Chapter I - NSF Awards
The Award and Administration Guide (AAG) (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 in conjunction with the award terms and conditions, implements 2 CFR § 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. If the AAG is silent on a specific area covered by 2 CFR § 200, the requirements specified in 2 CFR § 200 must be followed. This Guide 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). 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.
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
Composition of an NSF award includes:
a. the award notice, including any special conditions applicable to the award and any numbered amendments thereto;
b. general federal award information as required by 2 CFR § 200.210;
c. the budget, which indicates the amounts, by categories of expense, on which NSF has based its support;
d. the applicable NSF general conditions referenced in the award notice (see AAG Chapter I.C for listing);
e. the proposal referenced in the award notice; and
f. 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 and Principal Investigators also may access NSF award notices via use of NSF’s electronic systems. 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.
Each NSF award notice specifically identifies certain conditions that are applicable to, and become part of, that award. The award conditions are available electronically on NSF’s website at: https://www.nsf.gov/awards/managing/. When these conditions reference a particular Award and Administration Guide section, that section becomes part of the award requirements through incorporation by reference.
a. START 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 start date used by NSF is either the 1st or the 15th day of the month. If no start date is specified, then the date of the grant notice is the start date. (See, however, AAG Chapter V.A.2.b.)
b. END 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 end date is the last day of a month.
c. AWARD DATE is the date when the NSF award is signed by the cognizant NSF Grants and Agreements Officer.
d. GRANT PERIOD is the period of time between the start date and the end date of an NSF grant shown as the duration.
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.
Once an award is made, the start date cannot be changed; however, awardees have the authority to incur pre-award costs as outlined in AAG Chapter V.A.2b.
The end 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. When appropriate, 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 end date of the grant of up to 12 months if additional time beyond the established end date is required to assure adequate completion of the original scope of work within the funds already made available. 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 period of performance, at least ten calendar days prior to the end date specified in the grant to ensure accuracy of NSF’s grant data. All grantee-approved extension notifications must be signed and submitted by the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) via use of NSF’s electronic systems.1 For grantee-approved extensions, no amendment will be issued. The revised end date can be viewed via NSF’s electronic systems.
(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 signed and submitted by the AOR via use of NSF’s electronic systems. The request must be submitted to NSF at least 45 days prior to the end date of the grant. Requests submitted after the end date of the grant must include a strong justification as to why it was not submitted earlier. 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 end of the grant is not in itself sufficient justification for an extension. The plan must adhere to the previously approved objectives of the project.
(b) The first no-cost extension request will be subject to the approval of the cognizant NSF Program Officer. The grantee and the PI will be electronically notified of the disposition of this request by the cognizant NSF Program Officer. The second no-cost extension will 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 end date. Grantees are cautioned not to make new commitments or incur new expenditures after the end date in anticipation of a no-cost extension.
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 award. Awards eligible for such an extension are generally continuing grants. Special Creativity Extensions are normally initiated by the NSF Program Officer based on progress during the first two years of the grant; PIs will be informed of such action a year in advance of the end date of the grant. In response to the Program Officer’s recommendation, the required information must be signed and submitted by the AOR via use of NSF’s electronic systems.
Additional funding of a project beyond the original grant period will be in the form of renewed support, continued support or supplemental support. A description of each of these additional funding mechanisms is provided below.
Renewed support is defined as additional funding for a support period subsequent to that provided by the original grant. Renewals to 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.
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 grants for renewed support.
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 by the PI electronically via use of Research.gov at least three months before the end of the period currently being funded. (See AAG Chapter II.D 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 must be signed and submitted by the AOR via use of NSF’s electronic systems 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 and budget justification, 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.2.a.)
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 end 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.
f. If supplemental funding is requested to support a postdoctoral researcher and the original proposal did not include a mentoring plan, then the supplemental funding request must include the requisite mentoring plan, as described in GPG Chapter II.C.2.j. The plan should be uploaded to the "Other Supplementary Documents" section of the FastLane Supplemental Funding Request module. The PI must report on the mentoring activities provided to the individual in annual and final project reports.
NSF has developed a matrix that lists NSF’s electronic capabilities, and whether they can be found in FastLane, Research.gov or both. This matrix will be updated as appropriate, independent of the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide revision cycle. The current version is located at: https://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/estatus_matrix.pdf.
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