EarthScope

Program Solicitation
NSF 14-552

Replaces Document(s):
NSF 13-562

NSF Logo

National Science Foundation

Directorate for Geosciences
     Division of Earth Sciences

Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time):

     August 25, 2014

     August 23, Annually Thereafter

IMPORTANT INFORMATION AND REVISION NOTES

This is a revised solicitation that replaces NSF 13-562. The primary revisions in this solicitation are requirements that (1) EarthScope science proposals must explicitly state which of the EarthScope science targets, as outlined in the 2010 EarthScope Science Plan, the project is intended to address; (2) all resubmitted proposals must contain a separate section of the Project Description explicitly describing what changes have been made to the proposal in response to previous NSF review comments and concerns; (3) principal investigators must contact an EarthScope Program Director prior to submitting any proposal with an annual project budget exceeding $300,000, or the proposal may be returned without review; (4) proposals must contain a Supplementary Document containing a list of all the conflicts of interest of all Senior Personnel.

SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

General Information

Program Title:

EarthScope

Synopsis of Program:

EarthScope is an Earth science program to explore the 4-dimensional structure of the North American continent. The EarthScope Program provides a framework for broad, integrated studies across the Earth sciences, including research on fault properties and the earthquake process, strain transfer, magmatic and hydrous fluids in the crust and mantle, plate boundary processes, large-scale continental deformation, continental structure and evolution, and composition and structure of the deep Earth. In addition, EarthScope offers a centralized forum for Earth science education at all levels and an excellent opportunity to develop cyberinfrastructure to integrate, distribute, and analyze diverse data sets.

The EarthScope Facility, consisting of the Plate Boundary Observatory (PBO), the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD), and the USArray, is a multi-purpose array of instruments and observatories that greatly expands the observational capabilities of the Earth sciences and permits us to advance our understanding of the structure, evolution and dynamics of the North American continent.

This Solicitation calls for single or collaborative proposals to conduct scientific research and/or education and outreach activities within North America that make use of capabilities and/or data provided through the EarthScope Facility to further the scientific and educational goals of EarthScope, as described in the 2010 EarthScope Science Plan and/or EarthScope Education and Outreach Implementation Plan.

Cognizant Program Officer(s):

Please note that the following information is current at the time of publishing. See program website for any updates to the points of contact.

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

  • 47.050 --- Geosciences

Award Information

Anticipated Type of Award: Standard Grant or Continuing Grant or Cooperative Agreement.

Estimated Number of Awards:15 to 25

Anticipated Funding Amount: $6,000,000

for FY 2015, pending availability of funds

Eligibility Information

Who May Submit Proposals:

The categories of proposers eligible to submit proposals to the National Science Foundation are identified in the Grant Proposal Guide, Chapter I, Section E.

Who May Serve as PI:

There are no restrictions or limits.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization:

There are no restrictions or limits.

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI: 2

An individual may appear as Principal Investigator (PI), Co-PI, Senior Personnel (or any similar designation), or elsewhere in the proposal budget in no more than two proposals submitted in response to this solicitation. Applicants are responsible for ensuring that no individual is listed as PI, Co-PI, or Senior Personnel or appears elsewhere in the budget in more than two proposals. In cases where an Investigator appears in three or more proposals, all proposals submitted by that person may be returned without review.

Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions

A. Proposal Preparation Instructions

  • Letters of Intent: Not required
  • Preliminary Proposal Submission: Not required
  • Full Proposals:
    • Full Proposals submitted via FastLane: NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide, Part I: Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) Guidelines apply. The complete text of the GPG is available electronically on the NSF website at: http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=gpg.
    • Full Proposals submitted via Grants.gov: NSF Grants.gov Application Guide: A Guide for the Preparation and Submission of NSF Applications via Grants.gov Guidelines apply (Note: The NSF Grants.gov Application Guide is available on the Grants.gov website and on the NSF website at: http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=grantsgovguide).

B. Budgetary Information

  • Cost Sharing Requirements: Inclusion of voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited.
  • Indirect Cost (F&A) Limitations: Not Applicable
  • Other Budgetary Limitations: Not Applicable

C. Due Dates

  • Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time):

         August 25, 2014

         August 23, Annually Thereafter

Proposal Review Information Criteria

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: Additional reporting requirements apply. Please see the full text of this solicitation for further information.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Summary of Program Requirements

  1. Introduction

  2. Program Description

  3. Award Information

  4. Eligibility Information

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

  6. NSF Proposal Processing and Review Procedures
    1. Merit Review Principles and Criteria
    2. Review and Selection Process

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

  8. Agency Contacts

  9. Other Information

I. INTRODUCTION

The EarthScope Program is part of the Division of Earth Sciences (EAR). EAR provides funding for the conduct of research in most areas of the solid Earth and surface-terrestrial sciences. EAR focuses on improving our understanding of the Earth’s structure, composition, evolution, and the interaction with the Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere. In addition, EAR provides support for instrumental and observational infrastructure, cyberinfrastructure, and innovative educational and outreach activities. Projects may employ any combination of field, laboratory, and computational studies with observational, theoretical, or experimental approaches. Support is available for research and research infrastructure through grants and cooperative agreements awarded in response to investigator-initiated proposals. EAR will consider co-funding of projects with other agencies and supports international work and collaborations.

II. PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

The rich fabric of tectonic provinces in North America provides a solid scientific framework for a major program to investigate the relationships among processes and structures over a wide range of scales within the crust, lithosphere, and mantle, with the goal of understanding the tectonic and geologic processes that have constructed the continents. The North American continent is also ideally located with respect to global seismicity to provide unprecedented views of the deep Earth. EarthScope addresses fundamental questions about the evolution of continents and the processes responsible for earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Through the integration of scientific information derived from geology, geochemistry, geophysics, and geodesy, the EarthScope program is yielding a comprehensive time-dependent picture of the continent far beyond that which any single discipline or technology can achieve. EarthScope includes new observational technologies that are linked through high performance computing and telecommunication networks. The EarthScope Facility provides a framework for broad, integrated studies across the Earth sciences, including research on active deformation of the North American continent; continental evolution through geologic time; deep Earth structure and dynamics; earthquakes, faults, and the rheology of the lithosphere; magma, water, and volatiles in the crust and mantle; topography and tectonics; aspects of studies of the hydrosphere, cryosphere, and atmosphere that EarthScope can illuminate; and associated educational topics.

The integrated observing systems that comprise the EarthScope Facility include: USArray that maps in 3-D the earth’s interior by means of seismic and magnetotelluric systems; Plate Boundary Observatory (PBO) that monitors the deformation of the earth’s surface by means of geodetic systems; and the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD) that defines the conditions and physics of an active plate boundary fault at depth. These systems capitalize on recent developments in sensor technology and communications to provide Earth scientists with comprehensive, high-resolution data derived from a variety of geophysical sensors. All data from the EarthScope Facility are openly available in near-real-time to maximize participation from the scientific community and to provide on-going educational outreach to students and the public.

The EarthScope Program is committed to supporting the most meritorious research in any relevant area, including interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research, as well as research involving international collaboration. The program will support proposals to conduct scientific research and/or education and outreach activities within North America that make use of capabilities and/or data provided through the EarthScope Facility to further the scientific and educational goals of EarthScope. The program is especially interested in proposals in emerging fields. Where appropriate, proposals may be considered for joint support with other programs in EAR or with other divisions at the National Science Foundation. In some cases, proposals may be transferred to other programs within EAR or to other divisions within the National Science Foundation when it is deemed appropriate by Program Officers from the respective programs or divisions. Principal Investigators (PIs) are encouraged to contact the cognizant program officers before submitting proposals that may cross disciplinary boundaries before submission.

Examples of projects supported by the program can be found at www.earthscope.org (Funded Proposals under Quick Links) and using the NSF Award Search (Program Information) engine by entering Element Codes 007F, 017F, and 1741.

Scientific Targets

EarthScope encompasses a broad array of scientific targets within the context of the North American continent. Examples include:

  • Imaging the crust and lithosphere beneath North America;
  • Active deformation of the North American continent;
  • Continental evolution through geologic time;
  • Deep Earth structure and dynamics;
  • Earthquakes, faults, and rheology of the lithosphere;
  • Magma, water, and volatiles in the crust and mantle; and
  • Topography and tectonics,

and to a lesser extent those aspects of studies of the hydrosphere, cryosphere, and atmosphere that EarthScope can illuminate. The 2010 EarthScope Science Plan, available from http://www.earthscope.org/assets/uploads/pages/es_sci_plan_hi.pdf, provides further details for these examples, and articulates additional scientific targets of interest to EarthScope.

Proposals are encouraged that show evidence of collaborative arrangements between academic and/or industry groups. Activities related to support of EarthScope community coordination, planning, workshops, and development of community resources and products are also welcomed.

Proposals are invited that will provide standardized data, visualization and analysis tools, and data integration products to the scientific and education communities. This includes facilitating the adoption of standards for data exchange for geologic data and the transcription of existing data into these standards. Pilot projects or prototype development for producing and distributing EarthScope products such as multi-parameter models derived from integrated analyses, etc. are also encouraged.

Proposals to this competition must include a clear commitment to make data products and tools openly accessible through EarthScope and other cooperating data and products facilities.

Proposals for development of new instruments should generally submitted to the EAR Instrumentation and Facilities Program, and projects primarily for new technique development without direct application to EarthScope data should generally submitted to programs other than EarthScope.

EarthScope Education and Outreach (E&O)

The EarthScope program invites proposals to address program-wide education and outreach objectives. EarthScope E&O projects should strive to integrate research components of EarthScope with activities that are broadly defined to include formal instruction at all levels and informal education for the community-at-large. Partnerships or collaborations are strongly encouraged among the members of the EarthScope or other educational communities. Proposals may include demonstration products or pilot projects that may be scalable to support larger EarthScope E&O activities in future years. Supplemental proposal preparation instructions and review criteria for education and outreach proposals are given in Sections V and VI.

Opportunities for Research Using EarthScope Borehole Instrumentation

EarthScope borehole instrumentation purchased, but not installed, during PBO construction is available for PI-driven research that would benefit the scientific goals of EarthScope. PIs interested in proposing experiments using this equipment are required to contact the GAGE Facility Program Director (currently Russ Kelz, rkelz@nsf.gov) prior to proposal submission. Prospective PIs should note that all data collected using this equipment must be made freely available to the community via the EarthScope archives in commonly used standard formats and without artificial delay, in keeping with the EarthScope data policy (https://www.nsf.gov/geo/geo-data-policies/ear/es-data-policy.pdf).

Opportunities for Research Using the EarthScope/SAFOD Main Hole

The EarthScope Program is not accepting proposals for experiments involving access to, or use of, the SAFOD Main Hole.

III. AWARD INFORMATION

Under this Solicitation, proposals may be submitted for up to five years. The program expects to make approximately 15 to 25 standard or continuing grants or cooperative agreements with durations of one to five years depending on the quality of submissions and the availability of funds. Approximately $6,000,000 is expected to be available in FY 2015 to support proposals received under this Solicitation, subject to availability of funds.

IV. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION

Who May Submit Proposals:

The categories of proposers eligible to submit proposals to the National Science Foundation are identified in the Grant Proposal Guide, Chapter I, Section E.

Who May Serve as PI:

There are no restrictions or limits.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization:

There are no restrictions or limits.

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI: 2

An individual may appear as Principal Investigator (PI), Co-PI, Senior Personnel (or any similar designation), or elsewhere in the proposal budget in no more than two proposals submitted in response to this solicitation. Applicants are responsible for ensuring that no individual is listed as PI, Co-PI, or Senior Personnel or appears elsewhere in the budget in more than two proposals. In cases where an Investigator appears in three or more proposals, all proposals submitted by that person may be returned without review.

Additional Eligibility Info:

The categories of proposers identified in the Grant Proposal Guide are eligible to submit proposals under this program solicitation. Colleges and universities designated as Undergraduate or Predominately Undergraduate Institutions should consult the guidelines described in Research in Undergraduate Institutions.

Proposals may involve scientists at one organization or collaborative efforts of associated researchers from different organizations working on coordinated projects.

Proposals that have been declined are not eligible for resubmission for one year from the original date of submission and must be substantially revised to be considered. Any such resubmission must contain a separate section of the Project Description explicitly describing what changes have been made to the proposal in response to previous NSF review comments and concerns. A proposal that has not been substantially revised will be returned without review as per the Grant Proposal Guide.

Proposals to conduct scientific research and/or education and outreach activities within North America that make use of capabilities and/or data provided through the EarthScope Facility to further the scientific and educational goals of EarthScope, as described in the 2010 EarthScope Science Plan and/or EarthScope Education and Outreach Implementation Plan, are eligible for submission under this solicitation.

V. PROPOSAL PREPARATION AND SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS

A. Proposal Preparation Instructions

Full Proposal Preparation Instructions: Proposers may opt to submit proposals in response to this Program Solicitation via Grants.gov or via the NSF FastLane system.

  • Full proposals submitted via FastLane: Proposals submitted in response to this program 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: http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=gpg. Paper copies of the GPG may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from nsfpubs@nsf.gov. Proposers are reminded to identify this program solicitation number in the program solicitation block on the NSF Cover Sheet For Proposal to the National Science Foundation. Compliance with this requirement is critical to determining the relevant proposal processing guidelines. Failure to submit this information may delay processing.
  • Full proposals submitted via Grants.gov: Proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation via Grants.gov should be prepared and submitted in accordance with the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide: A Guide for the Preparation and Submission of NSF Applications via Grants.gov. The complete text of the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide is available on the Grants.gov website and on the NSF website at: (http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=grantsgovguide). To obtain copies of the Application Guide and Application Forms Package, click on the Apply tab on the Grants.gov site, then click on the Apply Step 1: Download a Grant Application Package and Application Instructions link and enter the funding opportunity number, (the program solicitation number without the NSF prefix) and press the Download Package button. Paper copies of the Grants.gov Application Guide also may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from nsfpubs@nsf.gov.

In determining which method to utilize in the electronic preparation and submission of the proposal, please note the following:

Collaborative Proposals. All collaborative proposals submitted as separate submissions from multiple organizations must be submitted via the NSF FastLane system. Chapter II, Section D.4 of the Grant Proposal Guide provides additional information on collaborative proposals.

Important Proposal Preparation Information: FastLane will check for required sections of the full proposal, in accordance with Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) instructions described in Chapter II.C.2. The GPG requires submission of: Project Summary; Project Description; References Cited; Biographical Sketch(es); Budget; Budget Justification; Current and Pending Support; Facilities, Equipment & Other Resources; Data Management Plan; and Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan, if applicable. If a required section is missing, FastLane will not accept the proposal.

Please note that the proposal preparation instructions provided in this program solicitation may deviate from the GPG instructions. If the solicitation instructions do not require a GPG-required section to be included in the proposal, insert text or upload a document in that section of the proposal that states, "Not Applicable for this Program Solicitation." Doing so will enable FastLane to accept your proposal.

Please note that per guidance in the GPG, the Project Description must contain, as a separate section within the narrative, a discussion of the broader impacts of the proposed activities. Unless otherwise specified in this solicitation, you can decide where to include this section within the Project Description.

The following information provides instructions that supplement the Grant Proposal Guide and the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide.

Principal investigators are strongly encouraged to contact the EarthScope Program Directors prior to submitting any proposal to the program. Principal investigators planning projects with an annual budget exceeding $300,000 must contact the Program Directors as early as possible during the proposal development process, or the proposal may be returned without review. Please note that this is a threshold level, not an absolute budget cap.

All EarthScope science proposals must explicitly identify which of the EarthScope science targets, as outlined in the 2010 EarthScope Science Plan, the project is intended to address.

All resubmitted proposals must contain a separate section of the Project Description explicitly describing what changes have been made to the proposal in response to previous NSF review comments and concerns.

PIs for proposals that require support from the GAGE and/or SAGE Facilities must obtain formal letters of support commitment from UNAVCO and/or IRIS and include those letters as a Supplementary Document. Proposals requiring facility support but lacking such letters may be returned without review.

All proposals must include as a Single Copy Document, an alphabetized list, in the form of an Excel-compatible spreadsheet, of the last/family names, first/given names, and institutional affiliations of all persons with potential conflicts of interest as specified in NSF's Grant Proposal Guide. For each PI, co-PI, collaborator, and other Senior Personnel, include all co-authors/-editors and collaborators (within the past 48 months), all graduate advisors and advisees, and any other individuals or institutions with which the investigator has financial ties (please specify the type). In addition, list all subawardees who would receive funds through the proposal, if funded.

For EarthScope Education and Outreach (E&O) proposals, the following items must be included in the 15-page Project Description and will be considered in the review:

  • A description of previous educational efforts of the investigators. This might include how the investigator has: 1) influenced his or her research discipline; 2) incorporated or integrated contemporary research questions, processes, and results into educational experiences; 3) contributed to the literature of teaching and learning; 4) mentored others to conduct research and to educate students; or 5) demonstrated leadership among colleagues in promoting the above.
  • A description of the activities to be undertaken related to EarthScope research and to exploring and experimenting with ways to integrate education and research.
  • A plan for assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of the E&O activities.
  • A plan to disseminate those activities that are found to be effective.

Proposals lacking these elements may be returned without review.

Investigators are encouraged to view the EarthScope Education and Outreach Implementation Plan (http://www.earthscope.org/assets/uploads/pages/earthscope-education-and-outreach-implementation-plan.pdf) and to tie their proposed activities to specific EarthScope E&O goals:

1. Create a high-profile public identity for EarthScope that emphasizes the integrated nature of the scientific discoveries and the importance of EarthScope research initiatives.

2. Establish a sense of ownership among scientific, professional, and educational communities and the public so that a diverse group of individuals and organizations can and will make contributions to EarthScope.

3. Promote science literacy and understanding of EarthScope among all audiences through informal education venues.

4. Advance formal Earth science education by promoting inquiry-based classroom investigations that focus on understanding Earth and the interdisciplinary nature of EarthScope.

5. Foster use of EarthScope data, discoveries, and new technology in resolving challenging problems and improving our quality of life.

B. Budgetary Information

Cost Sharing: Inclusion of voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited.

C. Due Dates

  • Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time):

         August 25, 2014

         August 23, Annually Thereafter

D. FastLane/Grants.gov Requirements

For Proposals Submitted Via FastLane:

To prepare and submit a proposal via FastLane, see detailed technical instructions available at: https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/a1/newstan.htm. For FastLane user support, call the FastLane Help Desk at 1-800-673-6188 or e-mail fastlane@nsf.gov. The FastLane Help Desk answers general technical questions related to the use of the FastLane system. Specific questions related to this program solicitation should be referred to the NSF program staff contact(s) listed in Section VIII of this funding opportunity.

For Proposals Submitted Via Grants.gov:

    Before using Grants.gov for the first time, each organization must register to create an institutional profile. Once registered, the applicant's organization can then apply for any federal grant on the Grants.gov website. Comprehensive information about using Grants.gov is available on the Grants.gov Applicant Resources webpage: http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/applicants.html. In addition, the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide (see link in Section V.A) provides instructions regarding the technical preparation of proposals via Grants.gov. For Grants.gov user support, contact the Grants.gov Contact Center at 1-800-518-4726 or by email: support@grants.gov. The Grants.gov Contact Center answers general technical questions related to the use of Grants.gov. Specific questions related to this program solicitation should be referred to the NSF program staff contact(s) listed in Section VIII of this solicitation.

    Submitting the Proposal: Once all documents have been completed, the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) must submit the application to Grants.gov and verify the desired funding opportunity and agency to which the application is submitted. The AOR must then sign and submit the application to Grants.gov. The completed application will be transferred to the NSF FastLane system for further processing.

Proposers that submitted via FastLane are strongly encouraged to use FastLane to verify the status of their submission to NSF. For proposers that submitted via Grants.gov, until an application has been received and validated by NSF, the Authorized Organizational Representative may check the status of an application on Grants.gov. After proposers have received an e-mail notification from NSF, Research.gov should be used to check the status of an application.

VI. NSF PROPOSAL PROCESSING AND REVIEW PROCEDURES

Proposals received by NSF are assigned to the appropriate NSF program for acknowledgement and, if they meet NSF requirements, for review. All proposals are carefully reviewed by a scientist, engineer, or educator serving as an NSF Program Officer, and usually by three to ten other persons outside NSF either as ad hoc reviewers, panelists, or both, who are experts in the particular fields represented by the proposal. These reviewers are selected by Program Officers charged with oversight of the review process. Proposers are invited to suggest names of persons they believe are especially well qualified to review the proposal and/or persons they would prefer not review the proposal. These suggestions may serve as one source in the reviewer selection process at the Program Officer's discretion. Submission of such names, however, is optional. Care is taken to ensure that reviewers have no conflicts of interest with the proposal. In addition, Program Officers may obtain comments from site visits before recommending final action on proposals. Senior NSF staff further review recommendations for awards. A flowchart that depicts the entire NSF proposal and award process (and associated timeline) is included in the GPG as Exhibit III-1.

A comprehensive description of the Foundation's merit review process is available on the NSF website at: http://nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/merit_review/.

Proposers should also be aware of core strategies that are essential to the fulfillment of NSF's mission, as articulated in Empowering the Nation Through Discovery and Innovation: NSF Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years (FY) 2011-2016. These strategies are integrated in the program planning and implementation process, of which proposal review is one part. NSF's mission is particularly well-implemented through the integration of research and education and broadening participation in NSF programs, projects, and activities.

One of the core strategies in support of NSF's mission 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 variety of learning perspectives.

Another core strategy in support of NSF's mission is broadening opportunities and expanding participation of groups, institutions, and geographic regions that are underrepresented in STEM disciplines, which 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.

A. Merit Review Principles and Criteria

The National Science Foundation strives to invest in a robust and diverse portfolio of projects that creates new knowledge and enables breakthroughs in understanding across all areas of science and engineering research and education. To identify which projects to support, NSF relies on a merit review process that incorporates consideration of both the technical aspects of a proposed project and its potential to contribute more broadly to advancing NSF's mission "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes." NSF makes every effort to conduct a fair, competitive, transparent merit review process for the selection of projects.

1. Merit Review Principles

These principles are to be given due diligence by PIs and organizations when preparing proposals and managing projects, by reviewers when reading and evaluating proposals, and by NSF program staff when determining whether or not to recommend proposals for funding and while overseeing awards. Given that NSF is the primary federal agency charged with nurturing and supporting excellence in basic research and education, the following three principles apply:

  • All NSF projects should be of the highest quality and have the potential to advance, if not transform, the frontiers of knowledge.
  • NSF projects, in the aggregate, should contribute more broadly to achieving societal goals. These "Broader Impacts" may be accomplished through the research itself, through activities that are directly related to specific research projects, or through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to, the project. The project activities may be based on previously established and/or innovative methods and approaches, but in either case must be well justified.
  • Meaningful assessment and evaluation of NSF funded projects should be based on appropriate metrics, keeping in mind the likely correlation between the effect of broader impacts and the resources provided to implement projects. If the size of the activity is limited, evaluation of that activity in isolation is not likely to be meaningful. Thus, assessing the effectiveness of these activities may best be done at a higher, more aggregated, level than the individual project.

With respect to the third principle, even if assessment of Broader Impacts outcomes for particular projects is done at an aggregated level, PIs are expected to be accountable for carrying out the activities described in the funded project. Thus, individual projects should include clearly stated goals, specific descriptions of the activities that the PI intends to do, and a plan in place to document the outputs of those activities.

These three merit review principles provide the basis for the merit review criteria, as well as a context within which the users of the criteria can better understand their intent.

2. Merit Review Criteria

All NSF proposals are evaluated through use of the two National Science Board approved merit review criteria. In some instances, however, NSF will employ additional criteria as required to highlight the specific objectives of certain programs and activities.

The two merit review criteria are listed below. Both criteria are to be given full consideration during the review and decision-making processes; each criterion is necessary but neither, by itself, is sufficient. Therefore, proposers must fully address both criteria. (GPG Chapter II.C.2.d.i. contains additional information for use by proposers in development of the Project Description section of the proposal.) Reviewers are strongly encouraged to review the criteria, including GPG Chapter II.C.2.d.i., prior to the review of a proposal.

When evaluating NSF proposals, reviewers will be asked to consider what the proposers want to do, why they want to do it, how they plan to do it, how they will know if they succeed, and what benefits could accrue if the project is successful. These issues apply both to the technical aspects of the proposal and the way in which the project may make broader contributions. To that end, reviewers will be asked to evaluate all proposals against two criteria:

  • Intellectual Merit: The Intellectual Merit criterion encompasses the potential to advance knowledge; and
  • Broader Impacts: The Broader Impacts criterion encompasses the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.

The following elements should be considered in the review for both criteria:

  1. What is the potential for the proposed activity to
    1. Advance knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields (Intellectual Merit); and
    2. Benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes (Broader Impacts)?
  2. To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?
  3. Is the plan for carrying out the proposed activities well-reasoned, well-organized, and based on a sound rationale? Does the plan incorporate a mechanism to assess success?
  4. How well qualified is the individual, team, or organization to conduct the proposed activities?
  5. Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home organization or through collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities?

Broader impacts may be accomplished through the research itself, through the activities that are directly related to specific research projects, or through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to, the project. NSF values the advancement of scientific knowledge and activities that contribute to achievement of societally relevant outcomes. Such outcomes include, but are not limited to: full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); improved STEM education and educator development at any level; increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology; improved well-being of individuals in society; development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce; increased partnerships between academia, industry, and others; improved national security; increased economic competitiveness of the United States; and enhanced infrastructure for research and education.

Proposers are reminded that reviewers will also be asked to review the Data Management Plan and the Postdoctoral Researcher Mentoring Plan, as appropriate.

Additional Solicitation Specific Review Criteria

Proposals that create synergy among the various EarthScope components and activities are encouraged. Proposals will be judged additionally on their relevance to defining community products, developing community tools, and other similar activities.

Proposals to conduct scientific research and/or education and outreach activities within North America that make use of capabilities and/or data provided through the EarthScope Facility to further the scientific and educational goals of EarthScope, as described in the 2010 EarthScope Science Plan and/or EarthScope Education and Outreach Implementation Goals, are encouraged.

For EarthScope Education and Outreach (E&O) proposals, the following items must be included in the 15-page Project Description and will be considered in the review:

  • A description of previous educational efforts of the investigators. This might include how the investigator has: 1) influenced his or her research discipline; 2) incorporated or integrated contemporary research questions, processes, and results into educational experiences; 3) contributed to the literature of teaching and learning; 4) mentored others to conduct research and to educate students; or 5) demonstrated leadership among colleagues in promoting the above.
  • A description of the activities to be undertaken related to EarthScope research and to exploring and experimenting with ways to integrate education and research.
  • A plan for assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of the E&O activities.
  • A plan to disseminate those activities that are found to be effective.

B. Review and Selection Process

Proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation will be reviewed by Ad hoc Review and/or Panel Review.

Reviewers will be asked to evaluate proposals using two National Science Board approved merit review criteria and, if applicable, additional program specific criteria. A summary rating and accompanying narrative will be completed and submitted by each reviewer. The Program Officer assigned to manage the proposal's review will consider the advice of reviewers and will formulate a recommendation.

After scientific, technical and programmatic review and consideration of appropriate factors, the NSF Program Officer recommends to the cognizant Division Director whether the proposal should be declined or recommended for award. NSF strives to be able to tell applicants whether their proposals have been declined or recommended for funding within six months. Large or particularly complex proposals or proposals from new awardees may require additional review and processing time. The time interval begins on the deadline or target date, or receipt date, whichever is later. The interval ends when the Division Director acts upon the Program Officer's recommendation.

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. After an administrative review has occurred, Grants and Agreements Officers perform 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.

Once an award or declination decision has been made, Principal Investigators are provided feedback about their proposals. In all cases, reviews are treated as confidential documents. Verbatim copies of reviews, excluding the names of the reviewers or any reviewer-identifying information, are sent to the Principal Investigator/Project Director by the Program Officer. In addition, the proposer will receive an explanation of the decision to award or decline funding.

VII. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION

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 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.B. for additional information on the review process).

B. Award Conditions

An NSF award consists of: (1) the award notice, 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 notice; (4) the applicable award conditions, such as Grant General Conditions (GC-1)*; or Research Terms and Conditions* and (5) any announcement or other NSF issuance that may be incorporated by reference in the award notice. Cooperative agreements also are administered in accordance with NSF Cooperative Agreement Financial and Administrative Terms and Conditions (CA-FATC) and the applicable Programmatic Terms and Conditions. NSF awards are electronically signed by an NSF Grants and Agreements Officer and transmitted electronically to the organization via e-mail.

*These documents may be accessed electronically on NSF's Website at http://www.nsf.gov/awards/managing/award_conditions.jsp?org=NSF. Paper copies may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from nsfpubs@nsf.gov.

More comprehensive information on NSF Award Conditions and other important information on the administration of NSF awards is contained in the NSF Award & Administration Guide (AAG) Chapter II, available electronically on the NSF Website at http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=aag.

Special Award Conditions:

EAR and EarthScope Data Policies: Principal investigators are required to adhere to the EAR Data Policy (http://www.nsf.gov/geo/ear/EAR_data_policy_204.pdf) and the EarthScope Data Policy (https://www.nsf.gov/geo/geo-data-policies/ear/es-data-policy.pdf). Final reports for all awards must include a statement describing how the data policy requirements have been met.

Publications: Principal investigators are required to provide to the EarthScope National Office full bibliographic details for any publication resulting from funding under this solicitation.

C. Reporting Requirements

For all multi-year grants (including both standard and continuing grants), the Principal Investigator must submit an annual project report to the cognizant Program Officer at least 90 days prior to the end of the current budget period. (Some programs or awards require submission of more frequent project reports). Within 90 days following expiration of a grant, the PI also is required to submit a final project report, and a project outcomes report for the general public.

Failure to provide the required annual or final project reports, or the project outcomes report, will delay NSF review and processing of any future funding increments as well as any pending proposals for all identified PIs and co-PIs on a given award. 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 Research.gov, for preparation and submission of annual and final project reports. Such reports provide information on accomplishments, project participants (individual and organizational), publications, and other specific products and impacts of the project. Submission of the report via Research.gov constitutes certification by the PI that the contents of the report are accurate and complete. The project outcomes report also must be prepared and submitted using Research.gov. This report serves as a brief summary, prepared specifically for the public, of the nature and outcomes of the project. This report will be posted on the NSF website exactly as it is submitted by the PI.

More comprehensive information on NSF Reporting Requirements and other important information on the administration of NSF awards is contained in the NSF Award & Administration Guide (AAG) Chapter II, available electronically on the NSF Website at http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=aag.

EAR and EarthScope Data Policies: Principal investigators are required to adhere to the EAR Data Policy (http://www.nsf.gov/geo/ear/EAR_data_policy_204.pdf) and the EarthScope Data Policy (https://www.nsf.gov/geo/geo-data-policies/ear/es-data-policy.pdf). Final reports for all awards must include a statement describing how the data policy requirements have been met.

VIII. AGENCY CONTACTS

Please note that the program contact information is current at the time of publishing. See program website for any updates to the points of contact.

General inquiries regarding this program should be made to:

  • Gregory J. Anderson, 785 N, telephone: (703) 292-4693, email: greander@nsf.gov

For questions related to the use of FastLane, contact:

For questions relating to Grants.gov contact:

  • Grants.gov Contact Center: If the Authorized Organizational Representatives (AOR) has not received a confirmation message from Grants.gov within 48 hours of submission of application, please contact via telephone: 1-800-518-4726; e-mail: support@grants.gov.

IX. OTHER INFORMATION

The NSF website provides the most comprehensive source of information on NSF Directorates (including contact information), programs and funding opportunities. Use of this website by potential proposers is strongly encouraged. In addition, "NSF Update" is an information-delivery system designed to keep potential proposers and other interested parties apprised of new NSF funding opportunities and publications, important changes in proposal and award policies and procedures, and upcoming NSF Grants Conferences. Subscribers are informed through e-mail or the user's Web browser each time new publications are issued that match their identified interests. "NSF Update" also is available on NSF's website at https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USNSF/subscriber/new?topic_id=USNSF_179.

Grants.gov provides an additional electronic capability to search for Federal government-wide grant opportunities. NSF funding opportunities may be accessed via this new mechanism. Further information on Grants.gov may be obtained at http://www.grants.gov.

Related Programs:

The EarthScope program is closely related to the other programs in the Deep Earth Processes Section, including Continental Dynamics, Earth Sciences Instrumentation and Facilities, Geophysics, Petrology and Geochemistry, and Tectonics. Other closely related programs include EAR Education and Human Resources, Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, Geomorphology and Land Use Dynamics, GeoPRISMS, Hydrologic Sciences, and Marine Geology and Geophysics.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent Federal agency created by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended (42 USC 1861-75). The Act states the purpose of the NSF is "to promote the progress of science; [and] to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare by supporting research and education in all fields of science and engineering."

NSF funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering. It does this through grants and cooperative agreements to more than 2,000 colleges, universities, K-12 school systems, businesses, informal science organizations and other research organizations throughout the US. The Foundation accounts for about one-fourth of Federal support to academic institutions for basic research.

NSF receives approximately 55,000 proposals each year for research, education and training projects, of which approximately 11,000 are funded. In addition, the Foundation receives several thousand applications for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships. The agency operates no laboratories itself but does support National Research Centers, user facilities, certain oceanographic vessels and Arctic and Antarctic research stations. The Foundation also supports cooperative research between universities and industry, US participation in international scientific and engineering efforts, and educational activities at every academic level.

Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities provide funding for special assistance or equipment to enable persons with disabilities to work on NSF-supported projects. See Grant Proposal Guide Chapter II, Section D.2 for instructions regarding preparation of these types of proposals.

The National Science Foundation has Telephonic Device for the Deaf (TDD) and Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) capabilities that enable individuals with hearing impairments to communicate with the Foundation about NSF programs, employment or general information. TDD may be accessed at (703) 292-5090 and (800) 281-8749, FIRS at (800) 877-8339.

The National Science Foundation Information Center may be reached at (703) 292-5111.

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 http://www.nsf.gov

  • Location:

4201 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA 22230

  • For General Information
    (NSF Information Center):

(703) 292-5111

  • TDD (for the hearing-impaired):

(703) 292-5090

  • To Order Publications or Forms:

Send an e-mail to:

nsfpubs@nsf.gov

or telephone:

(703) 292-7827

  • To Locate NSF Employees:

(703) 292-5111


PRIVACY ACT AND PUBLIC BURDEN STATEMENTS

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; and 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 proposer 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 or other entities needing information regarding applicants or nominees as part of a joint application review process, or in order to coordinate programs or policy; 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," 69 Federal Register 26410 (May 12, 2004), and NSF-51, "Reviewer/Proposal File and Associated Records," 69 Federal Register 26410 (May 12, 2004). 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 Office of Management and Budget (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 the burden estimate and any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to:

Suzanne H. Plimpton
Reports Clearance Officer
Office of the General Counsel
National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA 22230



Policies and Important Links

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National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230, USA
Tel: (703) 292-5111, FIRS: (800) 877-8339 | TDD: (800) 281-8749

Last Updated:
11/07/06
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