8/8/22 Virtual Office Hours Recap – International Collaboration

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on August 8, 2022. Program Officers along with representatives from the Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) provided information on international collaborations and the funding opportunities supported in DEB. We host these 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. Program Officers from each of DEB’s clusters are present at each Virtual Office Hour, so a wide range of scientific perspectives are represented.

The presentation and other documents are available here:

Slides (PDF)

PAPPG 22-1

DEB NSF webpage

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

 Q: Is there anything in NSF comparable to the PASI (Pan-American Advanced Studies Institute)?

A: The NSF Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) no longer has funding opportunities along the lines of PASI.

Q: What general advice do you have for PIs for getting permits and the permitting process?

International work often requires more consideration of permits required to access sites, take samples, work in sensitive habitats, or study endangered or threatened species. In all those cases, expect to need more time and planning to get permits in place. Ultimately, the awardee institution is responsible for obtaining all necessary permits, but at the proposal and award recommendation stages you as the PI will want to provide evidence that your project is tenable as proposed and that you can obtain all necessary permits to allow the work to proceed. Research on live vertebrate animals requires an approved animal care and use protocol. The animal care and use protocol can be pending at the time of proposal submission but should be in place before an award recommendation is made.

If you expect your work might itself create environmental impact, intersect with sensitive habitats or threatened species, etc., it may be wise to reach out to a program director at the proposal preparation stage.

Q: What are some reasons for NSF providing funding to foreign persons or entities are deemed insufficient in explanation?

A: Please consult the NSF Proposal and Award Policy and Procedures Guide (PAPPG – https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappg22_1/index.jsp).

NSF rarely provides direct funding support to foreign organizations. NSF will consider proposals for cooperative projects involving U.S. and foreign organizations, provided support is requested only for the U.S. portion of the collaborative effort.

In some cases, however, where the proposer considers the foreign organization or foreign individual’s involvement to be essential to the project and proposes to provide funding through the NSF budget (through a subaward or consultant arrangement), the proposer must explain why support from the foreign counterpart’s local sources is not feasible and why the foreign organization or foreign individual can carry out the activity more effectively than a U.S. organization or U.S. individual. In addition, the proposed activity must demonstrate how one or more of the following conditions have been met:

The foreign organization or foreign individual contributes unique expertise, organizational capability, facilities, data resources, and/or access to a geographic location not generally available to U.S. investigators (or which would require significant effort or time to duplicate); and/or

The foreign organization or foreign individual offers significant science and engineering education, training, or research opportunities to the U.S.

Such information must be included in any proposal to NSF, including new and renewal proposals. The information must be included in the project description section of the proposal. The box for “Funding of a Foreign Organization or Foreign Individual” must be checked on the Cover Sheet if the proposal includes funding for a foreign organization or foreign individual.

Q: What happens to an application if the justification for international collaborative funds is deemed insufficient—is the grant not funded, or is the budget for the international collaboration cut?

A: If a proposal recommended for funding includes NSF funding going directly to a foreign person or entity and the justification for that expenditure is not sufficient, the program director will likely reach out to the project’s principal investigator to determine the best course of action.

Q: Is there any difference for requesting funding for wage labor or technician positions and supporting an international Co-PI?

A:  NSF requires greater justification for any funding going to a foreign person or entity through a sub-award or consultancy.

Consultancies are considered experts contributing specified knowledge or expertise, whereas a sub-award is made to an organization or institution, typically to support another co-investigator. Justification is always important for any plans to spend money internationally.

Q: Beyond having different boxes to check on the cover page, does NSF view an international campus of a U.S. Institution of higher education differently than a completely international organization?

A: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a U.S. institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the U.S. campus. Such information must be included in the project description. The box for “Funding of an International Branch Campus of a U.S. IHE” must be checked.

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.

Check out the upcoming office hour topics below and be sure to check back here for information on how to register. Our next virtual office hours will be held September 12, 2022, from 1-2pm Eastern Time and the topic will be: Postdoc Research Fellowship.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:                   

September 12: Postdoc Research Fellowship

October 17*: How to Write a Great Proposal

November 14: Opportunities for Research in Climate Change

December 12: Mid-Career Advancement Solicitation

*date change due to Federal Holiday