October 02, 2008

Significant Changes in New NSF Policies and Procedures Guide

The National Science Foundation has published a revision to the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 09-1), that will be effective for proposals received on or after January 5, 2009. The revision includes some notable changes; NSF has included a Summary of Significant Changes with the Grant Proposal Guide.

The revised PAPPG (NSF 09-1) becomes effective on January 5. Until then, the current PAPPG (NSF 08-01) will continue to apply. NSF plans to revise existing funding opportunities with due dates between January 5 and March 31 to alert proposers to the revisions in the proposal preparation guidelines.

Some of the more significant changes are described below. For information on additional changes, see the Summary of Significant Changes.

Mentoring Requirement for Postdoctoral Research Fellows

One major change is that NSF has added new guidance to the Proposal Preparation Instructions regarding mentoring for postdoctoral fellows, done to address and implement the mentoring requirement of the America COMPETES Act. The revised instructions state that: “Each proposal that requests funding to support postdoctoral researchers must include, as a separate section within the 15-page Project Description, a description of the mentoring activities that will be provided for such individuals. Examples of mentoring activities include, but are not limited to: career counseling; training in preparation of grant proposals, publications and presentations; guidance on ways to improve teaching and mentoring skills; guidance on how to effectively collaborate with researchers from diverse backgrounds and disciplinary areas; and training in responsible professional practices. The proposed mentoring activities will be evaluated as part of the merit review process under the Foundation's broader impacts merit review criterion. Proposals that do not include a separate section on mentoring activities within the Project Description will be returned without review.”

Senior Project Personnel Salary

The revised Proposal Preparation Instructions also include a major revision of NSF’s faculty salary reimbursement policy. NSF will “limit salary compensation for senior project personnel to no more than two months of their regular salary in any one year. This limit includes salary compensation received from all NSF-funded grants. This change moves away from the concept of summer salary and allows for reimbursement of two months of salary per year whenever appropriate during the year.” NSF also states that any anticipated compensation “in excess of two months must be disclosed in the proposal budget, justified in the budget justification, and must be specifically approved by NSF in the award notice.”


The revision also introduces two new award mechanisms, Grants for Rapid Response Research (RAPID) and EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER), that will replace the Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER) program. RAPID will support quick-response research on natural or anthropogenic disasters and similar unanticipated events with grants of up to $200,000 for one year. EAGER will support high-risk, exploratory, and potentially transformative research with grants of up to $300,000 for up to two years.

PI/Co-PI Definition

Another change in the revised PAPPG is that NSF has clarified the co-Principal Investigator definition to state that NSF does not infer any distinction in scientific stature among multiple PIs, whether referred to as PI or co-PI. NSF will hold all of the senior personnel equally responsible for the conduct of the project and submission of the requisite project reports. The change is found in Exhibit II-7 – Definitions of Categories of Personnel. NSF made this revision for greater consistency with guidance issued by the Office of Science and Technology Policy.