Draft of revisions to NSF-wide grant and proposal policies up for public comment

Each year or so, NSF releases an updated version of its agency-wide guidance for proposals and grants, called the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG). This big document consists of two parts: instructions for proposers and instructions for awardees.

The PAPPG sets the ground-rules for NSF programs. Solicitations, like the DEB Core Programs solicitation, exist to enumerate specific variances from the basic rules, for example the format and contents of a preliminary proposal. Solicitations, however, also refer back to the PAPPG and follow the ground-rules for everything except those specific variances. A good example of this is that the requirements for proposal font size are detailed in the PAPPG and we have no reason to repeat or modify that in the DEB Core Programs solicitation but they apply to both preliminary and full proposals.

Changes to the PAPPG trigger new proposal preparation requirements for all NSF programs and may require you to do something differently in your next submission to the DEB Core Programs (or anywhere else), but changes to the PAPPG do not override anything explicitly described in our solicitation.


Right now, a draft version of the changes has been made available to the public for comment through 20 July, 2015. The wording of this public version indicates that these revised rules are expected to come into force in January 2016; this is right around our next preliminary proposal deadline. Based on the experience of prior years, the final version will probably be published at some point in October so that you have fair warning of the rule changes and will be expected to follow them beginning on the TBD January date. Between July and October there is a period to review the comments and prepare the final revised version for public posting.

We’re mentioning this here because there are proposed revisions that are likely relevant to you and we want you to be aware of them as early in the process as possible.

The official notice of the request for comments is available in the Federal Register: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-19/pdf/2015-12086.pdf

This includes an explanation of the request, how to submit comments, and the comment deadline.

The actual draft is hosted on the nsf.gov website here: http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/papp/pappg16_1/fedreg/draftpappg_may2016.pdf


There are numerous small and several more substantial changes noted in the draft. The online document is conveniently marked up with comments and highlights for new/edited text and comments to note where material was removed.

Here are a few revisions that we noted that might be of particular interest to our readers:

On page 20 (of the PDF), it notes that your research office/organizational representative needs to complete organizational sign off before a proposal can be submitted (even for preliminary proposals); this might require modifications to your preparation timeline. (Organizational sign-off is mentioned/added in many other spots throughout the document too.)

On page 25, there’s a re-emphasized note about an issue we’ve mentioned here before: You should have only 1 FastLane ID per individual.

On page 30, the PAPPG is (finally!) addressing the issue of your collaborator (aka conflict) lists being too long for the 2-page Biosketch by moving them into a separate Single Copy Document.

On page 33, and in a few other places, there are new requirements for reporting via your proposal Cover Page “dual use research of concern” (e.g., work with certain pathogens and toxins).

Pages 34 – 37 include several changes/clarifications relevant to the written components of your proposals: stronger requirement to enter a Project Summary in the FastLane forms (instead of uploading a PDF), a prohibition against hyperlinks in your Project Description, a template for Letters of Collaboration (if you’ve submitted to the DEB core programs recently, you’ve already been doing this), the revised Biosketch format (sans collaborators and other affiliations), and a requirement that each Biosketch be uploaded as a separate file (no more bundling as a single file).

There are a couple of changes with respect to budget preparation, the most notable (at least to us) being a requirement that sub-awards include overhead at the sub-awardee’s federally negotiated rate (or a de minimis rate of 10%).

On page 44, the instructions for current and pending (C&P) support also are changed to require a separate document (no bundling as a single file) for each of the senior personnel on the proposal and the definition of C&P is expanded to include “internal institutional support”.


The important outcome here is to make yourself aware of the proposed changes and change timeline and to make sure that your research administration officials are also aware of them so that this fall you will be able to follow the correct version of the PAPPG for our preliminary proposal deadline.

3 thoughts on “Draft of revisions to NSF-wide grant and proposal policies up for public comment

  1. Pingback: New NSF documents go live! Important notes if you are planning to submit a DEB proposal in 2016 | DEBrief

  2. Pingback: Prepare Now! Don’t Panic Later. | DEBrief

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