New System for NSF IDs – everyone’s doing it

Do you have more than one NSF ID? Do you just make yourself a new user profile when you move to a new institution? All of that is about to change. Check out the information below on the migration of all existing users to a new system (and how to register for an NSF ID, if you don’t already have one). This includes PIs and Authorized Organizational Representative (AORs).

Changes to New Registrations and Account Management Systems for FastLane and
• Effective March 26, 2018, the new Account Management system will provide each new user with a single profile and unique identifier (i.e., NSF ID) for proposal and award activities. All existing users will migrate to the new system.

The New Account Management System:
• Allows users to create and self-manage accounts, including personal information and role requests;
• Allows administrators to focus on managing roles for their organizations through a dashboard with functions to approve, disapprove, assign, and remove roles; and
• Enables migration for existing NSF account holders, including and Application Submission Web Service (ASWS) users, to the new system through a simple, one-time operation. When initially signing in to FastLane or, account holders will be required to verify their personal information before it can be transferred it to the new system. Each user will have just one NSF ID per the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (NSF 18-1), Chapter I.G.4.

Helpful Links:
This page has video tutorials and Frequently Asked Questions about the changes.
• Users with existing NSF accounts can access the NSF ID Lookup page for their NSF ID. Forgotten passwords for established NSF accounts may be retrieved here.
• New users will now be able to register directly with NSF through via this link:

Notes About and ASWS (From the info page):
• The Principal Investigator (PI), all co-PIs, and the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) listed on a proposal must all be registered with NSF prior to proposal submission. NSF IDs for the PI, all co-PIs, and the AOR listed will need to be included in the proposal submission.

Registration Requirements for Organizations:
• Organizations new to NSF will also register via the Account Management system in
• New organizations will be able to register directly with NSF through via this link:
• Before a new organization can register with NSF, it must first be registered in the System for Award Management (SAM; and have a data universal numbering system (DUNS) number.
• Organizations not already registered with NSF should be aware that completion of the SAM registration process could take up to two weeks.
• Note that the vast majority of universities are already registered with NSF via FastLane.



Workshops and RCNs: an Explainer

Modern science is characterized by a proliferation of ideas, data, papers, and models. Amid all this research activity, there is an increasing need to synthesize research findings, to bridge ideas, and direct new research around certain important areas. To catalyze these efforts, NSF offers two funding mechanisms: workshops and Research Coordination Networks (RCNs). Some of the most interesting ideas in DEB are emerging out of these workshops and RCNs.

Your research area may benefit from a workshop or RCN if:

*you have reason to believe the research field has become stuck in some way

*you notice different groups are studying the same thing but speaking different languages

*variation in methods seem to be hampering progress

What do POs look for in an RCN or workshop?

A good workshop or RCN proposal starts with a good idea. From there, we like to see a well-articulated need to bring people together around a novel topic and to meet outside of regularly scheduled annual meetings or recurring workshops. The proposal should include a solid plan for accomplishing the integration, and an outline of the products that will benefit the larger research community. Keep in mind that RCNs are for coordination of research, not conducting the research itself.

There is a huge diversity in how workshops and RCNs can function. These awards allow for a lot of creativity and outside-the-box thinking is highly encouraged. A wide range of approaches are suitable for workshop goals, including methods comparisons, database creation, and conceptual synthesis. Sometimes several approaches are necessary to accomplish the research coordination.

How are RCNs similar or different from workshops?

1. Duration and scope.

A single workshop can be a great way to test the waters and gauge community interest, or accomplish a single, focused goal. Another possibility is a recurring workshop that provides a critical piece of training not widely available elsewhere. RCNs are designed for longer-term, multi-year efforts that will take a sustained drive to accomplish. RCNs usually need to have a larger research community in mind, trajectory for the work, and a steering committee who can keep the network on track.

This “larger research community” we’re referring to is what sets RCNs apart from regular workshops. Instead of bringing together the same like-minded colleagues, RCNs usually bring together scientists and scholars from a variety of backgrounds who would not otherwise interact.

2. The review process.

Workshop proposals under $100,000 are not subject to peer-based merit review. RCNs and large workshop proposals are evaluated by the NSF merit review process using ad hoc or panel review, or both. In both RCNs and workshops, the need for intellectual synthesis must be demonstrated and the mechanism for accomplishing this goal must be clearly described. For PIs accustomed to writing research proposals, this is a shift in focus. The proposal may require an organizational chart, a list of initial participants, descriptions of workshop activities, and clear mechanisms for assessment. Successful proposals generally have a plan for recruiting early career or underrepresented scientists. These elements in the proposal indicate if the synthesis effort is likely to be successful or not.

Why is it important to contact your PO BEFORE you submit an idea for an RCN/workshop?

Unlike regular research proposals, only a handful of workshop or RCN proposals are submitted each year to a program. Thus, it is important for the POs to recognize which research areas may be most suitable for synthesis, the depth of support for these areas, and the process behind developing the proposals that are submitted. Additionally, POs can help guide the PI toward “best practices” for these efforts, and help make sure that PIs are prepared for the time and intellectual commitment required for effective leadership of an RCN or workshop. We also suggest broadly reaching out in your research community or to other PIs who have led a workshop or RCN and inviting speakers and primaries who are diverse and representative of the community at large.

Things to think about before contacting the PO:

    • What need in the research community is being addressed by the RCN/workshop?
    • Who is the intended audience?
    • What would a successful outcome look like and who would benefit from these outcome(s)?

Take home points: The most important point is that these awards fund synthesis efforts. Our science needs these more than ever right now. DEB is currently accepting both workshop proposals and RCN submissions.



Contacting a Program Officer

We want to hear from you! NSF Program Officers (POs) are here to answer your questions, and listen to your ideas.

The role of a PO includes aspects of being a liaison, translator, customer service representative, coach, advisor, and interpreter all rolled into one. Yes, POs are representing the agency, but they are also scientists—some very recently in academia—and they know what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk.

For those of you who are hesitant, here’s a short guide on why and how to contact a PO.

Why should I contact a NSF Program Officer?

It’s easiest to answer that question with more questions;

  • Is it about a RAPID, RAISE, EAGER, ROA, RCN, CNH, or workshop? For these types of proposals, we encourage PIs to get in touch with a PO. Doing so will give you a better sense of what NSF is looking for in those types of proposals.
  • Did a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) explicitly tell you to? Look for the contact information in the letter and email that PO.
  • Are you curious about which DEB cluster is most appropriate for your proposal? If you’re not sure, don’t waste your time guessing! A PO can help you determine where it belongs in the Division or beyond.
  • Are you curious why a proposal didn’t get funded? POs can help you unpack and explain a decision, and discuss how to move forward.

How do I contact a NSF Program Officer?

Most POs agree that the best way to start a conversation is to email them first and set up a time to talk on the phone. Please don’t travel to NSF just to meet with POs; it’s not very productive. Save money and time, and lessen your environmental footprint by using the phone or Skype.

In your initial email, include a paragraph or short summary of what you want to discuss. Do not send all or part of a proposal you want to submit. A summary only, please. If you want to discuss a project you already submitted or have questions about the reviews you received, include the project ID number so the PO can prepare in advance.

How do I know which DEB Program Officer to email?

Except in one situation (see below), it really doesn’t matter. Each of our POs will be able to answer your question(s). However, if you’re interested in exploring a specific field of research, it might be useful to pick a PO whose own research background is most closely aligned with your research question. Start by reading the cluster descriptions for each of the core programs and do a quick Google search to see who best matches your interests. Please do not email all the POs in a cluster, or multiple POs across the Division. Please pick one PO and wait for them to get back to you. And please check your spam folder.

When it does matter which PO to contact is when you want to discuss a specific proposal. In that case, you should contact the PO who is listed on Fastlane as managing that proposal. He/she will know about your proposal and understand what happened to it.

Is it OK to reach out again if I’m confused or think of more questions?

Absolutely! If something wasn’t clear, reach out again through email to set up another time to talk. It is not uncommon.

When should I NOT contact a NSF Program Officer?

Make sure the information you need isn’t already available on our website, our blog, in the PAPPG, solicitation, or DCL. If you are asking something about a currently funded proposal, be sure to look in the Award Terms & Conditions for guidance before contacting a PO. And before you fire off that email or pick up the phone if your proposal is declined, please give yourself some time to digest and reflect on the reviews before you contact a PO with questions.

Talk to you soon!

Proposal & Award Policy Newsletter

To help keep PIs and Sponsored Projects Offices up to date on the latest at NSF, from policy changes and clarifications, to new systems for proposal submission, and NSF in-person and online outreach events, the Division of Institution and Award Support (DIAS) produces the quarterly Proposal & Award Policy Newsletter.

The latest version of the newsletter, which includes instructions for subscribing to the newsletter, can be found here: There is also an online repository of all of the issues of the Proposal & Award Policy newsletter.

Be sure to share this resource with your colleagues and your institution’s Sponsored Projects Office.

PAPPG Updates

As happens every year around this time, there’s a new version of the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide, or PAPPG (NSF 18-1). This year’s iteration includes changes to the Budget Justification, new requirements in the Project Description, and templates for Collaborators & Other Affiliations Information (just to name a few). Check out a summary of the significant changes from prior versions, and clarifications found in the new PAPPG here:

The guidelines in NSF 18-1 apply for proposals submitted or due, or awards made, on or after January 29, 2018. For instance, starting today (January 29, 2018) any RAPID or EAGER proposals intended for DEB would list the NSF 18-1 PAPPG program announcement number on the proposal cover page.

The PAPPG contains the full set of general guidelines to PIs, and includes everything from proposal preparation to award reporting and close-out. Many program specific solicitations will reference the PAPPG for instructions on proposal submission, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with this document and make sure that your Sponsored Projects Office is aware of this new version.

Our Decision Timeline or “When will I hear back?”

With our Fall 2017 panels wrapped up, Program Officers are now reviewing panel recommendations and considering their portfolios in order to make final award and decline recommendations. For those unfamiliar with the process, recommendations from Program Officers are sent through administrative review and, lastly, agreed upon or “concurred” by the Division Director.

Decisions will be released a bit later this year than in previous years because of the end of the preliminary proposal review system and the move to ‘no deadline’ and a new solicitation will not be released until early summer 2018. Additionally, there is the added complication of a continuing resolution budget as we explained in a post from last year,

“At present, NSF is operating under a temporary budget measure, called a Continuing Resolution (or CR) … We won’t have significant funds available to cover new grants until a longer-term funding measure is enacted.”

So, while we have a prioritized list of award recommendations, we do not yet have the funds needed to take action on those recommendations. Moreover, we do not know how much funding we will actually have available. Therefore, we will institute a prioritized notification system, which will be implemented as follows:

If your proposal fell into the definite decline group, then you will be getting an official notice from DEB and the proposal status will be updated in FastLane. If your proposal fell into the definite award group you will be getting a call or email from your Program Officer, along with some information about the materials you should get ready (e.g., submitting budget revisions or abstract language). If your proposal fell into the ‘hope to fund’ category, you will also be notified, and your Program Officer will be letting you know what the prospect is for your particular proposal.

As a result, investigators should start to hear back from NSF early in the new year. If you still have not heard anything by the end of January 2018, drop the Program Officer managing your proposal an email to schedule a call. But please remember that for collaborative proposals, the lead PI is the point of contact.

Upcoming Deadlines for DEB Supplements

It’s that time of year again when we remind our active grantees about the education and broadening participation supplements available to DEB awards.

Additional details on the components to include in each type of supplement request and information on budgets can be found on-line at


Requests for this set of DEB supplements should be submitted by Tuesday December 5th, 2017. DEB treats our December date as a deadline in the sense that later requests are considered only if there are remaining funds and sufficient time to process the request before the intended start date. All requests must be submitted through FastLane.

Supplement Types:

  • Research Experiences for Teachers (RET)
  • Research Assistantships for High School Students (RAHSS)
  • Research Opportunity Awards (ROA)
  • Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)

Additional REU Options for Dimensions of Biodiversity PIs only:

  • Dimensions Broadening Participation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (D-BP-REU)

Other types of supplement requests should be discussed with your program officer. If you have any additional questions, please contact the relevant DEB Program (check the DEB staff listings on the NSF website).


Supplements are only available to PIs and co-PIs with active DEB awards. Please note that some of the special programs accept supplement requests, and others do not. If your program is not listed here, and/or if you have questions about supplement eligibility for your current award, please contact your cognizant Program Officer.

Core DEB Y Y Y Y N
Dimensions of Biodiversity N N N N Y
Genealogy of Life Y Y Y Y N

Before submitting a supplement request, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • no supplements can be awarded if there are any overdue project reports associated with anyone on the award including co-PIs and all members of a collaborative project
  • supplemental funds must be expended by the expiration date of the original award
  • the IRB/IACUC documentation must be up-to-date and include the time frame of the supplement
  • if the award budget already included Participant Support funds to support students or teachers, you must clearly explain the extenuating circumstances leading to the request for more such funding
  • as budgets allow, DEB typically provides funds for one REU student per year, but will consider supporting two REU students if the PI can demonstrate a unique opportunity for broadening participation from traditionally underrepresented groups in the biological sciences.

Supplement Descriptions:

Additional details on the components to include in each type of supplement request and information on budgets can be found on-line at

  • RET – The Dear Colleague Letter: “Research Experience for Teachers (RET): Funding Opportunity in the Biological Sciences” (NSF 12-075) describes how NSF awardees can provide integrated research and education experience for K-12 teachers by including the active participation of these teachers in funded research projects. The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) enthusiastically supports these supplemental awards. The intent of this endeavor is to facilitate professional development of K-12 science teachers through research experience at the cutting edge of science.
  • RAHSS – The Dear Colleague Letter: “Research Assistantships for High School Students (RAHSS): Funding to Broaden Participation in the Biological Sciences” (NSF 12-078) describes how NSF awardees can foster interest in the pursuit of studies in the Biological Sciences; and broaden participation of high school students, particularly those who are underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities, and women in sub-disciplines where they are underrepresented. The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) enthusiastically supports these supplemental awards.
  • ROA – The goal of a “Research Opportunity Award (ROA)” (NSF 14-579) opportunities is to enhance the research productivity and professional development of science faculty at primarily undergraduate institutions (including community colleges) through research activities that enable them to explore the emerging frontiers of science. Such research not only contributes to basic knowledge in science but also provides an opportunity to integrate research and undergraduate education. The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) enthusiastically supports this activity.
  • REU – The “Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)” supplements (NSF 13-542) support NSF awardees in providing integrated research experiences for undergraduates. The intent of the REU supplement is to help undergraduates participate fully in a research enterprise, from inception and design of the project, to completion and dissemination of results. REU projects should involve students in meaningful ways in research projects, and provide opportunities for high-quality interaction of students with faculty and/or other research mentors, and access to appropriate facilities and professional development opportunities. Hence, the request should emphasize expected student involvement and mentoring.
  • D-BP-REU – The Dimensions of Biodiversity (DoB) Program encourages requests for supplemental funding to broaden participation in the biodiversity—related workforce. These supplements are funded through the “Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)” solicitation (NSF 13-542) and are intended to support students from underrepresented groups and enhance cooperative efforts between PIs with active Dimensions of Biodiversity research awards and faculty at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs) or Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). This two-mentor model allows the REU student the opportunity to work with a DoB investigator and provides continued mentorship from the faculty member at the PUI or MSI after the student’s research experience with the DoB investigator is completed. The BP-REU is only available as a supplement to Dimensions of Biodiversity awards.