Quarterly Newsletter April 2008

Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Request

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently proposed a FY 2009 investment of $6.85 billion to advance the frontiers of research and education in science and engineering. The Budget Request includes an increase of $822 million (14 percent) over the FY 2008 level. NSF investments in the development of new knowledge and talent are vital to advance the frontiers of discovery and to ensure that America remains a global leader in science and technology.

The Administration and Congress have conveyed their clear determination to build on America’s history of success in leading-edge discovery and innovation through increased federal investments in research and education as evidenced by the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) and the America COMPETES Act (ACA) of 2007.

Developments worldwide are driving a new innovation imperative. Knowledge-intensive industries, both in services and manufacturing, are reshaping the global economy. As was noted in Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, high-technology manufacturing worldwide has increased its share of total manufacturing output by 50 percent over the past 20 years. Similarly, knowledge-intensive services (which include business, communication, and financial services) have grown roughly 40 percent faster than other services since the mid 1990s.

For further detailed information, see the NSF website for the FY 2009 Budget Request.

America COMPETES Act – Update

The America COMPETES Act contains several requirements for NSF. NSF is actively processing those directives and devising plans to implement them in a timely manner. As was discussed in the previous issue of this newsletter, NSF is investigating potential implications of the Act’s policy requirements in the following areas:

With the exception of the congressionally mandated reinstatement of cost sharing to the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program, the above policy-related provisions of the ACA have not yet been implemented.

NSF will continue to communicate progress with respect to compliance with the ACA legislation and will provide extensive outreach to the research community prior to any future policy and procedural changes. For more information about NSF and the America COMPETES Act, see the NSF section of H.R. 2272 here. Stay tuned for additional information regarding this legislation.

Research.gov: Powering Knowledge and Innovation

Research.gov is an exciting new initiative led by NSF that enables institutions and grantees to access streamlined research grants management services and other resources for multiple federal agencies in one location.

As part of NSF’s annual budget rollout, NSF announced the release of Research.gov and the initial public services. Research.gov offers the following publicly-available information services which anyone can access:

Research.gov also plans to roll out the following two new services for public use, both of which are currently being BETA tested by more than 50 institutions from around the country:

Consistent with the way NSF built and deployed FastLane, Research.gov is being delivered in a modular and research community-focused manner. Research.gov offers a menu of services that will continue to grow over time. NSF will engage the community on a continual basis as Research.gov services are developed and deployed to ensure they meet the community’s needs. Feedback to date from research institutions has been extremely positive and will be used to further refine the initial business services prior to launching them for all users.

Recently NASA and Department of Defense (DoD) Research joined Research.gov. NSF will be working with NASA and DoD over the coming months to develop plans to extend Research.gov services to those agencies and their grantees.

These services and partnerships are just the beginning. In the future, NSF will continue to add content and develop and implement additional service offerings on Research.gov addressing priorities of the research community and sponsoring agencies. NSF will also continue to explore partnership opportunities with other federal research agencies. For more information or questions, see the Research.gov media kit or contact the Research.gov team.

Desk Reviews Under NSF’s Award Monitoring & Business Assistance Program

Over the past several years NSF has implemented a post award monitoring program designed to evaluate the award administration systems, practices, and capacities of NSF awardees to manage NSF funds. The goal of this program is to provide proactive assistance to NSF awardees to ensure that they comply with the requirements of the award agreement as well as Federal regulations. The Office of Budget, Finance, and Award Management (BFA) conducts a variety of post-award monitoring activities at both the award and institutional level. Within BFA, the Division of Institution and Award Support (DIAS) provides oversight of both site visits and desk reviews that are implemented through the Award Monitoring and Business Assistance Program (AMBAP) and are conducted by NSF staff and NSF contractors.

The latest activity incorporated into the program is the desk review module. During a desk review, awardees’ general business systems are reviewed. Each desk review includes an assessment of general management policies and practices, a review of accounting and financial systems, and a reconciliation of the amount included in one Federal Cash Transaction Report (FCTR). Together the review activities assess the extent to which the awardee has established an internally controlled environment in compliance with federal regulations and specific agreement(s) with NSF.

Desk reviews are designed to:

The desk reviews completed in 2006-2007 identified common areas where awardees need to strengthen their award administration practices in order to successfully manage their awards. The most common grants management concerns include:

NSF is discovering that although most awardees can articulate their practices related to budget monitoring, expenditure approval, and accounting policies, many have not prepared adequate written guidance for employees responsible for these functions. Without adequate written policies and procedures, duties are not enforceable and accountability cannot be ensured.

Once the desk review is complete, NSF compiles the findings, contacts the awardee and, if appropriate, asks for modification and/or strengthening of policies with regard to the areas of concern identified in the desk review report. In some instances, NSF will require the awardee to provide an Action Plan detailing how it will correct these concerns.

For further guidance on award administration issues, see the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG), which is comprised of documents relating to NSF's proposal and award process and consists of two parts: the Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) and the Award Administration Guide (AAG). AAG, Chapter II is designed to provide an overview of NSF award monitoring.

NSF plans to complete 150 desk reviews in FY 2008. This article is the first in a series that will discuss the new desk review monitoring strategy.

For more information on the Award Monitoring and Business Assistance Program, please contact Rosalind Jackson-Lewis, Project Director at rjackson@nsf.gov, or (703) 292-4582.

NSF Regional Grants Conference

The first National Science Foundation Regional Grants Conference of FY 2009 will be held in Omaha, NE, and hosted by the University of Nebraska Lincoln on October 20-21, 2008.

Key representatives from the National Science Foundation as well as your colleagues - faculty, researchers and grant administrators - representing colleges and universities from around the US will participate.

This two-day conference is a must, especially for new faculty, researchers and administrators who want to gain key insight into a wide range of current issues at NSF. Highlights include:

NSF Program Officers representing each NSF Directorate will be on hand to provide up-to-date information about specific funding opportunities and answer your questions.

Questions about conference registration should be directed to nsf_regional@nsf.gov, or by calling (703) 465-2648.

For additional information regarding program content, contact the Policy Office in the Division of Institution and Award Support at (703) 292-8243, or by sending an e-mail to policy@nsf.gov.

NSF Spring Outreach