text-only page produced automatically by LIFT Text
Transcoder Skip all navigation and go to page contentSkip top navigation and go to page navigation

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
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 22-1 October 4, 2021
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

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 .U.S 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. Submission Instructions
      2. Requirements Relating to Data Uniform Numbering System (DUNS) Numbers and the System for Award Management (SAM)
      3. NSF ID
      4. Proposal Receipt
    8. Proposal Processing
  1. Proposal Preparation Instructions
    1. Conformance with Instructions for Proposal Preparation
      1. Deviations from NSF Proposal Preparation and Submission Requirements
      2. Requests for Reasonable and Accessibility Accommodations
    2. Format of the Proposal
      1. Proposal Pagination Instructions
      2. Proposal Font, Spacing and Margin 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
            (d) Home Office Workspace
            (e) Prohibition on Certain Telecommunications and Video Surveillance Services or Equipment

        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, Data Infrastructure or Advanced Visualization Resources
      8. International Activities
    5. Other Types of Proposals
      1. Planning Proposal
      2. Rapid Response Research (RAPID)
      3. EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER)
      4. Research Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (RAISE)
      5. Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI)
      6. Ideas Lab
      7. Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities (FASED)
      8. Career Life Balance (CLB) Supplemental Funding Requests
      9. Conference Proposal
      10. Equipment Proposal
      11. Travel Proposal
      12. Center Proposal
      13. Research Infrastructure Proposal
  2. Exhibit II-1: Proposal Preparation Checklist
    Exhibit II-2 Potentially Disqualifying Conflicts of Interest
    Exhibit II-3: 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 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. Cooperative Agreement Increments
      5. 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 at the Initiation of the Grantee Organization
        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. Changes in PI/PD, co-PI/co-PD or Person-Months Devoted to the Project at the Initiation of NSF
      4. Subawarding or Transferring Part of an NSF Award (Subaward)
      5. 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 and Ethical Conduct of Research (RECR)
      1. Background
      2. Institutional Responsibilities
      3. NSF's Responsibilities
    3. Financial Management Systems Standards
    4. Property Management Standards
      1. Title to Equipment
      2. Conditions for Acquisition and Use of Property and Equipment
      3. Property Management Requirements for Federally-owned Property
      4. Principles Relating to Use of NSF-Supported Research Instrumentation and Facilities
      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
    6. Prohibition on Certain Telecommunications and Video Surveillance Services or Equipment
  1. Other Post Award Requirements and Considerations
    1. Non-Discrimination Statutes and Regulations
      1. General
      2. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
      3. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
      4. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
      5. Age Discrimination Act - of 1975
      6. Equal Employment Opportunity under E.O. 11246
      7. 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
  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 3,000 institutions of higher education, K-12 school systems, businesses, informal science organizations and other research organizations throughout the U.S. 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. Biological research on mechanisms of disease in humans, including on the etiology, diagnosis, or treatment of disease or disorder, is normally not supported. Biological research to develop animal models of such conditions, or the development or testing of procedures for their treatment, also are not normally eligible for support. However, research with etiology, diagnosis- or treatment-related goals that advances knowledge in engineering, mathematical, physical, computer, or information sciences is eligible for support. Bioengineering and assistive information technology 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 more than 41,000 proposals each year for research, education, and training projects, of which approximately 11,000 are funded. In addition, the Foundation receives more than 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 institutions of higher education (IHEs) and industry, technical research and development on innovations from the small business community, U.S. participation in international scientific and engineering efforts, and educational activities at every academic level. America's Seed Fund powered by NSF - the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs – annually provides approximately 400 startups and small businesses with research and development (R&D) funding to create and develop a prototype or conduct proof-of-concept work, as the foundation for the introduction of innovative new products or services, getting research, much of it NSF-funded, out of the lab and into the market. NSF's Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM) program supports NSF-funded researchers in the form of entrepreneurial education, mentoring and funding to accelerate the translation of knowledge derived from fundamental research into emerging products and services. Scientists and engineers can also increase the impact of their NSF-funded research discoveries by developing their technology into a prototype or proof-of-concept through the Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) program, one of the National Science Foundation's technology translation programs. Guidance regarding the NSF's SBIR, STTR, I-CorpsTM and PFI programs may be found in their respective program solicitations.

NSF is structured much like an institution of higher education, 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.

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.

Assistance Listings

The System for Award Management (SAM) provides detailed, public descriptions of all Federal assistance listings. SAM replaces the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA), and all CFDA.gov functionality and data can now be found on SAM.gov. Each assistance listing, however, continues to be associated with a unique five-digit CFDA number.

NSF programs fall under the following listings on the beta.SAM.gov site:

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
47.078 -- Polar Programs
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 policy@nsf.gov.

C. Acronym List



ABR - Accomplishment-Based Renewal

ACH - Automated Clearing House (U.S. Treasury)

ACM$ - Award Cash Management Service

AD - Assistant Director

ADPE - Automatic Data Processing Equipment

AOR - Authorized Organizational Representative


BFA - Budget, Finance & Award Management


CA - Cooperative Agreement

CAFATC - Cooperative Agreement Financial/Administrative Terms and Conditions

CAP - Cost Analysis and Pre-award Branch

CAPTC - Cooperative Agreement Programmatic Terms and Conditions

CEQ - Council on Environmental Quality

CFR - Code of Federal Regulations

CGI - Continuing Grant Increment

CLB - Career-Life Balance

CMIA - Cash Management Improvement Act

COA - Collaborators and Other Affiliations

COI - Conflict of Interest

Co-PI - Co-Principal Investigator

CSA - Cooperative Support Agreement

CSB - Cooperative Support Branch


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

DoED - Department of Education

DUNS - Data Universal Numbering System

DURC - Dual Use Research of Concern


EAGER - EArly-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research

EFT - Electronic Funds Transfer

EEO - Equal Employment Opportunity

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

FFRDCs - Federally Funded Research and Development Centers

FIRS - Federal Information Relay Service

FOIA - Freedom of Information Act

FOP - Federally-owned Property

FWA - Federal-wide Assurance


GC-1 - Grant General Conditions

GOALI - Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry

GPO - Government Printing Office

GSA - General Services Administration


IACUC - Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee

IBC - Institutional Biosafety Committee

IHE - Institution of Higher Education

IPA - Intergovernmental Personnel Act

IRB - Institutional Review Board

IRS - Internal Revenue Service

ISE - International Science & Engineering


LEM - Limited English Proficiency

LFO - Large Facilities Office

LOI - Letters of Intent


MFG - Major Facilities Guide

MREFC - Major Research Equipment and Facilities


NASEM - National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine

NDAA - National Defense Authorization Act

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

PHS - Public Health Service

PI - Principal Investigator

PNAG - Prospective New Awardee Guide

PO - Program Officer

POR - Project Outcomes Report for the General Public


R&D - Research & Development

RAISE - Research Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering

RAM - Resolution and Advanced Monitoring Branch

RAPID - Rapid Response Research

RECR - Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research

REU - Research Experiences for Undergraduates

ROA - Research Opportunity Awards

RTC - Research Terms and Conditions

RUI - Research in Undergraduate Institutions


SAM - System for Award Management

SBA - Small Business Administration

SBIR - Small Business Innovation Research Program

SF - Standard Form

SPO - Sponsored Projects Office

SSN - Social Security Number

STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

STTR - Small Business Technology Transfer


TDD - Telephonic Device for the Deaf

TTY - Text Telephone


UEI - Unique Entity Identifier

URL - Universal Resource Locator

USC - United States Code

USDA - U.S. 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 representations 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 Agreement 3 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 grant or cooperative agreement 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. See 2 CFR §§200.102(c), 200.201(b), and 200.333 for additional information.

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(s). Categories of eligible proposers may be found in Chapter I.F.

g. Principal Investigator (PI) - see PAPPG Exhibit II-3, Definitions of Categories of Personnel. For purposes of this document, when used throughout, the term Principal Investigator also includes Project Director and the term co-Principal Investigator also include co-Project Director.

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;
  • the prudent management of the funds provided; and
  • 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).

NSF utilizes two types of cooperative agreements:

  • Standalone Cooperative Agreement (CA), which consists of a cooperative agreement for a single, unified award where there is no need to provide separate, discrete funding and oversight for the projects or programs under that award.
  • Master Cooperative Agreement/Cooperative Support Agreement (CA/CSA), which consists of a master or overall agreement having separate and specific awards (CSAs) that are funded individually under the umbrella of the master agreement. CSAs have their own terms and conditions in addition to those of the master agreement. The scope of CSAs falls within the scope of the master agreement, but each CSA has its own distinct award number and funding based on its approved budget; no funding is attached to the master CA.

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 major 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 award, and separate cooperative support agreements. The cooperative support agreements contain 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 and administration of the majority of NSF’s assistance awards – i.e., grants, cooperative agreements, and fellowship awards, recommended for support by NSF program offices. From pre-award through closeout, DGA conducts a variety of business, financial, and administrative reviews to ensure compliance with award 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 awardees, NSF Directorates/Offices, and others within the scientific research and education communities. DGA also maintains a leadership role in the Federal grants arena. In carrying out NSF's primary mission of promoting the progress of science, DGA continually interacts with academic and non-academic institutions, private industry, State and local governments, and other Federal agencies.

Grants & Agreements Officers (Grants Officers) have delegated warrant authority to issue awards on behalf of the Foundation and their approval constitutes a legal obligation of Federal funds for awardees to expend to fulfill the scope of the approved proposal. In addition, Grants Officers are responsible for issuing all award amendments and certain post-award prior approvals, for monitoring awardee compliance with award 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 and procedures, clearance of NSF funding opportunities, advanced monitoring activities, cost analysis and award support, audit resolution, electronic award systems administration, and outreach to the external community. DIAS also advocates for the needs of the research community in NSF electronic research administration activities, including the modernization of NSF’s externally-facing FastLane system via Research.gov. DIAS organizational units are as follows:

a. 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 the interpretation of NSF policies and procedures within NSF's electronic proposal and award systems, as well as official clearance for NSF funding opportunities.

The Policy Office coordinates outreach programs for external stakeholders across the broad research community and NSF staff. Through a variety of mechanisms, it releases timely information regarding NSF policies and procedures, proposal preparation, and award management. In addition to working closely with professional research administration associations, the Policy Office coordinates two major grants conferences held at various locations throughout the U.S., typically in the spring and fall of each year.

b. The Cost Analysis and Pre-award (CAP) Branch specializes in determinations with regard to the allowability, allocability and reasonableness of costs either budgeted or claimed under NSF awards. CAP evaluates accounting systems, internal controls, and policies and procedures of prospective and current NSF grantees. Its major functions include: pre-award reviews of new grantees, Phase II research projects involving small businesses; budgets of large-scale awards; and indirect cost rate negotiation. CAP provides guidance to NSF Program and Grants Officers, as well as grantees for questions related to its areas of responsibility.

c. The Resolution and Advanced Monitoring (RAM) Branch specializes in determining the allowability, allocability and reasonableness of costs claimed under NSF awards. RAM also evaluates the accounting systems, internal controls and policies and procedures of current NSF grantees. RAM’s primary responsibilities include: audit resolution, advanced monitoring to assess grantees’ administrative capability, performance, and compliance with award terms and conditions; and review of certain post-award adjustments to expenditures. RAM provides guidance to NSF program staff and grantees for questions related to its areas of responsibility.

d. The Systems Office plays a major role in the design, implementation, administration, and oversight 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 award 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 facilities in various stages of construction and operations, including multi-organizational and international programs and Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure Projects connected to an existing major facility over $70 million. This includes participation and input on NSF's Integrated Project Teams, business process reviews and redesign, risk assessments, advanced cost analysis and oversight and administrative assistance. The CSB Grants & Agreements Officers have delegated warrant authority to issue awards on behalf of the Foundation and their approval constitutes a legal obligation of Federal funds for awardees to expend to fulfill the scope of the approved proposal. In addition, Grants & Agreements Officers are responsible for issuing all award amendments and certain post-award prior approvals, for monitoring awardee compliance with award terms and conditions, and for the administration and closeout of these awards.

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 oversight practices related to mid-scale and major facility projects and is the NSF-wide resource on project management best practices. LFO has the institutional authority and resources to effectively develop mandatory policies, practices and procedures, which are approved by senior management, for all stages of the facility life-cycle. The Office provides: (1) expert assistance on non-scientific and non-technical aspects of project planning, budgeting, and implementation for mid-scale and major facilities; (2) assurance that all applicable requirements are followed in order to give credence to NSF’s oversight capabilities; and (3) facilitates the use of best practices by fostering coordination and collaboration throughout NSF to share application of lessons learned from prior major 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 administering the Foundation's policies, practices and procedures related to internal and external equal opportunity and civil rights. Its mission is to ensure the agency is in compliance with the laws and regulations that govern Federal-sector EEO and civil rights; as well as, to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment that ensures equal opportunity through policy development, workforce analyses, outreach and education to best serve the Foundation's employees and its stakeholders. ODI is also responsible for responding to all civil rights matters pertaining to NSF programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance, including Title IX Compliance activities. In addition, ODI serves as the Foundation's authority for resolving and responding to all notifications required by NSF’s term and condition regarding sexual harassment, other forms of harassment, or sexual assault. (See Chapter XI.A for additional information.)

10. Office of 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 U.S. Attorney General.

Anyone, including grantees, administrators, and NSF personnel, should contact the OIG, as specified at: https://oig.nsf.gov/contact/hotline to report instances of possible misconduct, fraud, waste, or abuse.

1 For purposes of this Guide, the term "proposal" is interchangeable with the term “application.” Back to Text
2 See Chapter VI.C. for additional information on NSF award conditions. Back to Text
3 For purposes of this Guide, except where explicitly noted, the term "grant" is interchangeable with the terms "cooperative agreement or award", and the term "grantee" is interchangeable with the “awardee” of a cooperative agreement. Back to Text
Email this pagePrint this pageBookmark and Share
Back to Top of page