Enhancing Access to the Radio Spectrum (EARS)

Program Solicitation
NSF 13-539

Replaces Document(s):
NSF 12-546

NSF Logo

National Science Foundation

Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences
     Division of Astronomical Sciences
     Division of Mathematical Sciences
     Division of Materials Research

Directorate for Engineering
     Division of Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems

Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering
     Division of Computer and Network Systems

Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences
     Division of Social and Economic Sciences

Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time):

     May 14, 2013

IMPORTANT INFORMATION AND REVISION NOTES

A revised version of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG), NSF 13-1, was issued on October 4, 2012 and is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after January 14, 2013. Please be advised that the guidelines contained in NSF 13-1 apply to proposals submitted in response to this funding opportunity. Proposers who opt to submit prior to January 14, 2013, must also follow the guidelines contained in NSF 13-1.

Please be aware that significant changes have been made to the PAPPG to implement revised merit review criteria based on the National Science Board (NSB) report, National Science Foundation's Merit Review Criteria: Review and Revisions. While the two merit review criteria remain unchanged (Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts), guidance has been provided to clarify and improve the function of the criteria. Changes will affect the project summary and project description sections of proposals. Annual and final reports also will be affected.

A by-chapter summary of this and other significant changes is provided at the beginning of both the Grant Proposal Guide and the Award & Administration Guide.

Please note that this program solicitation may contain supplemental proposal preparation guidance and/or guidance that deviates from the guidelines established in the Grant Proposal Guide.

SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

General Information

Program Title:

Enhancing Access to the Radio Spectrum (EARS)
Opportunities for interdisciplinary research that increases the efficiency with which radio spectrum is used or expands access to wireless-enabled services for all Americans.

Synopsis of Program:

The National Science Foundation's Directorates for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS), Engineering (ENG), Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), and Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) are coordinating efforts to identify bold new concepts with the potential to contribute to significant improvements in the efficiency of radio spectrum utilization, and in the ability for traditionally underserved Americans to benefit from current and future wireless-enabled goods and services. EARS seeks to fund innovative collaborative research that transcends the traditional boundaries of existing programs, such as research that spans disciplines covered by two or more of the participating NSF directorates.

Cognizant Program Officer(s):

Please note that the following information is current at the time of publishing. See program website for any updates to the points of contact.

  • Andrew W. Clegg, MPS Program Officer & EARS Program Director, telephone: (703) 292-4892, email: aclegg@nsf.gov

  • Lawrence S. Goldberg, ENG Senior Advisor, telephone: (703) 292-8339, email: lgoldber@nsf.gov

  • George Haddad, ENG Program Officer, telephone: (703) 292-8897, email: ghaddad@nsf.gov

  • Zhi Tian, ENG Program Officer, telephone: (703) 292-2210, email: ztian@nsf.gov

  • Juan E. Figueroa, ENG SBIR/STTR Program Officer, telephone: (703) 292-7054, email: jfiguero@nsf.gov

  • Min Song, CISE Program Officer, telephone: (703) 292-8950, email: msong@nsf.gov

  • Michael Reksulak, SBE Program Officer, telephone: (703) 292-7266, email: mreksula@nsf.gov

Applicable Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number(s):

  • 47.041 --- Engineering
  • 47.049 --- Mathematical and Physical Sciences
  • 47.070 --- Computer and Information Science and Engineering
  • 47.075 --- Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences

Award Information

Anticipated Type of Award: Standard Grant

Estimated Number of Awards: 30

Approximately 30 in FY 2013. Each proposal may request up to $1,200,000 in total funding over a period of up to four years.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $36,500,000

Anticipated funding amount is subject to the availability of funds.

Eligibility Information

Organization Limit:

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:
  • Universities and Colleges - Universities and two- and four-year colleges (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in, the US acting on behalf of their faculty members. Such organizations also are referred to as academic institutions.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.

PI Limit:

None Specified

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization:

None Specified

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI:

A proposer may be a Principal Investigator (PI) or co-PI on up to two proposals.

Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions

A. Proposal Preparation Instructions

  • Letters of Intent: Not Applicable
  • Preliminary Proposal Submission: Not Applicable
  • Full Proposals:
    • Full Proposals submitted via FastLane: NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide, Part I: Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) Guidelines apply. The complete text of the GPG is available electronically on the NSF website at: http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=gpg.
    • Full Proposals submitted via Grants.gov: NSF Grants.gov Application Guide: A Guide for the Preparation and Submission of NSF Applications via Grants.gov Guidelines apply (Note: The NSF Grants.gov Application Guide is available on the Grants.gov website and on the NSF website at: http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=grantsgovguide)

B. Budgetary Information

  • Cost Sharing Requirements: Inclusion of voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited.
  • Indirect Cost (F&A) Limitations: Not Applicable
  • Other Budgetary Limitations: Not Applicable

C. Due Dates

  • Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time):

         May 14, 2013

Proposal Review Information Criteria

Merit Review Criteria: National Science Board approved criteria. Additional merit review considerations apply. Please see the full text of this solicitation for further information.

Award Administration Information

Award Conditions: Standard NSF award conditions apply.

Reporting Requirements: Standard NSF reporting requirements apply.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Summary of Program Requirements

  1. Introduction

  2. Program Description

  3. Award Information

  4. Eligibility Information

  5. Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions
    1. Proposal Preparation Instructions
    2. Budgetary Information
    3. Due Dates
    4. FastLane/Grants.gov Requirements

  6. NSF Proposal Processing and Review Procedures
    1. Merit Review Principles and Criteria
    2. Review and Selection Process

  7. Award Administration Information
    1. Notification of the Award
    2. Award Conditions
    3. Reporting Requirements

  8. Agency Contacts

  9. Other Information

I. INTRODUCTION

The radio spectrum is a finite but exceedingly valuable natural resource that facilitates a tremendous variety of applications and services. Some of the most prevalent examples include radio and television broadcasting, cellular phones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, broadband wireless Internet access, GPS, radar, weather satellites, and military/government/public safety communications, among a multitude of others. During the past two decades, the use of the radio spectrum has intensified and expanded enormously. Wireless systems have proven to be a major productivity tool for every sector of the national economy and have become integrated into the fabric of our society. As they have proliferated and new applications emerge, precious spectrum resources are in ever-greater demand.

In 2010, the President of the United States issued a memorandum entitled "Unleashing the Wireless Broadband Revolution," which, among other directives, calls on the Federal Government to identify 500 MHz of spectrum to be made available for wireless broadband use, and specifically calls on the NSF to work with the Department of Commerce and other federal agencies to "create and implement a plan to facilitate research, development, experimentation, and testing by researchers to explore innovative spectrum-sharing technologies..." In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission to devise a plan "to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability." The resulting National Broadband Plan was released in 2010 and, among many other recommendations, calls on the NSF to fund wireless research and development that will advance the science of spectrum access. In 2012, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report that recommended sharing of up to 1,000 MHz of federal government radio spectrum with non-government entities.

NSF seeks to help reach the nation's broadband goals and the larger objective of alleviating growing pressure on limited spectrum resources. Innovative approaches, technologies, and policies will be required to enable more flexible and efficient access to the radio spectrum. In August, 2010, NSF funded a workshop on the topic of Enhancing Access to the Radio Spectrum (EARS). The charge to the workshop was "to identify interdisciplinary research opportunities that will lead to future enhancements in the efficiency by which the radio spectrum is used, and that will enhance the ability of all Americans to access broadband wireless services and realize other benefits derived from efficient spectrum use." The workshop was attended by researchers with relevant expertise in a wide variety of disciplines, including physical sciences, mathematics, engineering, computer science, economics, and public policy. A key objective was to identify the intersections of the individual disciplines relevant to radio spectrum efficiency and access. The final report of the workshop is available at http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503480.

II. PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

While NSF funds a variety of wireless research and development within specific disciplines across the Foundation, the EARS workshop identified challenges and opportunities from an interdisciplinary perspective. As a result, the EARS program targets innovative and potentially transformational research that carefully considers the interplay of science, engineering, technology, applications, economics, social sciences, and public policy on spectrum efficiency and access. A unique merit review criterion for the EARS program is how a proposed research endeavor addresses the program's objectives across two or more traditional disciplinary boundaries. Such considerations should be addressed through substantive components of the proposed research. Collaboration between PIs and co-PIs with expertise in separate disciplines is highly encouraged. We are particularly interested in supporting non-trivial collaborations in areas where such interdisciplinary collaboration is presently uncommon, and to support the initiation of new collaborations. Projects supported under EARS must include a clear description of the nature of the collaboration as a separate component of the project description.

The key research areas of interest to the EARS program include, but are not limited to, those that impact a wide range of technologies, applications, and users. Many of these areas were identified by the EARS workshop. Some broad examples and general topic areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Spectral efficiency. Suitable topic areas include innovations that improve spectral efficiency on an instantaneous basis, such as mitigation of unwanted emissions, improvements in filter technology, interference cancellation, etc.; and improvements on a system-wide basis, such as dynamic spectrum access, frequency re-use, and innovative millimeter wave and THz frequency devices and systems. Advanced spectrum sensing techniques are needed to quickly and accurately identify transmission opportunities over a very wide spectrum pool that may host a large number of different wireless services.
  • Reconfigurable wireless platforms, such as cognitive radio, software-defined radio, novel hardware/software co-design, adaptive antennas, etc., to dynamically implement incentive mechanisms and spectrum policy, facilitate the coexistence of multiple dynamic spectrum access networks, and optimize network performance.
  • Security of wireless signals and systems in the context of spectrum sharing.
  • Coexistence with legacy systems, such as backwards and forward interoperability and compatibility. A major challenge of moving to a new and more efficient spectrum-use model will be a lengthy and complex transition period that will allow for the co-existence of novel new systems and regulations with the multitude of existing legacy systems and regulations.
  • Special-purpose wireless systems. Such systems may be difficult to accommodate within bold new spectrum-use models because of fundamental limitations on frequency agility due to basic operational requirements, extreme sensitivity to interference, or potentially drastic consequences due to failure of a radio frequency (RF) link. Innovative solutions for accommodating such systems are needed. These systems may include medical devices, surveillance, remote sensing, and passive systems such as radio telescopes.
  • Wireless system tests, measurements, and validation. New technology that can result in improvements in spectrum efficiency and access will require new test and measurement solutions and standards and regulatory validation. In addition, measurements and metrics to establish existing and future levels of spectrum occupancy and efficiency will be required.
  • Economic models for spectrum resource sharing. There exists a need for interdisciplinary research in the areas of market- and non-market-based mechanisms for spectrum access and usage to efficiently organize the sharing of scarce spectrum resources. Examples of research themes include, but are not limited to, real-time auctions, market design, spectrum valuation, spectrum management for the home user, and managing mixed-rights spectrum.
  • New and novel measurement-based spectrum management techniques, including agent-based systems, policy-based spectrum management, and local and scalable spectrum management.
  • Novel network radio architecture facilitating the interplay between network layers and enabling more network functionalities, e.g., network topology awareness, network coding, cross-layer optimization, and multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO).
  • Energy-efficient and robust spectrum sensing and allocation mechanisms and protocol support.

A series of workshops hosted by the Networking and Information Technology Research & Development (NITRD) Wireless Spectrum R&D Senior Steering Group (WSRD), which engaged federal government R&D agencies with representatives of the academic and industrial sectors, identified the following four general areas as particularly relevant to meeting near- and mid-term national spectrum objectives:

  • Mechanisms for sharing spectrum
  • Methods for protecting privacy, security, and integrity of wireless signals
  • Means of enforcement of spectrum access rules
  • Metrics for dynamic spectrum monitoring, measurements, and analysis

Proposers may wish to refer to Section 7 of the EARS workshop report and to the reports of the WSRD workshops http://www.nitrd.gov/nitrdgroups/index.php?title=Wireless_Spectrum_Research_and_Development_(WSRD)) for more details and additional areas of interest. However, these lists are not meant to be limiting. EARS will give full consideration to all cross-cutting proposals with viable innovative ideas for increasing radio spectrum efficiency and access.

It is the intent of the EARS program to develop a broad portfolio across the various topical areas in physical sciences, engineering, computer and information science, mathematics, and social, behavioral, and economic sciences. New areas of collaboration are strongly encouraged. The aim of the EARS program is to support projects for which the collective effort by a group of researchers with complementary expertise is necessary to reach the scientific goals. The researchers in the group may come from more than one institution or organization. Awards made under EARS are intended to foster synergy between the disciplines and between the researchers in the group that cannot easily be achieved with individual grants. Proposals will be judged in part by the level of collaboration involved, and awardees will be expected to show evidence of collaboration in their annual progress reports. One measure of interdisciplinarity is the extent to which the proposed research spans disciplines covered by two or more of the participating NSF directorates.

Prospective investigators in the EARS program should carefully consider whether a planned proposal is best suited for the EARS program or for an existing disciplinary program, keeping in mind that NSF does not accept substantially overlapping proposals that are submitted to different programs simultaneously without prior approval. Potential PIs are encouraged to contact one of the cognizant program officers before submitting a proposal.

Important: The EARS program will not provide support for:

  • Research and development of a specific wireless system, unless the results of the research are directly applicable to the broader goals of the EARS program and that connection is clearly established in the proposal
  • The acquisition of general wireless infrastructure that is not for research purposes
  • Ongoing operating costs of existing wireless facilities
  • The acquisition of new or updated radio systems
  • Routine spectrum management functions
  • Legal fees related to the creation or protection of intellectual property rights

Proposals requesting funding for any of these items will be considered not responsive to this solicitation and returned without review.

Please note: The proposal budget must include funding for travel to Washington DC for the PI and up to one co-PI or other senior personnel to attend a two-day EARS PI conference.

III. AWARD INFORMATION

Anticipated Type of Award: Standard Grant

Estimated Number of Awards: Approximately 30 in FY 2013. Each proposal may request up to $1,200,000 in total funding over a period of up to four years.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $36,500,000 in FY 2013, subject to the availability of funds

IV. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION

Organization Limit:

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:
  • Universities and Colleges - Universities and two- and four-year colleges (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in, the US acting on behalf of their faculty members. Such organizations also are referred to as academic institutions.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.

PI Limit:

None Specified

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization:

None Specified

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI:

A proposer may be a Principal Investigator (PI) or co-PI on up to two proposals.

Additional Eligibility Info:

Synergistic collaborations or partnerships with industry or government are encouraged where appropriate, though no NSF funds will be provided to these organizations. Researchers from foreign academic institutions who contribute essential expertise to the project may participate as senior personnel but may not receive NSF support.

V. PROPOSAL PREPARATION AND SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS

A. Proposal Preparation Instructions

Full Proposal Preparation Instructions: Proposers may opt to submit proposals in response to this Program Solicitation via Grants.gov or via the NSF FastLane system.

  • Full proposals submitted via FastLane: Proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation should be prepared and submitted in accordance with the general guidelines contained in the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (GPG). The complete text of the GPG is available electronically on the NSF website at: http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=gpg. Paper copies of the GPG may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from nsfpubs@nsf.gov. Proposers are reminded to identify this program solicitation number in the program solicitation block on the NSF Cover Sheet For Proposal to the National Science Foundation. Compliance with this requirement is critical to determining the relevant proposal processing guidelines. Failure to submit this information may delay processing.
  • Full proposals submitted via Grants.gov: Proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation via Grants.gov should be prepared and submitted in accordance with the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide: A Guide for the Preparation and Submission of NSF Applications via Grants.gov. The complete text of the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide is available on the Grants.gov website and on the NSF website at: (http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=grantsgovguide). To obtain copies of the Application Guide and Application Forms Package, click on the Apply tab on the Grants.gov site, then click on the Apply Step 1: Download a Grant Application Package and Application Instructions link and enter the funding opportunity number, (the program solicitation number without the NSF prefix) and press the Download Package button. Paper copies of the Grants.gov Application Guide also may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from nsfpubs@nsf.gov.

In determining which method to utilize in the electronic preparation and submission of the proposal, please note the following:

Collaborative Proposals. All collaborative proposals submitted as separate submissions from multiple organizations must be submitted via the NSF FastLane system. Chapter II, Section D.4 of the Grant Proposal Guide provides additional information on collaborative proposals.

Important Proposal Preparation Information: FastLane will check for required sections of the full proposal, in accordance with Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) instructions described in Chapter II.C.2. The GPG requires submission of: Project Summary; Project Description; References Cited; Biographical Sketch(es); Budget; Budget Justification; Current and Pending Support; Facilities, Equipment & Other Resources; Data Management Plan; and Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan, if applicable. If a required section is missing, FastLane will not accept the proposal.

Please note that the proposal preparation instructions provided in this program solicitation may deviate from the GPG instructions. If the solicitation instructions do not require a GPG-required section to be included in the proposal, insert text or upload a document in that section of the proposal that states, "Not Applicable for this Program Solicitation." Doing so will enable FastLane to accept your proposal.

B. Budgetary Information

Cost Sharing: Inclusion of voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited

Budget Preparation Instructions: The budget must request funding for travel to Washington DC for the PI and up to one co-PI or other senior personnel to attend a two-day EARS PI conference.

C. Due Dates

  • Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time):

         May 14, 2013

D. FastLane/Grants.gov Requirements

  • For Proposals Submitted Via FastLane:

    Detailed technical instructions regarding the technical aspects of preparation and submission via FastLane are available at: https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/a1/newstan.htm. For FastLane user support, call the FastLane Help Desk at 1-800-673-6188 or e-mail fastlane@nsf.gov. The FastLane Help Desk answers general technical questions related to the use of the FastLane system. Specific questions related to this program solicitation should be referred to the NSF program staff contact(s) listed in Section VIII of this funding opportunity.

    Submission of Electronically Signed Cover Sheets. The Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) must electronically sign the proposal Cover Sheet to submit the required proposal certifications (see Chapter II, Section C of the Grant Proposal Guide for a listing of the certifications). The AOR must provide the required electronic certifications within five working days following the electronic submission of the proposal. Further instructions regarding this process are available on the FastLane Website at: https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/fastlane.jsp.

  • For Proposals Submitted Via Grants.gov:
  • Before using Grants.gov for the first time, each organization must register to create an institutional profile. Once registered, the applicant's organization can then apply for any federal grant on the Grants.gov website. Comprehensive information about using Grants.gov is available on the Grants.gov Applicant Resources webpage: http://www07.grants.gov/applicants/app_help_reso.jsp. In addition, the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide provides additional technical guidance regarding preparation of proposals via Grants.gov. For Grants.gov user support, contact the Grants.gov Contact Center at 1-800-518-4726 or by email: support@grants.gov. The Grants.gov Contact Center answers general technical questions related to the use of Grants.gov. Specific questions related to this program solicitation should be referred to the NSF program staff contact(s) listed in Section VIII of this solicitation.

    Submitting the Proposal: Once all documents have been completed, the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) must submit the application to Grants.gov and verify the desired funding opportunity and agency to which the application is submitted. The AOR must then sign and submit the application to Grants.gov. The completed application will be transferred to the NSF FastLane system for further processing.

VI. NSF PROPOSAL PROCESSING AND REVIEW PROCEDURES

Proposals received by NSF are assigned to the appropriate NSF program for acknowledgement and, if they meet NSF requirements, for review. All proposals are carefully reviewed by a scientist, engineer, or educator serving as an NSF Program Officer, and usually by three to ten other persons outside NSF either as ad hoc reviewers, panelists, or both, who are experts in the particular fields represented by the proposal. These reviewers are selected by Program Officers charged with oversight of the review process. Proposers are invited to suggest names of persons they believe are especially well qualified to review the proposal and/or persons they would prefer not review the proposal. These suggestions may serve as one source in the reviewer selection process at the Program Officer's discretion. Submission of such names, however, is optional. Care is taken to ensure that reviewers have no conflicts of interest with the proposal. In addition, Program Officers may obtain comments from site visits before recommending final action on proposals. Senior NSF staff further review recommendations for awards. A flowchart that depicts the entire NSF proposal and award process (and associated timeline) is included in the GPG as Exhibit III-1.

A comprehensive description of the Foundation's merit review process is available on the NSF website at: http://nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/merit_review/.

Proposers should also be aware of core strategies that are essential to the fulfillment of NSF's mission, as articulated in Empowering the Nation Through Discovery and Innovation: NSF Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years (FY) 2011-2016. These strategies are integrated in the program planning and implementation process, of which proposal review is one part. NSF's mission is particularly well-implemented through the integration of research and education and broadening participation in NSF programs, projects, and activities.

One of the core strategies in support of NSF's mission is to foster integration of research and education through the programs, projects and activities it supports at academic and research institutions. These institutions provide abundant opportunities where individuals may concurrently assume responsibilities as researchers, educators, and students, and where all can engage in joint efforts that infuse education with the excitement of discovery and enrich research through the variety of learning perspectives.

Another core strategy in support of NSF's mission is broadening opportunities and expanding participation of groups, institutions, and geographic regions that are underrepresented in STEM disciplines, which is essential to the health and vitality of science and engineering. NSF is committed to this principle of diversity and deems it central to the programs, projects, and activities it considers and supports.

A. Merit Review Principles and Criteria

The National Science Foundation strives to invest in a robust and diverse portfolio of projects that creates new knowledge and enables breakthroughs in understanding across all areas of science and engineering research and education. To identify which projects to support, NSF relies on a merit review process that incorporates consideration of both the technical aspects of a proposed project and its potential to contribute more broadly to advancing NSF's mission "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes." NSF makes every effort to conduct a fair, competitive, transparent merit review process for the selection of projects.

1. Merit Review Principles

These principles are to be given due diligence by PIs and organizations when preparing proposals and managing projects, by reviewers when reading and evaluating proposals, and by NSF program staff when determining whether or not to recommend proposals for funding and while overseeing awards. Given that NSF is the primary federal agency charged with nurturing and supporting excellence in basic research and education, the following three principles apply:

  • All NSF projects should be of the highest quality and have the potential to advance, if not transform, the frontiers of knowledge.
  • NSF projects, in the aggregate, should contribute more broadly to achieving societal goals. These "Broader Impacts" may be accomplished through the research itself, through activities that are directly related to specific research projects, or through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to, the project. The project activities may be based on previously established and/or innovative methods and approaches, but in either case must be well justified.
  • Meaningful assessment and evaluation of NSF funded projects should be based on appropriate metrics, keeping in mind the likely correlation between the effect of broader impacts and the resources provided to implement projects. If the size of the activity is limited, evaluation of that activity in isolation is not likely to be meaningful. Thus, assessing the effectiveness of these activities may best be done at a higher, more aggregated, level than the individual project.

With respect to the third principle, even if assessment of Broader Impacts outcomes for particular projects is done at an aggregated level, PIs are expected to be accountable for carrying out the activities described in the funded project. Thus, individual projects should include clearly stated goals, specific descriptions of the activities that the PI intends to do, and a plan in place to document the outputs of those activities.

These three merit review principles provide the basis for the merit review criteria, as well as a context within which the users of the criteria can better understand their intent.

2. Merit Review Criteria

All NSF proposals are evaluated through use of the two National Science Board approved merit review criteria. In some instances, however, NSF will employ additional criteria as required to highlight the specific objectives of certain programs and activities.

The two merit review criteria are listed below. Both criteria are to be given full consideration during the review and decision-making processes; each criterion is necessary but neither, by itself, is sufficient. Therefore, proposers must fully address both criteria. (GPG Chapter II.C.2.d.i. contains additional information for use by proposers in development of the Project Description section of the proposal.) Reviewers are strongly encouraged to review the criteria, including GPG Chapter II.C.2.d.i., prior to the review of a proposal.

When evaluating NSF proposals, reviewers will be asked to consider what the proposers want to do, why they want to do it, how they plan to do it, how they will know if they succeed, and what benefits could accrue if the project is successful. These issues apply both to the technical aspects of the proposal and the way in which the project may make broader contributions. To that end, reviewers will be asked to evaluate all proposals against two criteria:

  • Intellectual Merit: The Intellectual Merit criterion encompasses the potential to advance knowledge; and
  • Broader Impacts: The Broader Impacts criterion encompasses the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.

The following elements should be considered in the review for both criteria:

  1. What is the potential for the proposed activity to
    1. Advance knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields (Intellectual Merit); and
    2. Benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes (Broader Impacts)?
  2. To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?
  3. Is the plan for carrying out the proposed activities well-reasoned, well-organized, and based on a sound rationale? Does the plan incorporate a mechanism to assess success?
  4. How well qualified is the individual, team, or organization to conduct the proposed activities?
  5. Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home organization or through collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities?

Broader impacts may be accomplished through the research itself, through the activities that are directly related to specific research projects, or through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to, the project. NSF values the advancement of scientific knowledge and activities that contribute to achievement of societally relevant outcomes. Such outcomes include, but are not limited to: full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); improved STEM education and educator development at any level; increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology; improved well-being of individuals in society; development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce; increased partnerships between academia, industry, and others; improved national security; increased economic competitiveness of the United States; and enhanced infrastructure for research and education.

Proposers are reminded that reviewers will also be asked to review the Data Management Plan and the Postdoctoral Researcher Mentoring Plan, as appropriate.

Additional Solicitation Specific Review Criteria

Increasing spectrum efficiency and access requires careful consideration of the interplay of physical sciences; engineering; computer and information science; mathematics; technology; applications; the social, economic and behavioral sciences; and public policy. Reviewers will be asked to consider the extent to which a proposal addresses the issue across two or more traditionally separate disciplines. Such considerations should be addressed through substantive components of the proposed research. Collaboration between PIs and co-PIs with expertise in separate disciplines is highly encouraged. One measure of interdisciplinarity may be the extent to which the proposed research spans disciplines covered by two or more of the participating NSF directorates.

B. Review and Selection Process

Proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation will be reviewed by Ad hoc Review and/or Panel Review.

Reviewers will be asked to formulate a recommendation to either support or decline each proposal. The Program Officer assigned to manage the proposal's review will consider the advice of reviewers and will formulate a recommendation.

After scientific, technical and programmatic review and consideration of appropriate factors, the NSF Program Officer recommends to the cognizant Division Director whether the proposal should be declined or recommended for award. NSF is striving to be able to tell applicants whether their proposals have been declined or recommended for funding within six months. The time interval begins on the deadline or target date, or receipt date, whichever is later. The interval ends when the Division Director accepts the Program Officer's recommendation.

A summary rating and accompanying narrative will be completed and submitted by each reviewer. In all cases, reviews are treated as confidential documents. Verbatim copies of reviews, excluding the names of the reviewers, are sent to the Principal Investigator/Project Director by the Program Officer. In addition, the proposer will receive an explanation of the decision to award or decline funding.

In all cases, after programmatic approval has been obtained, the proposals recommended for funding will be forwarded to the Division of Grants and Agreements for review of business, financial, and policy implications and the processing and issuance of a grant or other agreement. Proposers are cautioned that only a Grants and Agreements Officer may make commitments, obligations or awards on behalf of NSF or authorize the expenditure of funds. No commitment on the part of NSF should be inferred from technical or budgetary discussions with a NSF Program Officer. A Principal Investigator or organization that makes financial or personnel commitments in the absence of a grant or cooperative agreement signed by the NSF Grants and Agreements Officer does so at their own risk.

VII. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION

A. Notification of the Award

Notification of the award is made to the submitting organization by a Grants Officer in the Division of Grants and Agreements. Organizations whose proposals are declined will be advised as promptly as possible by the cognizant NSF Program administering the program. Verbatim copies of reviews, not including the identity of the reviewer, will be provided automatically to the Principal Investigator. (See Section VI.B. for additional information on the review process.)

B. Award Conditions

An NSF award consists of: (1) the award letter, which includes any special provisions applicable to the award and any numbered amendments thereto; (2) the budget, which indicates the amounts, by categories of expense, on which NSF has based its support (or otherwise communicates any specific approvals or disapprovals of proposed expenditures); (3) the proposal referenced in the award letter; (4) the applicable award conditions, such as Grant General Conditions (GC-1); * or Research Terms and Conditions * and (5) any announcement or other NSF issuance that may be incorporated by reference in the award letter. Cooperative agreements also are administered in accordance with NSF Cooperative Agreement Financial and Administrative Terms and Conditions (CA-FATC) and the applicable Programmatic Terms and Conditions. NSF awards are electronically signed by an NSF Grants and Agreements Officer and transmitted electronically to the organization via e-mail.

*These documents may be accessed electronically on NSF's Website at http://www.nsf.gov/awards/managing/award_conditions.jsp?org=NSF. Paper copies may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from nsfpubs@nsf.gov.

More comprehensive information on NSF Award Conditions and other important information on the administration of NSF awards is contained in the NSF Award & Administration Guide (AAG) Chapter II, available electronically on the NSF Website at http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=aag.

C. Reporting Requirements

For all multi-year grants (including both standard and continuing grants), the Principal Investigator must submit an annual project report to the cognizant Program Officer at least 90 days prior to the end of the current budget period. (Some programs or awards require submission of more frequent project reports). Within 90 days following expiration of a grant, the PI also is required to submit a final project report, and a project outcomes report for the general public.

Failure to provide the required annual or final project reports, or the project outcomes report, will delay NSF review and processing of any future funding increments as well as any pending proposals for all identified PIs and co-PIs on a given award. PIs should examine the formats of the required reports in advance to assure availability of required data.

PIs are required to use NSF's electronic project-reporting system, available through Research.gov, for preparation and submission of annual and final project reports. Such reports provide information on accomplishments, project participants (individual and organizational), publications, and other specific products and impacts of the project. Submission of the report via Research.gov constitutes certification by the PI that the contents of the report are accurate and complete. The project outcomes report also must be prepared and submitted using Research.gov. This report serves as a brief summary, prepared specifically for the public, of the nature and outcomes of the project. This report will be posted on the NSF website exactly as it is submitted by the PI.

More comprehensive information on NSF Reporting Requirements and other important information on the administration of NSF awards is contained in the NSF Award & Administration Guide (AAG) Chapter II, available electronically on the NSF Website at http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=aag.

VIII. AGENCY CONTACTS

Please note that the program contact information is current at the time of publishing. See program website for any updates to the points of contact.

General inquiries regarding this program should be made to:

  • Andrew W. Clegg, MPS Program Officer & EARS Program Director, telephone: (703) 292-4892, email: aclegg@nsf.gov

  • Lawrence S. Goldberg, ENG Senior Advisor, telephone: (703) 292-8339, email: lgoldber@nsf.gov

  • George Haddad, ENG Program Officer, telephone: (703) 292-8897, email: ghaddad@nsf.gov

  • Zhi Tian, ENG Program Officer, telephone: (703) 292-2210, email: ztian@nsf.gov

  • Juan E. Figueroa, ENG SBIR/STTR Program Officer, telephone: (703) 292-7054, email: jfiguero@nsf.gov

  • Min Song, CISE Program Officer, telephone: (703) 292-8950, email: msong@nsf.gov

  • Michael Reksulak, SBE Program Officer, telephone: (703) 292-7266, email: mreksula@nsf.gov

For questions related to the use of FastLane, contact:

For questions relating to Grants.gov contact:

  • Grants.gov Contact Center: If the Authorized Organizational Representatives (AOR) has not received a confirmation message from Grants.gov within 48 hours of submission of application, please contact via telephone: 1-800-518-4726; e-mail: support@grants.gov.

IX. OTHER INFORMATION

The NSF website provides the most comprehensive source of information on NSF Directorates (including contact information), programs and funding opportunities. Use of this website by potential proposers is strongly encouraged. In addition, "My NSF" is an information-delivery system designed to keep potential proposers and other interested parties apprised of new NSF funding opportunities and publications, important changes in proposal and award policies and procedures, and upcoming NSF Grants Conferences. Subscribers are informed through e-mail or the user's Web browser each time new publications are issued that match their identified interests. "My NSF" also is available on NSF's website at http://www.nsf.gov/mynsf/.

Grants.gov provides an additional electronic capability to search for Federal government-wide grant opportunities. NSF funding opportunities may be accessed via this new mechanism. Further information on Grants.gov may be obtained at http://www.grants.gov.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent Federal agency created by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended (42 USC 1861-75). The Act states the purpose of the NSF is "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."

NSF funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering. It does this through grants and cooperative agreements to more than 2,000 colleges, universities, K-12 school systems, businesses, informal science organizations and other research organizations throughout the US. The Foundation accounts for about one-fourth of Federal support to academic institutions for basic research.

NSF receives approximately 55,000 proposals each year for research, education and training projects, of which approximately 11,000 are funded. In addition, the Foundation receives several thousand applications for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships. The agency operates no laboratories itself but does support National Research Centers, user facilities, certain oceanographic vessels and Arctic and Antarctic research stations. The Foundation also supports cooperative research between universities and industry, US participation in international scientific and engineering efforts, and educational activities at every academic level.

Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities provide funding for special assistance or equipment to enable persons with disabilities to work on NSF-supported projects. See Grant Proposal Guide Chapter II, Section D.2 for instructions regarding preparation of these types of proposals.

The National Science Foundation has Telephonic Device for the Deaf (TDD) and Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) capabilities that enable individuals with hearing impairments to communicate with the Foundation about NSF programs, employment or general information. TDD may be accessed at (703) 292-5090 and (800) 281-8749, FIRS at (800) 877-8339.

The National Science Foundation Information Center may be reached at (703) 292-5111.

The National Science Foundation promotes and advances scientific progress in the United States by competitively awarding grants and cooperative agreements for research and education in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

To get the latest information about program deadlines, to download copies of NSF publications, and to access abstracts of awards, visit the NSF Website at http://www.nsf.gov

  • Location:

4201 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA 22230

  • For General Information
    (NSF Information Center):

(703) 292-5111

  • TDD (for the hearing-impaired):

(703) 292-5090

  • To Order Publications or Forms:

Send an e-mail to:

nsfpubs@nsf.gov

or telephone:

(703) 292-7827

  • To Locate NSF Employees:

(703) 292-5111


PRIVACY ACT AND PUBLIC BURDEN STATEMENTS

The information requested on proposal forms and project reports is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended. The information on proposal forms will be used in connection with the selection of qualified proposals; and project reports submitted by awardees will be used for program evaluation and reporting within the Executive Branch and to Congress. The information requested may be disclosed to qualified reviewers and staff assistants as part of the proposal review process; to proposer institutions/grantees to provide or obtain data regarding the proposal review process, award decisions, or the administration of awards; to government contractors, experts, volunteers and researchers and educators as necessary to complete assigned work; to other government agencies or other entities needing information regarding applicants or nominees as part of a joint application review process, or in order to coordinate programs or policy; and to another Federal agency, court, or party in a court or Federal administrative proceeding if the government is a party. Information about Principal Investigators may be added to the Reviewer file and used to select potential candidates to serve as peer reviewers or advisory committee members. See Systems of Records, NSF-50, "Principal Investigator/Proposal File and Associated Records," 69 Federal Register 26410 (May 12, 2004), and NSF-51, "Reviewer/Proposal File and Associated Records," 69 Federal Register 26410 (May 12, 2004). Submission of the information is voluntary. Failure to provide full and complete information, however, may reduce the possibility of receiving an award.

An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, an information collection unless it displays a valid Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control number. The OMB control number for this collection is 3145-0058. Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 120 hours per response, including the time for reviewing instructions. Send comments regarding the burden estimate and any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to:

Suzanne H. Plimpton
Reports Clearance Officer
Office of the General Counsel
National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA 22230



Policies and Important Links

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National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230, USA
Tel: (703) 292-5111, FIRS: (800) 877-8339 | TDD: (800) 281-8749

Last Updated:
11/07/06
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