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Synthesis of Arctic System Science

Program Solicitation
NSF 05-525

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National Science Foundation
Office of Polar Programs

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

    March 18, 2005


General Information

Program Title:

Synthesis of Arctic System Science

Synopsis of Program:

This solicitation is for research that synthesizes our understanding of the arctic system. The arctic system is a set of interconnected and interacting physical, biological, and human components and processes in the northern region influenced by the existence of perennial ice (sea ice, ice sheets, glaciers, permafrost, etc.). Research efforts supported will build on and integrate the wealth of existing data and knowledge to advance our understanding of the behavior of the arctic system or key subsets of the system and to understand the role it plays in the global system and society.

Cognizant Program Officer(s):

  • Neil R. Swanberg, Arctic System Science Program Director, Office of the Director, Office of Polar Programs, 755 S, telephone: (703) 292-8029, email:

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

  • 47.078 --- Office of Polar Programs

Eligibility Information

  • Organization Limit: None Specified.
  • PI Eligibility Limit: None Specified.
  • Limit on Number of Proposals: None Specified.

Award Information

  • Anticipated Type of Award: Standard or Continuing Grant
  • Estimated Number of Awards: 5 to 15
  • Anticipated Funding Amount: $5,000,000 total, combined from FY 2005 and FY 2006 for awards up to three years, pending availability of funds

Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions

A. Proposal Preparation Instructions
  • Full Proposal Preparation Instructions: This solicitation contains information that supplements the standard Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) proposal preparation guidelines. Please see the full text of this solicitation for further information.
B. Budgetary Information
  • Cost Sharing Requirements: Cost Sharing is not required.
  • Indirect Cost (F&A) Limitations: Not Applicable.
  • Other Budgetary Limitations: Other budgetary limitations apply. Please see the full text of this solicitation for further information.
C. Due Dates
  • Full Proposal Deadline Date(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time):
      March 18, 2005

Proposal Review Information

  • 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: Additional reporting requirements apply. Please see the full text of this solicitation for further information.


Summary of Program Requirements

  1. Introduction

  2. Program Description

  3. Eligibility Information

  4. Award Information

  5. Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions
    1. Proposal Preparation Instructions
    2. Budgetary Information
    3. Due Dates
    4. FastLane Requirements

  6. Proposal Review Information
    1. NSF Proposal Review Process
    2. Review Protocol and Associated Customer Service Standard

  7. Award Administration Information
    1. Notification of the Award
    2. Award Conditions
    3. Reporting Requirements

  8. Contacts for Additional Information

  9. Other Programs of Interest


The Arctic System and the ARCSS Program

The Arctic is a complex system consisting of physical, biological, and social components that interact across a wide range of temporal and spatial scales. Sea ice, ice sheets, and permafrost distinguish the Arctic from lower latitude systems. The arctic system behaves in ways that are not fully understood and has demonstrated the capacity for rapid, amplified, and unpredictable change with global implications. Because of the Arctic’s pivotal role in the Earth’s climate, it is critical —perhaps urgent— that we understand this system in light of abundant evidence that a set of linked and pervasive changes are underway. What do these changes mean for the future of both the Arctic and the Earth? Answering this question is the overarching goal of the NSF ARCSS Program. To achieve this goal, ARCSS research focuses on understanding the fundamental characteristics, dynamics, and controlling principles of the arctic system through integration and synthesis of knowledge from past and ongoing studies.

Specifically, ARCSS-supported research seeks to:

  • Identify the most sensitive and critical components and interactions driving arctic system behavior.
  • Integrate and synthesize modeling results, observations, process understanding, paleo-environmental data, and human dimensions knowledge.
  • Strengthen interactions between arctic research communities and the broader Earth system science community in order to ensure that the Arctic is accurately represented in earth system models.
  • Enhance two-way communication with stakeholders, decision-makers, and the public to increase the impact of ARCSS research.

During the past 15 years the ARCSS Program has supported research that primarily focused on individual components of the arctic system such as the land (LAII) and ocean components (OAII), and more recently on interactions among several components, for instance through investigations of the freshwater cycle. Targeted initiatives have addressed the heat budget of sea ice (SHEBA), physical and biogeochemical processes on the ocean shelf-basin margin (SBI), and the Russian (RAISE) and Alaskan (SNACS) coastal zones. There have also been concerted efforts to understand the modern state of the Arctic in light of paleo-conditions (GISP, PALE, PARCS), and the relationship between arctic environmental changes and people (HARC). These programs have contributed enormously to our understanding of the Arctic. Further information about ARCSS research projects is at Additional information about many currently funded ARCSS projects is available on the VECO Polar Resources website at: (click on “GIS Maps/Reports”).

The next step in advancing toward an integrated understanding of the system is to focus explicitly on questions that link multiple system components and processes across a range of temporal and spatial scales. Moreover, an abundance of data has been generated by ARCSS Program research, much of which has not been fully utilized (see,, This solicitation seeks projects that will undertake this synthesis. The call for proposals is timely because the pace of arctic change has accelerated; an integrated system understanding is now essential to establish a scientific basis for predicting environmental change and —most importantly— for supporting decision-making processes in society and formulating policy options.


Proposals are sought that discover, clarify, and improve our understanding of linkages, interactions, and feedbacks among two or more components of the arctic system. Strong proposals focused on arctic synthesis will meet all of the following criteria (addressed explicitly in the proposal):

  • Incorporate elements from the existing arctic data, information, and models. Proposed investigations should build upon past research efforts by using data sets, model output, knowledge of processes, and other available information. New data collection efforts may be considered only if a knowledge gap can be clearly identified, and demonstrated to be absolutely indispensable before synthesis can proceed.
  • Focus on interdisciplinary, cross-cutting questions that will lead to a better understanding of how the system components function and interact. Cross-cutting questions might address such themes as: unique aspects of Arctic radiative forcing and extreme seasonality; causes of spatial and temporal variability in system components; interaction of physical, biological, and social factors on dampening or amplifying arctic change; human versus natural perturbations to the system; or adaptation, management and policy issues. Investigations might, for example, explore processes and interactions that are responsible for, or driven by, phenomena such as sea ice thinning, land surface changes, alterations in ocean productivity, permafrost degradation, changing modes of energy transfer from lower-latitudes, damage to infrastructure, effects of Arctic warming on human communities, economic development, or economic transitions. Proposals that explore the linkages between the Arctic and the global system are also welcome. Proposals that approach system-level science in novel and unique ways are encouraged.
  • Demonstrate clear relevance to the entire arctic system. By their nature, synthesis studies may address a suite of time (including paleo) and space scales (from regional up to pan-Arctic), however the highest priority will be placed on studies that focus on the system at a pan-arctic scale. Investigations need not have a pan-Arctic geographic scope, but must demonstrate the relevance of site-specific research to the entire arctic system and provide an explicit plan for how findings will be applied or integrated across temporal and spatial scales. Topics that link multiple spatial and/or temporal scales are encouraged.
  • Include specific plans for deposition of data and products resulting from the project into the ARCSS data and information system before the end of the project. The plan should include the preparation of metadata documentation for the data, identification of which repository or repositories will receive the data, and how the data will contribute to the larger arctic system synthesis.

Mechanisms for Synthesis

Projects could approach synthesis through any mechanism deemed appropriate given the focus and scope of proposed research. These methods or mechanisms could include integrated analyses, community workshops, applied/decision-support tools, conceptual, numerical or spatial models, or others as applicable.

Coordination of Synthesis Efforts Among Projects

It is essential that the individual projects funded through this solicitation work with each other as well as with other ARCSS projects as part of the ARCSS-wide synthesis effort. Investigators from successful projects will be expected to participate in one or more coordinated, synthesis-focused activities, with the goal of encouraging system synthesis at the highest levels and promoting the interdisciplinary dialog essential to answering the central ARCSS question. Travel expenses necessary for these activities will be funded separately and need not be included in the proposal budget.

More Information on ARCSS Synthesis

This solicitation is part of an ongoing effort in the ARCSS Program to synthesize results, but it is possible that the results of a synthesis derived from this opportunity could also be used for siting observation efforts and identifying research needs and opportunities for the upcoming International Polar Year. The need for synthesis has increased over time as the pace of arctic change has accelerated and the analysis and integration activities that began with the start of the program in 1989 provide a compelling foundation for this major synthesis effort. Information regarding these efforts is available on the ARCUS website at: Creative new approaches and themes are encouraged; the material on the website is for guidance and information only.


The categories of proposers identified in the Grant Proposal Guide are eligible to submit proposals under this program announcement/solicitation.


Estimated program budget, number of awards and average award size/duration are subject to the availability of funds. Pending the availability of funds, an anticipated funding amount of $5,000,000 total, combined from FY 2005 and FY 2006 for awards up to three years will be available for this program.


A. Proposal Preparation Instructions

Full Proposal Instructions:

Proposals submitted in response to this program announcement/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: Paper copies of the GPG may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from

The following instructions supplement the GPG guidelines.

Each proposal must include a data management plan that conforms to the Arctic System Science (ARCSS) Program data management policy. For a copy of the policy refer to the ARCSS Data Coordination Center (located at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, web site: Proposals without a data management plan that incorporates the ARCSS data policy will be returned without review.

Researchers should conform to the Principles for the Conduct of Research in the Arctic, prepared by the Social Science Task Force of the U.S. Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) and approved by IARPC in 1990. These principles are listed at

Arctic Research Support and Logistics

It is not anticipated that synthesis proposals will require logistics support, but in the rare event that they might, the following information is provided.

The Arctic Research Support and Logistics (RSL) program supports field components of research funded by the Arctic Sciences Section. Support includes, but is not limited to, providing transportation, food and shelter while conducting field work, user and day-rate fees at field camps, salaries of staff hired specifically for field work, activities such as travel to coordinate projects with permitting agencies and Native peoples. More detailed information is available on the RSL web site (

Access to logistical support from the RSL program is through the regular proposal process. All fieldwork should be described in the proposal. We strongly recommend preparing a brief outline of the field plan within the proposal body, including a schedule and describing the associated costs in the budget explanation. Costs for field support should not be included in the budget if they are to be provided through a support organization, e.g. the Arctic logistics contractor VECO Polar Resources (VPR; or the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC;; however, these activities must be noted in the budget justification.

Proposers are reminded to identify the program announcement/solicitation number (05-525) in the program announcement/solicitation block on the proposal Cover Sheet. Compliance with this requirement is critical to determining the relevant proposal processing guidelines. Failure to submit this information may delay processing.

B. Budgetary Information

Cost Sharing:

Cost sharing is not required in proposals submitted under this Program Solicitation.

Other Budgetary Limitations:

Proposals should be for a maximum duration of three years.

Investigators from successful projects will be expected to participate in one or more coordinated, synthesis-focused activities, with the goal of encouraging system synthesis at the highest levels and promoting the interdisciplinary dialog essential to answering the central ARCSS question and as a formal contribution to IPY. Travel expenses necessary for these activities will be funded separately and need not be included in the proposal budget.

Budget Preparation Instructions:

It is not anticipated that synthesis proposals will require logistics support, but in the rare event that they might, the following information is provided.

A brief section in the proposal and budget justification should outline any field plan and associated costs (see Full Proposal Instructions, "Arctic Research Support and Logistics"). 

Researchers intending to use a vessel from UNOLS or the USCG should follow the UNOLS procedure (

C. Due Dates

Proposals must be submitted by the following date(s):

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

    March 18, 2005

D. FastLane Requirements

Proposers are required to prepare and submit all proposals for this announcement/solicitation through the FastLane system. Detailed instructions for proposal preparation and submission via FastLane are available at: For FastLane user support, call the FastLane Help Desk at 1-800-673-6188 or e-mail The FastLane Help Desk answers general technical questions related to the use of the FastLane system. Specific questions related to this program announcement/solicitation should be referred to the NSF program staff contact(s) listed in Section VIII of this announcement/solicitation.

Submission of Electronically Signed Cover Sheets. The Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) must electronically sign the proposal Cover Sheet to submit the required proposal certifications (see Chapter II, Section C of the Grant Proposal Guide for a listing of the certifications). The AOR must provide the required electronic certifications within five working days following the electronic submission of the proposal. Proposers are no longer required to provide a paper copy of the signed Proposal Cover Sheet to NSF. Further instructions regarding this process are available on the FastLane Website at:


A. NSF Proposal Review Process

Reviews 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. Care is taken to ensure that reviewers have no conflicts with the proposer. Special efforts are made to recruit reviewers from non-academic institutions, minority-serving institutions, or adjacent disciplines to that principally addressed in the proposal.

The National Science Board approved revised criteria for evaluating proposals at its meeting on March 28, 1997 (NSB 97-72). All NSF proposals are evaluated through use of the two merit review criteria. In some instances, however, NSF will employ additional criteria as required to highlight the specific objectives of certain programs and activities.

On July 8, 2002, the NSF Director issued Important Notice 127, Implementation of new Grant Proposal Guide Requirements Related to the Broader Impacts Criterion. This Important Notice reinforces the importance of addressing both criteria in the preparation and review of all proposals submitted to NSF. NSF continues to strengthen its internal processes to ensure that both of the merit review criteria are addressed when making funding decisions.

In an effort to increase compliance with these requirements, the January 2002 issuance of the GPG incorporated revised proposal preparation guidelines relating to the development of the Project Summary and Project Description. Chapter II of the GPG specifies that Principal Investigators (PIs) must address both merit review criteria in separate statements within the one-page Project Summary. This chapter also reiterates that broader impacts resulting from the proposed project must be addressed in the Project Description and described as an integral part of the narrative.

Effective October 1, 2002, NSF will return without review proposals that do not separately address both merit review criteria within the Project Summary. It is believed that these changes to NSF proposal preparation and processing guidelines will more clearly articulate the importance of broader impacts to NSF-funded projects.

The two National Science Board approved merit review criteria are listed below (see the Grant Proposal Guide Chapter III.A for further information). The criteria include considerations that help define them. These considerations are suggestions and not all will apply to any given proposal. While proposers must address both merit review criteria, reviewers will be asked to address only those considerations that are relevant to the proposal being considered 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 the 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?

NSF staff will give careful consideration to the following in making funding decisions:

    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 learning perspectives.
    Integrating Diversity into NSF Programs, 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.
    Additional Review Criteria:

    Each proposal must include a data management plan that conforms to the Arctic System Science (ARCSS) Program data management policy. For a copy of the policy refer to the ARCSS Data Coordination Center (located at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, web site: Proposals without a data management plan that incorporates the ARCSS data policy will be returned without review.

    In addition to external peer review, proposals will be evaluated both for their contribution to a systems level understanding of the functioning of the whole Arctic and for their potential synergy with other submitted proposals that create an integrated synthesis effort contributing directly to the goals of ARCSS.

B. Review Protocol and Associated Customer Service Standard

All proposals are carefully reviewed by at least three other persons outside NSF who are experts in the particular field represented by the proposal. Proposals submitted in response to this announcement/solicitation will be reviewed by Ad Hoc and/or panel review.

Reviewers will be asked to formulate a recommendation to either support or decline each proposal. The Program Officer assigned to manage the proposal's review will consider the advice of reviewers and will formulate a recommendation.

A summary rating and accompanying narrative will be completed and submitted by each reviewer. In all cases, reviews are treated as confidential documents. Verbatim copies of reviews, excluding the names of the reviewers, are sent to the Principal Investigator/Project Director by the Program Director. In addition, the proposer will receive an explanation of the decision to award or decline funding.

NSF is striving to be able to tell proposers whether their proposals have been declined or recommended for funding within six months. The time interval begins on the closing date of an announcement/solicitation, or the date of proposal receipt, whichever is later. The interval ends when the Division Director accepts the Program Officer's recommendation.

In all cases, 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 and 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.


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. (See section VI.A. for additional information on the review process.)

B. Award Conditions

An NSF award consists of: (1) the award letter, 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 letter; (4) the applicable award conditions, such as Grant General Conditions (NSF-GC-1); * or Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) Terms and Conditions * and (5) any announcement or other NSF issuance that may be incorporated by reference in the award letter. Cooperative agreement awards also are administered in accordance with NSF Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions (CA-1). Electronic mail notification is the preferred way to transmit NSF awards 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 Website at Paper copies may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from

More comprehensive information on NSF Award Conditions is contained in the NSF Grant Policy Manual (GPM) Chapter II, available electronically on the NSF Website at The GPM is also for sale through the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC 20402. The telephone number at GPO for subscription information is (202) 512-1800. The GPM may be ordered through the GPO Website at

Special Award Conditions:

Investigators from successful projects will be expected to participate in one or more coordinated, synthesis-focused activities, with the goal of encouraging system synthesis at the highest levels and promoting the interdisciplinary dialog essential to answering the central ARCSS question and as a formal contribution to IPY.

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.

Annual reports must include information about the status of data management activities. Noncompliance with the ARCSS data management policy could be used as grounds for suspension or cancellation of funding commitments.

Within 90 days after the expiration of an award, the PI also is required to submit a final project report. Failure to provide final technical reports delays NSF review and processing of pending proposals for the PI and all Co-PIs. 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 FastLane, for preparation and submission of annual and final project reports. This system 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. PIs will not be required to re-enter information previously provided, either with a proposal or in earlier updates using the electronic system.


General inquiries regarding this program should be made to:

  • Neil R. Swanberg, Arctic System Science Program Director, Office of the Director, Office of Polar Programs, 755 S, telephone: (703) 292-8029, email:

For questions related to the use of FastLane, contact:

  • Linda Izzard, Program Coordination Specialist, Office of the Director, Office of Polar Programs, 740 S, telephone: (703) 292-7430, fax: (703) 292-9082, email:


The NSF Guide to Programs is a compilation of funding for research and education in science, mathematics, and engineering. The NSF Guide to Programs is available electronically at General descriptions of NSF programs, research areas, and eligibility information for proposal submission are provided in each chapter.

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Information about the International Polar Year (IPY) may be obtained from the US National Academy of Science and from the International Council for Science.

U.S. National Committee for IPY website:

International Council for Science IPY website:


The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering. Awardees 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 from all qualified scientists, engineers and educators. The Foundation strongly encourages women, minorities and persons with disabilities to compete 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, although some programs may have special requirements that limit eligibility.

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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; 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 applicant 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.

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