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NSF Awardee Civil Rights Compliance Program



The National Science Foundation (NSF) does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind, within the Foundation, at awardee organizations, field sites, or anywhere NSF-funded science and education are conducted. The Office of Equity and Civil Rights (OECR) is responsible for the NSF Awardee Civil Rights Compliance Program and is committed to ensuring NSF awardees can learn and explore science without having to tolerate discrimination or harassment.


NSF Awardee Civil Rights Compliance Program's mission is to ensure awardee organizations comply with the following civil rights laws and regulations:

  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin)
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability)
  • Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex)
  • Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (prohibits discrimination on the basis of age).

General Process

Individuals who wish to report harassment or discrimination and believe the basis of the harassment or discrimination may violate any of the regulations above should contact, call (703) 292-8020, or mail to OECR. OECR will confirm receipt of communications within 48 business hours. OECR will also explain rights and responsibilities of the individuals and discuss possible next steps, such as filing a formal complaint.

Please note, OECR will take appropriate steps to protect the names and other personally identifiable information of individuals who submit reports of harassment or discrimination consistent with NSF policy as well as the Privacy Act, FOIA, and other applicable federal law. NSF awardees may not retaliate against individuals who report harassment or discrimination; file harassment or discrimination complaints; participate in a harassment or discrimination complaint; or participate in compliance review as a witness, interviewee and other protected activities.


Who Should Report Harassment or Discrimination?

Anyone who has experienced, witnessed, or is otherwise knowledgeable of harassment or discrimination from an NSF awardee should report it to OECR.

A report of discrimination or harassment is a notification by individuals and organizations which alleges discrimination or harassment, that may violate the regulations defined above, has occurred or is occurring in an NSF-funded program or activity.

These reports may be made by:

  1. Individuals and organizations that have not been harassed or discriminated against but are aware of harassment and discrimination happening to others in NSF-funded programs.
  2. Individuals or organizations who wish for OECR to address, investigate, or resolve alleged harassment and discrimination and:
    • wish to remain anonymous;
    • are not seeking a remedy for themselves but to remedy the alleged harassment; or
    • are seeking to remedy discrimination in a collaborative manner with the NSF awardee that avoids a formal complaint investigation, formal findings of fact, and a determination of the awardee's compliance with above laws and regulations.


To report harassment or discrimination (and filing a formal complaint is not desired) send the information to, call (703) 292-8020, or mail to OECR at:

Office of Equity and Civil Rights (OECR),
2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Suite W 17200
Alexandria, VA 22314

After the communication is received, OECR will contact the individual or organization, explaining their rights and responsibilities, the complaint and compliance review processes, and next steps. Through this consultation, OECR will determine whether to initiate a formal complaint investigation. If a formal complaint investigation is not initiated by OECR, then OECR may use the report/allegation to determine future compliance review sites. Additionally, OECR will provide appropriate assistance to individuals with disabilities, individuals of limited English proficiency, and persons whose communication skills are otherwise limited.

If OECR does not return contact within 48 business hours, follow up may be needed to ensure receipt of the communication.

Who Should File a Formal Complaint?

Individuals who feel they have been discriminated against or harassed in an NSF-funded organization on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age may file a complaint with NSF. Individuals may also file a complaint with NSF if they believe they have been retaliated against for filing a complaint, participating in a complaint investigation, or exercising rights provided by these regulations.

Filing a formal complaint is a request for OECR to investigate the allegation of harassment or discrimination. An OECR investigation is a finding of fact whether the above laws and regulations were violated by the NSF awardee. OECR may need written consent to provide names of complainants to the awardee in order to investigate and resolve complaints. Although complaints may withhold consent and remain anonymous, the scope of the investigation may be limited. In this situation, OECR may close the complaint if the release of the complainant's identity is deemed crucial to the investigation and resolution of the complaint.

Filing a Formal Complaint

To file a complaint requesting NSF to investigate the allegation of harassment or discrimination, an individual should use our online NSF Awardee Program Complaint Form.

If you require a different format to submit a formal complaint please contact us at, call us at (703) 292-8020, fax us at (703) 292-9482.

If an individual informs other NSF offices, divisions, and directorates of harassment or discrimination, the information should be forwarded to OECR. OECR will contact the individual who raised the allegations to determine if the individual wishes to file a discrimination complaint.

More information on the complaint process can be found at


Compliance Reviews

Compliance reviews are NSF-initiated reviews of an awardee organizations' services or activities to determine whether the recipient or applicant complies with Title VI, Title IX, Section 504 and/or the Age Discrimination Act. Such reviews are conducted on a pre-award (prior to a final decision to award an NSF grant) or post-award (after an NSF grant has been awarded) basis.

NSF conducts at least two onsite reviews annually. These reviews are typically conducted post-award and consist of a visit to the awardee's facilities to interview program participants and staff, review documentation, and/or inspect facilities. Prior to arriving onsite, NSF will request that the awardee provide documentation similar to a desk audit.

A desk audit can be performed for both pre-award and post-award. The desk audit entails NSF requesting documentation from an awardee or award applicant that is used to determine compliance with civil rights regulations without visiting the awardee or applicant. Such documentation includes, but is not limited to, policies, procedures, demographic data, program participant data, etc.

Compliance Review Process

NSF will review the information gathered its desk audit and onsite reviews and determine whether or not the awardee or applicant is in compliance with Civil Rights Laws. If the awardee is not in compliance, then NSF will recommend corrective action to bring the awardee into compliance. If the awardee refuses to take correction action, NSF may initiate proceedings to terminate all NSF funding to the recipient.

For more information, please visit the Compliance Review Program web page.


For questions, please contact Bob Cosgrove,, or (703) 292-5310.