Important NSF and NIH Updates

Please review the current up-to-date guidelines, proposals, requirements and all current reports for NSF and NIH.

New NSF "Project Outcomes Report" Requirement

As mentioned in an OSP e-mail to faculty on November 19, 2009, the National Science Foundation has created a new reporting requirement. The recently revised NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (NSF 10-1) addresses the need for PIs to create and submit a "Project Outcomes Report," specifying that within 90 days following expiration of the grant, a project outcomes report must be submitted electronically via Research.gov.; This report should provide a 2-3 paragraph summary "of the outcomes of the NSF-funded activity," and it should be "suitable for understanding by a lay person." The PI is responsible for preparing and submitting the report.

It should be noted that the NSF will not review these reports, but will allow them to be posted "exactly as submitted." Please note as well that any new NSF award and any new funding increment on existing awards will incorporate this requirement, effective January 4, 2010. The Guide cautions PIs not to include any confidential, proprietary business information or invention disclosures that might affect patent rights; any unpublished conclusions or data that might compromise the ability to publish the results in the research literature; or any individually identifiable information.

Please use the following links to learn more:

NSF Requirement for Training Undergraduate Students in Ethical Conduct

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced its planned implementation of another aspect of the 2007 America COMPETES Act.  This new requirement, which takes effect for grant applications submitted as of January 4, 2010, will require certification of undergraduate training in the responsible conduct of research (RCR).

According to the August 20, 2009 Federal Register announcement, the NSF will require proposers to certify that the institution has a plan to, "provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research to undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers who will be supported by NSF to conduct research."

NSF award terms and conditions on its grants will thus be modified to "clearly stipulate that institutions are responsible for verifying that undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers supported by NSF to conduct research have received RCR training." From what is known at this point, it appears that training can occur after a grant is received, rather than having to provide this training prior to receipt of awards.  Even more uncertain though, is whether other U.S. agencies will impose a similar requirement.

Regarding the training itself and what it should include, the NSF points to two "beta sites that provide resources on ethics education in science and engineering."  These NSF-funded websites and additional resources are now accessible from our new "Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)" portal. 

We will do our best to provide updates regarding this impending requirement as we learn more about it.

National Science Board Report on NSF Cost Sharing

In August, the National Science Board (NSB), the policy setting body of the National Science Foundation (NSF), issued its long-awaited report entitled, "Investing in the Future: NSF Cost Sharing Policies for a Robust Federal Research Enterprise."  The report is NSB's response to a directive contained in the August 2007 America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69).

In short, the NSB report prescribes a set of recommendations with two primary objectives: (1) to allow, but narrowly circumscribe, the application of mandatory cost sharing requirements in NSF programs in which cost sharing is foundational to achieving programmatic goals, and (2) to prohibit voluntary committed cost sharing in NSF proposals and thus eliminate post-award tracking and reporting requirements associated with such cost sharing.

Steven Beering, NSB Chairman, stated in an introductory memo, "The Board firmly believes that prohibiting voluntary committed cost sharing, and permitting mandatory cost sharing requirements only in limited and appropriate circumstances, will not reduce institutional commitment and financial contributions to NSF-sponsored projects or negatively impact institutional stewardship of Federal resources. Instead, it likely will enhance the ability of institutions to strategically and flexibly plan, invest in, and conduct research projects and programs, and will promote equity among grantee institutions in NSF funding competitions."

One of the key results of the report is recommendation 3, which says, "NSF should enhance its training of program officers to avoid unintended implicit or explicit requests for voluntary committed cost sharing during the budget negotiation process, and to ensure consistent application of NSF cost sharing policy."

So what does the report mean for WPI?  In essence, the report parallels the NSF's 2004 policy update by reiterating that grantees should not be required to incur cost sharing expenditures except for specifically designated programs that have been approved by the NSF Director.  The report also recommends that NSF Program Officers discontinue efforts to engage recipient institutions in cost sharing in order to receive awards.

The NSB report is available should you wish to read it.  As always, please feel free to contact the Office of Sponsored Programs with any cost sharing or other questions you may have.

NSF Grant Proposal Guide Changes

Effective January 4, 2010, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) contains several important changes.  Most notable of these changes is the requirement that each institution submitting proposals certify that it has a plan to provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research to undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers who will be supported by NSF to conduct research. 

The Significant Changes summary and the entire revised GPG can be found on the NSF website.

NIH Proposal Submission Updates

As an integral part of its ongoing effort to enhance the peer review process, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is implementing the shortened/restructured application phase for applications submitted on or after January 25th, 2010.  In addition to an enhanced set of review criteria and a revised scoring scale, the NIH has restructured the application format, to include new instructions and shorter page limits for all competing applications (new, revised and/or resubmitted).

We strongly encourage those who are interested in submitting to the NIH to review the helpful 12 minute video and corresponding power-point presentation of these important changes, URL provided below.

Other helpful links are provided below, to include an FAQ:


September 3, 2010

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