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Top Ten “Secrets” that NSF Program Officers Wished All PI’s Knew


September 15, 2017

Please contact EAR-communications@nsf.gov if you have any questions.

  1. You can sign up for email alerts here or through the NSF Homepage (click on the “mail” icon under social media). New solicitations and Dear Colleague Letters are issued all the time and this is the easiest way to discover new programs of relevance.
  2. Questions regarding grant management issues (e.g., allowable costs) should be directed to the Cognizant NSF Grants Official named on the award letter, not the Program Officer. Questions about changes in an award’s scope of work or direction should be directed to the Program Officer. Some changes (e.g., remove/add a PI or Co-PI; change in Participant support Costs) require official NSF approval via a Notification and Request in FastLane.
  3. The Research at Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) solicitation does not have a separate pot of funding; it flags the proposal as coming from a primarily undergraduate institution and allows an additional 5 pages of narrative regarding the educational mission of the institution. RUI proposal are submitted to, reviewed by, and funded by core NSF programs (e.g., Tectonics), using their deadlines (if any).
  4. Program Officers are happy to answer questions about specific funding opportunities. Email is the best way to initiate that conversation. We will comment on whether your proposal idea is appropriate for a specific program, but generally we will not comment on the Intellectual Merit of the idea.
  5. Education and outreach are a component of Broader Impacts, but they are not the only ones. There are many additional activities that can be included in proposals.
  6. In EAR, with the exception of fellowships paid to individuals, NSF awardees are institutions, not the submitting PI. Thus, if the PI relocates, the institution is allowed to keep the award and name a substitute PI or agree to transfer the award to the institution where the PI is transferring. If EPSCoR co-funding is involved, the grant will likely have to stay at the institution.
  7. Find out your institution’s policies on using Participant Support Costs before preparing your budget.
  8. Annual reports are due 90 days before the end of the current budget period. Overdue annual and final reports prevent any other award action to be processed for you, your Co-PI’s and their Co-PI’s. When reports are not submitted in a timely manner, they create big headaches for NSF program staff.
  9. All awardees are eligible to request a Grantee-Approved No Cost Extension to add 1 year to their award (with no additional funding). The request must be submitted through FastLane at least 10 days before the current end date of the grant. This No Cost Extension triggers the requirement to submit an additional annual report.

The Proposal and Awards Policy and Procedures Guide (PAPPG), which includes the Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) and Award Administration Guide (AAG), should be read by all PIs thoroughly; it has the answer to most of your questions.

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date. Originally published Oct 3, 2016.

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, its budget is $8.1 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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