12/13/21 Virtual Office Hours Recap – How to Write a Great Annual Report

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) hosts office hours 1-2pm EST on the 2nd Monday of every month. There is a designated theme each time, but attendees are welcome to ask about other NSF-related topics.

DEB held its latest Virtual Office Hour on December 13, 2021. Program Officers provided tips and tricks on how to write a great annual report. The presentation and other documents are available here:

Slides (PDF)

PAPPG 22-1

If you were unable to attend, here are some of the questions asked during the Q & A section:

Q: I have had many delays this past year due to COVID and ensuing visa delays. How should I address that, knowing that it has dramatically impacted my deliverables’ timelines?

A: Please add a brief statement to the Changes/Problems section of the annual report describing the COVID impacts. Your managing Program Officer will keep this in mind during review of annual reports of projects. We expect many projects will request No Cost Extensions as a result of COVID delays. Additionally, some PIs might request COVID supplements to help address issues that arose due to the pandemic.

Q: Should we report persons that work on the grant but were not financially supported by the grant (especially if they were international)?

A: Yes, please include that information. Generally, there could be many types of participants associated with an award who are not directly financially supported. For example, students who receive credit or foreign collaborators who are not supported by the grant. The program is interested in everyone who participated in the project, even if not financially supported by the grant

Q: For collaborative grants with multiple institutions, should each institution have a very different report focused on what they did, similar reports with some differences, or all the exact same report? For example, one institution did a Broader Impact that the others weren’t involved in or had an undergraduate that only worked with one PI and not the whole team.

A: Annual reports are very similar across all institutions; however, each collaborator will have specific individuals that worked with them, and each collaborator should include information on their specific participants. Some broader impacts and products will only show up on a subset of the annual report. There will be sections of the annual report that is the same across all institutions while other sections are unique to each institution.

Q: Should we report outcomes (paper, research etc.) that weren’t funded by the grant, but are part of the grant aims (e.g., pilot data) if it happened within the funding reporting period and is relevant to grant aims?

A: We would suggest not including this since the annual report is more of a progress report on the funded project. However, if someone was using data collected in a previous award to create a product reported in this award, we would accept it if that person was funded on this award to complete this product. Please remember to include an acknowledgement of NSF support (i.e., the specific 7-digit NSF grant number) in all published papers and outcomes.

Q: Is there a guidance on how to determine what goes where in the report? For example, should publications be reported in both “Dissemination” and “Publications” sections? Broader Impacts and publications can be considered an “Accomplishment;” should they both be reported in both places?

A: Yes, there is guidance. On Research.gov, there is a page title “About Project Reports” with information on a variety of report types. There are handout and templates as well as videos and demo sites.

Q: Should we include manuscripts in prep?

A: Yes. You can indicate the status of each product in the Products section. Additionally, we suggest you reach out to your program officer to let them know when papers are submitted and/or accepted.

Q: If publications or other work come out after the final report is submitted, is there a mechanism to report that?

A: There is still not a mechanism to add to reports, but you are encouraged to let your PO know about these types of outcomes. They can add that information to the award file.

Q: How many pages do you generally see in the reports?

A: This depends on the scale of the project, but in general, the report should be written based on how much information you need to convey to the program.

Q: For a postdoc supported by the grant, is career development considered part of the broader impacts?

A: Yes, absolutely. This is the same for graduate students and undergraduate students as well. Please note there is no separate section to report Broader Impacts outcomes, so they will need to be added at various places throughout the report.

Q: Should we expect feedback from program officers on annual reports, or is “no news, good news” so to speak?

A: If there is a problem, you will definitely get feedback. A program officer will return the report and ask you to edit it. When the managing PO approves the annual report, you will receive an email that may include a highlight of your annual report. In either case, you will receive some type of communication.

Q: What are some common reasons for reports to be returned?

A: Don’t worry if it is returned because we’re just asking for clarification, and it is common. Some reasons for returning a report include inconsistencies between sections or incompleteness of sections. One specific example is reporting that a number of people participated in some part of the project but not including the names of those participants in the report.

Q: Should internal department seminars (e.g., from department-level seminars given by the PI to grad students/ postdocs talking in a smaller university groups) be reported?

A: It is okay to include that.

Q: What happens if my report is late or overdue?

A: If your report is late or overdue, there are several negative consequences. First, you won’t be able to receive the next increment of your award. Additionally, your overdue report can hold up all of your collaborators on the project with the overdue report from receiving a new award. One new development is that overdue reports will be submitted to the Federal Awardee Performance Information and Integrity System, which can have negative impacts on your institution and their ability to receive funds in the future.

Please reach out to a Program Officer if you have any questions about the proposal submission and review process in DEB programs. NSF has suggested 5 tips on working with Program Officers as part of the NSF 101 series on our Science Matters blog.

Be sure to check back here, the upcoming office hour topics below, or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register. Our next virtual office hours will be held January 10, 2021, from 1-2pm Eastern Time, and will cover the Mid-Career Advancement solicitation.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

January 10:  Mid-Career Advancement Solicitation

February 14: How to Write a Great Review

March 14: Crossing Divisions in Biology – Opportunities in other NSF/BIO Programs (IOS, MCB, DBI)

April 11: Research at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions

May 9: CAREER Solicitation

June 13: You’ve Been Awarded an NSF Grant, Now What?

July: No Virtual Office Hour

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