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Note: A new version of this document applies to all proposals submitted or due on or after January 30, 2023. Learn more about the PAPPG

National Science Foundation
Significant Changes and Clarifications
PAPPG - Introduction
A. About the NSF
B. Foreword
C. Acronym List
D. Definitions
E. NSF Organizations
F. NSF Electronic Capabilities Modernization Status
Table of Contents
Part I: Proposal Preparation and Submission Guidelines
I. Pre-Submission Information
II. Proposal Preparation Instructions
III. NSF Proposal Processing and Review
IV. Non-Award Decisions and Transactions
V. Renewal Proposals
Part II: Award, Administration and Monitoring of Grants and Cooperative Agreements
VI. NSF Awards
VII. Grant Administration
VIII. Financial Requirements and Payments
IX. Grantee Standards
X. Allowability of Costs
XI. Other Post Award Requirements and Considerations
XII. Grant Administration Disputes and Misconduct
Subject Index
Privacy Act and Public Burden Statements

NSF 18-1 January 29, 2018
Table of Contents

PAPPG - printable version (PDF)

Significant Changes and Clarifications to the PAPPG


  1. About the National Science Foundation

  2. Foreword

  3. Listing of Acronyms

  4. Definitions & NSF-Grantee Relationships

  5. NSF Organizations

  6. NSF Electronic Capabilities Modernization Status

Part I - Proposal Preparation and Submission Guidelines

  1. Pre-Submission Information

    1. NSF Proposal Preparation and Submission
    2. NSF Programs and Funding Opportunities
    3. Categories of Funding Opportunities
      1. Program Descriptions
      2. Program Announcements
      3. Program Solicitations
      4. Dear Colleague Letters
    4. Types of Submissions
      1. Letters of Intent
      2. Preliminary Proposals
        1. Invite/Not Invite
        2. Encourage/Discourage
      3. Full Proposals
    5. Who May Submit Proposals
      Categories of Proposers
      1. Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs)
        Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs
      2. Non-profit, Non-academic Organizations
      3. For-profit Organizations
      4. State and Local Governments
      5. Unaffiliated Individuals
      6. Foreign organizations
      7. Other Federal Agencies
    6. When to Submit Proposals
      1. Target Dates
      2. Deadline Dates
      3. Submission Windows
    7. How to Submit Proposals
      1. Electronic Requirements
      2. Submission Instructions
      3. Requirements Relating to Data Uniform Numbering System (DUNS) Numbers and the System for Award Management (SAM)
      4. NSF ID
      5. Proposal Receipt
    8. Proposal Processing
  1. Proposal Preparation Instructions
    1. Conformance with Instructions for Proposal Preparation
    2. Format of the Proposal
      1. Proposal Pagination Instructions
      2. Proposal Margin and Spacing Requirements
      3. Page Formatting
    3. Proposal Contents
      1. Single Copy Documents
        1. Authorization to Deviate from NSF Proposal Preparation Requirements
        2. List of Suggested Reviewers or Reviewers Not to Include
        3. Proprietary or Privileged Information
        4. Proposal Certifications
        5. Collaborators & Other Affiliations Information
        6. Submission of Proposals by Former NSF Staff
      2. Sections of the Proposal
        1. Cover Sheet
        2. Project Summary
        3. Table of Contents
        4. Project Description (Including Results from Prior NSF Support)
          1. Content
          2. Page Limitations and Inclusion of Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) within the Project Description
          3. Results from Prior NSF Support
          4. Unfunded Collaborations
          5. Group Proposals
          6. Proposals for Renewed Support
        5. References Cited
        6. Biographical Sketch(es)
          1. Senior Personnel

            (a) Professional Preparation
            (b) Appointments
            (c) Products
            (d) Synergistic Activities

          2. Other Personnel
          3. Equipment Proposals
        7. Budget and Budget Justification
          1. Salaries and Wages

            (a) Senior Personnel Salaries & Wages Policy
            (b) Administrative and Clerical Salaries & Wages Policy
            (c) Procedures
            (d) Confidential Budgetary Information

          2. Fringe Benefits
          3. Equipment
          4. Travel

            (a) General
            (b) Domestic Travel
            (c) Foreign Travel

          5. Participant Support
          6. Other Direct Costs

            (a) Materials and Supplies (including Costs of Computing Devices)
            (b) Publication/Documentation/ Dissemination
            (c) Consultant Services (also referred to as Professional Service Costs)
            (d) Computer Services
            (e) Subawards
            (f) Other

          7. Total Direct Costs
          8. Indirect Costs (also known as Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A) for Colleges and Universities)
          9. Total Direct and Indirect Costs (F&A)
          10. Fees
          11. Amount of This Request
          12. Cost Sharing
          13. Allowable and Unallowable Costs

            (a) Entertainment
            (b) Meals and Coffee Breaks
            (c) Alcoholic Beverages

        8. Current and Pending Support
        9. Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources
        10. Special Information and Supplementary Documentation
        11. Appendices
    4. Special Processing Instructions
      1. Proprietary or Privileged Information
      2. Beginning Investigators (applies to proposals submitted to the Biological Sciences Directorate only)
      3. Collaborative Proposals
      4. Proposals Involving Vertebrate Animals
      5. Proposals Involving Human Subjects
      6. Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC)
      7. Projects Requiring High-Performance Computing Resources, Large Amounts of Data Storage, or Advanced Visualization Resources
    5. Types of Proposals
      1. Rapid Response Research (RAPID)
      2. EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER)
      3. Research Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (RAISE)
      4. Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI)
      5. Ideas Lab
      6. Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities (FASED)
      7. Conference Proposal
      8. Equipment Proposal
      9. Travel Proposal
      10. Center Proposal
      11. Research Infrastructure Proposal
  2. Exhibit II-1: Proposal Preparation Checklist
    Exhibit II-2 Potentially Disqualifying Conflicts of Interest
    Exhibit II-3: Drug-Free Workplace Certification
    Exhibit II-4 Debarment and Suspension Certification
    Exhibit II-5 Lobbying Certification
    Exhibit II-6: Nondiscrimination Certification
    Exhibit II-7: Definitions of Categories of Personnel
  1. NSF Proposal Processing and Review
    1. Merit Review Principles and Criteria
      1. Merit Review Principles
      2. Merit Review Criteria
        Intellectual Merit
        Broader Impacts
    2. Selection of Reviewers
    3. Proposal File Updates
    4. Revisions to Proposals Made During the Review Process
    5. Funding Recommendation
    6. NSF’s Risk Management Framework and the Decision to Award or Decline Proposals
    7. Review Information Provided to PI
    8. Release of Grantee Proposal Information
  2. Exhibit III-1: Proposal and Award Timeline
  1. Non-Award Decisions and Transactions
    1. Withdrawals
    2. Proposals Not Accepted or Returned Without Review
    3. Declinations
    4. Reconsideration
    5. Resubmission
  1. Renewal Proposals
    1. Traditional Renewal
    2. Accomplishment-Based Renewal

Part II - Award, Administration and Monitoring of Grants and Cooperative Agreements

  1. NSF Awards
    1. Acceptance of Assistance Agreements
    2. Award Instrument
    3. NSF Award Conditions
    4. NSF Grant Periods
      1. Definitions
      2. Significance of Grant Period
      3. Changes in a Grant Period
        1. Start Date
        2. End Date
        3. No-Cost Extension
        4. Two-Year Extensions for Special Creativity
    5. Additional Funding Support
      1. Types of Additional Funding Support
      2. Renewed Support
      3. Support under Continuing Grants
      4. Supplemental Support
  1. Grant Administration
    1. Monitoring Project Performance
      1. Grantee Responsibilities
      2. Grantee Notifications to NSF and Requests for NSF Approval
    2. Changes in Project Direction or Management
      1. Changes in Objectives, Scope or Methods/Procedures
        1. Changes in Objectives or Scope
        2. Significant Changes in Methods or Procedures
        3. Significant Changes, Delays or Events of Unusual Interest
      2. Changes in PI/PD, co-PI/co-PD or Person-Months Devoted to the Project
        1. Long-Term Disengagement of PI/PD or co-PI/co-PD
        2. Change in Person-Months Devoted to the Project
        3. Addition of co-PI/co-PD
        4. Withdrawal of PI/PD or co-PI/co-PD
        5. Substitute (Change) PI/PD or co-PI/co-PD
        6. Disposition of a Grant When a PI/PD Transfers from One Organization to Another Organization
      3. Subawarding or Transferring Part of an NSF Award (Subaward)
      4. Postaward Addition of Postdoctoral Scholars
    3. Cost Sharing
      1. General
      2. Mandatory Cost Sharing Commitments
      3. Mandatory Cost Sharing Records and Reports
    4. Technical Reporting Requirements
      1. Annual Project Reports
      2. Final Project Report
      3. Project Outcomes Report for the General Public
      4. Compliance with Technical Reporting Requirements
      5. Grant Closeout
    5. Record Retention and Audit
  1. Financial Requirements and Payments
    1. Standards for Financial Management
    2. Definitions
    3. Payment Requirements
      1. Requesting Payments
      2. Payment Policies
      3. Request for Advance
      4. Special Payment Grantees
      5. Working Capital Advance
      6. Grantee Banking Information for Payments
    4. Cash Refunds And Credits To NSF
      1. Final Unobligated Balance
      2. Erroneous Payments
      3. Interest Earned on Advance Payments
      4. Program Income
      5. Other Cost Credits
    5. Award Financial Reporting Requirements – Final Disbursement Reporting
  1. Grantee Standards
    1. Conflict of Interest Policies
    2. Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)
      1. Background
      2. Institutional Responsibilities
    3. Financial Management Systems Standards
    4. Property Management Standards
      1. Title to Equipment
        1. Title to Equipment - Non-Profit Organizations
        2. Title to Equipment - For-Profit Organizations
      2. Conditions for Acquisition and Use of Equipment
      3. Principles Relating to Use of NSF-Supported Research Instrumentation and Facilities
      4. Property Management Standards When Title Retained by NSF
      5. Excess Government Personal Property
        1. Policy
        2. Eligibility
        3. Procedures
        4. Visiting Holding Agency Facilities
        5. Dollar Limitation
        6. Restrictions
        7. Costs
        8. Title
        9. Accountability and Recordkeeping
    5. Procurement Standards
  1. Allowability of Costs
    1. Basic Considerations
      1. Conflicting Guidelines
      2. Other Considerations
        1. Maximum Obligation
        2. Pre-Award Costs
        3. Post-End Costs
      3. Prior Written Approvals
    2. Direct Costs
      1. Compensation – Personal Services
        1. Salaries and Wages
        2. Fringe Benefits
      2. Intra-University (IHE) Consulting
      3. Federal Employees
    3. Other Direct Costs
      1. Rearrangement and Reconversion Costs
      2. News Release Costs
      3. Temporary Dependent Care Travel Costs
    4. Indirect Costs
      1. NSF Policy
      2. NSF Cognizant Organizations
    5. Fee Payments Under NSF Grants
  1. Other Post Award Requirements and Considerations
    1. Non-Discrimination Statutes and Regulations
      1. General
      2. Certification of Compliance/Civil Rights Certifications
      3. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
      4. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
      5. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
      6. Age Discrimination Act - of 1975
      7. Equal Employment Opportunity under E.O. 11246
      8. Limited English Proficiency under E.O. 13166
    2. Protection of Living Organisms
      1. Human Subjects
      2. Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules
      3. Vertebrate Animals
      4. Government Permits and Activities Abroad
      5. Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC)
    3. Construction, Rearrangements and Alterations
      1. Davis-Bacon Act
      2. Bonding and Insurance
      3. Seismic Safety of Buildings
    4. Intellectual Property
      1. Patents and Inventions
      2. Copyright
      3. Special Patent and Copyright Situations
      4. Dissemination and Sharing of Research Results
      5. Tangible Property
    5. Publication/Distribution of Grant Materials
      1. NSF Policy
      2. Costs
      3. Responsibilities
      4. Grantee Obligations
    6. International Considerations
      1. Travel to Foreign Countries
      2. Charter Flights
      3. Projects in a Foreign Country
      4. Passports and Visas
    7. Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs
    8. Handling of Information
      1. Questionnaires: Data Collection Under NSF Grants
      2. Release of Information by NSF
    9. Tax Status
    10. Protection of Properties in the National Register of Historic Places
    11. Environmental Compliance
    12. National Security
    13. Miscellaneous
      1. Liabilities and Losses
      2. Pre-College Students and Experimental Curriculum Development Projects
      3. Use of Metric Measurements
      4. Executive Order 13788, Buy American and Hire American
  1. Grant Administration Disputes and Misconduct
    1. Suspension and Termination Procedures
      1. Definitions
      2. Suspension and Termination
      3. Termination by Mutual Agreement
      4. NSF Suspension or Termination Review Procedure
    2. Informal Resolution of Grant Administration Disputes
    3. Research Misconduct
      1. NSF Policies and Responsibilities
      2. Role of Grantees
      3. Reporting Possible Misconduct

A. About the National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent Federal agency created by Congress in 1950 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.

From those first days, NSF has had a unique place in the Federal Government: it is responsible for the overall health of science and engineering across all disciplines. In contrast, other Federal agencies support research focused on specific missions such as health or defense. The Foundation also is committed to ensuring the nation’s supply of scientists, engineers, and science and engineering educators.

NSF funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering. It does this through grants and cooperative agreements to approximately 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.

The Foundation considers proposals1 submitted by organizations on behalf of individuals or groups for support in most fields of research. Interdisciplinary proposals also are eligible for consideration.

NSF does not normally support technical assistance, pilot plant efforts, research requiring security classification, the development of products for commercial marketing, or market research for a particular project or invention. Research with disease-related goals, including work on the etiology, diagnosis or treatment of physical or mental disease, abnormality, or malfunction in human beings or animals, is normally not supported. Animal models of such conditions or the development or testing of drugs or other procedures for their treatment also are not eligible for support. However, research in bioengineering, with diagnosis- or treatment-related goals, that applies engineering principles to problems in biology and medicine while advancing engineering knowledge is eligible for support. Bioengineering research to aid persons with disabilities also is eligible.

NSF does not have any programs involving the construction of public works in metropolitan areas, no development assistance programs, no programs requiring State plans as a condition of assistance, none involving coordination of planning in multi-jurisdictional areas and no programs of grants to State and local governments as defined in Section 6501(4) of Title 31 of the United States Code (USC).

NSF receives over 50,000 proposals each year for research, education and training projects, of which approximately 11,000 are funded. In addition, the Foundation receives over 15,000 applications for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships. One of NSF's flagship programs, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) helps ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce; the program awards about 2,000 fellowships each year. Guidance regarding the GRFP program may be found in the program solicitation, as well as in the GRFP Administrative Guide. The agency operates no laboratories itself but does support National Research Centers, user facilities, certain oceanographic vessels 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.

NSF is structured much like a university, with divisions/offices for the various disciplines and fields of science and engineering and for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. NSF also uses a variety of management mechanisms to coordinate research in areas that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. The Foundation is assisted by advisors from the scientific and engineering communities who serve on formal committees or as ad hoc reviewers of proposals. This advisory system, which focuses on both program directions and specific proposals, involves approximately 50,000 scientists and engineers each year. NSF staff members who are experts in a certain field or area make award recommendations; Principal Investigators (PIs) receive unattributed verbatim copies of peer reviews.

Grantees are wholly responsible for conducting their project activities and preparing the results for publication. Thus, the Foundation does not assume responsibility for such findings or their interpretation.

Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities provide funding for special assistance or equipment to enable persons with disabilities to work on NSF-supported projects. See Chapter II.D.4 for instructions regarding preparation of these types of proposals.

NSF has Text Telephone (TTY) and Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) capabilities that enable individuals with hearing or speech impairments to communicate with the Foundation about NSF programs, employment or general information. TTY may be accessed at (703) 292-5090 and (800) 281-8749, FIRS at (800) 877-8339.

The NSF Information Center may be reached at (703) 292-5111.

B. Foreword

The Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) is comprised of documents relating to the Foundation's proposal and award process for the assistance programs of NSF. The PAPPG, in conjunction with the applicable standard award conditions incorporated by reference in the award2, serves as the Foundation’s implementation of 2 CFR § 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. If the PAPPG and NSF Grant Conditions are silent on a specific area covered by 2 CFR § 200, the requirements specified in 2 CFR § 200 must be followed.

It has been designed for use by both our customer community and NSF staff and consists of two parts:

  • Part I sets forth NSF's proposal preparation and submission guidelines. The coverage provides guidance for the preparation and submission of proposals to NSF. Some NSF programs have program solicitations that modify the general provisions of the PAPPG, and, in such cases, the guidelines provided in the solicitation must be followed.

  • The policy and procedural guidance contained in the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide should be followed when preparing and submitting proposals to NSF via Grants.gov.

  • Part II of the NSF PAPPG sets forth NSF policies and procedures regarding the award, administration, and monitoring of grants and cooperative agreements. Coverage includes the NSF award process, from issuance and administration of an NSF award through closeout. Guidance is provided regarding other grant requirements or considerations that either are not universally applicable or do not follow the award cycle. Part II also implements other Public Laws, Executive Orders (E.O.) and other directives insofar as they apply to grants, and is issued pursuant to the authority of Section 11(a) of the NSF Act (42 USC § 1870). When NSF Grant General Conditions or an award notice reference a particular section of the PAPPG, then that section becomes part of the award requirements through incorporation by reference.

The PAPPG does not apply to NSF contracts. For information relating to NSF contracts, consult the Guide to the NSF Contracting Process.

General information about NSF programs may be found on the NSF website at: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/. Additional information about special requirements of individual NSF programs may be obtained from the appropriate Foundation program office. Information about most program deadlines and target dates for proposals are available on the NSF website at: http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_list.jsp?org=NSF&ord=date . Program deadline and target date information also appears in individual program announcements and solicitations and on relevant NSF Divisional/Office websites.

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance

NSF programs fall under the following categories in the latest Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) issued by the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration:

47.041 -- Engineering
47.049 -- Mathematical and Physical Sciences
47.050 -- Geosciences
47.070 -- Computer and Information Science and Engineering
47.074 -- Biological Sciences
47.075 -- Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences
47.076 -- Education and Human Resources
47.079 -- Office of International Science and Engineering
47.083 -- Office of Integrative Activities

Any questions or comments regarding the NSF PAPPG should be addressed to the Policy Office, Division of Institution & Award Support, at (703) 292-8243 or by e-mail to policy@nsf.gov.

C. Acronym List



ABR - Accomplishment-Based Renewal

ACH - Automated Clearing House (US Treasury)

ACM$ - Award Cash Management Service

AD - Assistant Director

ADPE - Automatic Data Processing Equipment

AOR - Authorized Organizational Representative


BFA - Budget, Finance & Award Management


CAAR - Cost Analysis & Audit Resolution Branch

CAFATC - Cooperative Agreement Financial/Administrative Terms and Conditions

CAPTC - Cooperative Agreement Programmatic Terms and Conditions

CEQ - Council on Environmental Quality

CFR - Code of Federal Regulations

CGI - Continuing Grant Increment

CMIA - Cash Management Improvement Act

COI - Conflict of Interest

Co-PD - Co-Project Director

Co-PI - Co-Principal Investigator


DACS - Division of Acquisition and Cooperative Support

DAS - Division of Administrative Services

DCL - Dear Colleague Letter

DD - Division Director

DFM - Division of Financial Management

DGA - Division of Grants and Agreements

DHHS - Department of Health and Human Services

DIAS - Division of Institution and Award Support

DOC - Department of Commerce

DUNS - Data Universal Numbering System

DURC - Dual Use Research of Concern


EAGER - EArly-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research

EFT - Electronic Funds Transfer

E.O. - Executive Order


F&A - Financial & Administrative Costs

FAPIIS - Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

FAR - Federal Acquisition Regulation

FASED - Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities

FDP - Federal Demonstration Partnership

FEMA - Federal Emergency Management Agency

FIRS - Federal Information Relay Service

FOIA - Freedom of Information Act

FWA - Federal-wide Assurance


GC-1 - Grant General Conditions

GOALI - Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry

GOE - Government-Owned Equipment

GPO - Government Printing Office

GSA - General Services Administration


IACUC - Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee

IBC - Institutional Biosafety Committee

IPA - Intergovernmental Personnel Act

IRB - Institutional Review Board

IRS - Internal Revenue Service

ISE - International Science & Engineering


LOI - Letters of Intent


MREFC - Major Research Equipment and Facilities


NEPA - National Environmental Policy Act

NIH - National Institutes of Health

NSB - National Science Board

NSF - National Science Foundation


ODI - Office of Diversity and Inclusion

OGC - Office of the General Counsel

OHRP - Office for Human Research Protections

OIA - Office of Integrative Activities

OIG - Office of Inspector General

OLAW - Office for Laboratory Animal Welfare

OMB - Office of Management and Budget

ONR - Office of Naval Research


PAPPG - Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide

PD - Project Director

PHS - Public Health Service

PI - Principal Investigator

PNAG - Prospective New Awardee Guide

PO - Program Officer


RAISE - Research Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering

RAPID - Rapid Response Research

REU - Research Experiences for Undergraduates

ROA - Research Opportunity Awards

RTC - Research Terms and Conditions

RUI - Research in Undergraduate Institutions


SBA - Small Business Administration

SBIR - Small Business Innovation Research Program

SF - Standard Form

SF LLL - Disclosure of Lobbying Activities

SPO - Sponsored Projects Office

SSN - Social Security Number

STTR - Small Business Technology Transfer


TDD - Telephonic Device for the Deaf

TTY - Text Telephone


URL - Universal Resource Locator

USC - United States Code

USDA - US Department of Agriculture


VSEE - Visiting Scientist, Engineer or Educator

D. Definitions & NSF-Grantee Relationships

1. Definitions

a. An AUTHORIZED ORGANIZATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE (AOR)/AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE means the administrative official who, on behalf of the proposing organization is empowered to make certifications and assurances and can commit the organization to the conduct of a project that NSF is being asked to support as well as adhere to various NSF policies and grant requirements.

b. A GRANT AGREEMENT3 means a legal instrument of financial assistance between NSF and a grantee that, consistent with 31 USC 6302, 6304:

(1) Is used to enter into a relationship the principal purpose of which is to transfer anything of value from NSF to the grantee to carry out a public purpose authorized by a law of the United States (see 31 USC 6101(3)); and not to acquire property or services for NSF’s direct benefit or use;

(2) Is distinguished from a cooperative agreement in that it does not provide for substantial involvement between NSF and the grantee in carrying out the activity contemplated by the NSF award.

NSF awards the following two types of grants:

(a) A STANDARD GRANT means a type of grant in which NSF agrees to provide a specific level of support for a specified period of time with no statement of NSF intent to provide additional future support without submission of another proposal.

(b) A CONTINUING GRANT means a type of grant in which NSF agrees to provide a specific level of support for an initial specified period of time, usually a year, with a statement of intent to provide additional support of the project for additional periods, provided funds are available and the results achieved warrant further support.

c. A COST REIMBURSEMENT AWARD means a type of grant under which NSF agrees to reimburse the grantee for work performed and/or costs incurred by the grantee up to the total amount specified in the grant. Such costs must be allowable in accordance with the applicable cost principles. Accountability is based primarily on technical progress, financial accounting and fiscal reporting. Except under certain programs and under special circumstances, NSF grants and cooperative agreements are normally cost reimbursement type awards.

d. A FIXED AMOUNT AWARD means a type of award in which NSF provides a specific level of support without regard to actual costs incurred under the award. This type of NSF award reduces some of the administrative burden and recordkeeping requirements for both the grantee and NSF. Accountability is based primarily on performance and results.

e. A COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT means a legal instrument of financial assistance between NSF and an awardee that, consistent with 31 USC 6302–6305:

(1) Is used to enter into a relationship the principal purpose of which is to transfer anything of value from NSF to the grantee to carry out a public purpose authorized by a law of the United States (see 31 USC 6101(3)); and not to acquire property or services for NSF’s direct benefit or use;

(2) Is distinguished from a grant in that it provides for substantial involvement between NSF and the grantee in carrying out the activity contemplated by the NSF award.

In the case of NSF, assistance awards involve the support or stimulation of scientific and engineering research, science and engineering education or other related activities. NSF is authorized to use grants or cooperative agreements for this purpose. Grants, however, are the primary mechanism of NSF support.

f. A GRANTEE means the organization or other entity that receives a grant and assumes legal and financial responsibility and accountability both for the awarded funds and for the performance of the grant-supported activity. NSF grants are normally made to organizations rather than to individual Principal Investigator/Project Director(s). Categories of eligible proposers may be found in Chapter I.F.

g. PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT DIRECTOR (PI/PD) means the individual(s) designated by the proposer, and approved by NSF, who will be responsible for the scientific or technical direction of the project. NSF does not infer any distinction in scientific stature among multiple PIs, whether referred to as PI or co-PI. If more than one, the first one listed will serve as the contact PI, with whom all communications between NSF program officials and the project relating to the scientific, technical, and budgetary aspects of the project should take place. The PI and any identified co-PIs, however, will be jointly responsible for submission of the requisite project reports. The term "Principal Investigator" generally is used in research projects, while the term "Project Director" generally is used in centers, large facilities, and other projects. For purposes of this Guide, PI/co-PI is interchangeable with PD/co-PD.

2. NSF-Grantee Relationships

a. Grants will be used by NSF when the accomplishment of the project objectives requires minimal NSF involvement during performance of the activities. Grants establish a relationship between NSF and the grantee in which:

(1) NSF agrees to provide up to a specified amount of financial support for the project to be performed under the conditions and requirements of the grant. NSF will monitor grant progress and assure compliance with applicable standards.

(2) The grantee agrees to perform the project as proposed, to the prudent management of the funds provided and to carry out the supported activities in accordance with the provisions of the grant. (See Chapter VI.B, for the documents that comprise an NSF grant.)

b. Cooperative agreements will be used by NSF when the accomplishment of the project objectives requires substantial ongoing Foundation involvement during the project performance period. Substantial agency involvement may be necessary when an activity is technically and/or managerially complex and would require extensive or close coordination between NSF and the awardee. This, however, does not affect NSF’s right to unilaterally suspend or terminate support for cause or consider termination in accordance with Chapter XII, if it is in the best interest of NSF or the Government. The doctrine of substantial involvement is set forth in the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act of 1977 (31 USC 6301-6308).

Examples of projects suitable for cooperative agreements include: management of research centers, large curriculum projects, multi-user facilities, projects which involve complex subcontracting, construction or operations of major in-house university facilities and major instrumentation development, and projects in which NSF participates with other stakeholder agencies or organizations that have influence over project direction and/or development.

Under a cooperative agreement, the awardee has primary responsibility for the conduct of the project. To the extent that NSF does not reserve responsibility for coordinating or integrating the project activities with other related activities or does not assume a degree of shared responsibility for certain aspects of the project, all such responsibilities remain with the awardee. While NSF will monitor the cooperative agreement in accordance with the terms and conditions of the award, the Foundation will not assume overall control of a project or unilaterally change or direct the project activities.

The cooperative agreement will specify the extent to which NSF will advise, review, approve or otherwise be involved with project activities, as well as NSF’s right to require more clearly defined deliverables. NSF may provide advice, guidance or assistance of a technical, management, or coordinating nature and may require that the awardee obtain NSF prior approval of specific decisions, milestones, or project activities. Substantial Involvement is incorporated in key areas of accountability in both financial and programmatic award terms; examples include prior agency approval requirements, type and frequency of project plans, special reporting requirements, and project and awardee reviews that NSF will conduct during the term of the award.

Cooperative agreements for construction are generally funded through a separate appropriation from Congress for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC). NSF maintains the MREFC appropriations in a separate budget account, for major construction projects that successfully undergo a rigorous selection process. MREFC funds cannot be co-mingled with funds for activities other than construction; therefore, NSF issues a separate award for operations and other activities related to commissioning and management of the facility or major instrument. The awardee is required to maintain an accounting system capable of segregating MREFC and operating costs, and to ensure that such costs are applied accordingly.

Many large facility awards, including those for NSF-supported Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), consist of a cooperative agreement as an umbrella award, establishing the overall basic provisions of the agreements, and separate cooperative support agreements with specific terms and conditions for construction activities, management and operations, research activities that are co-sponsored by other agencies, and any other focused activities that NSF needs to monitor separately from the overall objectives of the cooperative agreement.

E. NSF Organizations

The NSF organizations/offices described below are normally of most direct interest to the NSF proposer and awardee community. Consult the NSF website at: http://www.nsf.gov/staff/orglist.jsp for the most current listing of NSF offices/directorates and an organizational chart.

1. National Science Board

The NSB was established by Congress in 1950, and along with the Director, constitutes the National Science Foundation. The Board provides oversight for, and establishes the policies of, the agency within the framework of applicable national policies set forth by the President and Congress. In this capacity, the Board identifies issues that are critical to NSF’s future, approves NSF's strategic budget directions, approves annual budget submissions to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), approves new programs and major awards, analyzes NSF's budget to ensure progress and consistency along the strategic direction set for NSF, and ensures balance between initiatives and core programs. In addition, the Board serves as an independent body of advisors to both the President and Congress on broad national policy issues and, together with the Director, recommends and encourages the pursuit of national policies related to science and engineering research and education. The Board is comprised of 24 members appointed by the President. The NSF Director also serves as an ex officio voting member of the Board. Members are selected on the basis of their distinguished service in science and engineering research and education, and are representative of scientific, engineering, and educational leadership throughout the Nation.

2. Program Divisions/Offices

Program Divisions/Offices are responsible for the scientific, technical and programmatic review and evaluation of proposals and for recommending that proposals be declined or awarded. The scientific, engineering and/or educational aspects of an award will be monitored by the NSF Program Officer identified in the award notice. (See Chapter III for a detailed description of the NSF Merit Review Process.) Integral staff in the program division/office relative to the NSF proposal and award process are:

a. NSF Program Officers. Program Officers are considered subject matter experts in both technical and programmatic areas. They conduct merit review of proposals and recommend which projects should be funded by the Foundation.

b. NSF Division Directors. Division Directors are NSF executives whose responsibilities include long-range planning, contributing to the achievement of the Foundation’s strategic goals and objectives, and providing stewardship for budgetary and other resources. They are responsible for ensuring the integrity of the merit review and award process.

3. Division of Grants & Agreements (DGA)

DGA is responsible for the award of NSF assistance awards recommended for support by NSF program offices, with the exception of the Foundation's large facility cooperative agreements. From pre-award through closeout, DGA conducts a variety of business, financial, and administrative reviews to ensure compliance with grant terms and conditions, and consistency with applicable NSF policies and Federal rules and regulations. DGA provides stewardship and support to a diverse set of stakeholders including grantees, NSF Directorates/Offices and others within the scientific research and education communities, as well as maintains a leadership role in the Federal grants arena. In carrying out NSF's primary mission of providing basic research support, DGA interacts on a continuing basis with academic and non-academic institutions, private industry, State and local governments, and other Federal agencies.

Grants & Agreements Officers (Grants Officers) have delegated authority to issue awards on behalf of the Foundation and their approval constitutes a legal obligation of Federal funds for grantees to expend to fulfill the scope of the approved proposal. In addition, Grants Officers are responsible for issuing all grant amendments and certain post-award prior approvals, for monitoring grantee compliance with grant terms and conditions, and for the administration and closeout of these awards.

4. Division of Institution and Award Support (DIAS)

DIAS is responsible for the development and implementation of proposal and award policies & procedures, clearance of NSF funding opportunities, risk assessment and post-award monitoring activities, cost analysis and award support, audit resolution, electronic award and systems administration, and outreach to the external community. DIAS also represents and advocates for the needs of the research community in NSF electronic research administration activities, including the modernization of NSF's externally-facing FastLane system with Research.gov.

a. DIAS, through the Policy Office, is responsible for the development, coordination, and issuance of NSF pre- and post-award policies for the assistance programs of NSF. The Policy Office provides guidance on policies and procedures related to NSF's electronic proposal and award systems. The responsibility for reviewing and providing official clearance approval for NSF funding opportunities also resides in the Policy Office.

Another important function of the Policy Office is the coordination of outreach programs for external stakeholders and NSF staff. Through a variety of mechanisms, the Policy Office coordinates the release of timely and relevant information regarding NSF policies and procedures, proposal preparation, and award management to the broad research community. In addition to working closely with professional research administration associations, the Policy Office coordinates two major grants conferences held at various locations throughout the US, typically in the spring and fall each year.

b. DIAS staff in the Cost Analysis and Audit Resolution (CAAR) Branch perform cost analyses and resolve audit findings pertaining to the allowability, allocability, and appropriateness of costs claimed under all NSF assistance awards. CAAR responsibilities include the performance of accounting systems reviews, financial capability reviews, budget reviews, and award monitoring and business assistance. CAAR also negotiates indirect cost rates for organizations that have Federal awards where NSF provides the preponderance of funding.

c. DIAS staff in the Systems Office are responsible for the administration, oversight, and interpretation of business rules for assistance awards across NSF electronic corporate systems. It is also responsible for systems analysis and requirements development necessary for the implementation of assistance awards business rules.

5. Division of Acquisition and Cooperative Support (DACS)

DACS provides acquisition and cooperative agreement award support for the Foundation. The Contracts Branch is responsible for planning, solicitation, negotiation, award and administration of professional, administrative, and research support contracts for NSF. The Cooperative Support Branch (CSB) is responsible for planning, solicitation, negotiation, award and administration of cooperative agreements for FFRDCs and major research facilities in various stages of construction and operations, including multi-institutional and international programs. This includes participation and input on NSF project advisory teams, business process reviews and redesign, risk assessments, and administrative assistance.

6. Division of Financial Management (DFM)

DFM is responsible for the financial policy and financial management of NSF. The Division is responsible for NSF’s financial reporting, grantee business office relationships and payment of vendors. The Cash Management Branch of DFM is available to assist grantee financial and business officials in matters of payment and financial reporting discussed in Chapter VIII of the PAPPG.

7. Large Facilities Office (LFO)

LFO is the Foundation's primary resource for all policy or process issues related to the development, implementation, and oversight of MREFC projects, and is the NSF-wide resource on project management for large facilities. LFO has the institutional authority and resources to effectively develop mandatory policies, which are approved by senior management, for all phases of large facility construction and retirement. LFO is consulted on all policy issues relating to large facility development. The Office provides expert assistance on non-scientific and non-technical aspects of project planning, budgeting, implementation, and management for large facilities to further strengthen the oversight capabilities of NSF. LFO also facilitates the use of best management practices by fostering coordination and collaboration throughout NSF to share application of lessons learned from prior large facility projects.

8. Office of the General Counsel (OGC)

OGC is the legal advisor and advocate for the Foundation, providing legal advice and counsel on all aspects of the Foundation's programs, policies, and operations, as well as areas affecting science and technology more broadly. Advice is provided in a wide variety of areas, such as: grants and contracts; ethics and conflicts of interest; Freedom of Information Act; Privacy Act; labor and personnel law; environmental law; Federal fiscal and administrative law and procedure; and international law and agreements.

9. Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI)

ODI is responsible for responding to all civil rights matters pertaining to NSF programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance. (See Chapter XI.A for additional information.)

10. Office of the Inspector General (OIG)

OIG is an independent oversight office that reports directly to the NSB and Congress. It is responsible for conducting audits, reviews, and investigations of NSF programs, and of organizations and individuals that apply for or receive NSF funding. OIG also investigates allegations of research misconduct, such as plagiarism, falsification, or fabrication, involving researchers who request or receive NSF funding (see Chapter XII.C.1). The OIG staff includes scientists, attorneys, auditors, law enforcement personnel, evaluators, and information technology specialists. OIG audits focus on NSF’s internal agency programs, as well as grants, cooperative agreements and contracts funded by NSF. Their purpose is to ensure that the financial, administrative, and program activities of NSF are conducted efficiently and effectively, and that the NSF awardee organization’s claimed costs are allowable, reasonable and properly allocated.

OIG investigations focus on program integrity and financial or nonfinancial wrongdoing by organizations and individuals who submit proposals to, receive awards from, conduct business with, or work for NSF. Statutory law enforcement authority was granted to OIG by the US Attorney General.

Anyone, including grant recipients, administrators, and NSF personnel, should contact the OIG (1-800-428-2189 or oig@nsf.gov) to report instances of possible misconduct, fraud, waste, or abuse.

F. NSF Electronic Capabilities Modernization Status

NSF has undertaken a multi-year effort to modernize and transition grantee electronic capabilities from FastLane to Research.gov. During this time, electronic capabilities will be developed and launched in Research.gov. These capabilities may simultaneously still be available in FastLane for a period of time prior to being ultimately retired and the functionality available exclusively through Research.gov. In order to assist grantees, NSF has developed a matrix that lists NSF’s grantee electronic capabilities, and whether they can be found in FastLane, Research.gov or both. This matrix will be updated as appropriate, independent of the PAPPG revision cycle. The Electronic Capabilities Modernization Status website is available at: http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/estatus_matrix.jsp.

1 For purposes of this Guide, the term "proposal" is interchangeable with the term “application.” Back to Text
2 For purposes of this Guide, except where explicitly noted, the term "grant" is interchangeable with the term "cooperative agreement", and the term "grantee" is interchangeable with the "awardee" of a cooperative agreement. Back to Text
3 For purposes of this Guide, except where explicitly noted, the term "grant" is interchangeable with the term "cooperative agreement", and the term “grantee” is interchangeable with the “awardee” of a cooperative agreement. Back to Text
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