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Proposals That Include Ship Time

May 19, 2017

Here in OCE we are aware that there has been some confusion over the past couple of years about when to submit NSF proposals that include a request for ship time. As reported in several recent issues of Making Waves, we developed a plan to restructure the proposal submission and scheduling processes so there would be enough lead time to make the overall process as efficient and cost-effective as possible. For a variety of reasons there was some concern that the plan could adversely impact ocean-going science.

Our purpose here is to reformulate OCE guidance on the submission of NSF seagoing science proposals in terms that emphasize the need for sufficient lead time between proposal submission and the expedition itself.

When should an ocean-going science proposal be submitted to NSF?

  • For research requesting Global- or Ocean-class UNOLS vessels: The proposal with UNOLS Request attached should be submitted at least 18 months before the anticipated time of the first cruise.
  • For Intermediate-, Regional-, and Local-class vessels: The proposal with UNOLS Request attached should be submitted with as much lead time as is practical, but we recommend doing so at least 12 months before the anticipated time of the first cruise.

Keeping the above lead time guidance in mind, proposals may be submitted for either of the two annual OCE target dates -- 15 February or 15 August. (Yes, this is a change from the earlier guidance we provided in the Fall 2012, Winter 2013, and Fall 2014 issues of Making Waves.)

Is that a hard-and-fast rule? Or are exceptions possible?

  • While it is impossible to foresee every possible situation or research opportunity that might occur, as a rule ship time will only rarely be scheduled within the same year in which a proposal is submitted.
  • Highly-meritorious RAPID proposals are notable exceptions that would be handled on a case-by-case basis by the cognizant science, ship operations, and facilities program officers in dialog with the ship operator and the principal investigator.

What else should a principal investigator do before submitting a proposal to go to sea?

  • Once the scientific scope of the research is defined, prospective PIs should carefully and realistically consider the technological and logistical requirements of the expedition and then align the request for a specific ship and the amount of ship time accordingly.
  • Principal investigators should educate themselves regarding potential scheduling opportunities by either contacting ship operating institutions, calling the UNOLS Office, and/or logging onto the UNOLS scheduling web site (accessible with password provided by UNOLS).

And last but not least, early engagement with your cognizant program officer at NSF – even before the proposal writing is begun — is always wise, especially if the project is logistically complex and carries a hefty price-tag. As we’ve said many times before: If in doubt about what you are doing or what you need to do, get in touch with your program officer!

(This article was originally submitted in Making Waves Summer 2016 Newsletter)

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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