Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG)

NSF 24-1: Effective for proposals submitted or due on or after May 20, 2024

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent Federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to “promote the progress of science; [and] to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare” by supporting research and education in all fields of science and engineering.

From those first days, NSF has had a unique place in the Federal Government: it is responsible for the overall health of science and engineering across all disciplines. In contrast, other Federal agencies support research focused on specific missions such as health or defense. The Foundation also is committed to ensuring the nation’s supply of scientists, engineers, and science and engineering educators.

NSF recognizes the unique lived experiences of individuals from communities that are underrepresented and/or underserved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and the barriers to inclusion and access to STEM education and careers. NSF highly encourages the leadership, partnership, and contributions in all NSF opportunities of individuals who are members of such communities supported by NSF. This includes leading and designing STEM research and education proposals for funding; serving as peer reviewers, advisory committee members, and/or committee of visitor members; and serving as NSF leadership, program, and/or administrative staff. NSF also highly encourages demographically diverse institutions of higher education (IHEs) to lead, partner, and contribute to NSF opportunities on behalf of their research and education communities. NSF expects that all individuals, including those who are members of groups that are underrepresented and/or underserved in STEM, are treated equitably and inclusively in the Foundation’s proposal and award process.

NSF encourages IHEs that enroll, educate, graduate, and employ individuals who are members of groups underrepresented and/or underserved in STEM education programs and careers to lead, partner, and contribute to NSF opportunities, including leading and designing STEM research and education proposals for funding. Such IHEs include, but may not be limited to, community colleges and two-year institutions, mission-based institutions such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), women’s colleges, and institutions that primarily serve persons with disabilities, as well as institutions defined by enrollment such as Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs), Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).

“Broadening participation in STEM” is the comprehensive phrase used by NSF to refer to the Foundation’s goal of increasing the representation and diversity of individuals, organizations, and geographic regions that contribute to STEM teaching, research, and innovation. To broaden participation in STEM, it is necessary to address issues of equity, inclusion, and access in STEM education, training, and careers. Whereas all NSF programs might support broadening participation components, some programs primarily focus on supporting broadening participation research and projects. Examples can be found on the NSF Broadening Participation in STEM website.

NSF funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering. It does this through grants and cooperative agreements to approximately 3,000 institutions of higher education, K-12 school systems, for-profit organizations, informal science organizations and other research organizations throughout the U.S. The Foundation accounts for about one-fourth of Federal support to IHEs for basic research.

The Foundation considers proposals[1] submitted by organizations on behalf of individuals or groups for support in most single, multi-, cross-, trans- and inter- disciplinary fields of STEM research and education convergence research.

NSF does not normally support technical assistance, pilot plant efforts, research requiring security classification, the development of products for commercial marketing, or market research for a particular project or invention. Biological research on mechanisms of disease in humans, including on the etiology, diagnosis, or treatment of disease or disorder, is normally not supported. Biological research to develop animal models of such conditions, or the development or testing of procedures for their treatment, also are not normally eligible for support. However, research with etiology, diagnosis- or treatment-related goals that advances knowledge in engineering, mathematical, physical, computer, or information sciences is eligible for support. Bioengineering and assistive information technology research to aid persons with disabilities also is eligible. The Foundation operates no laboratories itself but does support National Research Centers, user facilities, certain oceanographic vessels, and Antarctic research stations. See “Funding” and “Awards” on the NSF website to search using keywords for projects that have been funded and which NSF programs provided the support.

In fiscal year 2024, NSF expects to evaluate over 46,500 proposals through a competitive merit review process and make over 12,900 awards of which about 10,800 are expected to be new research grants and the remainder cooperative agreements. One of NSF’s flagship programs, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) helps ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce; the program awards about 2,500 fellowships each year. Guidance regarding the GRFP program may be found in the program solicitation, as well as in the GRFP Administrative Guide.

The Foundation also supports cooperative research between IHEs and industry, technical research and development on innovations from the small business community, U.S. participation in international scientific and engineering efforts, and educational activities at every academic level. For example, the Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) collaborates with all the other NSF directorates to advance critical and emerging technologies addressing societal and economic challenges and opportunities; accelerate the translation of research results from the lab to market and society; and cultivate new education pathways leading to a demographically and experientially diverse skilled technical workforce comprising of researchers, practitioners, technicians, and entrepreneurs from all backgrounds. TIP accomplishes these objectives by catalyzing strategic partnerships that link IHEs, for-profit organizations, nonprofit organizations, governmental, civil society, and communities of practice to cultivate innovation ecosystems throughout the U.S., growing regional economies, creating the jobs of the future, and enhancing the Nation’s long-term competitiveness.

NSF is structured much like an IHE with divisions/offices for the various disciplines and fields of science and engineering and for STEM education. NSF also uses a variety of management mechanisms to coordinate research in areas that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. The Foundation is assisted by advisors from the scientific and engineering communities who serve on formal committees or as ad hoc reviewers of proposals. This advisory system, which focuses on both program directions and specific proposals, involves approximately 50,000 scientists and engineers each year. NSF staff members who are experts in a certain field or area make award recommendations; Principal Investigators (PIs) receive unattributed verbatim copies of peer reviews.

Recipients are wholly responsible for conducting their project activities and preparing the results for publication and/or other forms of dissemination. Thus, the Foundation does not assume responsibility for such findings or their interpretation.

NSF has Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) and Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) capabilities that enable individuals with hearing or speech impairments to communicate with the Foundation about NSF programs, employment, or general information. TDD may be accessed at (703) 292-5090 and (800) 281-8749, FIRS at (800) 877-8339.

The NSF Information Center may be reached at (703) 292-5111.

The Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) is comprised of documents relating to the Foundation's proposal and award process for the assistance programs of NSF. The PAPPG, in conjunction with the applicable standard award conditions incorporated by reference in the award[2], serve as the Foundation’s implementation of 2 CFR §200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. If the PAPPG and the award conditions are silent on a specific area covered by 2 CFR §200, the requirements specified in 2 CFR §200 must be followed.

The PAPPG has been designed for use by both our proposer and recipient community and NSF staff and consists of two parts:

  • Part I sets forth NSF’s proposal preparation and submission guidelines. The coverage provides guidancefor the preparation and submission of proposals to NSF. Some NSF programs have program solicitations that modify the general provisions of the PAPPG, and, in such cases, the guidelines provided in the solicitation must be followed.
    The policy and procedural guidance contained in the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide should be followed when preparing and submitting proposals to NSF via Grants.gov.
  • Part II of the NSF PAPPG sets forth NSF policies and procedures regarding the award, administration, and monitoring of the Foundation’s awards. Coverage includes the NSF award process, from issuance and administration of an NSF award through closeout. Guidance is provided regarding other award requirements or considerations that either are not universally applicable or do not follow the award cycle. Part II also implements other Public Laws, Executive Orders (E.O.) and other directives insofar as they apply to awards and is issued pursuant to the authority of Section 11(a) of the NSF Act (42 U.S.C. § 1870). When NSF award general terms and conditions or an award notice reference a particular section of the PAPPG, then that section becomes part of the award requirements through incorporation by reference.

The PAPPG does not apply to NSF procurement contracts, other arrangements, or other transactions. For information relating to NSF contracts or other arrangements, consult the guidance maintained by the Division of Acquisition and Cooperative Support (DACs).

General information about NSF programs may be found on the NSF website. Additional information about special requirements of individual NSF programs may be obtained from the appropriate Foundation program office. Information about most program deadlines and target dates for proposals are available on the NSF website. Program deadline and target date information also appears in individual funding opportunities and on relevant NSF Divisional/Office websites.

Assistance Listings

The System for Award Management (SAM) provides detailed, public descriptions of all Federal assistance listings. SAM replaces the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA), and all CFDA.gov functionality and data can now be found on SAM.gov. Each assistance listing, however, continues to be associated with a unique five-digit CFDA number.

NSF programs fall under the following listings on the SAM.gov site:

47.041 -- Engineering 
47.049 -- Mathematical and Physical Sciences 
47.050 -- Geosciences 
47.070 -- Computer and Information Science and Engineering 
47.074 -- Biological Sciences 
47.075 -- Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences 
47.076 -- Education and Human Resources 
47.078 -- Polar Programs 
47.079 -- Office of International Science & Engineering 
47.083 -- Office of Integrative Activities 
47.084 – Technology, Innovation & Partnerships

ABCDEFGILMNOPRSTUV

A
ABR – Accomplishment-Based Renewal
ACH – Automated Clearing House (U.S. Treasury)
ACM$ – Award Cash Management Service
AD – Assistant Director
ADPE – Automatic Data Processing Equipment
APHIS – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
AOR – Authorized Organizational Representative

B
BFA – Budget, Finance & Award Management

C
CA – Cooperative Agreement
CAFATC – Cooperative Agreement Financial/Administrative Terms and Conditions
CAP – Cost Analysis and Pre-award Branch
CAPTC – Cooperative Agreement Programmatic Terms and Conditions
CEQ – Council on Environmental Quality
CFR – Code of Federal Regulations
CGI – Continuing Grant Increment
CLB – Career-Life Balance
CMIA – Cash Management Improvement Act
COA – Collaborators and Other Affiliations
COI – Conflict of Interest
Co-PI – co-Principal Investigator
CSA – Cooperative Support Agreement
CSB – Cooperative Support Branch

D
DACS – Division of Acquisition and Cooperative Support
DAS – Division of Administrative Services
DCL – Dear Colleague Letter
DD – Division Director
DFM – Division of Financial Management
DGA – Division of Grants and Agreements
DHHS – Department of Health and Human Services
DIAS – Division of Institution and Award Support
DOC – Department of Commerce
DoED – Department of Education
DUNS – Data Universal Numbering System
DURC – Dual Use Research of Concern

E
EAGER – EArly-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research
EFT – Electronic Funds Transfer
EEO – Equal Employment Opportunity
E.O. – Executive Order

F
F&A – Facilities & Administrative Costs
FAPIIS – Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions
FAR – Federal Acquisition Regulation
FASED – Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities
FDP – Federal Demonstration Partnership
FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Agency
FFRDC – Federally Funded Research and Development Centers
FIRS – Federal Information Relay Service
FOIA – Freedom of Information Act
FOP – Federally-owned Property
FWA – Federal-Wide Assurance

G
GC-1 – Grant General Conditions
GOALI – Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry GPO – Government Publishing Office
GPO – Government Publishing Office
GSA – General Services Administration

I
IACUC – Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee
IBC – Institutional Biosafety Committee
IHE – Institution of Higher Education
IPA – Intergovernmental Personnel Act
IRB – Institutional Review Board
IRS – Internal Revenue Service
ISE – International Science & Engineering

L
LEP – Limited English Proficiency
LFO – Large Facilities Office
LOI – Letters of Intent

M
MREFC – Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction Account

N
NASEM – National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
NDAA – National Defense Authorization Act
NEPA – National Environmental Policy Act
NIH – National Institutes of Health
NSB – National Science Board
NSF – National Science Foundation

O
OECR – Office of Equity and Civil Rights
OGC – Office of the General Counsel
OHRP – Office for Human Research Protections
OIA – Office of Integrative Activities
OIG – Office of Inspector General
OLAW – Office for Laboratory Animal Welfare
OMB – Office of Management and Budget
ONR – Office of Naval Research

P
PAPPG – Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide
PAR - Public Access Repository
PHS – Public Health Service
PI – Principal Investigator
PNAG – Prospective New Awardee Guide
PO – Program Officer
POR – Project Outcomes Report for the General Public
PPOP - Primary Place of Performance
ProSPCT – Program Suitability and Proposal Concept Tool

R
R&D Research & Development
RAISE – Research Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering
RAM – Resolution and Advanced Monitoring Branch
RAPID – Rapid Response Research
RECR – Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research
REU – Research Experiences for Undergraduates
RIG – Research Infrastructure Guide
ROA – Research Opportunity Awards
RTC – Research Terms and Conditions
RUI – Research in Undergraduate Institutions

S
SAM – System for Award Management
SBA – Small Business Administration
SBIR – Small Business Innovation Research
SF – Standard Form
SPO – Sponsored Projects Office
SSN – Social Security Number
STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
STTR – Small Business Technology Transfer

T
TDD – Telephonic Device for the Deaf
TIP – Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships
TTY – Text Telephone

U
UEI – Unique Entity Identifier
URL – Uniform Resource Locator
USC – United States Code
USDA – U.S. Department of Agriculture

V
VSEE – Visiting Scientist, Engineer, or Educator

1. Definitions

  1. An award means an NSF grant or cooperative agreement.
  2. An Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR)/Authorized Representative means the administrative official who, on behalf of the proposing organization is empowered to make certifications and representations and can commit the organization to the conduct of a project that NSF is being asked to support as well as adhere to various NSF policies and award requirements.
  3. A Grant Agreement means a legal instrument of financial assistance between NSF and a recipient that, consistent with 31 USC §§ 6302, 6304:

    (1) Is used to enter into a relationship the principal purpose of which is to transfer anything of value from NSF to the recipient to carry out a public purpose authorized by a law of the United States (see 31 USC § 6101(3)); and not to acquire property or services for NSF’s direct benefit or use;

    (2) Is distinguished from a cooperative agreement in that it does not provide for substantial involvement between NSF and the recipient in carrying out the activity contemplated by the NSF award.

    NSF makes the following two types of grants:

    (a) A Standard Grant means a type of grant in which NSF agrees to provide a specific level of support for a specified period of time with no statement of NSF intent to provide additional future support without submission of another proposal.

    (b) A Continuing Grant means a type of grant in which NSF agrees to provide a specific level of support for an initial specified period of time, usually a year, with a statement of intent to provide additional support for the project for additional periods, provided funds are available and the results achieved warrant further support.

  4. A Cooperative Agreement means a legal instrument of financial assistance between NSF and a recipient that, consistent with 31 U.S.C. §§ 6302–6305:

    (1) Is used to enter into a relationship the principal purpose of which is to transfer anything of value from NSF to the recipient to carry out a public purpose authorized by a law of the United States (see 31 U.S.C. § 6101(3)); and not to acquire property or services for NSF’s direct benefit or use;

    (2) Is distinguished from a grant in that it provides for substantial involvement between NSF and the recipient in carrying out the activity contemplated by the NSF award.

    In the case of NSF, grants and cooperative agreements involve the support or stimulation of scientific and engineering research, science and engineering education or other related activities. NSF is authorized to use grants and cooperative agreements for this purpose. Grants, however, are the primary mechanism of NSF support.

  5. A Cost Reimbursement Award means a type of award under which NSF agrees to reimburse the recipient for work performed and/or costs incurred by the recipient up to the total amount specified in the award. Such costs must be allowable in accordance with the applicable cost principles. Accountability is based primarily on technical progress, financial accounting, and fiscal reporting. Except under certain programs and under special circumstances, NSF awards are normally cost reimbursement type awards.
  6. A Fixed Amount Award means a type of award in which NSF provides a specific level of support without regard to actual costs incurred under the award. This type of NSF award reduces some of the administrative burden and recordkeeping requirements for both the recipient and NSF. Accountability is based primarily on performance and results. See 2 CFR §§ 200.102(c), 200.201(b), and 200.333 for additional information.
  7. A Foreign Country of Concern means the People's Republic of China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, or any other country deemed to be a country of concern as determined by the Secretary of State.
  8. An Institution of Higher Education means an educational institution in any State that:

    (1) admits as regular students only persons having a certificate of graduation from a school providing secondary education, or the recognized equivalent of such a certificate, or persons who meet the requirements of 20 U.S.C. § 1091(d);

    (2) is legally authorized within such State to provide a program of education beyond secondary education;

    (3) provides an educational program for which the institution awards a bachelor's degree or provides not less than a 2-year program that is acceptable for full credit toward such a degree, or awards a degree that is acceptable for admission to a graduate or professional degree program, subject to review and approval by the Secretary of Education;

    (4) is a public or other nonprofit institution; and

    (5) is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association, or if not so accredited, is an institution that has been granted preaccreditation status by such an agency or association that has been recognized by the Secretary for the granting of preaccreditation status, and the Secretary has determined that there is satisfactory assurance that the institution will meet the accreditation standards of such an agency or association within a reasonable time (20 U.S.C. § 1001(a), via 42 U.S.C. § 18901(13)).

  9. A Malign Foreign Talent Recruitment Program means -

    A. Any program, position, or activity that includes compensation in the form of cash, in-kind compensation, including research funding, promised future compensation, complimentary foreign travel, things of non de minimis value, honorific titles, career advancement opportunities, or other types of remuneration or consideration directly provided by a foreign country at any level (national, provincial, or local) or their designee, or an entity based in, funded by, or affiliated with a foreign country, whether or not directly sponsored by the foreign country, to the targeted individual, whether directly or indirectly stated in the arrangement, contract, or other documentation at issue, in exchange for the individual—

    (i) engaging in the unauthorized transfer of intellectual property, materials, data products, or other nonpublic information owned by a United States entity or developed with a Federal research and development award to the government of a foreign country or an entity based in, funded by, or affiliated with a foreign country regardless of whether that government or entity provided support for the development of the intellectual property, materials, or data products;

    (ii) being required to recruit trainees or researchers to enroll in such program, position, or activity;

    (iii) establishing a laboratory or company, accepting a faculty position, or undertaking any other employment or appointment in a foreign country or with an entity based in, funded by, or affiliated with a foreign country if such activities are in violation of the standard terms and conditions of a Federal research and development award;

    (iv) being unable to terminate the foreign talent recruitment program contract or agreement except in extraordinary circumstances;

    (v) through funding or effort related to the foreign talent recruitment program, being limited in the capacity to carry out a research and development award, or required to engage in work that would result in substantial overlap or duplication with a Federal research and development award;

    (vi) being required to apply for and successfully receive funding from the sponsoring foreign government’s funding agencies with the sponsoring foreign organization as the recipient;

    (vii) being required to omit acknowledgment of the recipient organization with which the individual is affiliated, or the Federal research agency sponsoring the research and development award, contrary to the institutional policies or standard terms and conditions of the Federal research and development award;

    (viii) being required to not disclose to the Federal research agency or employing organization, the participation of such individual in such program, position, or activity; or

    (ix) having a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment contrary to the standard terms and conditions of the Federal research and development award. And

    (B) A program that is sponsored by—

    (i) a foreign country of concern or an entity based in a foreign country of concern, whether or not directly sponsored by the foreign country of concern;

    (ii) an academic institution on the list developed under § 1286(c)(8) of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (10 U.S.C. § 2358 note; Public Law 115–232); or

    (iii) a foreign talent recruitment program on the list developed under § 1286(c)(9) of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (10 U.S.C. § 2358 note; Public Law 115–232 ).

    The following are not considered malign foreign talent recruitment programs:

    (i) making scholarly presentations and publishing written materials regarding scientific information not otherwise controlled under current law;

    (ii) participation in international conferences or other inter- national exchanges, research projects or programs that involve open and reciprocal exchange of scientific information, and which are aimed at advancing international scientific understanding and not otherwise controlled under current law; and

    (iii) advising a foreign student enrolled at an institution of higher education or writing a recommendation for such a student, at such student’s request.

  10. Principal Investigator (PI) – see PAPPG Exhibit II-3, Definitions of Categories of Personnel. For purposes of this document, when used throughout, the term Principal Investigator also includes Project Director and the term co-Principal Investigator also include co-Project Director. A proposal submitted to NSF must include a PI and a maximum of four co-PIs.
  11. Recipient - means an entity that receives an award directly from NSF. The term recipient does not include subrecipients or individuals that are beneficiaries of the award. NSF awards are normally made to organizations rather than to the PI and any co-PIs identified on a proposal. Categories of eligible proposers may be found in Chapter I.E.

2. NSF-Recipient Relationships

a. Grants will be used by NSF when the accomplishment of the project objectives requires minimal NSF involvement during performance of the activities. Grants establish a relationship between NSF and the recipient in which:

(1) NSF agrees to provide up to a specified amount of financial support for the project to be performed under the conditions and requirements of the award. NSF will monitor progress and assure compliance with applicable standards.

(2) The recipient agrees to:

  • perform the project as proposed;
  • the prudent management of the funds provided; and
  • carry out the supported activities in accordance with the provisions of the award. (See Chapter VI.B for the documents that comprise an NSF award.)

b. Cooperative agreements will be used by NSF when the accomplishment of the project objectives requires substantial ongoing Foundation involvement during the project performance period. Substantial agency involvement may be necessary when an activity is technically and/or managerially complex and would require extensive or close coordination between NSF and the recipient. This, however, does not affect NSF’s right to unilaterally suspend or terminate support for cause or consider termination in accordance with Chapter XII, if it is in the best interest of NSF or the Government. The doctrine of substantial involvement is set forth in the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act of 1977 (31 USC §§ 6301-6308).

NSF utilizes two types of cooperative agreements:

  • Standalone Cooperative Agreement (CA), which consists of a cooperative agreement for a single, unified award where there is no need to provide separate, discrete funding and oversight for the projects or programs under that award.
  • Master Cooperative Agreement/Cooperative Support Agreement (CA/CSA), which consists of a master or overall agreement having separate and specific awards (CSAs) that are funded individually under the umbrella of the master agreement. CSAs have their own terms and conditions in addition to those of the master agreement. The scope of CSAs falls within the scope of the master agreement, but each CSA has its own distinct award number and funding based on its approved budget; no funding is attached to the master CA.

Examples of projects suitable for cooperative agreements include: management of research centers, large curriculum projects, multi-user facilities, projects which involve complex subcontracting, construction or operations of major in-house university facilities and major instrumentation development, and projects in which NSF participates with other stakeholder agencies or organizations that have influence over project direction and/or development.

Under a cooperative agreement, the recipient has primary responsibility for the conduct of the project. To the extent that NSF does not reserve responsibility for coordinating or integrating the project activities with other related activities or does not assume a degree of shared responsibility for certain aspects of the project, all such responsibilities remain with the recipient. While NSF will monitor the cooperative agreement in accordance with the terms and conditions of the award, the Foundation will not assume overall control of a project or unilaterally change or direct the project activities.

The cooperative agreement will specify the extent to which NSF will advise, review, approve or otherwise be involved with project activities, as well as NSF’s right to require more clearly defined deliverables. NSF may provide advice, guidance, or assistance of a technical, management, or coordinating nature and may require that the recipient obtain NSF prior approval of specific decisions, milestones, or project activities. Substantial involvement is incorporated in key areas of accountability in both financial and programmatic award terms; examples include prior agency approval requirements, type and frequency of project plans, special reporting requirements, and project and recipient reviews that NSF will conduct during the term of the award.

Cooperative agreements for construction are generally funded through a separate appropriation from Congress for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC). NSF maintains the MREFC appropriations in a separate budget account, for major construction projects that successfully undergo a rigorous selection process. MREFC funds cannot be co-mingled with funds for activities other than construction; therefore, NSF issues a separate award for operations and other activities related to commissioning and management of the facility or major instrument. The recipient is required to maintain an accounting system capable of segregating MREFC and operating costs, and to ensure that such costs are applied accordingly.

Many major facility awards, including those for NSF-supported Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), consist of a cooperative agreement as an umbrella award, establishing the overall basic provisions of the award, and separate cooperative support agreements.The cooperative support agreements contain specific terms and conditions for construction activities, management and operations, research activities that are co-sponsored by other agencies, and any other focused activities that NSF needs to monitor separately from the overall objectives of the cooperative agreement.

The NSF organizations/offices described below are normally of most direct interest to the NSF proposer and recipient community. Consult the NSF website at: https://new.nsf.gov/about/directorates-offices for the most current listing of NSF offices/directorates and an organizational chart.

1. National Science Board (NSB)

The NSB was established by Congress in 1950, and along with the Director, constitutes the National Science Foundation. The Board provides oversight for, and establishes the policies of, the agency within the framework of applicable national policies set forth by the President and Congress. In this capacity, the Board identifies issues that are critical to NSF's future, approves NSF's strategic budget directions, approves annual budget submissions to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), approves major awards and consults on certain programs, analyzes NSF's budget to ensure progress and consistency along the strategic direction set for NSF, and ensures balance between initiatives and core programs. In addition, the Board serves as an independent body of advisors to both the President and Congress on broad national policy issues and, together with the Director, recommends and encourages the pursuit of national policies related to science and engineering research and education. The Board is comprised of 24 members appointed by the President. The NSF Director also serves as an ex officio voting member of the Board. Members are selected on the basis of their distinguished service in science and engineering research and education, and are representative of scientific, engineering, and educational leadership throughout the Nation.

2. Program Divisions/Offices

Program Divisions/Offices are responsible for the scientific, technical, and programmatic review and evaluation of proposals and for recommending that proposals be declined or awarded. The scientific, engineering and/or educational aspects of an award will be monitored by the NSF Program Officer identified in the award notice. (See Chapter III for a detailed description of the NSF Merit Review Process.) Integral staff in the program division/office relative to the NSF proposal and award process are:

a. NSF Program Officers. Program Officers are considered subject matter experts in both technical and programmatic areas. They oversee the merit review of proposals and recommend which projects should be funded by the Foundation.

b. NSF Division Directors. Division Directors are NSF executives whose responsibilities include long-range planning, contributing to the achievement of the Foundation's strategic goals and objectives, and providing stewardship for budgetary and other resources. They are responsible for ensuring the integrity of the merit review and award process.

3. Division of Grants & Agreements (DGA)

DGA is responsible for the award and administration of the majority of NSF's assistance awards - i.e., grants, cooperative agreements, and fellowship awards, recommended for support by NSF program offices. From pre-award through closeout, DGA conducts a variety of business, financial, and administrative reviews to ensure compliance with award terms and conditions and consistency with applicable NSF policies and Federal rules and regulations. DGA provides stewardship and support to a diverse set of stakeholders including award recipients, NSF Directorates/Offices, and others within the scientific research and education communities. DGA also maintains a leadership role in the Federal award arena.

Grants and Agreements Officers have delegated warrant authority to issue awards on behalf of the Foundation and their approval constitutes a legal obligation of Federal funds for recipients to expend to fulfill the scope of the award. In addition, Grants and Agreement Officers are responsible for issuing all award amendments and certain post-award prior approvals, for monitoring recipient compliance with award terms and conditions, and for the administration and closeout of these awards.

4. Division of Institution & Award Support (DIAS)

DIAS is responsible for the development and implementation of proposal and award policies and procedures, clearance of NSF funding opportunities, advanced monitoring activities, cost analysis and award support, audit resolution, electronic award systems administration, and outreach to the external community. DIAS also advocates for the needs of the research community. DIAS organizational units are as follows:

a. The Policy Office is responsible for the development, coordination, and issuance of NSF pre- and post-award policies and award terms and conditions for the assistance programs of NSF. The Policy Office provides guidance on the interpretation of NSF policies and procedures, including NSF's electronic proposal and award systems, as well as official clearance for NSF funding opportunities. The Policy Office also advocates for the needs of the research community.

The Policy Office coordinates outreach programs for external stakeholders across the broad research community and NSF staff. Through a variety of mechanisms, it releases timely information regarding NSF policies and procedures, proposal preparation, and award management. In addition to working closely with professional research administration societies, the Policy Office coordinates two major grants conferences held at various locations throughout the U.S., typically in the spring and fall of each year.

b. The Cost Analysis and Pre-award (CAP) Branch specializes in determinations with regard to the allowability, allocability and reasonableness of costs either budgeted or claimed under NSF awards. CAP evaluates accounting systems, internal controls, and policies and procedures of prospective and current NSF recipients. Its major functions include: pre-award reviews of new recipients, Phase II research projects involving small businesses; budgets of large-scale awards; and indirect cost rate negotiation. CAP provides guidance to recipients for questions related to its areas of responsibility.

c. The Resolution and Advanced Monitoring (RAM) Branch specializes in determining the allowability, allocability and reasonableness of costs claimed under NSF awards. RAM also evaluates the accounting systems, internal controls and policies and procedures of current NSF recipients. RAM's primary responsibilities include: audit resolution, advanced monitoring to assess recipients' administrative capability, performance, and compliance with award terms and conditions; and review of certain post-award adjustments to expenditures. RAM provides guidance to recipients for questions related to its areas of responsibility.

d. The Systems Office plays a major role in the design, implementation, administration, and oversight of business rules for assistance awards across NSF electronic corporate systems. It is also responsible for systems analysis and requirements development necessary for the implementation of award business rules.

5. Division of Acquisition and Cooperative Support (DACS)

DACS provides tailored acquisition, contracts, other arrangements and transactions, and cooperative agreement award solutions and support for the Foundation. The Contracts Branch is responsible for planning, solicitation, negotiation, award, and administration of professional, research and development, and support contracts for NSF. The Infrastructure Support Branch (ISB) is responsible for planning, solicitation, negotiation, award, and administration of cooperative agreements primarily focused on major facilities, including FFRDCs and multi-organizational and international programs, in all lifecycle stages and certain Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure Projects. ISB participates in NSF's Integrated Project Teams, business process reviews, risk assessments, advanced cost analysis, oversight, and administrative assistance. The ISB Grants and Agreements Officers have delegated warrant authority to issue awards on behalf of the Foundation and their approval constitutes a legal obligation of Federal funds for recipients to expend to fulfill the scope of the award. In addition, Grants and Agreements Officers are responsible for issuing all award amendments and certain post-award prior approvals, for monitoring recipient compliance with award terms and conditions, and for the administration and closeout of these awards. The DACS Policy Branch provides comprehensive compliance oversight and operational policies to support the DACS mission.

6. Division of Financial Management (DFM)

DFM is responsible for the financial policy and financial management of NSF. The Division is responsible for recipient business office relationships and the payment of vendors. The Payments and Analytics Branch of DFM is available to assist recipient financial and business officials in matters of payment and financial reporting discussed in Chapter VIII of the PAPPG.

7. Research Infrastructure Office (RIO)

RIO is the Foundation’s primary resource for all oversight practices related to mid-scale and major facility projects and is the NSF-wide resource on project management best practices. RIO has the institutional authority and resources to effectively develop policies, practices and procedures, for all stages of the facility life-cycle. The Office provides: (1) expert assistance on non-scientific and non-technical aspects of project planning, budgeting, and implementation for mid-scale and major facilities; (2) assurance that all applicable requirements are followed in order to give credence to NSF’s oversight capabilities; and (3) facilitates the use of best practices by fostering coordination and collaboration throughout NSF to share application of lessons learned from prior major facility projects.

8. Office of the General Counsel (OGC)

OGC is the legal advisor and advocate for the Foundation, providing legal advice and counsel on all aspects of the Foundation's programs, policies, and operations, as well as areas affecting science and technology more broadly. Advice is provided in a wide variety of areas, such as: assistance awards; ethics and conflicts of interest; Freedom of Information Act; Privacy Act; labor and personnel law; environmental law; Federal fiscal and administrative law and procedure; and international law and agreements.

9. Office of Equity and Civil Rights (OECR)

OECR is responsible for administering the Foundation's policies, practices and procedures related to external equal opportunity and civil rights. Its mission is to ensure the agency is in compliance with the laws and regulations that govern Federal-sector Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and civil rights; as well as, to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment that ensures equal opportunity through policy development, workforce analyses, outreach and education to best serve the Foundation's employees and its stakeholders. OECR also is responsible for responding to all civil rights matters pertaining to NSF programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance, including Title IX Compliance activities. In addition, OECR serves as the Foundation's authority for receiving, processing, and coordinating the NSF response to all notifications required by the Foundation's Term and Condition entitled, "Notification Requirements Regarding Sexual Harassment, Other Forms of Harassment, or Sexual Assault". (See Chapter XI.A for additional information.)

10. Office of Inspector General (OIG)

OIG is an independent oversight office that reports directly to the NSB and Congress. It is responsible for conducting audits, reviews, and investigations of NSF programs, and of organizations and individuals that apply for or receive NSF funding. OIG also investigates allegations of research misconduct, such as plagiarism, falsification, or fabrication, involving researchers who request or receive NSF funding (see Chapter XII.C.1). The OIG staff includes scientists, attorneys, auditors, law enforcement personnel, evaluators, and information technology specialists. OIG audits focus on the assistance awards funded by NSF. Their purpose is to ensure that the financial, administrative, and program activities of NSF are conducted efficiently and effectively, and that the NSF recipient organization’s claimed costs are allowable, reasonable, and properly allocated.

OIG investigations focus on program integrity and financial or nonfinancial wrongdoing by organizations and individuals who submit proposals to, receive awards from, conduct business with, or work for NSF, and can result in criminal, civil, or administrative sanctions. Statutory law enforcement authority was granted to OIG by the U.S. Attorney General.

Anyone, including recipients, administrators, and NSF personnel, should contact the OIG, as specified at: https://oig.nsf.gov/contact/hotline to report instances of possible misconduct, fraud, waste, or abuse.

Footnotes for Introduction

[1]- For purposes of this Guide, the term “proposal” is interchangeable with the term “application.”

[2]- See Chapter VI.C. for additional information on NSF award terms and conditions.