February 28, 2003
Science and Technology Centers (STC): Integrative Partnerships
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Changes in the STC Program and Solicitation
Question: How does the new FY 2003 STC Program Solicitation
differ from the previous FY 2000 STC Program Solicitation (NSF
Answer: The new STC Program Solicitation has been
revised in several ways: the solicitation format has been revised to
be consistent with current NSF-wide standards for program announcements;
changes have been incorporated to streamline the solicitation, to reduce
workload for the research and education community, and to improve proposal
content for reviewers. Highlights of the changes include:
- New requirements as specified in the revised NSF Grant Proposal
- New due date for preliminary proposals: June 3, 2003
- Deadline for full proposals (by invitation only):
February 10, 2004
- Expected start date for awarded STCs: June/July 2005;
- No letters of intent required (none should be submitted);
- Limit on number of site visits per lead institution;
- Letters of commitment without cost sharing (cash or in-kind) are
not permitted and should not be submitted;
- Preliminary proposal budget requires 5-year summary only;
- Preliminary proposal review to focus on research and education
- Full proposal review to focus on integration of research
knowledge transfer, and management proposed;
- Site visit review on all aspects
with special emphasis on management
- Revised language for preliminary and full proposal content:
language to emphasize the 'integrative' and 'partnership' aspects
of the Center;
- Revised language to clarify:
- education goals and expectations;
- additional management requirements
- knowledge transfer expectations;
- Revised language to reflect current
Cooperative Agreement language and expectations for STCs;
language defining the role and membership of the external Advisory
- Requires a statement on ethics and intellectual property
rights, and development of a program and training for all staff (faculty
and students), including
development of appropriate courses across the partners, in the full proposal;
the number of review criteria specific to STCs and further clarifies
the intent of the review criteria;
- Requires a comprehensive list of Partner Institutions,
Project Personnel, and Collaborators, to aid NSF in identifying
potential conflicts of interest.
There are no page limits for this information.
Question: What remains the same in the new STC Solicitation?
Answer: The objectives of the STC Program remain the same as in the
previous solicitation. Most of the changes to this new solicitation are
intended to clarify NSF's intent, and to streamline and improve the review
process, based on experience with the previous competitions. Several
main features include:
- Pending availability of funds, $30 million to be available
to make between 6-8 awards;
- Cost sharing required is 30% of the amount
provided by NSF, no more, no less;
- Limits the number of preliminary
proposals allowed by a lead institution to five;
- Requires submission
of comprehensive lists of personnel, institutions, and collaborators
involved for determining conflicts of interest;
- Provides deadline dates
for preliminary proposals and full proposals;
- Preliminary and full
proposals to be submitted via FastLane;
- Full proposals by invitation
2. Research areas appropriate for STCs
Question: What research areas are appropriate for STC preliminary proposals
and full proposals?
Answer: NSF will entertain STC preliminary proposals and full proposals
in all areas of research and education normally supported by the Foundation.
Question: What research areas are covered by the existing STCs?
Answer: This information and more about the existing STCs can be found
at the following URL: http://www.nsf.gov/od/oia/programs/stc/ita.htm
3. Education Plan
Question: How involved should our Center be in education?
Answer: NSF expects each Center to make the education of American students
a high priority and to apply the same scholarly mind-set to education
as to research. A Center is expected to understand the challenges facing
education in its areas of research, and the contributions that the Center
has the potential to make to address those challenges. The contributions
desired by the Center then drive the design of specific educational activities
and their evaluation.
Question: Must each Center have K-12 activities? The past solicitation
made mention of K-12, but we don’t see it in this solicitation.
Answer: No, there is no requirement for K-12 activities. Each Center
should undertake activities at the level of education that serve the
Center research and education goals. These may involve any level from
precollege through adult education.
Question: May a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) submit a proposal to this program
that contains at least one or two U.S. academic institutions with significant
research and degree-granting education programs as well as national laboratories
and state and local government laboratories?
Answer: No. The lead institution submitting an STC preliminary or full
proposal must be a U.S. academic institution with significant research
and degree-granting education programs in any area of science and engineering
normally supported by NSF. A not-for-profit 501(c)(3) can be a partner
with the lead institution that submits the STC preliminary or full proposal,
but cannot be the lead institution itself.
5. Number of preliminary proposals
Question: Please clarify the statement within your Science and Technology
Centers: Integrative Partnerships Program Solicitation that states: "A
single institution may submit no more than five preliminary proposals
as lead institution, and may be involved as a partner in additional preliminary
proposals submitted by other institutions." How do the proposals
on which we collaborate but are not the lead count against the five?
The way this is written it appears we can have five as lead and an
unlimited number on which we merely participate but not as lead.
Answer: You are correct in your interpretation of the language in the
STC Program Solicitation. Your institution may submit as many as five
preliminary proposals as lead and may, in addition, be a participant
on an unlimited number of preliminary proposals that are submitted by
lead institutions other than your own. The preliminary proposals on which
you collaborate but do not lead are not counted against the five you
submit as lead institution.
6. Cost sharing
Question: Could you please clarify the language
regarding the cost sharing requirements?
Answer: The STC Program Solicitation states that “For eligibility
purposes, cost sharing at a level of 30% of the requested total amount
of NSF funds is required for all preliminary proposals and full proposals
submitted in response to this solicitation.” This means that
cost sharing shown on submissions should be no less than 30% and no
30%. The 30% level required by NSF is an eligibility criterion rather
than a review criterion. Thus, for the STC Program Solicitation, any
proposal with cost sharing less than 30% or in excess of 30% will be
ineligible and will be returned without review. This requirement assures
that the level of cost sharing will be equivalent for all preliminary
proposals and full proposals submitted to the STC competition.
In addition, "Cost sharing will be required at a level of 30% of
the total amount provided by NSF for any STC funded by NSF". This
indicates that once NSF reviews the proposal, if the budget amount
NSF provides varies from the amount requested, the level of cost sharing
required will remain at 30% of the amount that NSF ultimately provides.
Question: Is the entire 30% required to be from the lead institution
or can it come from other sources?
Answer: The 30% can come from any number of non-Federal sources but
the lead institution has to certify that the amount is available and
the lead institution is ultimately responsible for the cost sharing should
a partner institution default on it's cost sharing.
It is anticipated that most STCs will have cost sharing from a variety
of sources or partners. Please note that, as defined in the STC Program
Solicitation, "A partner is an institution or organization that
invests intellectual resources in the Center, backed by financial
commitment to the Center. The partner institutions work together with NSF to ensure
vital participation in an integrative effort in the research education,
and knowledge transfer activities of the Center."
Question: Is a level of 30% cost sharing required for each institution
participating in the STC?
Answer: No. The lead institution of the proposed STC is responsible
for the full cost sharing but may demonstrate cost sharing at a level
of 30% with the participating institutions. Each partner may have different
levels of cost sharing (each is to be provided on line M of the subawardees
budget page). This allows a given Center to come up with the 30% cost
share in any way it deems most appropriate. For example, an STC comprising
two institutions, each requesting the same amount of support from NSF,
might have one cost share at a level of 40% and the other cost share
at a level of 20%, for an overall cost sharing level of 30% for the Center
as a whole. The key is that the overall Center cost share must be 30%,
but NSF gives the Center the flexibility to determine how to arrive at
this level when it decides upon the appropriate cost sharing for its
Question: Letters of commitment are not allowed. Can we submit a letter
Answer: No. Letters of commitment are not permitted and may not be included
with the preliminary or full proposal.
Question: Must cost sharing included in the preliminary proposal cover
the ten-year period of support?
Answer: No. The preliminary proposal budget should include cost sharing
for the first five years of the proposed Center only. The full proposal
should also include cost sharing for the first five-year period of support.
The second five-year period of cost sharing will not be required until
a renewal proposal is submitted.
7. Budgets for Preliminary Proposal and Full Proposal
Question: The solicitation requests a budget for the five-year period
only. Should we submit a budget for each year in the preliminary proposal?
Answer: No. You should only provide a total budget for the full five-year
period. In FastLane, enter the total 5-year budget in "Budget year
1". A detailed budget for each year and budgets for subawardees/subcontractors
should not be submitted in the preliminary proposal. However, you should
briefly describe in your budget justification how funds will be allocated
for each year to the research, education, and knowledge transfer areas,
for each participant, and indicate your plans for the start-up phase
of the Center. You should also indicate large, costly items, such as
major equipment, that will be needed.
Question: Should we submit a budget for each subawardee or participating
institution in the preliminary proposal or the full proposal?
Answer: Not in the preliminary proposal. NSF needs only the total budget
for the preliminary proposal. For the full proposal, a budget for each
subwardee is needed. The lead institution budget should show total amounts;
the sum of all the subawardee budgets should add up to the amount shown
on the lead institution budget page for subawardees.
8. STC Directors—citizenship and eligibility:
Question: Are permanent residents eligible to be prospective STC directors,
or are only U.S. citizens to be considered?
Answer: As long as the investigator is engaged in science and technology
research and education at a U.S. institution, he or she is eligible.
For the STC Program, permanent residents are eligible to be prospective
STC directors and applicants are not limited to U.S. citizens.
9. Notice of intent
Question: Does NSF require letters of intent for this competition as
it did in the last competition?
Answer: No. Letters of intent are not required, and should not be submitted.
10. Lists of Institutions and Project Personnel—page
Question: In the last solicitation, there were page limits set for the
lists of project personnel and institutions. Are there page limits for
this new solicitation?
Answer: No. In short, accuracy is much more important to us than
the page limit—both for the list of participants and list of
collaborators/conflicts. Please use as many pages as needed for full
and accurate lists. However,
the lists should include no material other than that asked for in the
Program Solicitation. The font size should be the same throughout the
proposal. Please be advised that page limits as indicated for other
sections of the proposal will be strictly enforced.
11. Lists of Institutions, Project Personnel, and Collaborators—Conflicts
Question: The STC Program Solicitation asks for lists of institutions,
project personnel, and collaborators with Conflicts of Interest. What
constitutes a Conflict of Interest?
Answer: In addition to lists of institutions and project personnel,
the STC Program Solicitation requires that Principal Investigators provide,
to the best of their ability, a list of all collaborators, participants
and affiliates, to aid NSF in identifying reviewers who may have potential
conflicts of interest with any of the project's personnel (PI, co-PI,
and other personnel).
To assist you in knowing what constitutes a Conflict of Interest, be
advised that when your preliminary proposal or full proposal is reviewed
by the National Science Foundation, reviewers will be asked to disclose
as potential conflicts of interest any of their affiliations and relationships
in the areas listed below.
We realize that a PI cannot be expected to know all the details of
conflicts of interest for the entire potential reviewing community.
for purposes of the STC collaborators list, please concentrate your
efforts on providing us with information for those collaborators whose
of Interest can be found under the first major grouping below, namely, "Personal
Relationship with an Investigator, Project Director, or Other Person
Who Has a Personal Interest in the Proposal or Other Application."
- PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH AN INVESTIGATOR, PROJECT DIRECTOR,
OR OTHER PERSON WHO HAS A PERSONAL INTEREST IN THE PROPOSAL OR OTHER
- Known family relationship as spouse, child, sibling,
- Business or professional partnership.
- Past or present association
as thesis advisor or thesis
- Collaboration on a project or on a book, article, report,
or paper within the last 48 months.
- Co-editing or a journal, compendium,
proceeding within the last 24 months.
- PERSONAL AFFILIATIONS WITH THE APPLICANT AND PARTNER INSTITUTIONS
A person may have a conflict if they have/hold/are:
- Current employment
at the institution as a professor, adjunct professor,
visiting professor, or similar position. (NOTE: Please do not list
as Conflicts of Interest the faculty at your institution and
as you are already providing this information in the required lists
of personnel and institutions.)
- Other current employment
with the institution (such as
consulting or an advisory arrangement).
- Previous employment with
the institution within the last
- Being considered for employment with the institution.
- Formal or informal
reemployment arrangement with the
- Ownership of securities of firms involved in the proposal
- Current membership on a visiting committee or similar
- body at the institution.
(This is a conflict only for proposals or applications that
originate from the department,
school, or facility that the visiting
committee or similar body advises.)
- Any office, governing
board membership or relevant
committee chairpersonship in the institution. (Ordinary
membership in a professional society or association
is not considered
- Current enrollment as a student. (Only
a conflict for
proposals or applications that originate from the
department or school in which one is a student.)
- Received and retained
an honorarium or award from
the institution within the last 12 months.
- PERSONAL OTHER AFFILIATIONS OR RELATIONSHIPS
of the following persons are to be treated as if
they were yours: Any affiliation or relationship of your
spouse, of your minor child, of a relative leaving in your
anyone who is legally your partner that you are aware of,
that would be covered by any items above.
- Other relationships, such
as close personal friendship,
that you think might tend to affect your judgement or be
seen as doing so by a reasonable person familiar with the relationship.
Question: After we submit the preliminary or full proposal, are we to
update this information in FastLane?
Answer: No. Once the preliminary (or full) proposal is submitted,
any changes in the participating institutions, personnel, collaborators,
subcontractors, or other affiliates can’t be made to the
proposal (preliminary or full). However, it is important to notify
NSF of changes
as they occur, for the purpose of identifying potential conflicts
of interest during the review process.
Question: Should we notify NSF of changes in personnel or participating
institutions? When should we notify NSF?
Answer: Yes. Updated information should be sent by the lead institution
to email@example.com as soon as it is available. Updated completed information
will be requested prior to a site visit.
12. Required Supplementary Documents information for Single Copy Documents.
Question: The preliminary proposal requires a list of Partner Institutions
and a List of Project Personnel to be submitted as part of the Supplementary
Documents required. Is this the same information that is required for
the Single Copy documents? Why do we enter this in two places?
Answer: Yes. The lists of Partner Institutions and Project Personnel
are required as supplementary documents for both preliminary and full
proposals. Supplementary Documents in FastLane are PDF files, and can't
be used to create the database needed by staff, therefore the information
must be entered into the two different locations in FastLane.
This information is needed as part of the proposal for reviewers and
NSF staff. Entering this information in the Supplementary Documents
section ensures it will be accessible to reviewers as part of the proposal.
is recommended that you enter the Non Co-PI Senior Personnel information
in the Single Copy Document section “List of Personnel, Collaborators
and Affiliates” first, and then enter information in the Supplementary
Single Copy Documents do not become part of the proposal and are not
seen by reviewers. The information you provide, as a Single Copy Document
becomes part of a database used by NSF staff.
The "List of Collaborators/Individuals with Conflicts of Interest",
must be entered as a Single Copy Document and is critical for the NSF
review of your proposal. It is important that the information for these
lists is complete and accurate, and in the correct format. Follow instructions
provided in FastLane and the solicitation.
Question: Is the information for the Supplementary Documents and the
Single Copy Documents optional?
Answer: No. Complete and accurate information is required for both the
preliminary and full proposals submitted to this competition.
13. Federal Government laboratory partnerships
Question: I am interested in preparing a preliminary proposal for the
new STC Program Solicitation. The Program Solicitation mentions collaborations
and partnerships with National Laboratories. Can you tell me what limitations
apply to these collaborations regarding funding resources? In particular,
is it possible to provide money directly to lab personnel for salary,
travel, and hiring of students and post-docs?
Answer: The STC Program encourages partnerships with Federal Government
laboratories, including the National Laboratories operated by the Department
of Energy. However, NSF does not typically reimburse costs that are covered
by another agency's appropriations. NSF funding of federal employees
such as lab personnel is generally not appropriate (see NSF Grant Policy
14. International collaboration
Question: How does NSF view international collaboration?
Answer: Centers are encouraged to engage in cooperative activities
with foreign scientists and organizations whenever it will benefit
or engineering and not harm United States competitiveness. Before
a Center engages in any cooperative international activities, the Center
must notify the cognizant NSF Program Officer for review and approval.
Each Center must include information about its international activities
in it’s annual report; and must use its best efforts to ensure
that any collaboration between the Center and a foreign individual
or organization will be conducted on a comparable access basis.
Question: As we are developing our preliminary proposal for an STC, we
had a question concerning international participation. We would like
to know if it is acceptable to include international industries as
well as academics in the STCs.
Answer: There is no problem with either academic or industrial international
collaboration as long as it can be justified as an integral part of the
proposed Center's activities. Many of the currently supported STCs include
both types of international collaboration. However, the foreign partners,
not NSF, must provide funding for international academic or industrial
Question: Can a foreign institution, as a partner or subcontractor, be
financed with funds from an STC award?
Answer: NSF does not expect to fund foreign institutions as partners
or subcontractors. Extraordinary circumstances may be considered on a
case-by-case basis, such as activities that require access to unique
foreign facilities, unique foreign data resources not generally available
to U.S. investigators (or which would require significant effort or time
to duplicate), foreign geographic locations, or other foreign resources
that are essential contributing factors to the success of the proposed
Question: Graduate students working on our proposed STC will be supported
as research assistants. I assume that these positions would be open to
any qualified student, foreign or U.S. that we admit to our graduate
programs, as is the case with an NSF grant. If there are restrictions
on appointing research assistants we would like to be made aware of them.
Answer: One of the goals of the STC Program is to increase the numbers
of educated U.S. citizens by increasing the numbers of U.S. undergraduate
students, graduate students and post-docs engaged in science and engineering.
The STC Program Solicitation does not specifically rule out research
assistantships to foreign students. However, if a proposed Center is
to meet the goals of the STC program for educating U.S. citizens, then
the proposed Center should plan for U.S. citizens (undergraduates and
graduates) to be the principal, if not exclusive, recipients of educational
aid and research assistant appointments. It would be difficult to see
how a proposed Center's educational component could be acceptable if
it did not include a large preponderance of U.S. citizens as beneficiaries.
Question: Our proposed Center does not include a "fellowship program" as
such. However, we would like to propose paying for "three-month
living stipends" for students from collaborating institutions
in foreign countries to visit members of the Center for cooperative
and training. If there are any restrictions on this, please advise.
Answer: In general, the country sending the students is expected to
pay for their travel to and expenses in the receiving country. There
are exceptions for students from countries whose currency is not convertible.
The STC Program rarely supports activities to bring foreign students
to the U.S. since one of the goals of the Program is to educate U.S.
citizens as students and post-docs engaged in science. Extraordinary
cases may be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Question: Is it acceptable for a foreign laboratory to allocate and
pay for a foreign post-graduate fellowship for our proposed STC?
Answer: There is no problem with a foreign laboratory's paying for
foreign post-graduate fellowships at an STC.
15. Next STC competition:
Question: After the current STC competition is completed, when will
the next STC competition begin?
Answer: Pending availability of funds, the next STC competition is expected
to start three years from the start of this competition. The Program
Solicitation for the current competition is expected serve as the Program
Solicitation for the next competition, subject to change. The deadline
dates and review schedule for the next competition, although not yet
determined, should be similar to those for the currently announced competition.
The STC web site will be updated with information regarding the next
competition when deadline dates for preliminary proposals and full proposals
are better known.