Advanced Technological Education (ATE)

Program Solicitation
NSF 21-598

Replaces Document(s):
NSF 18-571

NSF Logo

National Science Foundation

Directorate for Education and Human Resources
     Division of Undergraduate Education

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

     October 14, 2021

     October 06, 2022

     October 05, 2023

IMPORTANT INFORMATION AND REVISION NOTES

Track 1: Small Projects for Institutions New to the ATE program has a maximum budget of $350,000 over three years.

Track 2: ATE Projects has a maximum budget of $650,000 over three years.

ATE-Coordination Network projects are no longer supported.

A new track, Track 3, entitled “Consortia for Innovations in Technician Education” has been added.

Track 5: Targeted Research on Technician Education has been renamed Applied Research on Technician Education, and additional information has been added.

Developers are strongly encouraged to use an open licensing approach for any new learning materials and computer software source code when these materials are developed as a component of the proposed project (see text under "Reporting Requirements").

Any proposal submitted in response to this solicitation should be submitted in accordance with the revised NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 22-1), which is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after October 4, 2021.

SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

General Information

Program Title:

Advanced Technological Education (ATE)

Synopsis of Program:

With a focus on two-year Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs), the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program supports the education of technicians for the high-technology fields that drive our nation's economy. The program involves partnerships between academic institutions (grades 7-12, IHEs), industry, and economic development agencies to promote improvement in the education of science and engineering technicians at the undergraduate and secondary institution school levels. The ATE program supports curriculum development; professional development of college faculty and secondary school teachers; career pathways; and other activities. The program invites applied research proposals that advance the knowledge base related to technician education. It is required that projects be faculty driven and that courses and programs are credit bearing, although materials developed may also be used for incumbent worker education.

The ATE program encourages partnerships with other entities that may impact technician education. For example, with

The ATE program encourages proposals from Minority Serving Institutions as well as other institutions that support the recruitment, retention, and completion (certificate, degree, program) of groups historically underrepresented in STEM in technician education programs that award associate degrees. NSF is particularly interested in proposals from all types of Minority Serving Institutions (including Hispanic Serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions) where groups historically underrepresented in STEM are showing increased interest in advanced technology careers.

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.

  • V. Celeste Carter, Lead Program Director, telephone: (703) 292-4651, email: vccarter@nsf.gov

  • Pushpa Ramakrishna, telephone: (703) 292-2943, email: pusramak@nsf.gov

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

  • 47.076 --- Education and Human Resources

Award Information

Anticipated Type of Award: Standard Grant or Continuing Grant

Estimated Number of Awards: 45 to 80

NSF anticipates that approximately $75.0 million will be available for new and continuing awards in this program in FY2022. In FY 2022, the ATE program expects to fund new awards totaling $69,000,000 million.

Funding in all years is subject to the availability of funds. The program expects to make 45-80 new awards per year. Grants may be awarded in a wide variety of sizes and durations, as summarized below. The categories below are expected to encompass most of the activities supported through the ATE program; however, additional activities and mechanisms may be proposed after consultation with an ATE program officer. The actual number of awards and the award sizes are subject to the availability of funds and the quality of proposals received.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $75,000,000

is anticipated to be available for new and continuing awards in this program in FY2022. Funding in all years is subject to the availability of funds.

Eligibility Information

Who May Submit Proposals:

The categories of proposers eligible to submit proposals to the National Science Foundation are identified in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG), Chapter I.E.

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 Proposals: Not applicable.

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):

         October 14, 2021

         October 06, 2022

         October 05, 2023

Proposal Review Information Criteria

Merit Review Criteria:

National Science Board approved criteria. Additional merit review criteria 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 Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program supports the education of the skilled technical workforce at the undergraduate and secondary school levels. The skilled technical workforce has been defined as individuals who use a high level of science and engineering skills in their jobs but do not hold a baccalaureate degree. Proposals to the program may aim to affect specialized technology courses or core science, mathematics, and technology courses that serve as immediate prerequisites or co-requisites for specialized technician education courses/programs. The curricular focus and the activities of all projects should demonstrably contribute to the ATE program's central goals: producing more qualified science and engineering technicians to meet workforce demands, and improving the technical skills and the general science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) preparation of these technicians and the educators who prepare them. To this end, it is expected that courses developed or updated will be credit-bearing courses, although materials may also support incumbent worker education.

The ATE program focuses on IHEs that award two-year degrees in advanced technology fields and expects these IHEs and their faculty to have significant leadership roles on all projects. It is recommended that two-year IHEs serve as the fiscal lead on proposals with four-year IHEs being sub-awardees. When a four-year IHE submits as the fiscal lead, then two-year IHE faculty must be PI or Co-PIs. Effective technological education programs should involve partnerships in which two-year IHEs work with four-year IHEs, secondary schools, business, industry, economic development agencies, and government. The partnerships and collaborations should respond to employers' hiring needs for highly skilled technicians with the ability to learn and embrace change. Projects that focus on secondary school teachers and students must demonstrate a clear pathway to a two-year technician education program. When a secondary institution or school district develops a proposal, community college faculty must be PI or Co-PIs.

Fields of technology supported by the ATE program include, but are not limited to, advanced manufacturing technologies, agricultural and bio- technologies, energy and environmental technologies, engineering technologies, information technologies, micro- and nano-technologies, security technologies, geospatial technologies, autonomous technologies, and applied research on technician education that informs all supported areas. The ATE program is interested in projects addressing issues in rural technician education and projects that broaden the diversity of the entry-level technical workforce including strategies to recruit veterans into technician education programs. The ATE program is also interested in recruiting, retaining and completing students with disabilities into STEM technician education programs. The ATE program does not support projects that focus on students who will become health, veterinary, or medical technicians.

Activities may have either a national or a regional focus, but not a purely local one as results and outcomes should be applicable to a broad community. Projects must, however, have an institutional impact and make a case that graduates with these skills will have a measurable impact on the local workforce. All projects must be guided by a coherent vision of technological education--a vision that recognizes technicians as life-long learners together with the needs of the modern workplace, including employability skills, and the articulation of educational programs at different levels.

The ATE program supports projects, consortia for innovations in technician education, centers, and applied research on technician education. All ATE proposals are expected to communicate a realistic vision and an achievable plan for sustainability. It is expected that at least some aspects of centers, consortia, and projects will be sustained or institutionalized past the period of award funding. Being sustainable means that a project, consortia, or center has developed a product or service that the host institution, its partners, and its target audiences want to see continued.

To be sustainable is to ensure products and services have a life beyond ATE funding. For example:

  • The institution commits to maintaining some of the positions for faculty/personnel hired by the project;
  • Partners pledge to supply external resources to fund parts of the project after the NSF award ends;
  • The institution commits to continuing to maintain, improve and disseminate resources developed by the project; and/or
  • The institution seeks other sources of funding as ATE funding ends.

The almost 2,000 ATE projects and centers supported to date provide a base upon which future ATE projects should build. Information about these projects can be found on the NSF web site using the ATE program element code of 7412 in the awards search function (https://www.nsf.gov). ATE Central (http://www.atecentral.net) directs users to a full range of high-impact ATE resources available online, including curricula, learning objects, podcasts, and the ATE Impacts Book, as well as providing a variety of information about funded ATE projects and centers. The South Carolina Advanced Technological Education (SCATE) Center hosts an informative website (http://teachingtechnicians.org). The Advanced Technological Education TV project (ATETV) is another resource on technician education (http://www.atetv.org/). The EvaluATE Center at Western Michigan University partners with ATE projects, consortia, and centers to expand their use of exemplary evaluation practices, strengthen the knowledge base of the ATE program about evaluation and support the continuous improvement of technician education throughout the nation (http://www.evalu-ate.org/). Past program annual survey results may also be found at the EvaluATE site. The ATE program has also supported several studies by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and these may be found on the Academies website (www.nap.edu). The studies include “Community Colleges in the Evolving STEM Education Landscape”, “Engineering Technology Education in the United States”, and “Building America’s Skilled Technical Workforce”.

II. PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

A. PROGRAM TRACKS

The ATE program supports proposals in five major tracks: Small Projects for Institutions New to ATE, Projects, Consortia for Innovations in Technician Education, Centers, and Applied Research on Technician Education.

Proposals in all tracks should demonstrate a thorough awareness of previous relevant ATE grants, research on effective technician education, and contemporary developments in the relevant field(s) of technology. Whenever feasible, projects should utilize and innovatively build upon successful educational materials, courses, curricula, strategies, and methods that have been developed through other ATE grants, as well as other exemplary resources (including those not supported by NSF) that can be adapted to technological education. Proposers should contact the Principal Investigators (PIs) of previously funded projects and centers to explore the possibilities for adapting materials, evaluating materials, receiving guidance, or collaborating in other ways, such as conducting research projects that focus on the effectiveness of technician education.

Prospective PIs are encouraged to do a thorough literature search for funded projects related to their ideas. If such projects can inform the PI, he/she is encouraged to adapt and implement materials and/or strategies rather than re-developing materials. A successful proposal will provide evidence that any innovative materials and practices have been effective at other named institutions and provide realistic implementation plans that explain why the materials and practices are anticipated to be effective for the students enrolled at the applicant’s campus. The project scope may range from improvements in an individual course or laboratory to a more comprehensive effort that impacts entire curricula or programs.

All proposals may request instrumentation for student use in gaining skills and competencies (see Other Budgetary Limitations section).

For both Tracks 1 and 2, proposals may focus on one or more of the areas described under the Projects track. Multifaceted projects that cut across areas are encouraged.

Track 1: Small Projects for Institutions New to ATE

This track seeks to increase the incentives and opportunities for community colleges that have little or no previous experience with the ATE program to undertake projects to improve the education of the skilled technical workforce. This track is designed to stimulate implementation, adaptation, and innovation in all areas supported by the ATE program and to broaden the base of community colleges participating in the program. Proposers are strongly encouraged to utilize resources developed by other ATE or NSF awardees and to consult with people from those projects and centers. Prospective PIs are encouraged to provide sufficient detail on what is being proposed to clearly inform both reviewers and NSF staff.

It is expected that some of the funded projects in this category will serve as prototypes or pilots for an idea that may be expanded in a future proposal for an ATE project. The ATE program is particularly interested in projects addressing issues in rural technician education.

Only community college campuses that have not had an ATE award within the past 7 years may be the "performing organization" on a proposal in this track. It is acceptable for a system administrative office or other governing organization to submit the proposal and be the "awardee organization," even if that organization has received a previous ATE award. But the campus that is the "performing organization" must not have been the performing organization on an ATE award within the past 7 years and must be geographically distinct and have its own chief academic officer. (Note: community colleges that have had an ATE award within the past 7 years may still submit a proposal for a smaller in scope project under Track 2: ATE Projects).

Track 2. ATE PROJECTS

This track supports a diversity of project areas focused on improving the education of the skilled technical workforce, and these projects are usually larger in scope than those proposed under Track 1.

Program Development and Improvement: These projects should increase the relevance of technician education to modern practices and assure an increased number of students with an enhanced STEM theoretical understanding and technical skills and competencies entering the high performance workplace. Proposed activities should produce a coherent sequence of classes, laboratories, and work-based educational experiences that revitalize the learning environment, course content and technical experiences for students preparing to be science and engineering technicians. Employers must be committed partners, and the resulting program should constitute a model that could be disseminated broadly. The program should lead students to an appropriate associate degree or specific occupational competency or certification, provide business and industry and public sector agencies with a larger pool of skilled technicians, and support student recruitment, retention, and completion of programs. The PI should articulate clear project goals and objectives, and evaluative activities should be tied to the goals, objectives, and activities. It is expected that data on student completion and initial job placement will be gathered and reported on in annual and final reports. Programs for the development of baccalaureate degree programs or that focus solely on pathways to baccalaureate degrees are not eligible.

A program development and improvement proposal might include:

  • Developing new materials or courses that add rigorous STEM content to technician programs;
  • Developing innovative methods for using laboratory-, field- and work-based experiences to improve students' understanding of basic principles and the modern workplace;
  • Using modern instrumentation and new technologies to address the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed for the evolving, converging, and emerging technical workplace;
  • Integrating industry standards and workplace competencies into the curriculum including 21st century skills (www.p21.org )/employability skills (http://cte.ed.gov/employabilityskills/);
  • Implementing strategies to support student recruitment, retention, and program completion;
  • Developing life-long career and educational pathways for technicians to support the changing workplace, including improving articulation between programs at secondary schools and two-year IHEs, and pathways from two-year to four-year IHEs programs;
  • Providing industry internships, apprenticeships, and/or undergraduate research experiences including course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) that build both technical skills and competencies and employability skills; and
  • Instrumentation acquisition with curricular modifications to support existing programs that, in partnership with industry, have identified new instrumentation needs. Industry partner(s) must provide a letter affirming the changing workplace needs that supports the new instrumentation and their role in curricular revisions.

Curriculum and Educational Materials Development: A project may also focus on curriculum and materials development with the intent of broadly disseminating the developed products. Proposed project activities should affect the learning environment, course content, and experience of instruction for students preparing to be science and engineering technicians and for their faculty. Projects may develop new print, electronic, and multimedia materials, including simulations, scenarios, and web-based collections as well as laboratory experiments and manuals. It is expected that products will be developed with input from business, industry, and government, validated by experts from these organizations, field tested in diverse locations, and validated in terms of their effectiveness in meeting learning goals.

Professional Development for Educators: ATE supports projects that provide current secondary school teachers and IHE faculty with opportunities for continued professional growth in areas that directly impact technician education. These projects should be designed to enhance the educators' disciplinary capabilities, teaching skills, understanding of current technologies, practices, and employability skills. Activities typically include workshops/meetings, intensive seminars, industry internships, or a combination of these. Such activities typically last from a few days to several weeks and are usually conducted in the summer, with follow-on activities conducted during the academic year. To effect long-term change, workshop/meeting participants should demonstrate institutional support. The program particularly encourages activities that involve secondary school teachers and two-year IHE faculty working together. Additionally, the program encourages activities that provide pedagogical skills to industry scientists and skilled tradespeople who wish to teach. Evaluation should demonstrate use in the classrooms and sustainable changes in the practice of participating faculty and teachers leading to more qualified technicians for the industry. Changes in student learning outcomes as well as students' perceptions of technical careers should be assessed and the data shared in annual and final reports. As with all ATE projects, two-year faculty are required to be in leadership roles and it is expected that all professional development activities include business and industry partners to assure that the faculty and teacher training is relevant and tied to workforce needs.

Leadership Capacity Building for Faculty: The vitality and growth of the ATE community is closely linked to industry trends and needs as well as the acumen of the PIs and their institutions who educate technicians. As such, faculty must: 1) work with their institutional administration; 2) effectively manage both programs and project/center activities; 3) maintain industry connections that include local, statewide, and national economic development efforts; and 4) maintain and cultivate networks with other grantees across funding agencies. Activities that foster these skills might include:

  • Mentoring programs that link experienced ATE PIs with new grantees. Activities are expected to lead to new PIs acquiring the skills needed to successfully manage, complete, evaluate, disseminate and sustain their projects as well as fostering leadership skills such that they may become mentors at a future time;
  • Identifying and mentoring faculty and their administrators for the purpose of developing and implementing a new curriculum in an advanced technological area to educate technicians for local industry needs; and
  • Developing and implementing outreach activities that impact faculty and their institutions educating them about the value and potential impact of working with the ATE Program and its community. These efforts could include providing information on funding opportunities, developing effective proposal writing skills, providing guidance on ways of surveying area industry to determine industry needs as well as finding and working with local workforce investment boards and other entities.

Teacher Preparation: The foundation for advanced technological education is grounded in strong STEM education in K-12 schools. The preparation of future STEM and career and technical education (CTE) teachers who will facilitate student learning in mathematics and science and cultivate an interest in technological careers is an important component of educating the skilled technical workforce. ATE teacher preparation projects help prepare a future teaching workforce that is skilled in teaching science and mathematics, understands the technological workplace, and can prepare students to use a variety of approaches to solve real world technology related problems using design processes and principles (See Standards for Technological Literacy, International Technology and Engineering Educators Association).

Teacher Preparation projects must involve both two-year and four-year institutions unless the two-year institution offers a four-year baccalaureate program in teacher preparation. Other partners include industry to inform the program about the changing technological workplace. Projects should aim to increase the number, quality, and diversity of prospective STEM and/or CTE teachers in pre-service or paraprofessional programs. These projects are expected to improve the prospective teachers' technological understanding; provide them with experiences to use in engaging students in real world technological problems; improve their understanding of the modern workplace; and strengthen their preparation in science and mathematics. These projects are expected to build on the extensive research literature on teacher preparation. Two-year IHEs have the unique advantage of having technology faculty, connected with the high performance workplace, who can work with mathematics and science faculty in developing and teaching these programs.

Business and Entrepreneurial Skills Development for Students: In addition to technical skills and disciplinary content, students entering the advanced technological industries environment need skills that allow them to understand and work effectively in this environment. Many companies have a global presence, and students need to understand that the global economy affects them as employees. Another sector of the industry is comprised of small start-up companies, and these have different attributes than large established firms. Students need to understand these attributes and differences to be effective employees.

Employers often expect employees to possess knowledge, skills and competencies in a specific technical area and to demonstrate professional, industry-related, and entrepreneurship acumen. Business and entrepreneurship skills can be developed in students enrolled in technician education programs by engaging students in problem-based learning using projects of interest to local industry, working with local economic investment organizations, and developing incubator programs that provide experiences for students to interact with entrepreneurs. Projects are encouraged that:

  • Educate traditional students and returning learners to develop and apply technical, professional, industry-related, and entrepreneurship knowledge, skills, and competencies within the context of a technician education program;
  • Incorporate global issues and international technological and business practices into technician education programs; and
  • Introduce students to business plans, marketing strategies, networking and interviewing skills, and characteristics of successful entrepreneurs within the context of the technician education program.

Track 3: Consortia for Innovations in Technician Education

This track focuses on collaborations that strengthen partnerships between two-year IHEs that serve either a specific industry or where the convergence of technologies is changing the skills and competencies needed by the skilled technical workforce. These consortia are expected to be less complex than an ATE Center. Prospective PIs are expected to contact and work with relevant ATE Center(s) that support the disciplinary focus of the consortia as well as other ATE projects focused on the same technological area. A section of the proposal must describe the collaboration with the Center(s) and other ATE projects, how the consortia will leverage Center and project resources, and how the goals and activities of the consortia are distinct from general goals and activities of the Center(s). This section should be labeled: Consortia Connections to ATE Center(s) and Projects in the project description. It is appropriate to include a knowledgeable person from an ATE Center as an Advisor to the project.

These projects will be expected to focus on leveraging the expertise from several institutions and industry partners to accelerate both the development and dissemination of materials and best practices that are responsive to industry and regional economic development. Proposals are expected to detail the contributions of each institution/program to the consortia and provide an expected impact statement for the new consortia. Proposers are encouraged to investigate and develop innovative and creative approaches to program improvement and development in response to both industry and technician education needs. Possible outcomes may include: broad dissemination of project deliverables across the two-year IHE community; building networks across fields or institutions; faculty professional development activities; and leadership growth within and across appropriate STEM technological areas. As with all ATE proposals, strong industry partners are required. The management plan should provide detail on the roles of industry partners and others on the project.

Some examples of possible Consortia focal points include:

  • Several institutions with programs supporting the automotive industry as it shifts to alternative fuels and electric vehicles might form consortia to respond to changing industry needs for technicians;
  • The integration of cybersecurity into advanced manufacturing (or any other advanced technological industry) might bring together institutions that separately support programs in cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing to develop appropriate materials across the converging areas; and
  • Renewable energy programs might form consortia with building technologies programs and environmental programs.

Track 4: ATE CENTERS

The ATE program recognizes the need to develop an integrated approach to technician education that will define and disseminate the critical knowledge and skills required to support the advanced technology industries in the US. To facilitate this integrated approach, the ATE program will support a center in each of the following areas: Advanced Manufacturing Technologies, Agricultural Technologies, Autonomous Technologies, Biotechnology, Energy Technologies, Environmental Technologies, Engineering Technologies, Information Technologies, Security Technologies, and Micro- and Nano-Technologies. Proposals may be considered for an emerging advanced technology field that is not included in the previous list, if that field has a high potential for career opportunities for two-year IHE graduates.

Strategies for Developing an ATE Center Proposal

Center Planning Grant: The ATE program offers planning grants for Centers. (See Section III. Award Information and Section V. Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions for further information.) The planning grant may be used to develop the Center infrastructure, conduct workforce needs surveys, and recruit partner institutions as well as industry and economic development agencies. Planning grants are optional.

When preparing a Center planning proposal, the "Research" proposal type should be selected in the proposal preparation module in FastLane or Grants.gov.

Center Proposal: Institutions contemplating a proposal for a Center are required to make early contact with one of the ATE Lead Program Directors to discuss their ideas.

Typically, ATE Centers will be led by recognized leaders in a particular field or technology, based on significant prior efforts. Prior efforts include the successful completion of several projects that lead to the expertise and experience needed to lead an ATE Center. Center proposals must build upon prior efforts of both project personnel and others in the field.

Current active centers are encouraged to work together with a new prospective PI and institution to prepare a proposal for a given technical field.

Expected Outcomes of ATE Centers

To advance the ATE program's mission of educating the skilled technical workforce, ATE Centers will:

  • Support systemic reform, broad outreach, community-building, and leadership development among educational institutions, industry, professional and trade associations, educators, and incumbent technicians;
  • Establish an effective dialogue and collaborations between existing and new ATE projects in the same or related technological fields across the nation;
  • Provide models and leadership for collaborations in which two-year IHEs work with four-year IHEs, secondary schools, business, industry, economic development agencies, and government;
  • Mentor prospective PIs to broaden the impact of ATE;
  • Promote technician careers and visibility and the public image in the field(s) on which the Center is focused;
  • Address technician knowledge, skills, and competencies needed for the evolving, converging, and emerging technical workplace;
  • Provide faculty professional development opportunities within their area of expertise; and
  • Develop a realistic plan for achieving sustainability and institutionalization of key center functions following the period of NSF funding.

After the initial five years, an ATE Center that continues to meet the ATE program requirements may request support for an additional five year period. The proposal must document clear results and outcomes of prior support. Additionally, new goals and activities resulting from prior results and outcomes should be detailed along with a plan for sustainability. However, at the end of the first five year period of funding other center proposals in the same technological area will also be accepted.

Proposals for Centers must clearly articulate a national vision of technological education in the specific field and describe a workable plan for achieving that vision during the period of NSF funding. Proposals must describe the expected impacts of the proposed ATE Center on industry, technician education programs at the national, regional, and local levels, and institutions. The evaluation plan for a Center should describe strategies for measuring impacts on institutions, faculty, students, and industry, and the Center’s success in coordinating with ATE projects and other stakeholders.

Information about the internal and external resources that will be made available to the project should be described in the Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources section of the proposal. It is expected that, during the first five-year award, an ATE Center will seek a variety of additional funding sources to support sustainability. The success of these sustainability efforts, as well as the description of a sustainability plan, will be critically reviewed for renewal of funding.

Proposals for ATE Centers must include a letter from the president or chief academic officer of the host institution documenting the institution's commitment to the center.

Logistical Information

The "Center" proposal type should be selected in the proposal preparation module in FastLane or Grants.gov.

Deadlines

The staggered submission dates for specific areas of technology (below) reflect the current set of active ATE National and Regional Center awards.

Proposal Deadline Area of Technology (for ATE Center Proposals)
(follow published solicitation deadline dates)  
October 2021 (for funding in 2022) Energy Technologies
  Engineering Technologies
  Agricultural Technologies
  Information Technologies
October 2022 (for funding in 2023) Proposals in areas listed for Oct. 2021 if center in that area wasn't funded.
October 2023 (for funding in 2024) Biotechnology
  Emerging Advanced Technological Area

ATE Center proposals submitted outside the specified deadlines and topical areas above will be returned without review.

If an ATE Center is not funded in a specified area of technology during the year in which proposals are accepted, proposals in that area will again be accepted in the subsequent years until one is funded. Proposals for an ATE Center for a "new emerging area of technology" will be evaluated by NSF staff and external reviewers for appropriateness as a new topical area for an ATE Center. Prospective investigators with an idea for an emerging area are required to contact an ATE Program Officer before submitting a proposal.

Resource Centers: The ATE program recognizes the importance of continuing to support existing centers so they may continue to contribute to the fields of technician education. After ten years of funding, ATE Centers may submit a proposal that describes a plan to continue a subset of center practices along with new objectives that will support technological education in their respective field. These centers will be called "Resource Centers" and they will be expected to:

  • Provide support and mentoring for prospective PIs that wish to start or improve educational programs in a particular field of technology;
  • Coordinate and support additional industry, business, and academic partnerships;
  • Promote technician careers and the public image in the field(s) on which the resource center is focused;
  • Screen, validate, update, and broadly distribute exemplary materials, curricula, and pedagogical practices adapted or designed by ATE centers and projects and other appropriate sources including supporting the adaptation and implementation at new institutions of these materials; and
  • Connect and support project PIs within their technological areas.

For ATE Centers transitioning to a Resource Center, proposals will be accepted for the proposal deadline that is prior to the final year of the Center award.

Track 5: Applied Research on Technician Education

The goals of this track are: 1) to simulate and support applied research on technician education in established and emerging advanced technology fields in STEM, and 2) to build the partnership capacity between two-year and four-year IHEs with industry input to design and conduct research and development projects.

Applied research is a methodology used to solve a specific, practical issue affecting an individual or group. This track seeks applied research projects that investigate issues related to the education and workforce development of the skilled technical workforce in STEM fields. The program supports a broad range of research methodologies, which are guided by research questions addressing current and emerging issues and gaps in the knowledge base in technician education and STEM workforce development. Proposals are particularly encouraged that address immediate challenges and opportunities facing the development of high quality technicians for the nation’s established and emerging STEM workforce, as well as those that anticipate new structures (e.g., new methods for certification or credentialing recognized by industry; program and course re-conception; long-standing or emerging issues, such as recruitment, retention and attainment of degrees and credentials; and emerging careers and pathways and the need for new or adapted resources for attaining required knowledge and skills). Exemplary efforts include strong partnerships among faculty at two-year IHEs, industry, and four-year IHE researchers and focus on issues that concern practitioners and stakeholders. Results and findings from ATE research projects, in turn, contribute to NSF’s and the Education and Human Resources Directorate’s efforts that focus attention on STEM workforce development and emerging STEM fields, and increasing participation and persistence in STEM, especially by groups historically underrepresented in STEM.

Projects must clearly demonstrate that two-year IHEs have leadership roles. All projects must include a literature review that establishes the basis for the proposed study; a clear description of the alignment of research questions with methodologies; and be informed by the Common Guidelines for Education Research and Development (https://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=nsf13126).

This track supports three levels of research efforts (these include applied research and research and development).

  • Planning and Pilot Study: $150,000 total with a duration up to 2 years.
  • Exploratory Research and Development: $300,000 total with a duration up to 2 years. These research projects may be built on results from a pilot study or design research study.
  • Full Scale Research and Development: $800,000 total with a duration up to 3 years. These projects are expected to include research on and implementation with other types of participants, at other locations, under different conditions to test development efforts or innovations.

Examples of funded targeted research projects may be found on the NSF website using the awards search tool.

Investigators who are interested in conducting a targeted research project are strongly encouraged to discuss their plans with an ATE program officer prior to submission.

Conferences and Meetings: The ATE program supports a small number of conferences, meetings, and special projects that lead to a better understanding of issues in advanced technological education. These efforts must be related to the mission of the ATE program. Budgets for conferences and meetings are expected to be consistent with the duration of the event, and the number of participants, but the cost will normally not exceed a total of $250,000. It is expected that the conferences and meetings will be outcome based, and that the final report should contain a statement of the impacts of the event. Proceedings of the conference are expected to be published and widely disseminated. Proposals for conferences and meetings may be submitted at any time during the year, but the proposers should plan on at least a 10 month lead time to allow for review and processing of the proposal. A prospective PI is encouraged to contact an ATE program officer to discuss the conference or meeting prior to submitting a proposal. The "Conference" proposal type should be selected in the proposal preparation module in FastLane or Grants.gov. Additional information about the preparation of conference proposals is available in Chapter II of the PAPPG.

B. INFORMATION ABOUT PREVIOUS AWARDS

  • NSF's web site (https://www.nsf.gov) provides an Awards Search feature that allows customized searches of NSF's award database. Proposers are also encouraged to search http://atecentral.net/ and contact PIs of previous awards.

III. AWARD INFORMATION

Anticipated number, size, and duration of new awards:

Track 1: Small projects for institutions new to the ATE program: approximately 12-20 awards for up to $350,000 (each) typically spread over three years. It is expected that the budget request will match the scope of the project.

Track 2: Projects:
Approximately 30-45 new awards for up to $650,000 and having a duration of up to three years. It is expected that the budget request will match the scope of the project.

Track 3: Consortia for Innovations in Technician Education: approximately 1-5 new awards, ranging from $1,200,000 to $3,000,000 typically spread over 3-4 years. Consortia of two institutions have a maximum budget of $1,200,000. Consortia of three or more institutions have a maximum budget of $3,000,000. It is expected that the budget request will match the scope of the project.

Track 4: Centers:
Planning Grants for Centers: one to two new awards for up to $70,000 (each) to develop well-formulated plans for a future center (see Section V.A ["Proposal Preparation"] for additional information).

ATE Center: Funding will be $7,500,000 spread over five years, with the possibility of a competitive renewal for $7,500,000 over an additional five years. It is expected that 1-3 awards may be made each year.
Resource centers: funding will be $1,650,000 million spread over three years with the possibility of a competitive renewal for an additional three years. It is expected that one to two awards may be made each year.

Track 5: Applied Research on Technician Education: up to 5 new awards, ranging from $150,000 total for up to two years to $800,000 total for up to four years.

Funding in all years is subject to the availability of funds.

IV. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION

Who May Submit Proposals:

The categories of proposers eligible to submit proposals to the National Science Foundation are identified in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG), Chapter I.E.

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.

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 FastLane or Grants.gov.

  • 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) 292-8134 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) 292-8134 or by e-mail from nsfpubs@nsf.gov.

In determining which method to utilize in the electronic preparation and submission of the proposal, please note the following:

Collaborative Proposals. All collaborative proposals submitted as separate submissions from multiple organizations must be submitted via FastLane. PAPPG Chapter II.D.3 provides additional information on collaborative proposals.

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.

The following instructions for particular sections of the proposal supplement or deviate from the guidance found in the PAPPG and the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide. Refer also to Section II, Program Description, for additional proposal preparation information and instructions for the different program tracks.

Project Data Form: The information on this form is used to direct the proposal to appropriate reviewers and to determine the characteristics of NSF-supported projects. Take special care to identify the proper track for your proposal in Item 1 on the form. For any audience code(s) marked in Item F (e.g., women, minorities, persons with disabilities), include in the Project Description a substantive discussion of the specific strategies that the project will employ to affect the audience(s). Note: In FastLane, the Project Data Form will show up in the list of forms for your proposal only after you have (1) selected the correct Program Announcement/Solicitation No. on the Cover Sheet and (2) saved the Cover Sheet. Grants.gov users should refer to Section VI.5. of the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide for specific instructions on how to submit the DUE Project Data Form.

Project Summary: The Project Summary should clearly indicate, in the overview textbox, the disciplinary focus (or foci) of the proposed project, the kinds of activities to be undertaken (e.g. educational materials development, adaptation and implementation, professional development for educators), and the primary audience to be affected by those activities (e.g., two-year IHE students, secondary school students, two-year IHE faculty members, secondary school teachers).

Project Description: The length of the Project Description is limited to 15 pages. The Project Description must begin with the subsection on Results from Prior NSF Support, and this subsection should cover NSF awards pertaining to the new proposal. Awards from other sources that directly impact the proposed work should also be included. This subsection must contain specific outcomes and results including metrics to demonstrate the impact of the project activities.

Center renewals and current centers transitioning to a resource center may submit up to five-pages of Results from Prior NSF Support in the Supplementary Documents. The first section of the Project Description should provide a few sentence overview of past results and direct the reader to the supplementary documents for the complete description of Results from Prior NSF Support.

The Project Description must explain the project's motivating rationale, goals, objectives, deliverables, and activities; the timetable; the management plan; the roles and responsibilities of the PI, co-PI(s), and other senior personnel; the plan for sustainability after the period of NSF funding; the evaluation plan; and the dissemination plan. Submission of the evaluation plan in supplementary documents is not allowable and such proposals will be subject to return without review as they will not meet the 15-page project description requirement. For information about effective approaches to evaluation, see the following resources:

The 2010 User-Friendly Handbook for Project Evaluation

Online Evaluation Resource Library for NSF's Directorate for Education and Human Resources

Field-Tested Learning Assessment Guide (FLAG) for Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology Instructors

The EvaluATE Center (www.evalu-ate.org)

Evaluation tools for Undergraduate Research (EvaluateUR), Course-based Undergraduate Research (EvaluateCURE), and STEM competitions (EvaluateCompete): https://serc.carleton.edu/evaluateur/index.html

References Cited: A References Cited section must be included in the proposal. Literature cited should specifically relate to the proposed project, and the Project Description should make clear how each reference has played a role in the motivation for or design of the project. Relevant literature on research in teaching and learning as well as relevant literature on technical education efforts should be cited. If no references are cited, the section should state that no references were cited.

Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources: Proposers should include an aggregated description of the internal and external resources (both physical and personnel) that the organization and its collaborators will provide to the project, should it be funded. Such information must be provided in this section, in lieu of other parts of the proposal (e.g., budget justification, project description). The description should be narrative in nature and must not include any quantifiable financial information. See PAPPG for additional information. Photographs of physical space and equipment are not allowed.

Special Information and Supplementary Documentation:

Please refer to the PAPPG for guidance. In addition to following the PAPPG, the ATE program requires:

  1. Letters of Collaboration that document what is being committed that is of significance to the project. Letters that merely endorse the project or offer nonspecific support for project activities should not be included and the proposal may be returned without review if such letters of support are included;
  2. a Biographical Sketch of the external evaluator (if that person is named in the project description);
  3. For Center submissions only: a letter from the president or chief academic officer of the host institution documenting the institution's commitment to the Center; and
  4. For existing Centers seeking a renewal or transitioning to a Resource Center, up to five pages of Results from Prior NSF Support.

The addition of other documents in this section, except those specified above or required by the PAPPG, will result in the proposal being returned without review.

Additional Guidance for Planning Center Proposals: On the Cover Sheet of the proposal, the project title should begin with the words "Planning Proposal for...." Planning proposals are reserved for planning for a Center. The proposal should clearly describe the activities that will take place during the planning period. It should also provide details about the workforce demands that will be addressed, the organizations and departments that will be (or will likely be) partners in the project, the core faculty members or administrators who will manage the project, and the criteria that will be used to judge the proposer's readiness to form an ATE Center at the end of the planning period. The proposal should also outline plans for identifying and enlisting faculty from two-and four-year IHEs and representatives from business, industry and public sector agencies to provide leadership for the various activities of the project or center. Planning proposals need not present plans for evaluation and dissemination.

Additional Information: Certain special types of proposals described in the PAPPG--i.e., Grants for Rapid Research Response (RAPID) proposals, EArly Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) proposals, and Accomplishment-Based Renewal (ABR) proposals are not appropriate for the ATE program and should not be submitted in response to this solicitation.

Evaluation: All ATE-funded work must be evaluated, with the exception of planning grants for centers. Project descriptions must include a subsection titled “Evaluation Plan” that includes the following information:

  • Aspects of the project that will be evaluated—this is best expressed as evaluation questions that frame the evaluative inquiry or criteria that define the dimensions of project quality that will be investigated. The evaluation should address both project implementation and outcomes. Implementation encompasses the project’s activities and deliverables. Outcomes are changes brought about by the project, such as—but not limited to—changes related to student learning, persistence, retention, graduation, and employment; faculty knowledge and pedagogical skills; broadening participation in STEM; meeting workforce needs; enhancing institutional capacity; and advancing knowledge about technician education;
  • The specific data sources, data collection instruments, and methods that will be employed to address the evaluation questions or criteria, and how data will be analyzed and interpreted to answer the evaluation questions and reach conclusions about the quality of the project’s implementation and outcomes;
  • A timeline for the evaluation that identifies when data will be collected, when reports will be submitted, and the frequency of communication between the external evaluator and project personnel;
  • A plan to incorporate summative evaluation results to improve the project; and
  • Personnel involved in conducting the evaluation, including, if applicable, an explanation of how evaluation responsibilities will be divided between the external evaluator and project staff.

There must be clear alignment between the evaluation plan and the project’s intended outcomes, activities, and deliverables.

It is recommended that the evaluator be named in the proposal and a Biographical Sketch included with the proposal’s supplementary documents. If the submitting organization requires evaluation consultants to be selected through a competitive bid process after an award is made, the proposer should note the policy that prohibits noncompetitive selection and describe the procedures that will be used to select an evaluator after the award is made.

Special Information for the Evaluation of Applied Research Projects: Applied research projects may be evaluated by an external review committee, rather than a single external evaluator. Whether by committee or individual evaluator, the evaluation of applied research projects should include review and feedback on data collection procedures, analyses, draft publications, and dissemination plans to ensure quality and enhance the impact of the research.

B. Budgetary Information

Cost Sharing:

Inclusion of voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited.

Other Budgetary Limitations:

Funds requested for equipment and instrumentation (computers, computer-related hardware, software, laboratory or field instrumentation, and scientific or industrial machinery) normally may not exceed $200,000 for the duration of a full project grant. Exceptions to this limit will be considered when a single piece of equipment costs in excess of the maximum allowable request, and the need for the equipment is justified in terms of student use and learning outcomes. If instrumentation to update an existing program is requested, the request may exceed the $200,000 limitation if the equipment request is supported by industry. Equipment requests for Small Projects for Institutions New to ATE should be within the overall scope of the project budget. It is expected that the proposer will request educational discounts from the equipment supplier, and that any discount will be explained in the budget justification. NSF funds may not be used to support expenditures that would normally be made in the absence of an award, such as costs for routine teaching activities (including curriculum development) and laboratory upgrades (supplies and computers).

Equipment requests must be clearly disclosed in the proposal budget, justified in the budget justification, and be included in the NSF award budget. See 2 CFR § 200.313 for additional information.

NSF project funds may not be used for:

  • Student scholarships (please see the DUE S-STEM program for scholarships for students);
  • replacement equipment or instrumentation that does not significantly improve instructional capability;
  • teaching aids (e.g., films, slides, projectors, "drill and practice" software);
  • vehicles, trailers, laboratory furnishings, or general utility items such as office equipment (including word-processing equipment), benches, tables, desks, chairs, storage cases, and routine supplies;
  • maintenance equipment and maintenance or service contracts;
  • the modification, construction, or furnishing of laboratories or other buildings;
  • the installation of equipment or instrumentation (as distinct from the on-site assembly of multi-component instruments--which is an allowable charge).

In accordance with 2 CFR § 200.413, the salaries of administrative and clerical staff should normally be treated as indirect costs (F&A). Direct charging of these costs may be appropriate only if all the conditions specified in section 413(c) of the Uniform Guidance are met.

Professional Development Conferences/Meetings: In proposals that involve professional development activities, reasonable travel costs and costs for subsistence (lodging and meals) during the meeting may be included in project budgets. In addition, funds may be requested for a reasonable stipend per meeting day for participants; requests for such stipends must be specific to the target audience and must be fully justified--for example, to assure participation by faculty with few professional development opportunities or from institutions that justify need.

Support for Substitute Teachers: The use of NSF funds to hire substitute teachers is allowed under the following conditions: (1) it is necessary to meet the goals and objectives of the project; and (2) it can be documented that the substitute teachers are directly replacing teachers participating in the NSF-funded project. Substitute teachers should be paid in accordance with established school district policies, and in lieu of paying the teachers participating in the project. Records must be maintained on the hiring and use of substitutes.

Extra Compensation Above Base Salary. Please follow 2 CFR § 200.430. Extra service pay normally represents overload compensation, subject to institutional compensation policies above and beyond the Institutional Base Salary (IBS). The institution must have written policies that apply uniformly to all faculty, not just those working on a federal award.

National Visiting Committee: For ATE Center proposals, the budget should include provisions for a National Visiting Committee (NVC) to visit the center at least on an annual basis. An NVC is a group of experts who provide advice to the project staff, assess the plans and progress of the project (and make reports both to the project leadership and to NSF), and enhance the dissemination of the project's products. Typically, ATE Centers enlist eight to ten members. The proposal should include only the names of NVC members who have agreed to serve should an award be made. After an award is made, the cognizant NSF program officer will work with the grantee to finalize NVC membership. The proposal should address how the NVC will be used in the project.

Evaluation: The funds to support an evaluator independent of the project must be requested. The requested funds must match the scope of the proposed evaluative activities. The evaluator may be employed by a project’s home institution, as long as he or she works in a separate organizational unit (e.g., a different department) that has a different reporting line than that of the project’s home unit. The project should engage project staff, project participants, or an internal evaluator to work with the external evaluator as a means to improve the quality of data collected and feasibility of conducting the evaluation.

ATE PI Conference: The budget must include funds to support travel to the annual ATE PI Conference. Lodging is covered by the American Association of Community Colleges for a specified number of people from each project and center. All awardees are to showcase their progress annually at the ATE PI Conference.

C. Due Dates

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

         October 14, 2021

         October 06, 2022

         October 05, 2023

For Proposals Submitted via Research.gov

To prepare and submit a proposal via Research.gov, see detailed technical instructions available at: Research.gov. For Research.gov user support, call the Research.gov Help Desk at 1-800-673-6188 or e-mail rgov@nsf.gov. The Research.gov Help Desk answers general technical questions related to the use of Research.gov systems. 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: https://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 system for further processing.

Proposers that submitted via Research.gov may use Research.gov 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.

D. FastLane/Research.gov/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 and Research.gov Help Desk at 1-800-673-6188 or e-mail fastlane@nsf.gov. The FastLane and Research.gov Help Desk answers general technical questions related to the use of the FastLane and Research.gov systems. 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: https://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 may use Research.gov 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 Building the Future: Investing in Discovery and Innovation - NSF Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years (FY) 2018 – 2022. 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 other underrepresented groups 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

For the ATE program, questions such as the following are often relevant to evaluating proposals in terms of NSF's merit review criteria.

Intellectual Merit

  • Does the project have potential for improving student learning in science or engineering technician education programs?
  • Are the goals, objectives, and outcomes and the plans and procedures for achieving them, worthwhile, well-developed, and realistic?
  • Is the rationale for selecting particular activities or components for development or adaptation clearly articulated and informed by the research literature? Does the work build on that base and the work of others?
  • Is the evaluation plan clearly tied to the project outcomes? Does the project provide for effective assessment of student learning? Is the evaluation likely to provide useful information to the project and others?
  • Is the evidence of institutional support clear and compelling, and have plans for long term institutionalization been addressed?

Broader Impacts

  • Has an assessment of workforce needs for technicians been conducted? Does the project work with employers to address their current and future needs for technicians?
  • Will the project's results be widely disseminated and will its products be distributed effectively and commercialized when appropriate?
  • Will the project evaluation inform others through the communication of results?
  • Are the results and products of the project likely to be useful at other institutions?
  • Are other educational institutions involved in project activities?
  • Does the project promote diversity in the technical workforce?

B. Review and Selection Process

Proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation will be reviewed by 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) 292-8134 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.

There are two special ATE requirements. The EvaluATE Resource Center at Western Michigan University assists the ATE community in evaluating the ATE program by conducting the ATE Annual Survey. All PIs must respond annually to this survey that requests information about the number and characteristics of students and educators that have been affected by the project; the retention, graduation, and placement rates for students; the project's impact on workforce needs; awards and other measures of the quality of the project's products and activities; and other indicators of the project's effect on the quality and quantity of technicians being educated for the high-tech workplace. NSF works with the EvaluATE Center to set guidelines for the collection and reporting of data.

For the second requirement, to support project and center sustainability and data management planning and help ensure that the valuable deliverables created through ATE funding remain available after funding ends, ATE projects and centers are required to work with ATE Central to ensure those resources are archived. Specifically, projects and centers that create resources that exist at all in digital form (e.g., curriculum, professional development, and recruitment materials) must provide copies of those resources to ATE Central for archiving purposes, in an archivable format and with clear intellectual property information. Details on archiving can be found on the ATE Central website (http://atecentral.net/archiving). Projects and centers are encouraged to work with ATE Central early in their funding period to develop a plan for preparing and migrating copies of their materials for archiving.

Additionally, it is suggested that the developer of new materials license all work (except for computer software source code, discussed below) created with the support of the grant under either the 3.0 Unported or 3.0 United States version of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY), Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA), or Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) license.

These licenses allow subsequent users to copy, distribute, transmit, and adapt the copyrighted work and requires such users to attribute the work in the manner specified by the grantee. Notice of the specific license used would be affixed to the work, and displayed clearly when the work is made available online. For general information on these Creative Commons licenses, please visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/.

It is expected that computer software source code developed or created with ATE grant funds be released under an intellectual property license that allows others to use and build upon the work. The grantee may release all new source code developed or created with ATE grant funds under an open license acceptable to the Free Software Foundation (http://gnu.org/licenses/) and/or the Open Source Initiative (http://opensource.org/licenses/).

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:

  • V. Celeste Carter, Lead Program Director, telephone: (703) 292-4651, email: vccarter@nsf.gov

For questions related to the use of FastLane or Research.gov, contact:

  • FastLane and Research.gov Help Desk: 1-800-673-6188
  • FastLane Help Desk e-mail: fastlane@nsf.gov
  • Research.gov Help Desk e-mail: rgov@nsf.gov.

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.


For questions about specific areas of technology or disciplines proposers are encouraged to contact a Program Officer from the list below.

Biotechnology/Biology/Chemistry

Engineering

Evaluation/Research

Geographic Information Systems/Geosciences

Information technology/Computer Science

Information technology/Cybersecurity

New to ATE track

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 https://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) 292-8134

  • 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 System of Record Notices, NSF-50, "Principal Investigator/Proposal File and Associated Records," and NSF-51, "Reviewer/Proposal File and Associated Records.” 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
Policy Office, Division of Institution and Award Support
Office of Budget, Finance, and Award Management
National Science Foundation
Alexandria, VA 22314

Policies and Important Links

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