The main document describing NSF proposal policies has been updated and goes into effect on Dec. 26; see the revised Proposal & Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG), NSF 15-1 here.
It is important for your research administrators to be up to date on these changes because this revision includes extensive changes regarding budgets, budget justifications, and award administration; these reflect a government-wide update of grant rules called Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance; 2 CFR § 200).
Several changes do directly impact proposal writing and decision-making by the reviewing program. These updated rules apply to January, 2015 DEB preliminary proposals except where the DEB Core Programs solicitation (NSF 15-500) describes a specific departure from the PAPPG rules. The purpose of a solicitation such as DEB Core Programs is to specify proposal requirements that differ from the general PAPPG rules.
The PAPPG document includes a by-chapter summary of the changes in the Introduction section, you are encouraged to check them out, discuss, and send questions our way. In the meantime, we’ve noted a select few items that may be of particular interest to you as a PI:
Section F, NSF Electronic Capabilities Modernization Status, is an entirely new section of the PAPPG Introduction. It was developed to assist the community as NSF transitions our electronic capabilities to Research.gov. The referenced matrix will be updated as appropriate, independent of the annual release of the PAPPG revision cycle. The current version is located at: http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/estatus_matrix/dec14.pdf.
What this means: There’s a long-term plan to move most of our electronic interfaces away from FastLane to Research.gov, where you now submit annual and final reports. The linked document gives a quick overview of the different functions and where they can be found today: it should be kept up-to-date in the future.
Chapter I.F., When to Submit Proposals, includes revisions to the section on Special Exceptions to NSF’s Deadline Date Policy. In cases of natural or anthropogenic disasters, approval from the cognizant NSF Program Officer (PO) should be requested in advance of the proposal deadline, where possible. If proposers are unable to contact the PO prior to the deadline, approval should be obtained as soon as possible afterwards. New coverage has been added on the procedure to follow when NSF is closed due to inclement weather or other reasons.
What this means: The rules now clearly state what the options and procedures are when you can’t submit because of a disaster at your location or at NSF.
Chapter II.C.2.d, Project Description, has been updated to reflect that the project description must now contain, as a separate section within the narrative, a section labeled “Broader Impacts of the Proposed Work”.
What this means: This is a further elaboration of the rule that went into effect last year requiring a separate Broader Impacts section within the Project Description. Now the PAPPG specifies a standard label for the section. The standard label is required for DEB full proposals because those follow the PAPPG for the Project Description. The standard label is allowable but not required for Preproposals because the DEB Core Program solicitation already suggests a shorter section label, “Broader Impacts”.
Chapter II.C.2.d(iii), Results from Prior NSF Support, has been clarified to state that the listing of publications resulting from an NSF award must provide a complete bibliographic citation for each publication in either the Results from Prior NSF Support section or in the References Cited section of the proposal.
What this means: This does not affect DEB Preproposals because our solicitation states that results from prior support are not required at this stage (but you can include them if you wish). This does affect full proposals where the PI(s) have had prior support. Given the space limitations in the Project Description, we expect most of you will include these full references in the References Cited section rather than sacrifice narrative lines.
Chapter II.C.2.f, Biographical Sketch(es), makes clear that including personal information in the biographical sketch is not appropriate nor is it relevant to the merits of the proposal. New information is being requested in Section II.C.2.f.(i)(a), Professional Preparation. The location of the individual’s undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral institution(s) must be provided. Section II.C.2.f.(i)(e) clarifies that the total number of collaborators and co-editors, and graduate advisors and postdoctoral sponsors, must be identified in the appropriate areas in the Collaborators & Other Affiliations section. In addition, where applicable, information on “Other Personnel” biographical information (Section II.C.2.f.(ii)) should be clearly identified and uploaded in the Biosketches section of the proposal.
What this means: Some parts of the biosketch have been revised, like the listing of where you trained, please heed these details. However, the PAPPG still does not address the issue of long lists of collaborators. But don’t worry for your preproposals, the variance in our solicitation that puts the collaborators & other affiliations list in a separate document applies here.
Chapter II.D.11, Proposals for Doctoral Dissertation Research, has been removed, as information should be obtained from the cognizant program office and via the NSF website.
What this means: Only a few places in NSF make DDIGs, since in most cases this option doesn’t apply they have cut it from the general rules. We still have our DDIG solicitation in DEB and are proud of it. We’ve got no plans to change that.
Chapter IV.B, Proposal Not Accepted or Returned Without Review, informs proposers that a proposal will not be accepted or will be returned without review by NSF for the reasons listed in that section. Previously the language used was “may” not be accepted or “may” be returned without review.
What this means: FastLane will now be doing more (but not all) checks to ensure the required pieces of a proposal are included and will not allow submission without them, hence “Not Accepted”. In addition, Return Without Review will be a required action following a decision about certain types of non-compliance; this addresses potential inconsistencies in responses across programs.