar Ice.  This substantial task involves carefully considering how your research will be performed in the Antarctic.  It will define your field requirements to the U.S. Antarctic Program.

  6. Takes time, doesn’t it?  Aren’t you glad you started at least 2 weeks early?

  7. Make a pdf file of the completed worksheets (Polar Ice tells how).

  8. Put the pdf file in “Additional Single Copy Documents” in the FastLane proposal.  External reviewers won’t see it.  If you want external reviewers to know about the proposed fieldwork, describe it in the proposal itself.

  9. Submit the FastLane proposal now.

  10. You are NOT done!

  11. Now you know your NSF proposal number.  Click again on Polar Ice.  Follow the instructions there for providing your NSF proposal number.

  12. You are done! 

New investigators

If you have not performed research in Antarctica, the results of an NSF workshop for potential new investigators may be useful.

Operational requirements worksheets

A researcher proposing field work in the Antarctic must prepare Operational Requirements Worksheets in Polar Ice, referenced in the above instructions.

The worksheets were devised by antarctic research-support specialists who have years of experience in helping investigators plan field work. Use the ones that are relevant to your needs and that, in your judgment, help to present your operational needs. If a worksheet is not germane to your work, don't complete it.

The U.S. Antarctic Program is committed to the principle that scientific needs should determine the research conducted in Antarctica, with logistics deriving from and supporting the research rather than dictating it. Prepare your proposal to NSF with the presumption that science can be supported operationally, even if it has not been done before.

To the extent that it is technologically and financially possible, this principle is reflected in the field program. However, at any given time some proposals -- highly meritorious scientifically -- are not feasible operationally. The antarctic support system and sometimes the proposed field research itself must be modified.

Prior discussion with a science program manager in the Office of Polar Programs (703-292-8033) can help define research objectives that match the operational realities at any given time and will help NSF plan changes in operational support to meet research needs. For investigators who have not previously worked in Antarctica, contact with the Polar Research Support section of the Office of Polar Programs (703-292-8032) during proposal preparation also can be helpful.

Operational capabilities of the U.S. Antarctic Program have evolved greatly in response to scientific requirements and will continue to do so, motivated primarily by dialog between the U.S. Antarctic Program staff and the research community.

Later, if the proposal appears likely to be approved, NSF's prime antarctic support contractor will solicit details formally by means of a Support Information Package -- a SIP -- that builds on the Operational Requirements Worksheets you submitted via Polar Ice.  This action by the contractor does not constitute NSF approval, and you should not infer that an NSF award is necessarily forthcoming.

The Antarctic Conservation Act Application and Permit Form is on the NSF home page and is not a part of Polar Ice.

Environmental protection and waste management

You must convince the Foundation that your project, if approved, can be performed in compliance with antarctic environmental regulations. Operational Requirements Worksheets in Polar Ice will help you define your plans. Much of your conservation planning will involve common sense -- minimizing pollution, avoiding interference with animals -- but the regulations are complex, and you cannot rely on common sense unassisted. Failure to provide for conservation and waste management in your proposal could change the Foundation's decision from award to declination.

The summary of the Antarctic Conservation Act in this document should be enough information for most projects. However, do not hesitate to review the Antarctic Conservation Act book (NSF 01-151) to be sure you understand your responsibilities for environmental protection and waste management. Fill out the Environmental Assessment Questionnaire.   If necessary, plan to fill out and submit an Antarctic Conservation Act permit application (discussed at the end of chapter II).

By attending to these matters in your planning you will enable NSF staff to start to plan support of these aspects in time to avoid delaying or interrupting your field work. Neither the planning nor the implementation need be overwhelming. NSF and investigators have learned that diligence at the proposal stage prevents headaches later.

Safety and health

A project that involves work in Antarctica must consider aspects of the research that may pose safety and health risks. Current U.S. Antarctic Program policies regarding safety and health are consistent with U.S. laws and regulations affecting research in the USA.

Office of Polar Programs safety and health specialists will review your proposal and operational requirements carefully. They have found that most proposed antarctic research can be carried out without undue risk. However, advance planning is essential, often in collaboration with the proposer. Your full and careful attention to safety and health aspects will help to make the planning efficient and effective. During review you may be asked for more information.

Grants are made only if questions regarding a project's safety and health risks can be resolved.

Two Office of Polar Programs staff are assigned full time responsibilities in safety and health. Please feel free to call or write them (see roster) during proposal preparation.

Underwater diving

The U.S. Antarctic Program supports a scientific diving program similar to those of institutional members of the American Academy of Underwater Science. Scientific divers are expected to comply with guidelines in the Antarctic Scientific Diving Manual (NSF 99-22), available from the support contractor's dive coordinator (800-688-8606). Funded researchers intending to conduct underwater diving in support of their research will be asked to document their dive plans and diver credentials (including polar diving experience). If the research team does not have accomplished scientific divers, the support contractor can provide a limited amount of such support.

If your proposed research involves underwater diving, check the appropriate box on the Safety, Environment, and Health worksheet in Polar Ice. If your proposal receives funding, you will be asked to complete worksheets detailing your diving plans and the credentials of your dive team for review and approval by NSF. Only approved dive plans and divers will be authorized to dive in Antarctica.

If your proposed research requires underwater diving that is not consistent with NSF's scientific diving program (e.g., your diving involves commercial or construction type diving), you will be expected to comply with pertinent OSHA requirements.

Radioactive materials and waste

If you wish to use radioactive materials (open or sealed sources) in Antarctica, you need to do so under your institution's radiation use license and with the approval of the U.S. Antarctic Program. Budget for this in your proposal, buy the materials through your institution, and register as a radioisotope user with its radiation safety committee. You also must abide by requirements imposed by the U.S. Antarctic Program, in particular radioactive waste generation and packaging criteria for proper disposal of low-level radioactive waste generated during the research.

If your research involves use of radioactive materials in Antarctica (open or sealed sources), complete the Radioactive Materials worksheets in Polar Ice. Investigators who have completed that worksheet will receive an additional questionnaire, after the proposal has been funded, requesting details of their proposed radioisotope usage. Proposed use of radioisotopes needs to be consistent with your institutional license and U.S. Antarctic Program policies. An institutional Radiation Safety Officer will be required to endorse your use of radioisotopes in Antarctica.

Research ship EEZ clearances

Any research that is north of 60 S and involves work in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of another nation (typically within 200 nautical miles of the coast of that nation), including underway measurements such as collecting multibeam data, gravity data, or surface water samples, requires an appropriate research clearance from the nation involved.

Justify any EEZ work in the Operational Reqirements Worksheets, and provide information needed for a permit application. NSF's prime antarctic contractor submits the application to the Department of State, which must receive it no later than 6 months before the cruise.

Composition of field teams

Identify in your Operational Requirements Worksheets the number of people who will be involved in the prospective field project. Team members should be scientists, technicians, students, or others with experience or strong interests in the goals of the project, should be necessary to the completion of the project as described in the proposal, and should have a direct interest in its outcome.

Parties must have field safety expertise that is appropriate for the anticipated activities, conditions, and hazards. Examples of potentially hazardous situations include mountaineering, working in crevassed terrain, and working on sea ice. Investigators should consider augmenting their teams with persons experienced in field safety, particularly if the group is inexperienced in antarctic field work. Training of field party members in first aid is highly recommended.  Feel free to consult with NSF (see roster) during proposal preparation.

Physical and psychological screening

Because medical facilities in Antarctica are not equipped to deal with all possible medical emergencies, and because immediate medical evacuation may be impossible, it is important that all persons deploying to Antarctica be in good health. Before deploying, participants must meet physical and dental health criteria established for the program. Candidates for work during the austral winter isolation also must pass a psychological screening.

Prospective travelers to the Antarctic with the U.S. Antarctic Program will be provided medical and dental examination forms by the antarctic support contractor. Travelers are responsible for completing their physical and dental examinations and sending the completed forms to the support contractor. Candidates for the winter isolation period will be provided instructions for the psychological screening.


A proposal must convince skeptics (reviewers, panelists, NSF) that the public good will be served by giving you public money. Suggestions:

Do read and follow this document and the Grant Proposal Guide.

Do keep text short.

Do state the problem, the plan, and the anticipated results. Answer the "so what?" and "why do this?" questions early.

Do give credit where credit is due; cite your colleagues' work (include titles) where appropriate.

Do give research results from your one previous NSF grant most closely related to the new proposal.

Do check and review the proposal with a colleague. Reviewers may equate error with sloppy research.

Do put the number of this program solicitation in the top line of the proposal cover sheet.

Don't assume that everyone reviewing your proposal is expert in all aspects of your research. Some reviewers may be chosen for their knowledge of just part of the proposal.

Don't leave out vitae of major investigators, budget explanation, other-grant-support list, etc.

Don't forget the no-fieldwork worksheet if you're not proposing fieldwork.

Don't forget the Polar Ice Operational Requirements Worksheets if you're proposing fieldwork.

Don't forget to give your NSF proposal number to Polar Ice if you're proposing fieldwork.

Don't forget to apply to NSF for an Antarctic Conservation Act permit if needed.

Don't inflate the budget.

Proposers are reminded to identify the program announcement/solicitation number (04-559) in the program announcement/solicitation block on the proposal Cover Sheet. Compliance with this requirement is critical to determining the relevant proposal processing guidelines. Failure to submit this information may delay processing.

B. Budgetary Information

Cost Sharing:

Cost sharing is not required in proposals submitted under this Program Solicitation.

Budget Preparation Instructions:

Budget provisions for field services in Antarctica

In Antarctica, most support services are provided and paid for by the NSF-funded U.S. Antarctic Program. NSF does not provide funds in antarctic research grants for acquisition of all needed field items and services. Instead, common-use items are bought and shipped to Antarctica in bulk. This practice, while affecting the way an investigator plans for field work, lowers the cost of acquiring and, especially, of shipping things to Antarctica.

Investigators use their proposals and Operational Requirements Worksheets to specify services and items of equipment that are required for their research. To plan and budget for acquisition of these things, NSF must know well in advance what they are and approximately how much they cost.

Describe and budget in your proposal as necessary for these items:

  1. equipment and supplies required at home institutions or unique to the field project
  2. radioisotopes and specialized supplies required in Antarctica
  3. physical and dental examinations for all persons going to Antarctica (including those who have been before)
  4. field equipment that is unique to a field project, such as climbing boots and eye protection (the Foundation issues polar clothing including insulated underwear, mukluks, thermal boots, parka, insulated overalls, gloves, and other extreme-cold-weather gear)
  5. shipment of your gear between home institution and port of embarkation (usually a West Coast port; see worksheets)
  6. cost of shipping equipment and samples back home (the antarctic program provides northbound sea shipment to a U.S. port without cost to the grantee, but onward transport to the home institution is paid for using your grant funds)
  7. living expenses (per diem) during travel to and from Antarctica. Budget under foreign travel.
  8. mountaineering guide, if warranted, for field work.

Commercial air travel

Do not budget in your proposal for commercial air travel between your home institution and the departure point for Antarctica (normally Christchurch, New Zealand, or Punta Arenas, Chile). The Foundation's antarctic support contractor will issue tickets at no cost to your grant. Accompanied excess baggage authorized by NSF in advance also will be covered by the contractor. Do budget in the proposal for per diem during this travel [see (7) above] and for any travel not involving deployment to Antarctica.


Do not budget for insurance.  NSF does not provide insurance for grantee personnel in Antarctica, and it does not fund acquisition of this insurance in its research grants.

Persons traveling to Antarctica are expected to have insurance appropriate to their normal life situations so that any needed health care, compensation for property loss, worker's compensation, or survivor benefit will be provided for.

Emergency medical care for U.S. Antarctic Program participants in Antarctica is provided in clinics at the year-round stations. Persons who need hospital care will be transported to health care facilities in New Zealand, South America, or the United States, at which point they or their sponsors will be responsible for medical costs.

Check your health insurance policy to be sure it covers flight aboard scheduled military aircraft.

All research staff (paid or volunteer) should be affiliated in some manner with your organization(s), so any worker compensation issues arising from injuries sustained while deployed can be addressed.

C. Due Dates

Proposals must be submitted by the following date(s):

Submission Window Date(s):

    April 15, 2004 - June 04, 2004 Later annual deadlines: June 2, 2005; June 7, 2006

To provide time for proposal review and for operational planning, proposals normally will be considered for field work beginning no sooner than a year later. Properly prepared proposals received by the first Wednesday of June in a given year and approved for award typically will be provided funds for performance periods as follows:

  • for research in Antarctica: the austral summer beginning approximately 15 months later and extending through the next winter
  • for research in the United States: starting as early as 6 months following receipt of your proposal

Complicated projects, or those requiring lots of equipment in Antarctica, could require more lead time. Projects that are easily fielded may be able to deploy more quickly than the schedule suggests, and NSF strives to make that happen. The rule of thumb, however, is that it takes 15 to 18 months to get ready for field work, and attempts to beat that schedule introduce uncertainties.

D. FastLane Requirements

Proposers are required to prepare and submit all proposals for this announcement/solicitation through the FastLane system. Detailed instructions for proposal preparation and submission via FastLane are available at: For FastLane user support, call the FastLane Help Desk at 1-800-673-6188 or e-mail The FastLane Help Desk answers general technical questions related to the use of the FastLane system. Specific questions related to this program announcement/solicitation should be referred to the NSF program staff contact(s) listed in Section VIII of this announcement/solicitation.

Submission of Electronically Signed Cover Sheets. The Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) must electronically sign the proposal Cover Sheet to submit the required proposal certifications (see Chapter II, Section C of the Grant Proposal Guide for a listing of the certifications). The AOR must provide the required electronic certifications within five working days following the electronic submission of the proposal. Proposers are no longer required to provide a paper copy of the signed Proposal Cover Sheet to NSF. Further instructions regarding this process are available on the FastLane Website at:


A. NSF Proposal Review Process

Reviews of proposals submitted to NSF are solicited from peers with expertise in the substantive area of the proposed research or education project. These reviewers are selected by Program Officers charged with the oversight of the review process. NSF invites the proposer to suggest, at the time of submission, the names of appropriate or inappropriate reviewers. Care is taken to ensure that reviewers have no conflicts with the proposer. Special efforts are made to recruit reviewers from non-academic institutions, minority-serving institutions, or adjacent disciplines to that principally addressed in the proposal.

The National Science Board approved revised criteria for evaluating proposals at its meeting on March 28, 1997 (NSB 97-72). All NSF proposals are evaluated through use of the two merit review criteria. In some instances, however, NSF will employ additional criteria as required to highlight the specific objectives of certain programs and activities.

On July 8, 2002, the NSF Director issued Important Notice 127, Implementation of new Grant Proposal Guide Requirements Related to the Broader Impacts Criterion. This Important Notice reinforces the importance of addressing both criteria in the preparation and review of all proposals submitted to NSF. NSF continues to strengthen its internal processes to ensure that both of the merit review criteria are addressed when making funding decisions.

In an effort to increase compliance with these requirements, the January 2002 issuance of the GPG incorporated revised proposal preparation guidelines relating to the development of the Project Summary and Project Description. Chapter II of the GPG specifies that Principal Investigators (PIs) must address both merit review criteria in separate statements within the one-page Project Summary. This chapter also reiterates that broader impacts resulting from the proposed project must be addressed in the Project Description and described as an integral part of the narrative.

Effective October 1, 2002, NSF will return without review proposals that do not separately address both merit review criteria within the Project Summary. It is believed that these changes to NSF proposal preparation and processing guidelines will more clearly articulate the importance of broader impacts to NSF-funded projects.

The two National Science Board approved merit review criteria are listed below (see the Grant Proposal Guide Chapter III.A for further information). The criteria include considerations that help define them. These considerations are suggestions and not all will apply to any given proposal. While proposers must address both merit review criteria, reviewers will be asked to address only those considerations that are relevant to the proposal being considered and for which he/she is qualified to make judgments.

    What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity?
    How important is the proposed activity to advancing knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields? How well qualified is the proposer (individual or team) to conduct the project? (If appropriate, the reviewer will comment on the quality of the prior work.) To what extent does the proposed activity suggest and explore creative and original concepts? How well conceived and organized is the proposed activity? Is there sufficient access to resources?
    What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?
    How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning? How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)? To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships? Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?

NSF staff will give careful consideration to the following in making funding decisions:

    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 learning perspectives.
    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.
    Additional Review Criteria:

    1.  Operational feasibility

    In addition to external peer review, proposals involving field work in the Antarctic are evaluated by the U.S. Antarctic Program for operational feasibility, which includes environmental protection and waste management provisions, safety and health measures, and safeguards of radioactive materials. 

    This operational evaluation is based largely on the Operational Requirements Worksheets that the proposer has completed as instructed in section V, Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions.

    2.  Medical and dental standards

    All field participants must meet specified U.S. Antarctic Program health and dental requirements. See section V.B., Budget preparation.

    Candidates for wintering at the year-round stations are screened for psychological fitness. 


    Antarctica presents exceptional opportunities for projects in all of the above areas to respond to NSF's broader-impacts proposal evaluation criterion -- "What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity" -- that asks how well the proposed activity will advance understanding while promoting teaching and learning; how well it will broaden the participation of underrepresented groups; to what extent it will enhance the research and education infrastructure (facilities, instruments, networks, partnerships, etc.); how well the results will be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding; and what may be the benefits to society of the proposed activity.

    The Foundation's Advisory Committee for Polar Research, Working Group on Implementation of criterion 2, has produced a document, Criterion 2 Background and List of Representative Activities, that proposers may want to consider when addressing the broader-impacts review criterion.

    An NSF-supported web site has two topics that may help a proposal respond effectively to these newer NSF objectives: a list of Current Polar Research Community Outreach Projects and a tutorial, Educational Outreach and the Polar Research Community, intended to help polar scientists identify and leverage opportunities for integrating educational outreach into their research.

    Proposers are encouraged to develop criterion-2 activities that are specific to their research. Awareness of or collaboration with two other Foundation programs also may be helpful in achieving broader impact. They are the Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, which deploys scholars in the humanities to help record the U.S. antarctic heritage, and the annual program for media representatives to visit and interview research teams and others in the U.S. Antarctic Program.

B. Review Protocol and Associated Customer Service Standard

All proposals are carefully reviewed by at least three other persons outside NSF who are experts in the particular field represented by the proposal. Proposals submitted in response to this announcement/solicitation will be reviewed by Ad Hoc and/or panel review.

Reviewers will be asked to formulate a recommendation to either support or decline each proposal. The Program Officer assigned to manage the proposal's review will consider the advice of reviewers and will formulate a recommendation.

A summary rating and accompanying narrative will be completed and submitted by each reviewer. In all cases, reviews are treated as confidential documents. Verbatim copies of reviews, excluding the names of the reviewers, are sent to the Principal Investigator/Project Director by the Program Director. In addition, the proposer will receive an explanation of the decision to award or decline funding.

In most cases, proposers will be contacted by the Program Officer after his or her recommendation to award or decline funding has been approved by the Division Director. This informal notification is not a guarantee of an eventual award.

NSF is striving to be able to tell applicants whether their proposals have been declined or recommended for funding within six months. The time interval begins on the date of receipt. The interval ends when the Division Director accepts the Program Officer's recommendation.

In all cases, after programmatic approval has been obtained, the proposals recommended for funding will be forwarded to the Division of Grants and Agreements for review of business, financial, and policy implications and the processing and issuance of a grant or other agreement. Proposers are cautioned that only a Grants and Agreements Officer may make commitments, obligations or awards on behalf of NSF or authorize the expenditure of funds. No commitment on the part of NSF should be inferred from technical or budgetary discussions with a NSF Program Officer. A Principal Investigator or organization that makes financial or personnel commitments in the absence of a grant or cooperative agreement signed by the NSF Grants and Agreements Officer does so at their own risk.


A. Notification of the Award

Notification of the award is made to the submitting organization by a Grants Officer in the Division of Grants and Agreements. Organizations whose proposals are declined will be advised as promptly as possible by the cognizant NSF Program Division administering the program. Verbatim copies of reviews, not including the identity of the reviewer, will be provided automatically to the Principal Investigator. (See section VI.A. for additional information on the review process.)

B. Award Conditions

An NSF award consists of: (1) the award letter, which includes any special provisions applicable to the award and any numbered amendments thereto; (2) the budget, which indicates the amounts, by categories of expense, on which NSF has based its support (or otherwise communicates any specific approvals or disapprovals of proposed expenditures); (3) the proposal referenced in the award letter; (4) the applicable award conditions, such as Grant General Conditions (NSF-GC-1); * or Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) Terms and Conditions * and (5) any announcement or other NSF issuance that may be incorporated by reference in the award letter. Cooperative agreement awards also are administered in accordance with NSF Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions (CA-1). Electronic mail notification is the preferred way to transmit NSF awards to organizations that have electronic mail capabilities and have requested such notification from the Division of Grants and Agreements.

*These documents may be accessed electronically on NSF's Website at Paper copies may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from

More comprehensive information on NSF Award Conditions is contained in the NSF Grant Policy Manual (GPM) Chapter II, available electronically on the NSF Website at The GPM is also for sale through the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC 20402. The telephone number at GPO for subscription information is (202) 512-1800. The GPM may be ordered through the GPO Website at

Special Award Conditions:

Data.  The Office of Polar Programs Guidelines and Award Conditions for Scientific Data requires submission of data, derived data products, samples, physical collections, and other supported materials to national data centers and other specified repositories. OPP expects investigators to share these things with other researchers at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time.  Investigators should use national and international standards to the greatest extent possible for collection, processing, and communication of OPP-sponsored data sets.

Metadata.  Principal investigators of OPP-awards are required to submit, to appropriate electronic data directories, descriptions of their data (i.e., metadata) resulting from OPP funded research.  OPP funds the U.S. Antarctic Data Coordination Center for this purpose.

Antarctic Bibliography.  The NSF-funded Antarctic Bibliography is the world's most complete bibliography of antarctic scientific literature.  Please send the Bibliography one copy of every publication developed under the award, labeled with the award number, to assure its citation in this valuable reference tool.  Doing so will waive the requirement stated in Article 20, Grant General Conditions, to send two copies to NSF.

C. Reporting Requirements

For all multi-year grants (including both standard and continuing grants), the PI must submit an annual project report to the cognizant Program Officer at least 90 days before the end of the current budget period.

Within 90 days after the expiration of an award, the PI also is required to submit a final project report. Failure to provide final technical reports delays NSF review and processing of pending proposals for the PI and all Co-PIs. PIs should examine the formats of the required reports in advance to assure availability of required data.

PIs are required to use NSF's electronic project reporting system, available through FastLane, for preparation and submission of annual and final project reports. This system permits electronic submission and updating of project reports, including information on project participants (individual and organizational), activities and findings, publications, and other specific products and contributions. PIs will not be required to re-enter information previously provided, either with a proposal or in earlier updates using the electronic system.


General inquiries regarding this program should be made to:

a program manager in the Antarctic Sciences Section (see Office of Polar Programs roster)

For questions related to the use of FastLane, contact:


The NSF Guide to Programs is a compilation of funding for research and education in science, mathematics, and engineering. The NSF Guide to Programs is available electronically at General descriptions of NSF programs, research areas, and eligibility information for proposal submission are provided in each chapter.

Many NSF programs offer announcements or solicitations concerning specific proposal requirements. To obtain additional information about these requirements, contact the appropriate NSF program offices. Any changes in NSF's fiscal year programs occurring after press time for the Guide to Programs will be announced in the NSF E-Bulletin, which is updated daily on the NSF Website at, and in individual program announcements/solicitations. Subscribers can also sign up for NSF's Custom News Service ( to be notified of new funding opportunities that become available.

NSF crosscutting programs

A big part of NSF's budget supports research and education that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. Typically, more than one NSF office or directorate funds these programs; other Federal agencies provide funds for some of them. Because the Antarctic is appropriate to research in several disciplines, these crosscutting programs can be particularly attractive to investigators planning antarctic research. 
The Office of Polar Programs strongly encourages scientists to know these programs and to consider submitting proposals that respond to the special opportunities that they present to participate in some of the forefront areas of science.

Note especially those programs on the crosscutting website that include the Office of Polar Programs as a sponsor. For example, the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program is appropriate for proposals for instrument acquisition and development needed to advance polar research but beyond the scope of the regular research programs.

Other opportunities to participate in the U.S. Antarctic Program

As the Federal agency responsible for representing the Nation in Antarctica, NSF provides opportunities for field participation in the U.S. Antarctic Program that go beyond its traditional role of supporting research and education in the sciences and engineering:

  • The Antarctic Artists and Writers Program provides opportunities for scholars in the humanities (painting, photography, writing, history, and other liberal arts) to be in Antarctica or on the Southern Ocean--at research stations, camps, ships, and wilderness areas--to make observations needed to complete their proposed projects. The purpose of the program is to enable serious writings and the arts that increase understanding of the Antarctic and help document America's antarctic heritage. 
  • The Foundation's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs conducts a separate annual competition to select television, radio, newspaper, and magazine reporters to visit and report on U.S. facilities in the Antarctic.  See NSF Invites Media to Report on U.S.-Sponsored Antarctic Research.

For other categories, see Opportunities for Participation.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering. Awardees are wholly responsible for conducting their project activities and preparing the results for publication. Thus, the Foundation does not assume responsibility for such findings or their interpretation.

NSF welcomes proposals from all qualified scientists, engineers and educators. The Foundation strongly encourages women, minorities and persons with disabilities to compete fully in its programs. In accordance with Federal statutes, regulations and NSF policies, no person on grounds of race, color, age, sex, national origin or disability shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving financial assistance from NSF, although some programs may have special requirements that limit eligibility.

Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities (FASED) provide funding for special assistance or equipment to enable persons with disabilities (investigators and other staff, including student research assistants) to work on NSF-supported projects. See the GPG Chapter II, Section D.2 for instructions regarding preparation of these types of proposals.

The National Science Foundation promotes and advances scientific progress in the United States by competitively awarding grants and cooperative agreements for research and education in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

To get the latest information about program deadlines, to download copies of NSF publications, and to access abstracts of awards, visit the NSF Website at

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4201 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA 22230

  • For General Information
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Send an e-mail to:

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The information requested on proposal forms and project reports is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended. The information on proposal forms will be used in connection with the selection of qualified proposals; project reports submitted by awardees will be used for program evaluation and reporting within the Executive Branch and to Congress. The information requested may be disclosed to qualified reviewers and staff assistants as part of the proposal review process; to applicant institutions/grantees to provide or obtain data regarding the proposal review process, award decisions, or the administration of awards; to government contractors, experts, volunteers and researchers and educators as necessary to complete assigned work; to other government agencies needing information as part of the review process or in order to coordinate programs; and to another Federal agency, court or party in a court or Federal administrative proceeding if the government is a party. Information about Principal Investigators may be added to the Reviewer file and used to select potential candidates to serve as peer reviewers or advisory committee members. See Systems of Records, NSF-50, "Principal Investigator/Proposal File and Associated Records," 63 Federal Register 267 (January 5, 1998), and NSF-51, "Reviewer/Proposal File and Associated Records," 63 Federal Register 268 (January 5, 1998). Submission of the information is voluntary. Failure to provide full and complete information, however, may reduce the possibility of receiving an award.

An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to an information collection unless it displays a valid OMB control number. The OMB control number for this collection is 3145-0058. Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 120 hours per response, including the time for reviewing instructions. Send comments regarding this burden estimate and any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to: Suzanne Plimpton, Reports Clearance Officer, Division of Administrative Services, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA 22230.

OMB control number: 3145-0058.


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