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Division of Astronomical Sciences

Management and Operations of the Arecibo Observatory

Name Email Phone Room
John  W. Meriwether (703) 292-8529   
Joseph  E. Pesce (703) 292-7373   


Solicitation  17-538

Important Information for Proposers

A revised version of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 17-1), is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after January 30, 2017. Please be advised that, depending on the specified due date, the guidelines contained in NSF 17-1 may apply to proposals submitted in response to this funding opportunity.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) hereby solicits proposals to manage and operate the Arecibo Observatory (AO).  The AO is a multidisciplinary research and education facility. AO’s cornerstone research instrument is a 305-meter diameter fixed spherical reflector, located on approximately 120 acres of U.S. Federal Government-owned land near Arecibo, Puerto Rico. AO conducts research in passive radio astronomy, solar system radar astronomy, and space and atmospheric sciences.

NSF is currently preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate proposed operational changes at AO due to funding constraints, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In the Draft EIS released in October 2016, NSF evaluated the anticipated environmental impacts stemming from implementation of several proposed alternatives, including the Agency Preferred Alternative: Collaboration with interested parties for continued science-focused operations at AO. The current solicitation supports this Preferred Alternative.

In cooperation with NSF and within available resources, the proposer will plan and execute a viable program of research and/or education, consistent with the objectives and priorities of the scientific community. The recipient will manage the facilities and equipment provided by NSF, and will provide support and technical personnel to manage AO as a well-integrated research and/or education facility. A significant portion of the AO program should be carried out in collaboration with its stakeholder communities, and other collaborators.

NSF anticipates greatly reduced and decreasing funding over the life of this effort, to a total of $2M per year by the end of the five-year project period (and pending availability of funds).  In consideration of these reductions, operations and activities cannot be sustained at current levels without external sources of funding.  A viable proposal must demonstrate a feasible and reasonable approach to managing and operating AO, and, if applicable, to obtaining and sustaining a significant share of the AO’s operational costs.

This solicitation encourages creative approaches to providing continued operations of AO.  Proposers must describe how they will establish appropriate partnerships with universities, industry, and/or private organizations; and obtain additional funds (beyond those provided by NSF) to support their proposed activities.  Commensurate with their proposed activities, proposers must provide an overall management structure fostering observing capabilities and scientific data collection and/or an integrated program of education, training and outreach. The funding provided by NSF, however, is contingent upon the recipient conducting passive radio astronomy and aeronomy science activities.

For increased flexibility in providing funding and activity alternatives, NSF may consider requests made by proposing entities for transfer of the AO title. A viable proposal requesting transfer of title must demonstrate a strong case for why title transfer is desirable.

The successful proposal would be awarded as a cooperative agreement or master cooperative agreement with cooperative support agreement(s) on or after 1 April 2018 with an anticipated duration of five years, and possibly renewable upon a successful review for an additional five years. A transition period may be proposed.

What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)

Map of Recent Awards Made Through This Program