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Program Announcement NSF 99-32

Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences

deadline date: March 1, 1999

Table of Contents


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Table of Contents
Program Description
Award Information
Proposal Preparation
     Preparation Instructions
     Proposal Due Dates
     Fastlane Requirements
Proposal Review
     Merit Review Criteria
          Intellectual Merit
          Broader Impacts
          Research and Education
          Integrating Diversity
          Particular Criteria
     Customer Service Standard
Award Administration
     Notification of the Award
     Grant Award Conditions
     Reporting Requirements
     New Awardee Information
Contacts for Additional Information
Other Programs of Interest
About the NSF
Privacy Act and Public Burden


The Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) announces a Special Focus to increase and improve infrastructure to support the social and behavioral sciences. The Division of Social, Behavioral and Economic Research (SBER) has supported critical large-scale infrastructure for the SBE sciences ever since it first supported continuing sample survey projects in the 1960s. These investments have ranged from experimental facilities to centers for scholarly interactions, from a comprehensive survey that has followed the same families for a generation to narrowly defined data collections subsequently shared among researchers. Major parts of the behavioral, and especially the social sciences owe their substantial development to the widespread use of these resources. The societal benefits have accumulated apace, including fundamental understanding of poverty, income disparities, social stratification, voting patterns, family dissolution, public attitudes, and parents' investments in their children.

Yet, challenging scientific questions and associated societal dilemmas still abound. These require new infrastructure, even new kinds of infrastructure, for their elucidation. Simultaneously, the expanding capabilities of the World Wide Web to create, consolidate, and share infrastructure resources are barely touched in the social and behavioral sciences. This confluence of major payoffs to existing infrastructure, unanswered scientific questions requiring new infrastructure, and unprecedented power to bring data, researchers, and experimental facilities together electronically creates a singular window of opportunity. This Special Focus aims to realize this opportunity by expanding the number and variety of infrastructure projects that are large, innovative, and long-running.

Plans call for a second Special Focus competition, to be held in FY 2000, subject to availability of funds. Updated solicitations, which may include revised research emphases or adjustments to submission and review procedures, will be released in advance of these competitions. Researchers are encouraged to visit the SBE web-site (https://www.nsf.gov/sbe/start.htm) for any update on this Special Focus.

Program Description

This Special Focus aims to create or extend innovative large-scale infrastructure projects that promise widely spread support to social and behavioral scientists. Proposed projects may fall entirely within one of the following four areas or a combination of them.

Proposals may be to establish complete infrastructure projects or to prototype particularly new and risky ideas. Proposals must include specific suggested criteria for evaluation of the project at both intermediate and final stages of the grant.


Proposals may be submitted by individual investigators, by small groups from universities or by inter-university consortia. Synergistic collaboration among researchers and collaboration or partnerships with industry or government agencies are encouraged when appropriate. Only one proposal may be submitted by a Principal Investigator and he/she may collaborate in one other proposal as a co-Investigator. Group and collaborative proposals involving more than one institution must be submitted as a single administration package from one of the institutions involved. Due to the limited availability of funds, prospective applicants are strongly urged to contact one of the program officers listed at the end of this document for guidance.

Award Information

Under this Focus, SBER intends to make at least four to eight awards, depending on the quality of submissions and the availability of funds. These awards will be at the level of $500,000 to $1 million per year, continuing for up to ten years. Approximately $3 million will be available in FY 1999. Meritorious projects not funded in FY 1999 may be held over for funding in FY 2000. All awards will be made as grants or cooperative agreements, subject to specified reporting procedures. The budget for supported projects may be expected to ramp down in the final years of the award.

Proposal Preparation & Submission Instructions

A. Proposal Preparation Instructions.

Proposals submitted in response to this program announcement should be prepared and submitted in accordance with the general guidelines contained in the Grant Proposal Guide (GPG), NSF 99-2. The complete text of the GPG (including electronic forms) is available electronically on the NSF Web site at: https://www.nsf.gov/. Paper copies of the GPG may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone 301.947.2722 or by e-mail from pubs@nsf.gov.

Proposers are reminded to identify the program announcement number (NSF 99-32) in the program announcement/solicitation block on the NSF Form 1207, "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. Proposers may also identify the regular NSF program(s) most appropriate for disciplinary review of the proposal.

B. Proposal Due Dates.

Proposers are encouraged to submit proposals electronically through the NSF FastLane system (see Section D below). Such proposals MUST be submitted by 5:00 PM, local time, March 1, 1999. For proposals submitted electronically via the FastLane system, the signed proposal Cover Sheet (NSF Form 1207) should be forwarded to the following address and received by NSF by March 7, 1999.

National Science Foundation
DIS-FastLane Cover Sheet
4201 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22230

A proposal may not be processed until the complete proposal (including signed Cover Sheet) has been received by NSF.

For paper submission of proposals, the paper copies of the proposal MUST be received at NSF by 5:00 PM, ET, March 1, 1999. Copies of the proposal must be made and submitted to NSF according to the normal procedures for paper proposals identified in the GPG.

C. FastLane Requirements.

The NSF FastLane system is available for electronic preparation and submission of a proposal through the Web at the FastLane Web site at http://www.fastlane.nsf.gov. The Sponsored Research Office (SRO or equivalent) must provide a FastLane Personal Identification Number (PIN) to each Principal Investigator (PI) to gain access to the FastLane "Proposal Preparation" application. PIs that have not submitted a proposal to NSF in the past must contact their SRO to be added to the NSF PI database. This should be done as soon as the decision to prepare a proposal is made.

In order to use NSF FastLane to prepare and submit a proposal, the following are required:

Browser (must support multiple buttons and file upload)

PDF Reader (needed to view/print forms)

PDF Generator (needed to create project description)

A list of registered institutions and the FastLane registration form are located on the FastLane Web page.

For paper submission of proposals, the delivery address must clearly identify the NSF announcement or solicitation number under which the proposal is being submitted.

Proposal Review Information

A. Merit Review Criteria.

Review of proposals submitted to NSF are solicited from peers with expertise in the substantive area of the proposed research or education project. These reviewers are selected by Program officers charged with the oversight of the review process. NSF invites the proposer to suggest at the time of submission, the names of appropriate or inappropriate reviewers. Special care is taken to ensure that reviewers have no immediate and obvious conflicts with the proposer. Special efforts are made to recruit reviewers from non-academic institutions, minority serving institutions, adjacent disciplines to that principally addressed in the proposal, etc.

Proposals for infrastructure that meet the specified criteria for content and size, and that are received by March 1, 1999, will be reviewed according to this procedure, no matter which Program the proposal is submitted to (such proposals received after this due date will be held for the FY 2000 competition.) Ad hoc mail review by experts in the area of the proposal will be followed by review in the regular external program panel(s) most relevant to the subject matter of the proposal. Reviewers will be asked to formulate a recommendation to either support or decline each proposal. A special external Infrastructure Panel will then consider all submitted proposals under this Special Focus and make recommendations for funding. The most competitive proposals may be site visited in the summer of 1999. Grants will be announced in late summer 1999. Interim site visits and continuation decisions will generally occur during the third and sixth year for longer-running projects.

Proposals will be reviewed against the following general merit review criteria established by the National Science Board. Following each criterion are potential considerations that the reviewer may employ in the evaluation. These are suggestions and not all will apply to any given proposal. Each reviewer will be asked to address only those that are relevant to the proposal and for which he/she is qualified to make judgments.

What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity?

How important is the proposed activity to advancing knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields? How well qualified is the proposer (individual or team) to conduct the project? (If appropriate, the reviewer will comment on the quality of prior work.) To what extent does the proposed activity suggest and explore creative and original concepts? How well conceived and organized is the proposed activity? Is there sufficient access to resources?

What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?

How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning? How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)? To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships? Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?

Integration of Research and Education

One of the principal strategies in support of NSF's goals is to foster integration of research and education through the programs, projects and activities it supports at academic and research institutions. These institutions provide abundant opportunities where individuals may concurrently assume responsibilities as researchers, educators, and students and where all can engage in joint efforts that infuse education with the excitement of discovery and enrich research through the diversity of learner perspectives. PIs should address this issue in their proposal to provide reviewers with the information necessary to respond fully to both NSF merit review criteria. NSF staff will give it careful consideration in making funding decisions.

Integrating Diversity into NSF Program, Projects, and Activities

Broadening opportunities and enabling the participation of all citizens -- women and men, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities -- 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. PIs should address this issue in their proposal to provide reviewers with the information necessary to respond fully to both NSF merit review criteria. NSF staff will give it careful consideration in making funding decisions.

Criteria Particular to this Special Focus

In addition to these general merit criteria, the following evaluation criteria specific to this initiative will be used in all steps of evaluation. Not all criteria will apply to any given proposal. Reviewers will be asked to address only those that are relevant to the proposal and for which he/she is qualified to make judgments.

    1. Scientific importance. How likely is it that the project will stimulate research leading to important discoveries? Extending to other fields? Producing significant innovations in investigative methods?
    2. Availability. How would the infrastructure be made available to researchers or other users and on what terms?
    3. Applicability. What is the expected use of the infrastructure investment by researchers? In which disciplines?
    4. Administration. Is management responsibility fixed in a specific principal investigator (or close co-investigator)? Are management structure and personnel well suited to administering the project efficiently, effectively, and responsibly?
    5. Collaboration. Is there a role for partners in education, industry or the user community?
    6. Cost. Is the project's cost not excessive and commensurate with the importance of the questions addressed?
    7. Relationship to existing facilities. What is the balance between innovative investment in existing facilities and start-up costs of new facilities?
    8. General worth. Will the project lead, down the line, to new knowledge that justifies the initial investment?
    9. Continuation. Is there a plan for continuing the project, if appropriate, when NSF support ends?

Proposals for Data, Records and Objects of Investigation

    1. Will the project produce data or objects focused on the most important scientific questions facing social and behavioral science?
    2. Do the new materials fill an important niche unfilled by other data bases or collections?
    3. Are the collection or measurement methods relevant, valid, and novel?
    4. Will the data or objects be linked or integrated with other data bases or collections?

Proposals for Web-based Data Archiving Systems

    1. Does the system incorporate state-of-the art capabilities and best practices in use in other fields of science, engineering, government, and industry?
    2. Will the system be effectively linked with complementary national or international systems?
    3. Does the project have potential to discover new confidentiality protection methodologies or arrangements that can greatly expand the range and detail of information that can be made available for research?
    4. Will the system incorporate novel capabilities for metadata use and item searching across information sources?

Proposals for Web-based Collaboratories

    1. Can the project greatly expand the number of subjects and scientists participating simultaneously in an experiment?
    2. Will the project significantly extend the range of research questions investigated by laboratory methods?
    3. Will the project significantly extend the usefulness of expensive laboratory equipment?
    4. Will the project enable greatly expanded sharing of research progress and results?

Programs Featuring Centers (These criteria will be applied to proposals in the fourth area listed in the Program Description above, and to proposals in any other area for which these criteria are relevant.)

    1. What will be the quality and diversity of participating researchers?
    2. Is the mechanism for selecting participants open, inclusive, and fair?
    3. How promising are the mechanisms for promoting truly collaborative research that would not otherwise occur?
    4. Can the project readably adapt to changing scientific possibilities and requirements and to innovations in communications and collaboration?

B. Customer Service Standard For Merit Review.

A special NSF committee assigned to manage the proposal's review will consider the advice of the outside reviewers described above and will formulate a recommendation. In most cases, proposers will be contacted by a program officer after the committee's recommendation to award or decline funding has been approved by the supervisor, the division director. This informal notification is not a guarantee of an eventual award. NSF will be able to tell applicants whether their proposals have been declined or recommended for funding within six months for 95 percent of proposals in this category. In those cases where a proposal is being considered for joint funding by separate divisions, directorates, or agencies, NSF will be able to tell applicants within nine months in 95 percent of proposals. The time interval begins on the proposal deadline or target date or from the date of receipt, if deadlines or target dates are not used by the program. The interval ends when the division director accepts the program officer's recommendation.

In all cases, after final programmatic approval has been obtained, the recommendation then goes to the Division of Grants and Agreements for review of business, financial and policy implications and the processing and issuance of a grant or other agreement. Proposers are cautioned that only a Grants 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 an 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 Officer does so at its own risk.

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 Division administering the program. Verbatim copies of reviews, not including the identity of the reviewer, will be provided automatically to the Principal Investigator.

B. Grant Award Conditions.

An NSF grant consists of: (1) the award letter, which includes any special provisions applicable to the grant 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 letter; (4) the applicable grant conditions, such as Grant General Conditions (NSF GC-1)* or Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) Terms and Conditions* and (5) the program announcement incorporated by reference in the award letter. Electronic mail notification is the preferred way to transmit NSF grants to organizations that have electronic mail capabilities and have requested such notification from the Division of Grants and Agreements.

*These documents may be accessed electronically on NSF's Web site at: https://www.nsf.gov/. Paper copies may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone 301.947.2722 or by e-mail from pubs@nsf.gov.

Cooperative agreement awards also are administered in accordance with NSF Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions (CA-1). More comprehensive information on NSF Award Conditions is contained in the NSF Grant Policy Manual (GPM) Chapter II, (NSF 95-26) available electronically on the NSF Web site. The GPM also is available in paper copy by subscription from the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402. The GPM may be ordered through the GPO Web site at: http://www.gpo.gov.

C. Reporting Requirements.

For all multi-year grants (including both standard and continuing grants), the PI must submit an annual project report to the cognizant Program Officer at least 90 days before the end of the current budget period.

Within 90 days after expiration of a grant, the PI also is required to submit a final project report. Approximately 30 days before expiration, NSF will send a notice to remind the PI of the requirement to file the final project report. Failure to provide final technical reports delays NSF review and processing of pending proposals for that PI. PIs should examine the formats of the required reports in advance to assure availability of required data.

NSF has implemented a new electronic project reporting system, available through FastLane, which permits electronic submission and updating of project reports, including information on: project participants (individual and organizational); activities and findings; publications; and, other specific products and contributions. Reports will continue to be required annually and after the expiration of the grant, but PIs will not need to re-enter information previously provided, either with the proposal or in earlier updates using the electronic system.

Effective October 1, 1998, PIs are required to use the new reporting format for annual and final project reports. For those PIs who cannot access FastLane, paper copies of the new report formats may be obtained from the NSF Clearinghouse as specified above. NSF expects to require electronic submission of all annual and final project reports via FastLane beginning in October, 1999.

D. New Awardee Information.

If the submitting organization has never received an NSF award, it is recommended that the organization's appropriate administrative officials become familiar with the policies and procedures in the NSF Grant Policy Manual which are applicable to most NSF awards. The "Prospective New Awardee Guide" (NSF 97-100) includes information on: Administration and Management Information; Accounting System Requirements and Auditing Information; and Payments to Organizations with Awards. This information will assist an organization in preparing documents that NSF requires to conduct administrative and financial reviews of an organization. The guide also serves as a means of highlighting the accountability requirements associated with Federal awards. This document is available electronically on NSF's Web site at: https://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/getpub?nsf97100.

Contacts for Additional Information

General inquiries should be made to Mr. William P. Butz, Director, Division of Social, Behavioral and Economic Research, Room 995N, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA 22230, telephone 703.306.1760, email: wbutz@nsf.gov or to Dr. Hilleary D. Everist, Deputy Division Director, Division of Social, Behavioral and Economic Research, Room 995N, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA 22230, telephone 703.306.1760, email: heverist@nsf.gov. For questions related to use of FastLane, contact the SBER FastLane Representative, 703.306.1760, e-mail: sber-fast@nsf.gov.

Other Programs of Interest

The NSF Guide to Programs is a compilation of funding opportunities for research and education in science, mathematics, and engineering. General descriptions of NSF programs, research areas, and eligibility information for proposal submission are provided in each chapter. Beginning in fiscal year 1999, the NSF Guide to Programs will only be available electronically. Many NSF programs offer announcements concerning specific proposal requirements. To obtain additional information about these requirements, contact the appropriate NSF program offices listed in Appendix A of the GPG.

Any changes in NSF's fiscal year programs occurring after press time for the Guide to Programs will be announced in the NSF E-Bulletin, available electronically on the NSF Web site at: https://www.nsf.gov/. The direct URL for the E-Bulletin is:


Subscribers can also sign up for NSF's Custom News Service to find out what funding opportunities are available.

About the National Science Foundation

NSF funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering. Grantees are wholly responsible for conducting their project activities and preparing the results for publication. Thus, the Foundation does not assume responsibility for such findings or their interpretation.

NSF welcomes proposals on behalf of all qualified scientists, engineers and educators. The Foundation strongly encourages women, minorities and persons with disabilities to participate fully in its programs. In accordance with Federal statutes, regulations and NSF policies, no person on grounds of race, color, age, sex, national origin or disability shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving financial assistance from NSF (some programs may have special requirements that limit eligibility).

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. (For more information, see Section V.G.)

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) 306-0090, FIRS at 1-800-877-8339.

The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance number is 47.075, Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences.

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 needing information as part of the review process or in order to coordinate programs; 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," 63 Federal Register 267 (January 5, 1998), and NSF-51, "Reviewer/Proposal File and Associated Records," 63 Federal Register 268 (January 5, 1998). Submission of the information is voluntary. Failure to provide full and complete information, however, may reduce the possibility of receiving an award.

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 this burden estimate and any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to:

Mary Lou Higgs Acting Reports Clearance Officer
Information Dissemination Branch
Division of Administrative Services
National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA 22230

NSF 99-32
OMB 3145-0058
P.T.: 04, 18, 34, 36
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