Chapter I - NSF Awards
The Award and Administration Guide (Part II of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide) sets forth NSF policies regarding the award and administration of grants and cooperative agreements and implements Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-110, Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and Other Non-Profit Organizations (2 CFR §215.30), and 45 CFR §602 (the Common Rule implementing OMB Circular A-102), Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and Local Governments.1 This Guide also implements other OMB Circulars, Public Laws, Executive Orders (E.O.) and other directives2 listed in Exhibit I-1 insofar as they apply to grants, and is issued pursuant to the authority of Section 11(a) of the NSF Act (42 USC §1870).
This Guide is applicable to NSF grants and cooperative agreements, unless noted otherwise in the award instrument. This Guide does not apply to NSF contracts.
The types of activities funded by NSF and the purposes of NSF funding vary. Consequently, the degree of NSF responsibility for and management control of such activities also varies. NSF traditionally uses grants for fundamental research and other support activities. The key factor in determining the appropriate award terms and conditions is the type of project that is to be funded, not the type of performing organization which will be the recipient of the award or the NSF program recommending the award.
A. Acceptance of Assistance Agreements
Awardees are free to accept or reject the grant or cooperative agreement as awarded. Normally, a request to drawdown NSF funds constitutes acceptance, however, in limited circumstances, NSF may require formal acceptance of an award. If an awardee chooses not to accept an award, then a written request should be sent to the cognizant NSF Program Officer to withdraw (or terminate) the award.
1. Composition of an NSF award includes:
a. the award notice, including any special conditions applicable to the award and any numbered amendments thereto;
b. the budget, which indicates the amounts, by categories of expense, on which NSF has based its support;
c. the proposal referenced in the award notice;
d. the applicable NSF conditions referenced in the award notice (see AAG Chapter I.C for listing); and
e. any NSF program announcement, program solicitation or other documents or special requirements incorporated by reference in the award notice.
2. Award Transmission. NSF transmits award notices to organizations via e-mail. In addition to the e-mail notification, awardees also may access NSF award notices in FastLane. Sponsored projects offices are able to view, print and/or download NSF award notices for their organizations. PIs also may access their award notices via FastLane.
1. NSF Award Conditions. Each NSF award notice specifically identifies certain conditions that are applicable to, and become part of, that award. When these conditions reference a particular Award and Administration Guide section, that section becomes part of the award requirements through incorporation by reference.
2. Basic Conditions. The following types of basic conditions may be made a part of an NSF award, as appropriate.
a. Grant General Conditions.
(i) Grant General Terms and Conditions (GC-1) are used in most NSF grant awards;
(ii) Federal Demonstration Partnership General Terms and Conditions (FDP) and NSF Agency Specific Requirements are used in most grants to participants in the FDP; and
(iii) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II Grant General Conditions are used in Phase II grants under the SBIR program.
(iv) Foreign Grant General Conditions (FGG) are used for awards to foreign grantees.
(v) Foreign and International Awardee Conditions for Non-research Projects are used for non-research projects to foreign grantees.
b. Standard Conditions. These types of conditions may either supplement or modify the applicable General Conditions described above.
(i) Administration of NSF Conference or Group Travel Award Grant Special Conditions (FL 26) are used for conference or travel grants.
(ii) Construction Conditions are used for grants which include rearrangements/alterations over $25, 000 (construction).
(iii) Fixed Amount Award General Conditions (FAA) are used in NSF fixed amount grants. (Note: these conditions may establish different financial and other requirements that are not generally used in cost reimbursement type grants.)
c. Cooperative Agreement3 Programmatic Terms and Conditions (CAPTC) and Cooperative Agreement Financial/Administrative Terms and Conditions (CAFATC) are used in NSF cooperative agreements.
(i) CA Programmatic Terms and Conditions provide guidance on project governance, reporting, management and oversight of the project.
(ii) CA Financial/Administrative Terms and Conditions outline both government-wide and NSF policies regarding assistance awards as well as the management of funds that support the project.
3. Availability. The latest version of each set of these general and standard conditions, as well as prior archived versions, is available electronically on NSF’s website at https://www.nsf.gov/awards/managing/.
a. EFFECTIVE DATE is the date specified in the grant notice on or after which, except for fixed amount awards, expenditures may be charged to the grant. With the exception of PI transfers, the effective date used by NSF is either the 1st or the 15th day of the month. If no effective date is specified, then the date of the grant notice is the effective date. (See, however, AAG Chapter V.A.2b.)
b. EXPIRATION DATE is the date specified in the grant notice after which expenditures may not be charged against the grant except to satisfy obligations to pay allowable project costs committed on or before that date. The expiration date is the last day of a month.
c. GRANT PERIOD is the period of time between the effective date and the expiration date of an NSF grant shown as the duration.
2. Significance of Grant Period
a. Except in fixed amount awards, an NSF grant gives authority to the grantee to commit and expend funds for allowable costs (see AAG Chapter V) in support of the project up to the grant amount specified in the grant notice at any time during the grant period.
b. Except as provided in AAG Chapter V.A.2b, Chapter V.A.2c, or Chapter V.B.7, expenditures may not be charged prior to the effective date or subsequent to the expiration date under an NSF cost reimbursement grant.
Once an award is made, the effective date cannot be changed; however, awardees have the authority to incur pre-award costs as outlined in AAG Chapter V.A.2b.
The expiration date may be changed as a result of approval of a request for continued support of a continuing grant, for a no-cost grant extension, or by approval of a request for supplemental support. If approved, the NSF Grants and Agreements Officer will issue an amendment to the grant.
(i) Grantee-Approved Extension. Grantees may authorize a one-time extension of the expiration date of the grant of up to 12 months if additional time beyond the established expiration date is required to assure adequate completion of the original scope of work within the funds already made available.4 This one-time extension may not be exercised merely for the purpose of using the unliquidated balances. Grantees are not authorized to extend an award that contains a zero balance. The grantee shall notify NSF, providing supporting reasons for the extension and the revised expiration date, at least ten days prior to the expiration date specified in the grant to ensure accuracy of NSF’s grant data. All grantee-approved extension notifications must be submitted via the FastLane system. For grantee-approved extensions, no amendment will be issued.
(ii) NSF-Approved Extension.
(a) If additional time beyond the extension provided by the grantee is required and exceptional circumstances warrant, a formal request must be submitted to NSF via FastLane. The request must be submitted to NSF at least 45 days prior to the expiration date of the grant. The request must explain the need for the extension and include an estimate of the unobligated funds remaining and a plan for their use. As indicated above, that unobligated funds may remain at the expiration of the grant is not in itself sufficient justification for an extension. The plan must adhere to the previously approved objectives of the project. All requests for NSF-approved extensions must be submitted via the FastLane system. Grantees are not authorized to extend an award that contains a zero balance. NSF program officers are authorized to approve the first no cost extension request on current active awards.
(b) The first no-cost extension request will be subject to the approval of the cognizant Program Officer. The sponsored projects office and PI will be electronically notified of the disposition of this request by the cognizant NSF Program Officer. The second no-cost extension will continue to be subject to the approval of an NSF Grants and Agreements Officer, and, if approved, will be in the form of an amendment to the grant specifying a new expiration date. Grantees are cautioned not to make new commitments or incur new expenditures after the expiration date in anticipation of a no-cost extension.
(c) Grantees are not authorized to extend an award that contains a zero balance.
d. Two-Year Extensions for Special Creativity
A program officer may recommend the extension of funding for certain research grants beyond the initial period for which the grant was awarded for a period of up to two years. The objective of such extensions is to offer the most creative investigators an extended opportunity to attack adventurous, “high-risk” opportunities in the same general research area, but not necessarily covered by the original/current proposal. Awards eligible for such an extension are generally three-year continuing grants. Special Creativity Extensions are generally initiated by the NSF Program Officer based on progress during the first two years of a three-year grant; PIs will be informed of such action a year in advance of the expiration of the grant. In response to the Program Officer’s recommendation, the PI should submit the required information electronically via the supplemental funding request module in FastLane.
1. Types of Additional Funding Support
Additional funding of a project beyond the original grant period will be in the form of renewed support, continued support or supplemental support.
2. Renewed Support (Standard Grants)
Renewed support is defined as additional funding for a support period subsequent to that provided by a standard grant. Renewals to standard grants, if any, will be in the form of a new grant with a new grant number. Costs incurred under the old grant cannot be transferred to the new grant. Residual funds remaining in the old grant cannot be transferred to the new grant.
Instructions for preparation of renewal proposals are contained in the GPG Chapters II and V.
3. Continued Support (Continuing Grants)
a. Funding increments for projects being supported under continuing grants receive high priority within NSF and normally are not considered in competition with proposals for new grants or for renewed support of standard grants.
b. Unless otherwise provided for in the original grant notice, each increment of a continuing grant will be funded at the level indicated in the original award notice without a formal request, subject to NSF’s judgment of satisfactory progress, availability of funds, and receipt and approval of the required annual report. NSF makes every attempt to honor continuing grant commitments. In order to adjust to changes in the general level of funds for a particular field of science or engineering or to major new opportunities in that field, however, NSF may reduce continuing grant increments below the levels indicated in original grant notices. This requires full written justification by program staff and management review and approval. In the absence of major unanticipated fiscal year constraints, reductions are rare. Continuing grant increments will be released by the cognizant NSF Program Officer upon approval of the annual report. The sponsored projects office and PI will be notified by the cognizant NSF Program Officer of NSF's approval via email.
c. In order to obtain a committed funding increment and ensure continuity of funding, an annual project report must be submitted electronically via the NSF FastLane System by the PI at least three months before the end of the period currently being funded. (See AAG Chapter II.E for additional information on submission of project reports.)
a. In unusual circumstances, small amounts of supplemental funding and up to six months of additional support may be requested to assure adequate completion of the original scope of work. Such requests for supplemental funding support should be submitted to the cognizant NSF Program Officer at least two months prior to the need for the additional funds and must be adequately justified. Program officers may make decisions regarding whether or not to recommend a small supplement without merit review of the supplemental request. Requests for larger supplements may require external merit review.
b. A request for supplemental support must be submitted electronically via FastLane and must include:
(i) A summary of the proposed work;
(ii) A justification of the need for the supplemental funds; and
(iii) A budget, highlighting the use by budget category of the additional funding as distinguished from the original funding provided in those categories of cost. AORs are required to electronically sign the supplemental funding request via the Authorized Organizational Representative Functions in FastLane.
c. NSF will not approve requests for supplemental support for such purposes as defraying the costs of increases in salaries, wages or staff benefits or for additional indirect cost reimbursement, whether caused by a change in the indirect cost rate or by changes in direct cost expenditures which affect the indirect cost base. (See AAG Chapter V.A.2a and Chapter V.D.3.)
d. If approved, the NSF Grants and Agreements Officer will amend the grant to provide additional funding for the current support period. The amendment notice will specify both the amount of supplemental funding and the cumulative amount awarded through the expiration date, which normally will remain unchanged.
e. Special NSF programs such as Research Experiences for Undergraduates may provide their funding through supplements to other NSF grants. In such instances, the guidance in this section may not be applicable.
1For purposes of this Guide, references to OMB Circular A-110 also include comparable portions of 45 CFR §602, where appropriate. Back to Text
2 Consult AAG Exhibit I-1 for information on obtaining these types of documents. Back to Text
3 See also Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) Introduction, Section D.2.b. for additional information on cooperative agreements that involve MREFC and operations activities. Back to Text
4 Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER) awards are not eligible for this authority. Back to Text