Changes coming to NSF policies and procedures

Cover of the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (effective December 26, 2014). Text: The National Science Foundation Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide/Effective December 26, 2014/NSF-15-1/OMB Control Number 3145-0058. NSF logo in lower right corner.

The NSF will publish a new version of its Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide in October.

The National Science Foundation will publish a new draft of its Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) in October. The new PAPPG will take effect in January 2016.

A number of the new policies and procedures will significantly affect proposal preparation. Here’s what to expect:

  • NSF FastLane will auto-enforce submission deadlines. Proposals are due by 5:00pm submitter’s local time – no deviations will be allowed. It is important to note that the submitter’s local time is dependent upon his or her institution’s permanent location, not the submitter’s physical location at the time of submission. Miami is located in the Eastern Time Zone, so even if you are submitting your proposal while you are on vacation or at a conference in another time zone, your submission must still be completed by 5:00pm ET on the deadline date.
  • FastLane will alert Principal Investigators to all errors at the time they allow SRO (Sponsored Research Office) access to submit their proposals. These errors must be corrected prior to submission, well in advance of the 5:00pm ET deadline.
  • “Collaborator” and “Other Affiliation” information will be removed from the NSF biosketch. This information will now be submitted as a single copy document for all PIs, co-PIs, and senior personnel.
  • When submitting the project summary as a supplementary document (which is allowed only for summaries that contain special characters), it is imperative that headings for “Overview,” “Intellectual Merit,” and “Broader Impacts” be included.
  • The new PAPPG clarifies when the 5-year inclusive period for prior support begins, and offers examples of the types of NSF awards that must be included as prior support.
  • Guidance requiring the inclusion of URLs in the References Cited section that appeared as a footnote in the current PAPPG has been moved to the full text in the new PAPPG.
  • PIs will no longer be able to submit all biosketches and current/pending support documents as a single PDF on behalf of the research team. Instead, each PI, co-PI, senior personnel, and other key personnel will have to submit his or her own biosketch and current/pending support as individual files.
  • Under the new guidelines, the current and pending support document will be required to include internal institutional resources. This means that if you have time committed to internally funded research, that time commitment must be listed on your current and pending support document. Additionally, you must show all external commitments on your current and pending support document, even if the time committed to those external proposals and awards is zero.
  • The new PAPPG offers suggestions for formatting letters of collaboration. Pay particular attention to your solicitation guidelines because some solicitations do not allow for letters of collaboration, while others require strict adherence to a template provided in the solicitation.
  • Greater clarity is provided regarding the type of information necessary for proposals that include the use of vertebrate animals. Look for NSF to align their practices regarding the use of vertebrate animals with those of the NIH.
  • Policies governing dual use research of concern (DURC) will be implemented in the new guidance.
  • NSF will implement just-in-time budget processes for core programs in MPS/DMS and MPS/PHY. These proposals will not require detailed budgets at time of submission. Instead, NSF will request budgets for these proposals if and when they are recommended for funding.

Any researcher or research administrator interested in better understanding these changes specifically or better understanding NSF administration generally should plan to attend the NSF Grants Conference, November 2-3, 2015, in Arlington, VA.

Written by Tricia Callahan, Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University.

Barometer image by Jessica Alpern via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

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