EarthCube:
Developing a Community-Driven Data and Knowledge Environment for the Geosciences

Program Solicitation
NSF 16-514

Replaces Document(s):
NSF 13-529

NSF Logo

National Science Foundation

Directorate for Geosciences

Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering
     Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure

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

     March 24, 2016

EarthCube Prototypes

     March 24, 2016

EarthCube Capabilities

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

     Proposals Accepted Anytime

EarthCube RCN

IMPORTANT INFORMATION AND REVISION NOTES

This solicitation replaces NSF 13-529. The structure of the EarthCube solicitation stays the same. This solicitation continues the amendments to the umbrella EarthCube solicitation structure with Amendment V. Amendments I-IV can be found on the EarthCube Program Page.

Through the work of past EarthCube awards, Building Blocks, Conceptual Designs and RCNs, as well as countless hours of volunteer efforts, the scientific community has developed strategic directions in both the scientific and technical areas. Capabilities from these awards have helped the community in the initial stages of understanding architectural approaches that will help achieve the EarthCube vision. Further information on EarthCube community activities and documents may be found here: http://earthcube.org/. This solicitation reflects the next stage of EarthCube development guided by these community activities.

Any proposal submitted in response to this solicitation should be submitted in accordance with the revised NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 16-1), which is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after January 25, 2016. Please be advised that proposers who opt to submit prior to January 25, 2016, must also follow the guidelines contained in NSF 16-1.

SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

General Information

Program Title:

EarthCube:
Developing a Community-Driven Data and Knowledge Environment for the Geosciences

Synopsis of Program:

EarthCube is a community-driven activity sponsored through a partnership between the NSF Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) and the Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (ACI) to transform research in the academic geosciences community. EarthCube aims to create a well-connected and facile environment to share data and knowledge in an open, transparent, and inclusive manner, thus accelerating our ability to understand and predict the Earth system.

Achieving EarthCube will require a long-term dialog between NSF and the interested scientific communities to develop cyberinfrastructure that is thoughtfully and systematically built to meet the current and future requirements of geoscientists. New avenues will be supported to gather community requirements and priorities for the elements of EarthCube, and to capture the best technologies to meet these current and future needs. The EarthCube portfolio will consist of interconnected projects and activities that engage the geosciences, cyberinfrastructure, computer science, and associated communities. The portfolio of activities and funding opportunities will evolve over time depending on the status of the EarthCube effort and the scientific and cultural needs of the geosciences community.

This umbrella solicitation for EarthCube allows funding opportunities to be flexible and responsive to emerging needs and collaborative processes. The EarthCube vision and goals do not change over time, and this section of the solicitation will remain constant. Funding opportunities to develop elements of the EarthCube environment will be described in Amendments to this solicitation. Amendments will appear in the Program Description section of the solicitation and will include details on the parameters, scope, conditions, and requirements of the proposal call. Researchers who receive alerts related to solicitation releases will receive notification when the EarthCube solicitation is updated with an Amendment.

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.

  • Eva Zanzerkia, Directorate for Geosciences, Earth Sciences Division, telephone: (703) 292-4734, email: ezanzerk@nsf.gov

  • Amy Walton, Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, telephone: (703) 292-4538, email: awalton@nsf.gov

  • Michael Sieracki, Directorate for Geosciences, Division of Ocean Sciences, telephone: (703) 292-7585, email: msierack@nsf.gov

  • Ilia I. Roussev, Directorate for Geosciences, Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Divsion, telephone: (703) 292-8519, email: iroussev@nsf.gov

  • Marc Stieglitz, Directorate for Geosciences, Polar Programs, telephone: (703) 292-2461, email: mstiegli@nsf.gov

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

  • 47.050 --- Geosciences
  • 47.070 --- Computer and Information Science and Engineering

Award Information

Anticipated Type of Award: Standard Grant or Continuing Grant

Estimated Number of Awards: 17 to 19

Up to 19 awards total for Amendment V. The number will be determined based on the results of the merit review process and availability of funds. Amendment V anticipates up to 2 awards for Prototypes, 3-5 awards for Research Coordination Networks (RCNs) and up to 12 for Capabilities.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $13,000,000

NSF anticipates funding for Amendment V (Prototypes, Capabilities and Research Coordination Networks) to be $13,000,000 pending availability of funds. The size of awards will vary based on the scope and complexity of the funding opportunity and the projects supported under that call.

Specific size and duration limitations will be articulated in Amendments to this solicitation.

Eligibility Information

Who May Submit Proposals:

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Universities and Colleges - Universities and two- and four-year colleges (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in, the US acting on behalf of their faculty members. Such organizations also are referred to as academic institutions.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.
  • Other Federal Agencies and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs): Contact the appropriate program before preparing a proposal for submission.

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:

There are no restrictions or limits.

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):

         March 24, 2016

    EarthCube Prototypes

         March 24, 2016

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

         Proposals Accepted Anytime

    EarthCube RCN

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:

Standard NSF reporting requirements apply.

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

EarthCube is a community-driven activity aimed at transforming the conduct of geosciences research and education. This effort is a partnership between the NSF Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) and the Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (ACI). The goal of EarthCube is to create a well-connected and facile environment to share data and knowledge for all of the geosciences in an open, transparent, and inclusive manner and to accelerate our ability to understand and predict the Earth system.

In 2009 the Advisory Committee for GEO issued the GEO Vision report: (http://www.nsf.gov/geo/acgeo/geovision/geo_strategic_plans_2012.pdf) identifying the challenges and opportunities facing the geosciences in the next decade. The report included this call to action: "Over the next decade, the geosciences community commits to developing a framework to understand and predict responses of the Earth as a system, from the space-atmosphere boundary to the core, including the influences of humans and ecosystems." In 2014 the Advisory Committee for GEO issued the Dynamic Earth: GEO Imperatives and Frontiers 2015-2020 report. (http://www.nsf.gov/geo/acgeo/geovision/nsf_ac-geo_dynamic-earth-2015-2020.pdf), identifying the priorities and focus areas for the geosciences in the next five years.

EarthCube responds to the challenges and opportunities of the Geo Vision report and the vision of a national cyberinfrastructure noted in NSF's Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science and Engineering (CIF21). In this effort NSF encourages the community to systematically build cyberinfrastructure for the geosciences that is guided by community dialog, governance, and a common vision. EarthCube endeavors to create an environment that is extendable and manageable, and employs or creates technologies that meet the current and future needs of the geosciences community. EarthCube will foster the training and development of data scientists and cyber-savvy geoscientists. It is expected that EarthCube will build off present NSF and Federal investments in geosciences cyberinfrastructure and will integrate state-of-the art cyberinfrastructure, software development and computer science techniques.

The EarthCube program is designed to be responsive to the needs of and input from the geosciences community, as well as technological advances. Funding opportunities in the EarthCube portfolio will be defined in Amendments to this solicitation and will be based on themes, requirements, and other strategic or community documents from open community activities fostered by EarthCube such as, but not limited to, community meetings, workshops and design and demonstration activities.

Amendments to this solicitation will appear in the Program Description section and will include details on the type, scope, duration, and size of proposals being requested, funding requirements, additional review criteria, and due dates.

II. PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

The goal of EarthCube is to create a well-connected and facile environment to share data and knowledge for all of the geosciences in an open, transparent, and inclusive manner, accelerating our ability to understand and predict the Earth system.

How To Use This Solicitation: As noted in the Important Information Section at the beginning of this solicitation, this document serves as an umbrella solicitation for EarthCube. Funding opportunities will be responsive to themes, requirements, and other strategic or community documents from open community activities. In the structure of this solicitation, funding opportunities will be articulated in Amendments in the Program Description.

The description, vision, and overall goals for EarthCube will not change over time. Only the Amendment Section (see below) will change. When a funding opportunity is available, the Amendment section will detail the specifications of the proposal call including (a) what types of proposals are being solicited; (b) references to the relevant community documents that guided the call and determined the focus of the funding opportunity; (c) the specific funding mechanism(s) employed; (d) proposal due dates or submission windows; (e) any special review criteria and/or reporting criteria; (f) and other specifics of the funding opportunity. As EarthCube evolves over time, new Amendments will replace old Amendments. A listing of all Amendments will be found on the EarthCube NSF Program website (http://www.nsf.gov/geo/earthcube/).

AMENDMENT V:

This is the fifth Amendment to the EarthCube solicitation. The objective of Amendment V is to solicit proposals in three focus areas to further advance EarthCube 1) EarthCube Prototypes, 2) EarthCube Capabilities and 3) EarthCube Research Coordination Networks (RCNs).

In this document, geosciences refers to the academic research community supported by the Geosciences Directorate at NSF, and includes the domains of atmospheric and geospace science, ocean sciences, earth sciences and polar sciences. Further details on the scientific topics that are supported in the geosciences can be found within the GEO core programs.

At this stage of EarthCube's development, the scientific community has refined the EarthCube vision:

EarthCube's long-term vision is a community-driven, dynamic cyberinfrastructure that supports standards for interoperability, infuses advanced technologies to improve and facilitate interdisciplinary research, and helps educate scientists in the emerging practices of digital scholarship, data and software stewardship and open science.

Through the work of EarthCube awards, Building Blocks, Conceptual Designs and RCNs, as well as countless hours of volunteer efforts, the scientific community has developed strategic directions in both the scientific and technical areas. Capabilities from these awards have helped the community in the initial stages of understanding architectural approaches that will help achieve the EarthCube vision. Further information on EarthCube community activities and documents may be found here: http://earthcube.org/.

EarthCube architecture may be viewed as a framework of technical capabilities that connects the cyberinfrastructure resources available to and used by the scientific community. Potential elements of this framework may come from past EarthCube awards, such as Building Blocks and the current Integrative Activities. Other capabilities also exist outside EarthCube, and are provided by facilities, projects and resources supported by agencies, institutions, industry and individual researchers. It is clear that gaps still exist in this framework, and new capabilities are still required to improve interoperability and access and use of geosciences information. The opportunity to carry out these activities are articulated in EarthCube Capabilities.

At the same time, the EarthCube community is ready to extend what has been learned from their initial planning and two years of awards. The agile strategy EarthCube envisions for advancing the geosciences cyberinfrastructure framework requires a cycle to extend, test, and evaluate current capabilities and understanding. The opportunity to support this cycle of evaluation is articulated in EarthCube Prototypes.

This Amendment supports three opportunities that will move the community forward to future development of EarthCube. The Amendment is arranged as follows:

Funding Opportunities

  1. EarthCube Prototypes
    • Description of the activity
    • Specific Requirements
    • Additional Review Criteria
    • Additional Proposal Preparation Guidelines
  2. EarthCube Capabilities
    • Description of the activity
    • Specific Requirements
    • Additional Review Criteria
    • Additional Proposal Preparation Guidelines
  3. EarthCube Research Coordination Networks (RCN)
    • Description of the activity
    • Specific Requirements
    • Additional Review Criteria
    • Additional Proposal Preparation Guidelines

Funding Opportunities:

  1. EarthCube Prototypes

    • Award Information:
    • Deadline: March 22, 2015
    • Estimated Number of Awards: 1-2
    • Estimated Award Size and Duration: Awards must be 36 months in duration and up to $2,500,000 in total budget.

    Description of the Activity:

    Outcomes from previous EarthCube Building Blocks, and Conceptual Designs have informed initial descriptions of EarthCube architecture, the framework for connecting cyberinfrastructure resources available to and used by the geosciences research community. These awards have also provided demonstrations of technical capabilities that could form elements of this framework. New collaborations between geosciences and cyberinfrastructure and computer scientists have led to a better understanding of the existing resources that support geoscience research, and gaps that may exist in both these resources and our ability to connect them.

    This opportunity supports a further cycle of agile development of this framework for EarthCube architecture. It seeks to build on these previous efforts, taking advantage of what has been learned in the past 24 months, and informing design of the EarthCube architecture through prototyping. Prototype projects are larger than previous EarthCube awards in the scale of the collaboration, expected to combine capabilities and resources in new ways, and expected to produce broader technological and scientific outcomes.

    This opportunity encourages new partnerships, cross-fertilization of ideas, and the engagement of new facilities and technologies. Prototypes do not need to involve past EarthCube projects, and it is recognized that other efforts, agencies, institutions and resources can provide technical capabilities that would be elements of EarthCube architecture. However, Prototypes may build upon the capabilities exposed in other EarthCube projects, and link to continuing EarthCube efforts.

    Prototypes have two essential components: 1) the development of technical capabilities, and 2) innovative geosciences research outcomes. Prototypes should extend and implement technical capabilities in a practical way to benefit geosciences research. This will be one mechanism to ensure that the EarthCube architecture supports infrastructure that improves the research community's ability to conduct transformative science. Prototypes should also advance our understanding of the current EarthCube framework by:

    • Linking together several capabilities to evaluate how technologies may work together
    • Exposing gaps in the EarthCube architecture and the framework of existing resources by attempting broad, grand challenge science using existing capabilities; and
    • Introducing new capabilities and resources and combining them to address identified gaps in the framework.

    Prototype projects must:

    • Use community developed use cases across several geosciences domains to demonstrate science outcomes not possible without the Prototype activity. Proposals will be judged on the innovation and breadth of the science outcomes.
    • Proposals must demonstrate how the enabling capabilities work relates to discussions of the architecture framework being developed by EarthCube. Proposals will be evaluated on the use of modern technology and approaches, and the collaboration with cyberinfrastructure and computer science experts in developing these strategies.
    • Proposals must consider how the work fits within the context of resources used and supported within the geosciences, and how the proposed infrastructure would enable those resources. Sustainability of the project beyond the three-year effort should be discussed.

    Specific Requirements:

    1. Collaboration: EarthCube Prototypes must involve deep engagement and participation of the academic geosciences research community in the development of resources, capabilities and scientific outcomes. Because EarthCube seeks to build bridges between geoscientists and those that build cyberinfrastructure, strategies for true partnerships and useful developments are necessary for successful proposals. Proposals must identify specific geosciences communities and data/cyberinfrastructure facilities, that will participate in project. Similarly, proposals must identify cyberinfrastructure, computer science, industry, international and agency partners that will participate.

    2. Geosciences Outcomes: Geosciences research and outcomes in atmospheric and geospace, Earth, ocean or polar sciences that are innovative and could not be realized without the prototype must be described. Proposals should articulate how the science outcomes respond to grand challenges in the academic geosciences, are broadly recognized within the relevant science domains, how geoscientists will be involved in carrying out this research, and what science use cases are employed and addressed. Proposals should also describe how scientific results and the technology to enable other scientists to make similar advances will be disseminated to the academic geosciences community. Proposals will be evaluated on the innovation and breadth of the science outcomes, as well as how other researchers will benefit from the developed capabilities.

    3. Technical Demonstrations: EarthCube Prototypes must produce a yearly demonstration of technical capabilities, with an associated written document describing the capabilities that becomes a public, shared resource. These demonstrations give the broader community the opportunity to understand and assess capabilities and synergies between funded projects. Proposals must discuss what will be demonstrated and evaluated. Proposals must clearly articulate how project outcome(s) relate to the goals of EarthCube and to specific needs articulated by the scientific communities involved. A discussion of the project's lifecycle/sustainability of efforts must be presented.

    4. EarthCube Participation: EarthCube Prototypes must participate in continuing EarthCube governance activities. Awardees will be required to participate in planning and demonstration and assessment activities. These awards will be a significant element of further community development of the EarthCube architecture. Therefore, awardees must participate in governance activities, including providing members for both scientific and technical committees, the EarthCube All-Hands meeting, providing any outputs required for testing and evaluation, and making outcomes transparent to the community. Proposers should describe in their Management plans how their anticipated structure, personnel, and work plan and management will accommodate these responsibilities.

    Additional Review Criteria:

    1. What are the science outcomes described in the proposal? Are they innovative and made possible by the Prototype development? How are outcomes tied to grand challenges, and of interest to and involving many geosciences domains? Are the science outcomes possible given the team and workplan?

    2. How does the prototype fit within the framework of resources that serve the geosciences community? How does the proposal describe how the prototype responds to and informs the EarthCube architecture? How well are the components extensible and potentially useful to other geosciences communities? Is there a clear description of the data, software, or standards that will be produced by this project? Software is intended in this instance to refer to scientific analysis, visualization or modeling tools necessary to achieve scientific outcomes.

    3. Is the management plan and team appropriate for the goals of the project? What is the plan to demonstrate the proposed capability or resource? How does the project intend to work with EarthCube Governance for the demonstration and assessment of the project outcomes?

    4. How many researchers and which domains in the geosciences will benefit from the outcomes of the project? How does the project involve and serve more than one geosciences research field? Are participants from geosciences communities explicitly identified and are their roles clear? How does the project clearly demonstrate end user involvement in development and use of a community capability? How will the work enable the community to participate in EarthCube development?

    5. A sustainability plan must be included. It must describe how any capabilities developed in the Prototype could be supported beyond the project time period. This may include integration into long-term data or cyberinfrastructure resources either supported by NSF or other institutions, agencies or partners. Plans will be evaluated on the viability of the sustainable resource, the fit to the infrastructure being developed and the likelihood of ingestion into the long-term system.

    Proposal Preparation Guidelines for EarthCube Prototypes:
    Proposals must follow these guidelines in addition to, or in replacement of, the requirements in Section V.A in this solicitation.

    1. Cover Page- The title of the proposed project should begin with the words: "EarthCube Prototypes:" Collaborative Proposals should begin with "EarthCube Prototypes: Collaborative Proposal:"

    2. Project Summary-The Project Summary must include a list of all the collaborating institutions involved in the proposal irrespective of whether they are receiving funds.

    3. Project Description - This section may be no longer than 15 pages. In addition to intellectual merit and broader impacts, the project description should describe how the work meets the specific requirements and any additional review criteria indicated. The Project Description must include a Management plan that describes plans and procedures for the development and assessment of the proposed activity. The plan should include a list of all participating members of the collaboration, including non-funded participants, their institutions and roles in the project. A clear timeline of expected outcomes should be included. A Sustainability Plan must also be included for any infrastructure developments that may need support beyond the term of the project.

    4. Budget - In a collaborative project, any institution with a budget of less than $100,000 must be included as a subaward in the budget of the lead institution's proposal, and not as a separate proposal.

    5. Special Information and Supplementary Documents- In addition to the Supplementary Documents required in Section V.A:
    6. Letters of Collaboration must be provided for any organization or individuals mentioned in the Project Description and Management Plan but not receiving funds (i.e., mentioned in the proposal and not listed in any of the associated budgets). Letters of Collaboration must list the personnel participating in the project and their affiliations and describe the work that the unfunded collaborators will be conducting for the project.

  2. EarthCube Capabilities

    • Award Information:
    • Deadline: March 22, 2015
    • Estimated Number of Awards: up to 12
    • Estimated Award Size and Duration: Awards must be between 24 and 36 months in duration. Budgets must be between $500,000 and $1,700,000 and commensurate with the scale and scope of the proposed project.

    Description of the Activity:

    The goal of this activity is to support ongoing development of elements of the EarthCube framework. Projects are intended to allow a broader segment of the geosciences and cyberinfrastructure communities to participate and help shape future EarthCube activities and outcomes. Awards will range in scale and effort and will have similar scopes to the Building Blocks and Integrative Activities of past solicitations (see NSF 13-529, Amendment III and IV).

    Building Blocks projects are larger-scale projects that connect disciplines and demonstrate extensible technologies. These projects are cyberinfrastructure integration and development projects that have the potential to broadly serve the geosciences community. EarthCube Building Blocks will provide value to the EarthCube enterprise by contributing to one or more of the following:

    • Increased capabilities to a broader set of geoscientists through the integration of existing technology components;
    • Creation or modification of cyberinfrastructure to overcome barriers or inefficiencies as identified by the geosciences community in community documents such as the GEO domain workshop reports; and/or
    • Development of essential components of an EarthCube framework that currently do not exist but are identified in on-going community discussion and documents such as roadmaps, domain workshop reports, and community forums.

    Building Blocks will be those that best serve the needs of academic geoscientists in more than one domain and that closely involve geoscientists, and their recognized community organizations in the planning, development and testing of cyberinfrastructure. Successful proposals will demonstrate collaborative and community-oriented solutions, as well as innovative combinations of technology that can potentially be implemented across the entire geosciences community. Awards must also demonstrate how the capability/project is relevant and extensible across the geosciences and fits within the ecosystem of geosciences cyberinfrastructure.

    Standards Developments and Data Infrastructure projects are smaller-scale awards, that may impact a single domain or community, or may provide critical support for activities needed to carry out EarthCube Governance activities. A sustainability plan for any infrastructure beyond the project time period should be included that may include integration into long-term data systems either supported by NSF or other institutions.

    Standards Developments are opportunities for communities to develop standards and best practices for data, models, and other research tools in a way that makes these resources more interoperable within a scientific community and within EarthCube, enabling research communities to better participate in EarthCube development. Proposals may provide platforms, such as testbeds, or develop other temporary and provisional tools or cyberinfrastructure for the purpose of reaching these standards. Proposals may involve existing capabilities in EarthCube projects or other existing cyberinfrastructure resources and can develop tools to explore how these resources will meet (or fail to meet) user requirements or community research challenges. The outcomes of these awards may be data or modeling standards or other guidelines that become apparent through the proposed testing. Proposals must describe how these standards will then be adopted as best practices by a research community, and how these standards will make geosciences resources more available or interoperable across the geosciences.

    Proposals may also address critical needs identified through EarthCube Governance, and its committees, to carry out the goals and mission of EarthCube. These proposals may improve community standards and capabilities through testing of ongoing scientific or cyberinfrastructure efforts, facilities or projects. These efforts may involve existing EarthCube projects, such as EarthCube Building Blocks, but they may also expose and explore other extant cyberinfrastructure resources as solutions to geosciences needs. Proposals should clearly describe what testing will be conducted and how that will lead to outcomes within 24 months that better align research communities, projects, or other efforts with EarthCube.

    Data Infrastructure for a community are opportunities for scientific disciplines to collectively define data requirements, metadata, community-recognized data collections and data types, outputs from models and other codes that will improve the community’s ability to address geosciences research challenges. Projects may develop prototypes and evaluative pilots to meet common data access and discovery needs, and to extend data resources, of interest either to a large number of researchers within a research domain, or extending beyond to encompass other geosciences domains. These projects are not intended for long-term resource or infrastructure support, but rather initial pilots to make the products of geosciences research more openly and more readily available to the EarthCube effort and the geosciences as a whole. Successful proposals will include detailed descriptions on options for sustaining infrastructure or community data after the end of the 24-month Integrative Activity award. This may be accomplished through existing data facilities, ingestion into other infrastructure at the institutional, regional, national or international levels, or through other mechanisms that successfully demonstrate long-term maintenance. Re-use of existing modern tools and resources is highly encouraged, and proposals should describe elements of reuse.

    Specific Requirements:

    1. Collaboration: EarthCube Capabilities must involve deep engagement and participation of the academic geosciences research community in the development of resources, products or other outcomes. Because EarthCube seeks to build bridges between geoscientists and those that build cyberinfrastructure, strategies for true partnerships and useful developments are necessary for successful proposals. Proposals must identify specific geosciences communities and data/cyberinfrastructure facilities, including other EarthCube projects, such as Building Blocks, RCNs or Conceptual Designs, that will participate in the project. Similarly, proposals must identify cyberinfrastructure, computer science, industry, international and agency partners who will participate.

    2. Outcomes: EarthCube Capabilities must produce a demonstration of capabilities within 24 months, with an associated written document describing the capabilities that becomes a public, shared resource.Guidelines for further requirements from demonstrations will be articulated by EarthCube Governance. Awards with durations of longer than 24 months must still meet this requirement with an interim demonstration. Building Blocks awards must also demonstrate how the capability/project is relevant and extensible across the geosciences and fits within the ecosystem of geosciences cyberinfrastructure. These demonstrations give the broader community the opportunity to understand and assess capabilities and synergies with other activities. Proposals must discuss what will be demonstrated and evaluated. Proposals must clearly articulate how project outcome(s) relate to the goals of EarthCube and to specific needs articulated by the scientific communities involved. A discussion of the project's lifecycle/sustainability of efforts must be presented.

    3. .EarthCube Participation: EarthCube Capabilities must participate in continuing EarthCube governance activities. Awardees will be required to participate in planning and demonstration activities as part of the collaborative spirit of EarthCube. In particular, awardees must participate in governance committees, the EarthCube All-Hands meeting and must be ready to provide any outputs required by the EarthCube Governance organization. Proposers should describe in their Management plans how their anticipated structure, work plan and management will accommodate these responsibilities.

    Additional Review Criteria:

    1. Is there a clear description of the community data, software, or standards development that will be met by this project? Is any prototype, pilot, platform or tool development well conceived for the outcome of the project? What is the likelihood of successful creation and adoption of any product? For Building Block projects, how extensible is the technology or capability development? For Standards Development proposals, will the suggested experiment or testbed be implementable in the proposed timeframe and produce the desired outcomes? For Data Infrastructure proposals, is the resource development modern, robust and responsive to community needs?

    2. Is the management plan and team appropriate for the goals of the project? What is the plan to demonstrate the proposed capability or resource? How does the project intend to work with EarthCube Governance for the demonstration and assessment of the project outcomes?

    3. How many researchers and which domains in the geosciences will benefit from the outcomes of the project? For Building Block projects, how does the project involve and serve more than one geosciences research field? Are participants from geosciences communities explicitly identified and are their roles clear? How does the project clearly demonstrate end user involvement in development and use of a community capability? How will the work enable the community to participate in EarthCube development?

    4. A sustainability plan must be included for any infrastructure component of the project that is intended to continue. It must describe how the infrastructure will be supported beyond the project time period, and may include integration into long-term data or cyberinfrastructure resources either supported by NSF or other institutions, agencies or partners. Plans will be evaluated on the viability of the sustainable resource, the fit to the infrastructure being developed and the likelihood of ingestion into the long-term system.

    Proposal Preparation Guidelines for EarthCube Capabilities:
    Proposals must follow these guidelines in addition to, or in replacement of, the requirements in Section V.A in this solicitation.

    1. Cover Page- The title of the proposed project should begin with the words: "EarthCube Building Blocks:", "EarthCube Standards Development" or "EarthCube Data Infrastructure." Collaborative Proposals follow with the term Collaborative Proposal, for example, "EarthCube Building Blocks: Collaborative Proposal:"

    2. Project Summary-The Project Summary must include a list of all the collaborating institutions involved in the proposal irrespective of whether they are receiving funds.

    3. Project Description - This section may be no longer than 15 pages. In addition to intellectual merit and broader impacts, the project description should describe how the work meets the specific requirements and any additional review criteria indicated. The Project Description must include a Management Plan that describes plans and procedures for the development and assessment of the proposed activity. The plan should include a list of all participating members of the collaboration, including non-funded participants, their institutions and roles in the project. A clear time line of expected outcomes should be included. A Sustainability Plan must also be included for any infrastructure developments that may need support beyond the term of the project.

    4. Budget - In a collaborative project, any collaborative institution with a budget of less than $50,000 must be included as a subaward in the budget of the lead institution's proposal, and not as a separate proposal.

    5. Special Information and Supplementary Documents-
    6. In addition to the Supplementary Documents required in Section V.A:

      Letters of Collaboration must be provided for any organization or individuals mentioned in the Project Description and Management Plan but not receiving funds (i.e., mentioned in the proposal and not listed in any of the associated budgets). Letters of Collaboration must list the personnel participating in the project and their affiliations and describe the work that the unfunded collaborators will be conducting for the project.


  3. EarthCube Research Coordination Networks (RCN)
  4. Award Information-

    • Estimated Number of Awards: 3-5
    • Estimated Award Size and Duration: A maximum of 24 months and a maximum of $300,000.
    • Proposal Submission: Proposals will be accepted at any time after discussion with program directors and agreement that a proposal should be submitted. Proposals must list the programs and/or program directors that have agreed to the submission in the Project Summary. Proposals without this information will be returned without review.

Description of the Activity

The goal of 2016 EarthCube Research Coordination Networks (RCNs) is to be closely tied to the science and cyberinfrastructure needs of core geosciences programs and domains supported by GEO. To that end, potential proposers must coordinate EarthCube RCN ideas and discuss submission of any EarthCube RCN proposal with the relevant GEO program directors as well as at least one EarthCube program director.

EarthCube RCNs are intended to advance geosciences cyberinfrastructure through interaction, discussion and planning between geoscientists and cyberinfrastructure experts. RCNs provide opportunities for academic geosciences communities to organize, seek input, come to consensus and prioritize data, modeling, and technology needs, as well as standards and interoperability within and across domains. Other opportunities exist to realize cyberinfrastructure development and build tools and services. Outcomes must be tangible and directed towards moving geoscientists closer to shared goals. RCNs are an important information and feedback mechanism within the EarthCube process. Results from these projects will provide feedback for the direction of EarthCube, including architecture and geosciences-wide cyberinfrastructure developments.

Awards will support geosciences communities to organize and partner with like geosciences communities to discuss, plan and coordinate the standards, policies and cyberinfrastructure that will meet their end users' common data, software, computation, networking and training needs. EarthCube RCNs should 1) build and strengthen partnerships between geo- and cyber/computer scientists; 2) foster new collaborations that lead to better scientific outcomes; 3) expose participants to new ideas, methodologies, approaches, tools, and utilities; 4) reduce redundancies and duplication of effort; and 5) expose best practices and "lessons learned" in data management.

EarthCube RCNs may center around:

  • The development of community standards, data citation or other community plans for data management in one or more fields of the geosciences. This will help communities to address NSF requirements for data management plans in proposals.
  • The articulation of common cyberinfrastructure and technology grand challenges across different geosciences disciplines, including dialog towards designing potential solutions for data integration, computation, modeling, software and/or visualization needed to meet future scientific and education goals.

RCNs should explore innovative ideas for implementing virtual organizations, community networking strategies and collaborative technologies. Successful proposals will need to demonstrate broad academic geosciences participation, with an emphasis on active engagement of early-career scientists.

Specific Requirements

  1. Focus/Topic: EarthCube RCN proposals must be rooted in the academic geosciences community, and include cyber/computer scientists as key participants. Proposals must specify what activities will be undertaken, what groups will be involved, what products will be generated by network activities, and how information about the network and opportunities to participate will be disseminated. The proposal should also outline the expected benefits of the network's activities in moving one or more geosciences fields forward in scientific goals through cyberinfrastructure, as well as the implications for the broader community. The specific outcomes from the RCN should be described.

  2. Participation: Participation and involvement in EarthCube Governance, including meetings, events and sharing information between RCNs and other EarthCube projects is required. PIs should allocate financial resources to support representatives in EarthCube meetings and activities. Proposals must include a section on how the network will interact with EarthCube Governance activities.

  3. Steering Committee: Each RCN must have a steering committee primarily composed of academic geoscientists. Cyber and/or computer scientists should also have key roles within the network, and these should be described in the proposal. The Steering Committee should reflect the diversity of the network’s participants, and be responsible for the network’s success, but remain a manageable size. The proposal should articulate the roles of the Steering Committee members and the reasons for their selection.

  4. Network Participants: The size of an RCN is expected to vary depending on the topic or issue and network needs. It is expected that a network will involve investigators at diverse organizations, including different levels of academic institutions. The inclusion of new researchers, post-docs, graduate students, and undergraduates is strongly encouraged. An initial network of likely participants should be identified by position at the institution and name. However, proposals should clearly articulate well-developed mechanisms that will maintain openness, ensure access, and actively promote participation by interested parties outside of that initial list of participants. Although inclusion of federal agencies, international organizations and commercial partners is welcome, RCNs are intended to serve the needs of geoscientists in US academic institutions. NSF funding predominantly supports participation by US researchers. Any proposed international collaboration should articulate how it strengthens the project's activities. Participants from institutions outside the US are encouraged to seek support from their respective funding organizations. NSF funds may not be used to support the expenses of international scientists and students at their home institutions.

  5. Outcomes and Information Sharing: EarthCube RCNs must produce an outcome within 24 months. They must promote effective communication via virtual organizations, foster new partnerships and provide opportunities for collaboration focused on actionable improvements for the academic geosciences community. Any outcomes of the RCN, including discussion forums, documents, policies and practices must be openly shared with the academic community. Proposals should detail mechanisms that will be used to serve these materials. This should include working closely with other aspects of EarthCube, including EarthCube Governance.

Additional Review Criteria:

  1. RCN proposals will be evaluated for their potential to advance geosciences research through effective organization of the community and outcomes that advance data management plans, policies and standards or articulation of cyberinfrastructure needs. RCNs cannot use resources to fund research, build cyberinfrastructure or prototypes, or to sustain existing networks.
  2. 2. RCNs will be evaluated on how well they represent their respective geosciences communities, the quality and caliber of the collaboration with cyberinfrastructure and computer scientists, and the processes and efforts to engage a broad and diverse set of participants. Proposals will be evaluated on plans to participate in EarthCube Governance and share information with the EarthCube community.

  3. Projects are expected to have strong management and integration plans that describe how the activity will be coordinated between partners and how the partners will function as a whole.

Proposal Preparation Guidelines for EarthCube RCNs:

Proposals must follow these guidelines in addition to, or in replacement of, the requirements in Section V.A.

  1. Cover Page The title of the proposed project should begin with the words: "EarthCube RCN:"
  2. Project Summary The Project Summary must begin with a list of the programs and program directors within GEO that have agreed to the submission of the EarthCube RCN.
  3. Project Description The Project Description should begin with a list of the Steering Committee members and their institutions. The Project Description should address aspects of management, coordination, and participant diversity within the 15-page project description, as described below.

    1. Management Plan. Describe plans and procedures for the development and assessment of the proposed activity. Include formal mechanisms to ensure fair and equitable allocation of group resources. Clearly define the responsibilities for leadership and the role of the PI and the Steering Committee. Delineate the procedures used for the selection of initial network participants, along with the plans for maintaining an appropriate degree of openness and for encouraging the involvement of additional interested parties. Means for self-evaluation of progress toward the network goals should be presented as an important part of the management plan.
    2. Coordination Plan. Describe the plan for coordinating with other EarthCube Governance. If the proposed network will work with other established networks or groups, or if there is a similar activity being planned or ongoing in other countries, describe the plans for coordination and cooperation among the relevant networks.

  4. Budget In a collaborative project, any collaborative institution with a budget of less than $50,000 must be included as a subaward in the budget of the lead institution's proposal, and not as a separate proposal.

    Funds from this program may not support independent, individual research projects of the participants; nor are they to be used as a mechanism for a mini-grant awarding program. Note that funds requested to support activities of the network participants, such as participant travel, materials and supplies for the network projects, and network retreats should be listed as "participant support" in the proposed budget, and managed by the submitting organization.

III. AWARD INFORMATION

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

Estimated Number of Awards: 17-19

Up to 19 awards total for Amendment V. The number will be determined based on the results of the merit review process and availability of funds. Amendment V anticipates up to 2 awards for Prototypes, 3-5 awards for Research Coordination Networks (RCNs) and up to 12 for Capabilities.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $13,000,000

NSF anticipates funding for Amendment V (Prototypes, Capabilities and Research Coordination Networks) to be $13,000,000 pending availability of funds. The size of awards will vary based on the scope and complexity of the funding opportunity and the projects supported under that call.

Specific size and duration limitations will be articulated in Amendments to this solicitation

IV. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION

Who May Submit Proposals:

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Universities and Colleges - Universities and two- and four-year colleges (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in, the US acting on behalf of their faculty members. Such organizations also are referred to as academic institutions.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.
  • Other Federal Agencies and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs): Contact the appropriate program before preparing a proposal for submission.

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:

There are no restrictions or limits.

Additional Eligibility Info:

Proposals involving non-NSF FFRDC or Federal agency personnel must be approved prior to submission to ensure appropriate submission parameters related to funding personnel at these institutions. PIs should contact the cognizant PO. In all cases non-NSF FFRDC or Federal agency contributors must appear in one of two ways: (1) a subaward on a proposal submitted by an academic or non-profit institution or (2) a proposal that is submitted as part of a collaborative effort lead by an academic or non-profit institution.

NSF-funded FFRDCs are exempt from the above restriction and may submit proposals without restriction.

Please be aware that if you have not received NSF funding you will be required to submit additional information before an award can be recommended. Please refer to the Prospective New Awardee Guide for information and preparation of the necessary documentation: http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=pnag.

For-profit organizations may participate as subawardees on proposals that are led by eligible institutions. The purpose of EarthCube is to serve closely the needs of the academic geosciences community and this type of partnership ensures that close connections between for-profit efforts and academic institutions are maintained.

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.

See Chapter II.C.2 of the GPG for guidance on the required sections of a full research proposal submitted to NSF. Please note that the proposal preparation instructions provided in this program solicitation may deviate from the GPG instructions.

The following Proposal Preparation instructions are modifications to the Grant Proposal Guide and should be followed for all proposals, except where an Amendment in Section II of the solicitation notes proposal preparation guidelines. In that case, any instructions provided in the Amendment should also be followed.

  1. Project Description
  2. Results from Prior NSF Support Results of Prior Support do NOT need to be included in the Project Description. Instead, they should be included as Supplementary Documents as described below. Other components of the Project Description must conform to modifications described in the Amendment.

  3. References Cited
  4. Reference information is required. Any Publication that includes any of the team collaborators should have an asterisk as the first character of the reference.

  5. Budget
  6. Any subawards must have associated, annualized budgets with budget justifications included in the proposal. Refer to instructions within the Amendment for minimum budgets for proposals in a collaborative project.

  7. Current and Pending Support
  8. The Current and Pending Support must identify the number of salary-months covered by each source and whether these are summer, academic or calendar months.

  9. Special Information and Supplementary Documentation
  10. Results of Prior Support: A maximum of one page per team member (PI, co-PI, post-doc, funded collaborator) should be included in the supplementary documents. Any researcher who has received support from an NSF grant in the past 5 years must include results of prior support. If a researcher has not had prior support, an explicit statement should be included to that effect in this section.

  11. Additional Single Copy Documents

Proposals that do not provide the following information will be returned without review.

  1. Project Personnel (text-searchable PDF, in FastLane, under Additional Single Copy Documents). List all Senior Personnel in the project. For each person, provide the last name, first name, and institution/organization. In the main body of the proposal, a corresponding biographical sketch should be provided for all individuals included on this list, as instructed in Section II.C.2.f of the Grant Proposal Guide.

  2. Collaborators/Individuals with Conflicts of Interest (text-searchable PDF, in FastLane, under Additional Single Copy Documents). Provide a list, in an alphabetized table, of the full 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 type). In addition, list all subawardees who would receive funds through the award, as well as their conflicts of interest.
  3. A template table for this information will be available at http://www.nsf.gov/geo/earthcube as an Excel file. This list will be used by NSF to check for conflicts of interest in assembling the review panel.

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):

         March 24, 2016

    EarthCube Prototypes

         March 24, 2016

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

         Proposals Accepted Anytime

    EarthCube RCN

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://www.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 Investing in Science, Engineering, and Education for the Nation's Future: NSF Strategic Plan for 2014-2018. 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 strategic objectives 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 must recruit, train, and prepare a diverse STEM workforce to advance the frontiers of science and participate in the U.S. technology-based economy. NSF's contribution to the national innovation ecosystem is to provide cutting-edge research under the guidance of the Nation's most creative scientists and engineers. NSF also supports development of a strong science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce by investing in building the knowledge that informs improvements in STEM teaching and learning.

NSF's mission calls for the broadening of 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

Additional Review Criteria for EarthCube funding opportunities is detailed in the Amendment in Section II.

B. Review and Selection Process

Proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation will be reviewed by

Ad hoc Review and/or Panel Review, or Internal NSF Review.

Specific additional review criteria will vary depending on the funding opportunity and is articulated for each funding opportunity in the Amendment section of this solicitation.

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 generally be completed and submitted by each reviewer and/or panel. 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:

Any Special Award Conditions will be described in the Amendment in Section II.

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 no later than 90 days prior to the end of the current budget period. (Some programs or awards require submission of more frequent project reports). No later than 120 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.

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:

  • Eva Zanzerkia, Directorate for Geosciences, Earth Sciences Division, telephone: (703) 292-4734, email: ezanzerk@nsf.gov

  • Amy Walton, Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, telephone: (703) 292-4538, email: awalton@nsf.gov

  • Michael Sieracki, Directorate for Geosciences, Division of Ocean Sciences, telephone: (703) 292-7585, email: msierack@nsf.gov

  • Ilia I. Roussev, Directorate for Geosciences, Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Divsion, telephone: (703) 292-8519, email: iroussev@nsf.gov

  • Marc Stieglitz, Directorate for Geosciences, Polar Programs, telephone: (703) 292-2461, email: mstiegli@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.

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

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



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