Research Coordination Networks in Undergraduate Biology Education (RCN-UBE)

Program Solicitation
NSF 18-510

NSF Logo

National Science Foundation

Directorate for Biological Sciences
     Division of Biological Infrastructure

Directorate for Education & Human Resources

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

     January 30, 2018

     January 22, 2019

     January 21, 2020

     January 19, 2021

IMPORTANT INFORMATION AND REVISION NOTES

Please note that this program solicitation may contain supplemental proposal preparation guidance and/or guidance that deviates from the guidelines established in the NSF Proposal and Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG).

This solicitation announces:

  • A new solicitation specifically for RCN-UBE & RCN-UBE Incubator proposals which were previously described in a specialized track of the general RCN program, with submission deadlines in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
  • The RCN-UBE Incubator track will now accept Incubator proposals for up to $75,000 for one year.

Any proposal submitted in response to this solicitation should be submitted in accordance with the revised NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 18-1), which is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after January 29, 2018.

SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

General Information

Program Title:

Research Coordination Networks in Undergraduate Biology Education (RCN-UBE)

Synopsis of Program:

The goal of the RCN program is to advance a field or create new directions in research or education by supporting groups of investigators to communicate and coordinate their research, training, and educational activities across disciplinary, organizational, geographic, and international boundaries. The RCN-UBE program originated as a unique RCN track to “catalyze positive changes in biology undergraduate education” (NSF 08-035) and is now supported by the collaborative efforts of the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) and the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR). It has been responsive to the national movement to revolutionize undergraduate learning and teaching in the biological sciences as described in the “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education” report. The RCN-UBE program seeks to improve undergraduate biology in different areas by leveraging the power of a collaborative network. The theme or focus of an RCN-UBE proposal can be on any topic likely to advance the goal of enhancing undergraduate biology education. Collectively, the program has contributed to developing and disseminating educational research resources and modules, to forging of new collaborations, and to sharing of best practices and ideas for scalability and sustainability of activities. These efforts have involved a large cadre of faculty, students, and other stakeholders. Proposed networking activities directed to the RCN-UBE program should focus on a theme to give coherence to the collaboration.

In accord with other RCNs, the RCN-UBE provides opportunities to foster new collaborations (including international partnerships), to address interdisciplinary topics, to explore innovative ideas for implementing novel networking strategies, to explore collaborative technologies, and to develop community standards. RCN-UBE awards do not support existing networks or the activities of established collaborations. RCN awards do not support primary research.

Note: Because it addresses undergraduate biology education, the RCN-UBE track is offered in alignment with the NSF-wide undergraduate STEM education initiative, Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE). More information about IUSE can be found in the Program Description section of this solicitation. Depending on the scope and nature of the project, investigators should consider applying to IUSE or RCN-UBE.

Cognizant Program Officer(s):

Please note that the following information is current at the time of publishing. See program website for any updates to the points of contact.

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

  • 47.074 --- Biological Sciences
  • 47.076 --- Education and Human Resources

Award Information

Anticipated Type of Award: Standard Grant or Continuing Grant

Estimated Number of Awards: 8 to 12

Anticipated Funding Amount: $2,500,000 to $3,500,000

pending availability of appropriations.

Eligibility Information

Who May Submit Proposals:

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Universities and Colleges - Universities and two- and four-year colleges (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in, the US acting on behalf of their faculty members. Such organizations also are referred to as academic institutions.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.

Who May Serve as PI:

There are no restrictions or limits.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization:

There are no restrictions or limits.

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI:

There are no restrictions or limits.

Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions

A. Proposal Preparation Instructions

  • Letters of Intent: Not required
  • Preliminary Proposal Submission: Not required

B. Budgetary Information

  • Cost Sharing Requirements:

    Inclusion of voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited.

  • 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(s) (due by 5 p.m. submitter's local time):

         January 30, 2018

         January 22, 2019

         January 21, 2020

         January 19, 2021

Proposal Review Information Criteria

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:

Standard NSF award conditions apply.

Reporting Requirements:

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

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Summary of Program Requirements

  1. Introduction

  2. Program Description

  3. Award Information

  4. Eligibility Information

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

  6. NSF Proposal Processing and Review Procedures
    1. Merit Review Principles and Criteria
    2. Review and Selection Process

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

  8. Agency Contacts

  9. Other Information

I. INTRODUCTION

The National Science Foundation announces its support of research coordination networks for undergraduate biology education (RCN-UBE). The goal of the RCN program is to advance a field or create new directions in research or education by supporting groups of investigators to communicate and coordinate their research, training, and educational activities across disciplinary, organizational, geographic, and international boundaries. The RCN-UBE program originated as a unique RCN track to “catalyze positive changes in biology undergraduate education” (NSF 08-035) and is now supported by the collaborative efforts of the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) and the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR). It has been responsive to the national movement to revolutionize undergraduate learning and teaching in the biological sciences, which is described in the “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education ” report. The RCN-UBE program seeks to leverage the power of a collaborative network to improve undergraduate biology in various areas as described by Eaton et al., 2016. The theme or focus of an RCN-UBE proposal can be on any topic likely to enhance undergraduate biology education.

RCN-UBE is designed to promote new collaborations among biologists and educators with diverse expertise and who share a common interest in a new or developing area of biology education, including the interface of biology with other disciplines. RCN-UBE awards do not support primary research and are not meant to support existing networks; nor are they meant to support the activities of established collaborations. By encouraging the formation of new interdisciplinary groups and networks, the RCN-UBE program will advance fields and create novel directions and opportunities in biology education and research. This program may also foster international partnerships when appropriate.

II. PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

RCN-UBEs in general will support groups of investigators to communicate and coordinate their efforts across disciplinary, organizational, institutional, geographical, and/or international boundaries. The objectives are to facilitate exchange of information and resources, to integrate research and education activities for biologists/educators around topics of common interest, to nurture a sense of community, to minimize isolation, and to maximize cooperation. Achieving these objectives will create synergies and eliminate unnecessary duplication of efforts.

BIO (Division of Biological Infrastructure – DBI) and EHR (Division of Undergraduate Education-DUE) have developed a targeted Undergraduate Biology Education track (RCN-UBE) in recognition of the importance of networking activities to advance undergraduate biology education. Collectively, the projects funded by RCN-UBE have achieved objectives listed above, as well as enabled a large cadre of faculty, students, and other stakeholders to share ideas for scalability and sustainability of activities.

RCN-UBE proposals may focus on but not limited to:

  • active- and inquiry-based learning;
  • incorporating authentic research experiences in undergraduate courses, with an emphasis on introductory and lower division courses.
  • service learning, community engagement, and internships;
  • incorporating emerging sub-disciplines into the biology curriculum (e.g., informatics research, proteomics, statistics, systems biology, and computational biology);
  • incorporation of novel interdisciplinary training in the curriculum;
  • improved learning and student outcomes in introductory courses;
  • integration of quantitative reasoning in biology curriculum;
  • biological literacy for non-majors;
  • strategies for engaging biology faculty and graduate students in professional development activities;
  • improving assessment of student learning, and/or biology programs;
  • improving the transition of students from two-year to four-year institutions;
  • engagement of underrepresented and underserved students to broaden participation; and
  • integration of teaching and research.

RCN-UBE proposals can be up to five years in duration, with budgets up to $500,000. To assist initial networking efforts of scientists and educators who are developing innovative proposals for the RCN-UBE program, the RCN-UBE will accept Incubator proposals for up to $75,000 for one year.

The following information regarding IUSE may be helpful for investigators considering submitting proposals to this complementary program.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) plays a leadership role in development and implementation of efforts to enhance and improve STEM education in the United States. Through the NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) initiative, the agency continues to make a substantial commitment to the highest caliber undergraduate STEM education through a Foundation-wide framework of investments. The IUSE: EHR program is a core NSF undergraduate STEM education program that seeks to improve the effectiveness of undergraduate STEM education for both majors and non-majors. The program is open to application from all institutions of higher education and associated organizations. NSF places high value on educating students to be leaders and innovators in emerging and rapidly changing STEM fields as well as educating a scientifically literate populace. In pursuit of this goal, IUSE: EHR supports projects that have the potential to improve student learning in STEM through development of new curricular materials and methods of instruction, and development of new assessment tools to measure student learning. In addition to innovative work at the frontier of STEM education, this program also encourages replications of research studies at different types of institutions and with different student bodies to produce deeper knowledge about the effectiveness and transferability of findings. IUSE especially welcomes proposals that will pair well with the efforts of NSF INCLUDES (https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/nsfincludes/index.jsp) to develop STEM talent from all sectors and groups in our society. Collaborations are encouraged between IUSE proposals and existing INCLUDES projects, provided the collaboration strengthens both projects.

NSF-IUSE serves as the framework for all investments in research and development that are critical for curricular improvement in undergraduate STEM education, within formal and informal learning environments. The IUSE FY2018 and FY 2019 Program solicitation calls for proposals to:

  • use and build evidence about improved STEM instructional practices;
  • design and study innovative learning opportunities, including cyberlearning;
  • create, implement, and test program, curricular, course, and technology-driven models;
  • develop, implement, and test creative approaches for adoption of education research in to disciplinary teachings;
  • demonstrate effectiveness of validated practices in a variety of institutional settings;
  • develop and validate assessments/metrics for undergraduate STEM learning and instructional practice; and
  • conduct fundamental research on issues of undergraduate STEM teaching and learning.

RCN-UBE proposals, in accord with all RCN proposals, must conform to the following seven guidance items:

  1. Topic/focus of research coordination. For all tracks, research coordination network (RCN) proposals should identify a clear theme as the focus of its activities. RCN proposals should spell out the theoretical and/or methodological foundations of the network's proposed activities, and should specify what activities will be undertaken, what new groups of investigators will be brought together, what products will be generated by network activities, and how information about the network and opportunities to participate will be disseminated. The proposal should also outline the expected benefits of the network's activities in moving a field forward and the implications for the broader community of researchers, educators and engineers.
  2. Principal investigator (PI). Although research coordination networks are expected to involve investigators from multiple sites, a single organization must serve as the submitting organization for each proposal. Of the two types of collaborative proposal formats described in the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG), this solicitation allows only a single proposal submission with subawards administered by that lead organization. The PI is the designated contact person for the project and is expected to provide leadership in fully coordinating and integrating the activities of the network. Strong, central leadership and clear lines of responsibility are essential for successful networking.
  3. Steering committee. Members of the steering committee will be network participants that assume key roles in the leadership and/or management of the project. The steering committee should be representative of the communities of participants that will be brought together through the RCN. It must include all Co-PIs, if any are listed on the cover page of the proposal, and any other senior personnel, including any foreign collaborators involved as leaders or otherwise considered senior personnel. Therefore, the steering committee constitutes all the senior personnel for the RCN proposal. The name and home organization of each steering committee member should be listed in the project summary. As these individuals are all senior personnel, their Biographical Sketches and Current and Pending Support statements must be included in the appropriate sections of the proposal.
  4. Network participants. The size of a network is expected to vary depending on the theme and the needs of the proposed activity. The network may be regional, national, or international. It is expected that a proposed network will involve investigators at diverse organizations. The inclusion of new researchers, post-docs, graduate students, and undergraduates is encouraged. Specific efforts to increase participation of underrepresented groups (women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities) must be included. In the proposal, an initial network of likely participants should be identified. However, there should be clearly developed mechanisms to maintain openness, ensure access, and actively promote participation by interested parties outside of the initial participants in the proposed network.
  5. Coordination/management mechanism. The proposal should include a clearly defined management plan. The plan should include a description of the specific roles and responsibilities of the PI and the steering committee. Mechanisms for allocating funds, such as support for the work of a steering committee, should be clearly articulated. The plan should include provisions for flexibility to allow the structure of the participant group to change over time as membership and the network's foci evolve. Mechanisms for assessing progress and the effectiveness of the networking activities should be part of the management plan.
  6. Information and material sharing. The goals of this program are to promote effective communication and to enhance opportunities for collaboration. Proposers are expected to develop and present a clearly delineated understanding of individual member's rights to ideas, information, data and materials produced as a result of the award that is consistent with the goals of the program. Infrastructure plans to support the communication and collaboration should be described. When the proposed activity involves generation of community resources such as databases or unique materials, a plan for their timely release and the mechanism of sharing beyond the membership of the RCN must be described in the Data Management Plan, a required Supplementary Document. In addition, a plan for long-term maintenance of such resources must be described without assuming continued support from NSF.
  7. International participation. NSF encourages international collaboration, and we anticipate that many RCN projects will include participants, including steering committee members, from outside the US. International collaborations should clearly strengthen the proposed project activities. As NSF funding predominantly supports participation by US participants, network participants from institutions outside the US are encouraged to seek support from their respective funding organizations, notably participants from developed countries. NSF funds may not be used to support the expenses of the international scientists and students at their home organization. For RCN projects that involve international partners, NSF funds may be used for the following:
  • Travel expenses for US scientists and students participating in exchange visits integral to the RCN project
  • RCN-related expenses for international partners to participate in networking activities while in the US.

In addition to the RCN-specific guidance above, RCN-UBE proposals should also address how the network will:

  • evaluate and assess the network, its activities, and its products;
  • engage its partners, grow, evolve and be sustained; and
  • identify metrics and contribute to infrastructure beyond traditional products (such as papers).

III. AWARD INFORMATION

Estimated Number of Awards: 8 to 12; varies across disciplinary research programs and RCN tracks.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $2,500,000 to $3,500,000, pending availability of appropriations. Past RCN-UBE awards can be found on the RCN program page at: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=11691&org=DBI&from=home.

Estimated program budget, number of awards and average award size/duration are subject to the availability of funds.

IV. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION

Who May Submit Proposals:

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Universities and Colleges - Universities and two- and four-year colleges (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in, the US acting on behalf of their faculty members. Such organizations also are referred to as academic institutions.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.

Who May Serve as PI:

There are no restrictions or limits.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization:

There are no restrictions or limits.

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI:

There are no restrictions or limits.

Additional Eligibility Info:

Although the research coordination networks are expected to be multi-organizational, a single organization must serve as the lead and all other organizations as subawardees. Organizations ineligible to submit to this program solicitation may not receive subawards. If they are part of the proposed network, their participation is expected to be supported by non-NSF sources.

V. PROPOSAL PREPARATION AND SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS

A. Proposal Preparation Instructions

Full Proposal Preparation Instructions: Proposers may opt to submit proposals in response to this Program Solicitation via Grants.gov or via the NSF FastLane system.

  • Full proposals submitted via FastLane: Proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation should be prepared and submitted in accordance with the general guidelines contained in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG). The complete text of the PAPPG is available electronically on the NSF website at: https://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=pappg. Paper copies of the PAPPG may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from nsfpubs@nsf.gov. Proposers are reminded to identify this program solicitation number in the program solicitation block on the NSF 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.
  • Full proposals submitted via Grants.gov: Proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation via Grants.gov should be prepared and submitted in accordance with the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide: A Guide for the Preparation and Submission of NSF Applications via Grants.gov. The complete text of the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide is available on the Grants.gov website and on the NSF website at: (https://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=grantsgovguide). To obtain copies of the Application Guide and Application Forms Package, click on the Apply tab on the Grants.gov site, then click on the Apply Step 1: Download a Grant Application Package and Application Instructions link and enter the funding opportunity number, (the program solicitation number without the NSF prefix) and press the Download Package button. Paper copies of the Grants.gov Application Guide also may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from nsfpubs@nsf.gov.

See PAPPG Chapter II.C.2 for guidance on the required sections of a full research proposal submitted to NSF. Please note that the proposal preparation instructions provided in this program solicitation may deviate from the PAPPG instructions.

Proposers interested in submitting RCN-UBE proposals are strongly encouraged to contact the appropriate NSF program prior to proposal submission for guidance and to determine project suitability for a network approach.

Cover Sheet: Select this program solicitation number from the pulldown list. (Grants.gov Users: The program solicitation number will be pre-populated by Grants.gov on the NSF Grant Application Cover Page.)

Proposers should first select the Division of Biological Infrastructure and then select "Research Coordination Networks program" from the FastLane menu during online submission.

Grants.gov users should refer to Section VI.1.2. of the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide for specific instructions on how to designate the NSF Unit of Consideration.

An informative title for the proposed project, that begins with "RCN-UBE:", or "RCN-UBE Incubator:" as appropriate, must be provided.

For proposals with an international dimension, the country or countries involved should be reported on the cover sheet.

Entries on the FastLane Cover Sheet are limited to the principal investigator and a maximum of 4 co-principal investigators. Additional senior personnel, i.e., serving as other members of the steering committee, should be listed in the Overview section of the Project Summary page. These other senior personnel should also be entered into FastLane as Senior Investigators using the Add/Delete non- Co-PI Senior Personnel option on the FastLane Form Preparation screen (this latter provision allows their Biographical Sketches and Current and Pending Support statements to be included in the FastLane proposal).

For Grants.gov users - NSF allows one principal investigator/project director and a maximum of 4 co-principal investigators/project directors to be identified on a proposal. Instructions for entering additional senior project participants are included in Section V.5. of the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide.

For more FastLane and Grants.gov instructions see section D below.

Project Summary: May not be more than one page in length, and must consist of three parts: (1) an overview that includes a description of the proposed RCN-UBE activities and objectives, and a listing of steering committee members along with their home organizations; (2) a statement of the intellectual merit of the proposed RCN-UBE project, indicating how it will advance biology education and the integration of education and research; and (3) the broader impacts of the proposed work, including mechanisms for actively promoting participation by all interested parties. The Project Summary should be written in the third person, informative to other persons working in the same or related fields, and, insofar as possible, understandable to a scientifically or technically literate lay reader. It should not be an abstract of the proposal. Proposals that do not contain the Project Summary, including an overview and separate statements on intellectual merit and broader impacts will not be accepted by FastLane or will be returned without review.

Project Description (maximum 15 pages, or 8 pages for an Incubator proposal): The following exceptions and additional items should be noted.

"Results from Prior Support" need not be included unless the proposed activity is clearly a logical extension of an activity supported by NSF, in which case describe (up to 5 pages to be counted within the 15-page limit) the prior activity and how it relates to the proposed activity.

In addition to describing the RCN-UBE objectives, rationale, specific networking activities, and the special features stated in Section II above, the project description should also address aspects of network Management, Coordination, and Participant Diversity within the 15 page project description, also stated in Section II above and as described below. All major organizational collaborations should be described and justified in terms of how each serves the needs or enhances the goals of the network. Note: Management and Coordination plans are not required for Incubator proposals.

Management plan. Describe plans and procedures for the development and assessment of the proposed activity. Include formal mechanisms to ensure fair and equitable allocation of group resources. Clearly define the responsibilities for leadership and the role of the PI and the steering committee. Delineate the procedures used for the selection of initial network participants, the plans for maintaining an appropriate degree of openness and for continually encouraging the involvement of additional interested parties. Means for self-evaluation of progress toward the network goals should be presented as an important part of the management plan.

Coordination plan. If the proposed network will interface with an established network or group, or if there is a similar activity being planned or ongoing in other countries, describe the plans for coordination and cooperation among the relevant networks.

Increasing diversity. A research coordination network is an important opportunity for encouraging the involvement of investigators from underrepresented groups (women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities), early-career investigators, and investigators located in a diverse range of organizations. Describe (1) a well-designed plan to increase participation of members of under-represented groups that is specific to the proposed project; (2) a plan to involve investigators at a variety of organizational settings; (3) if applicable, a plan to include new researchers, post-docs, and students; and (4) how the plans for increasing diversity are integrated with the proposed project plan.

Budget: Provide yearly budgets for the duration of the proposed project. When subawards are involved yearly budgets are required for each subaward. FastLane or Grants.gov will generate cumulative budgets for the primary and subaward organizations. A budget justification (of up to five pages total for the primary and any subaward organizations) is required. Organizations ineligible to submit to this program solicitation may not receive subawards. If they are part of the proposed network, their participation is expected to be supported by non-NSF sources. Allowable costs for international collaboration are described in Section II. Program Description.

Funds may be requested to promote collaborative activities, such as sharing of unique facilities, establishment of a public web site and learning community, network retreats, support of workshops uniquely tied to the network activities, etc. Any well-justified activity that fulfills the goals of the Program will be considered. Innovative ideas for implementing novel networking strategies to promote collaborations and enable new directions or advancement of a field are especially encouraged. Funds from this program may not support independent, individual research projects of the participants; nor are they to be used as a mechanism for a mini-grant awarding program.

Note that funds requested to support activities of the network participants, such as participant travel, materials and supplies for the network projects, and network retreats should be listed as "participant support" in the proposed budget, and managed by the submitting organization. Please refer to the PAPPG for guidance regarding proposed international travel.

ADDITIONAL REQUIRED INFORMATION

SUPPLEMENTARY DOCUMENTS

  1. Data Management Plan: As specified in the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG), all proposals must include a maximum 2-page Data Management Plan as a Supplementary Document. Although collection of new data is not supported in RCN projects, this plan should describe issues related to information exchange, intellectual property rights, derived products, databases, software, model output, and materials sharing. For example, if the proposed activity is expected to result in community resources (such as databases or collections of biological materials), the Data Management Plan should present a clear plan for sharing of these resources not only among the network participants but with the scientific community at large. The Data Management Plan should also address plans for determining authorship or proper attribution of credit for peer-reviewed or other publications, Internet resources, etc. that may be expected to result from the activity. General RCN proposals submitted to appropriate core programs should also ensure that they fulfill any program-specific guidelines for the Data Management Plan if applicable.
  2. Postdoctoral Researcher Mentoring Plan. Each proposal that requests funding to support postdoctoral researchers must include, as a supplementary document, a description of the mentoring activities that will be provided for such individuals. Please be advised that if required, FastLane will not permit submission of a proposal that is missing a Postdoctoral Researcher Mentoring Plan. See Chapter II of the PAPPG for further information about the implementation of this requirement. The Postdoctoral Researcher Mentoring Plan is considered an integral part of the project and therefore subject to reviewer, panel, and program evaluation. Successful proposers will be expected to address this issue in annual and final project reports.
  3. Letters of Collaboration. This section could include any letters of collaboration or commitment from individuals or organizations that are integral parts of the proposed project, such as the involvement of collaborator organizations that are not supported by subawards or documentation of permission to access materials, data or other associated project activities. Letters should focus solely on affirming that the individual or organization is willing to collaborate on the project as specified in the project description of the proposal. No additional text, especially elaboration of the nature of activities to be undertaken by the collaborator and endorsements of the potential value or significance of the project for the collaborator, may be included. The template that should be used for the preparation of letters of collaboration is provided below.

Letters of collaboration should not be provided for any individual designated as a principal investigator or senior personnel (i.e., not required for any steering committee member), nor are letters of collaboration required for any organization that will be a subawardee in the proposal budget.

Letters of collaboration are not required for potential participants in the RCN-UBE although such individuals might be mentioned in the project description. RCN-UBE participants are not necessarily collaborators in the overall RCN project; their level of involvement in the RCN is likely to change through time, and an up-front commitment is neither necessary nor helpful to the review process.

Each letter of collaboration must be signed by the designated collaborator. Requests to collaborators for letters of collaboration should be made by the PI well in advance of the proposal submission deadline, because they must be included at the time of the proposal submission. Letters deviating from this template are not accepted and may be grounds for returning the proposal without review.

Template to be used for letters of collaboration

To: NSF RCN Program

From:

(Printed name of the individual collaborator or name of the organization and name and position of the official submitting this memo)

By signing below (or transmitting electronically), I acknowledge that I am listed as a collaborator on this RCN proposal, entitled " (proposal title) as the Principal Investigator. I agree to undertake the tasks assigned to me or my organization, as described in the project description of the proposal, and I commit to provide or make available the resources specified therein.

Signed:

Date:

SINGLE COPY DOCUMENTS

  1. Collaborators & Other Affiliations (COA) information specified in the PAPPG should be submitted using the instructions and spreadsheet template found on the Collaborators and Other Affiliations Information website. Please note that proposers using the COA template for more than 10 senior project personnel will encounter proposal print preview issues. Please see the COA website for updated guidance.

  2. BIO Proposal Classification Form: The Proposal Classification Form is required for all submissions to BIO. FastLane will not allow processing of the proposal without it.

B. Budgetary Information

Cost Sharing:

Inclusion of voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited.

Other Budgetary Limitations:

Funds from this program may not support independent, individual research projects of the participants; nor are they to be used as a mechanism for a mini-grant awarding program.

Full RCN-UBE proposals can be for up to 5 years in duration and budgets should not exceed $500,000. RCN-UBE Incubator proposals can be for up to $75,000 for one year.

C. Due Dates

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

         January 30, 2018

         January 22, 2019

         January 21, 2020

         January 19, 2021

D. FastLane/Grants.gov Requirements

For Proposals Submitted Via FastLane:

To prepare and submit a proposal via FastLane, see detailed technical instructions available at: https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/a1/newstan.htm. For FastLane user support, call the FastLane Help Desk at 1-800-673-6188 or e-mail fastlane@nsf.gov. The FastLane Help Desk answers general technical questions related to the use of the FastLane system. Specific questions related to this program solicitation should be referred to the NSF program staff contact(s) listed in Section VIII of this funding opportunity.

For Proposals Submitted Via Grants.gov:

Before using Grants.gov for the first time, each organization must register to create an institutional profile. Once registered, the applicant's organization can then apply for any federal grant on the Grants.gov website. Comprehensive information about using Grants.gov is available on the Grants.gov Applicant Resources webpage: http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/applicants.html. In addition, the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide (see link in Section V.A) provides instructions regarding the technical preparation of proposals via Grants.gov. For Grants.gov user support, contact the Grants.gov Contact Center at 1-800-518-4726 or by email: support@grants.gov. The Grants.gov Contact Center answers general technical questions related to the use of Grants.gov. Specific questions related to this program solicitation should be referred to the NSF program staff contact(s) listed in Section VIII of this solicitation.

Submitting the Proposal: Once all documents have been completed, the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) must submit the application to Grants.gov and verify the desired funding opportunity and agency to which the application is submitted. The AOR must then sign and submit the application to Grants.gov. The completed application will be transferred to the NSF FastLane system for further processing.

Proposers that submitted via FastLane are strongly encouraged to use FastLane to verify the status of their submission to NSF. For proposers that submitted via Grants.gov, until an application has been received and validated by NSF, the Authorized Organizational Representative may check the status of an application on Grants.gov. After proposers have received an e-mail notification from NSF, Research.gov should be used to check the status of an application.

VI. NSF PROPOSAL PROCESSING AND REVIEW PROCEDURES

Proposals received by NSF are assigned to the appropriate NSF program for acknowledgement and, if they meet NSF requirements, for review. All proposals are carefully reviewed by a scientist, engineer, or educator serving as an NSF Program Officer, and usually by three to ten other persons outside NSF either as ad hoc reviewers, panelists, or both, who are experts in the particular fields represented by the proposal. These reviewers are selected by Program Officers charged with oversight of the review process. Proposers are invited to suggest names of persons they believe are especially well qualified to review the proposal and/or persons they would prefer not review the proposal. These suggestions may serve as one source in the reviewer selection process at the Program Officer's discretion. Submission of such names, however, is optional. Care is taken to ensure that reviewers have no conflicts of interest with the proposal. In addition, Program Officers may obtain comments from site visits before recommending final action on proposals. Senior NSF staff further review recommendations for awards. A flowchart that depicts the entire NSF proposal and award process (and associated timeline) is included in PAPPG Exhibit III-1.

A comprehensive description of the Foundation's merit review process is available on the NSF website at: https://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/merit_review/.

Proposers should also be aware of core strategies that are essential to the fulfillment of NSF's mission, as articulated in Investing in Science, Engineering, and Education for the Nation's Future: NSF Strategic Plan for 2014-2018. These strategies are integrated in the program planning and implementation process, of which proposal review is one part. NSF's mission is particularly well-implemented through the integration of research and education and broadening participation in NSF programs, projects, and activities.

One of the strategic objectives in support of NSF's mission is to foster integration of research and education through the programs, projects, and activities it supports at academic and research institutions. These institutions must recruit, train, and prepare a diverse STEM workforce to advance the frontiers of science and participate in the U.S. technology-based economy. NSF's contribution to the national innovation ecosystem is to provide cutting-edge research under the guidance of the Nation's most creative scientists and engineers. NSF also supports development of a strong science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce by investing in building the knowledge that informs improvements in STEM teaching and learning.

NSF's mission calls for the broadening of opportunities and expanding participation of groups, institutions, and geographic regions that are underrepresented in STEM disciplines, which 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.

A. Merit Review Principles and Criteria

The National Science Foundation strives to invest in a robust and diverse portfolio of projects that creates new knowledge and enables breakthroughs in understanding across all areas of science and engineering research and education. To identify which projects to support, NSF relies on a merit review process that incorporates consideration of both the technical aspects of a proposed project and its potential to contribute more broadly to advancing NSF's mission "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes." NSF makes every effort to conduct a fair, competitive, transparent merit review process for the selection of projects.

1. Merit Review Principles

These principles are to be given due diligence by PIs and organizations when preparing proposals and managing projects, by reviewers when reading and evaluating proposals, and by NSF program staff when determining whether or not to recommend proposals for funding and while overseeing awards. Given that NSF is the primary federal agency charged with nurturing and supporting excellence in basic research and education, the following three principles apply:

  • All NSF projects should be of the highest quality and have the potential to advance, if not transform, the frontiers of knowledge.
  • NSF projects, in the aggregate, should contribute more broadly to achieving societal goals. These "Broader Impacts" may be accomplished through the research itself, through activities that are directly related to specific research projects, or through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to, the project. The project activities may be based on previously established and/or innovative methods and approaches, but in either case must be well justified.
  • Meaningful assessment and evaluation of NSF funded projects should be based on appropriate metrics, keeping in mind the likely correlation between the effect of broader impacts and the resources provided to implement projects. If the size of the activity is limited, evaluation of that activity in isolation is not likely to be meaningful. Thus, assessing the effectiveness of these activities may best be done at a higher, more aggregated, level than the individual project.

With respect to the third principle, even if assessment of Broader Impacts outcomes for particular projects is done at an aggregated level, PIs are expected to be accountable for carrying out the activities described in the funded project. Thus, individual projects should include clearly stated goals, specific descriptions of the activities that the PI intends to do, and a plan in place to document the outputs of those activities.

These three merit review principles provide the basis for the merit review criteria, as well as a context within which the users of the criteria can better understand their intent.

2. Merit Review Criteria

All NSF proposals are evaluated through use of the two National Science Board approved merit review criteria. In some instances, however, NSF will employ additional criteria as required to highlight the specific objectives of certain programs and activities.

The two merit review criteria are listed below. Both criteria are to be given full consideration during the review and decision-making processes; each criterion is necessary but neither, by itself, is sufficient. Therefore, proposers must fully address both criteria. (PAPPG Chapter II.C.2.d(i). contains additional information for use by proposers in development of the Project Description section of the proposal). Reviewers are strongly encouraged to review the criteria, including PAPPG Chapter II.C.2.d(i), prior to the review of a proposal.

When evaluating NSF proposals, reviewers will be asked to consider what the proposers want to do, why they want to do it, how they plan to do it, how they will know if they succeed, and what benefits could accrue if the project is successful. These issues apply both to the technical aspects of the proposal and the way in which the project may make broader contributions. To that end, reviewers will be asked to evaluate all proposals against two criteria:

  • Intellectual Merit: The Intellectual Merit criterion encompasses the potential to advance knowledge; and
  • Broader Impacts: The Broader Impacts criterion encompasses the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.

The following elements should be considered in the review for both criteria:

  1. What is the potential for the proposed activity to
    1. Advance knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields (Intellectual Merit); and
    2. Benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes (Broader Impacts)?
  2. To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?
  3. Is the plan for carrying out the proposed activities well-reasoned, well-organized, and based on a sound rationale? Does the plan incorporate a mechanism to assess success?
  4. How well qualified is the individual, team, or organization to conduct the proposed activities?
  5. Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home organization or through collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities?

Broader impacts may be accomplished through the research itself, through the activities that are directly related to specific research projects, or through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to, the project. NSF values the advancement of scientific knowledge and activities that contribute to achievement of societally relevant outcomes. Such outcomes include, but are not limited to: full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); improved STEM education and educator development at any level; increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology; improved well-being of individuals in society; development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce; increased partnerships between academia, industry, and others; improved national security; increased economic competitiveness of the United States; and enhanced infrastructure for research and education.

Proposers are reminded that reviewers will also be asked to review the Data Management Plan and the Postdoctoral Researcher Mentoring Plan, as appropriate.

Additional Solicitation Specific Review Criteria

RCN-UBE proposals will be evaluated for their creativity, innovation, and potential to advance and transform biology education, including emerging areas at the interface of other disciplines.

RCN proposals must establish the infrastructure to create new networks of scientists, educators, and other stakeholders who have not previously worked together. RCN-UBEs cannot use resources to fund primary research or to sustain existing networks.

For all proposals involving international collaborations, reviewers will consider: mutual benefits, true intellectual collaboration with the foreign partner(s), benefits to be realized from the expertise and specialized skills, facilities, sites and/or resources of the international counterpart, and active engagement of U.S. students and early-career researchers in the RCN-UBE activities.

B. Review and Selection Process

Proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation will be reviewed by Ad hoc Review and/or Panel Review.

Reviewers will be asked to evaluate proposals using two National Science Board approved merit review criteria and, if applicable, additional program specific criteria. A summary rating and accompanying narrative will generally be completed and submitted by each reviewer and/or panel. The Program Officer assigned to manage the proposal's review will consider the advice of reviewers and will formulate a recommendation.

After scientific, technical and programmatic review and consideration of appropriate factors, the NSF Program Officer recommends to the cognizant Division Director whether the proposal should be declined or recommended for award. NSF strives to be able to tell applicants whether their proposals have been declined or recommended for funding within six months. Large or particularly complex proposals or proposals from new awardees may require additional review and processing time. The time interval begins on the deadline or target date, or receipt date, whichever is later. The interval ends when the Division Director acts upon the Program Officer's recommendation.

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. After an administrative review has occurred, Grants and Agreements Officers perform 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.

Once an award or declination decision has been made, Principal Investigators are provided feedback about their proposals. In all cases, reviews are treated as confidential documents. Verbatim copies of reviews, excluding the names of the reviewers or any reviewer-identifying information, are sent to the Principal Investigator/Project Director by the Program Officer. In addition, the proposer will receive an explanation of the decision to award or decline funding.

VII. 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 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.B. for additional information on the review process.)

B. Award Conditions

An NSF award consists of: (1) the award notice, 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 notice; (4) the applicable award conditions, such as Grant General Conditions (GC-1)*; or Research Terms and Conditions* and (5) any announcement or other NSF issuance that may be incorporated by reference in the award notice. Cooperative agreements also are administered in accordance with NSF Cooperative Agreement Financial and Administrative Terms and Conditions (CA-FATC) and the applicable Programmatic Terms and Conditions. NSF awards are electronically signed by an NSF Grants and Agreements Officer and transmitted electronically to the organization via e-mail.

*These documents may be accessed electronically on NSF's Website at https://www.nsf.gov/awards/managing/award_conditions.jsp?org=NSF. Paper copies may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from nsfpubs@nsf.gov.

More comprehensive information on NSF Award Conditions and other important information on the administration of NSF awards is contained in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) Chapter VII, available electronically on the NSF Website at https://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=pappg.

C. Reporting Requirements

For all multi-year grants (including both standard and continuing grants), the Principal Investigator must submit an annual project report to the cognizant Program Officer no later than 90 days prior to the end of the current budget period. (Some programs or awards require submission of more frequent project reports). No later than 120 days following expiration of a grant, the PI also is required to submit a final project report, and a project outcomes report for the general public.

Failure to provide the required annual or final project reports, or the project outcomes report, will delay NSF review and processing of any future funding increments as well as any pending proposals for all identified PIs and co-PIs on a given award. 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 Research.gov, for preparation and submission of annual and final project reports. Such reports provide information on accomplishments, project participants (individual and organizational), publications, and other specific products and impacts of the project. Submission of the report via Research.gov constitutes certification by the PI that the contents of the report are accurate and complete. The project outcomes report also must be prepared and submitted using Research.gov. This report serves as a brief summary, prepared specifically for the public, of the nature and outcomes of the project. This report will be posted on the NSF website exactly as it is submitted by the PI.

More comprehensive information on NSF Reporting Requirements and other important information on the administration of NSF awards is contained in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) Chapter VII, available electronically on the NSF Website at https://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=pappg.

PIs must provide the names and institutional affiliations of all RCN participants, including students, in FastLane project reports and must maintain a website for dissemination of RCN information, including opportunities for participation.

VIII. AGENCY CONTACTS

Please note that the program contact information is current at the time of publishing. See program website for any updates to the points of contact.

General inquiries regarding this program should be made to:

For questions related to the use of FastLane, contact:

For questions relating to Grants.gov contact:

  • Grants.gov Contact Center: If the Authorized Organizational Representatives (AOR) has not received a confirmation message from Grants.gov within 48 hours of submission of application, please contact via telephone: 1-800-518-4726; e-mail: support@grants.gov.

IX. OTHER INFORMATION

The NSF website provides the most comprehensive source of information on NSF Directorates (including contact information), programs and funding opportunities. Use of this website by potential proposers is strongly encouraged. In addition, "NSF Update" is an information-delivery system designed to keep potential proposers and other interested parties apprised of new NSF funding opportunities and publications, important changes in proposal and award policies and procedures, and upcoming NSF Grants Conferences. Subscribers are informed through e-mail or the user's Web browser each time new publications are issued that match their identified interests. "NSF Update" also is available on NSF's website.

Grants.gov provides an additional electronic capability to search for Federal government-wide grant opportunities. NSF funding opportunities may be accessed via this mechanism. Further information on Grants.gov may be obtained at http://www.grants.gov.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent Federal agency created by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended (42 USC 1861-75). The Act states the purpose of the NSF is "to promote the progress of science; [and] to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare by supporting research and education in all fields of science and engineering."

NSF funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering. It does this through grants and cooperative agreements to more than 2,000 colleges, universities, K-12 school systems, businesses, informal science organizations and other research organizations throughout the US. The Foundation accounts for about one-fourth of Federal support to academic institutions for basic research.

NSF receives approximately 55,000 proposals each year for research, education and training projects, of which approximately 11,000 are funded. In addition, the Foundation receives several thousand applications for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships. The agency operates no laboratories itself but does support National Research Centers, user facilities, certain oceanographic vessels and Arctic and Antarctic research stations. The Foundation also supports cooperative research between universities and industry, US participation in international scientific and engineering efforts, and educational activities at every academic level.

Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities (FASED) provide funding for special assistance or equipment to enable persons with disabilities to work on NSF-supported projects. See the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide Chapter II.E.6 for instructions regarding preparation of these types of proposals.

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) 292-5090 and (800) 281-8749, FIRS at (800) 877-8339.

The National Science Foundation Information Center may be reached at (703) 292-5111.

The National Science Foundation promotes and advances scientific progress in the United States by competitively awarding grants and cooperative agreements for research and education in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

To get the latest information about program deadlines, to download copies of NSF publications, and to access abstracts of awards, visit the NSF Website at https://www.nsf.gov

  • Location:

2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22314

  • For General Information
    (NSF Information Center):

(703) 292-5111

  • TDD (for the hearing-impaired):

(703) 292-5090

  • To Order Publications or Forms:

Send an e-mail to:

nsfpubs@nsf.gov

or telephone:

(703) 292-7827

  • To Locate NSF Employees:

(703) 292-5111

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 or other entities needing information regarding applicants or nominees as part of a joint application review process, or in order to coordinate programs or policy; 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," 69 Federal Register 26410 (May 12, 2004), and NSF-51, "Reviewer/Proposal File and Associated Records," 69 Federal Register 26410 (May 12, 2004). Submission of the information is voluntary. Failure to provide full and complete information, however, may reduce the possibility of receiving an award.

An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, an information collection unless it displays a valid Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control number. The OMB control number for this collection is 3145-0058. 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 the burden estimate and any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to:

Suzanne H. Plimpton
Reports Clearance Officer
Office of the General Counsel
National Science Foundation
Alexandria, VA 22314



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