August 31, 2009

NSB Issues Report with Recommendations on NSF Cost-Sharing Policies

In October 2007, the National Science Board established the Task Force on Cost Sharing to examine issues related to National Science Foundation cost-sharing policy. In February 2009, NSB sought public comment on a draft report. On August 27, 2009, NSB issued the final report, NSB-09-20, Investing in the Future: NSF Cost Sharing Policies for a Robust Federal Research Enterprise.

From the Executive Summary of the report:
In this report, the National Science Board (Board) 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.

These recommendations are intended to improve consistency and clarity of NSF cost sharing practices and policy and to maximize the effectiveness of institutional dollars invested in research. 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.
Selected Recommendations:
NSF should reinstate mandatory cost sharing for the following programs for which cost sharing is foundational to strategic programmatic goals: the Engineering Research Centers (ERC) program, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (ESPCoR), and the Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers (I/UCRC) program. In the case of EPSCoR, mandatory cost sharing requirements may be met in aggregate by contributions across all institutions and/or organizations in the jurisdiction. In accordance with the America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69), mandatory cost sharing is also implemented in the Major Research Instrumentation Program and the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program.

NSF should prohibit voluntary committed cost sharing in all components of both solicited and unsolicited proposals. To ensure that reviewers, NSF program officers, and grantee officials have sufficient information regarding investigator capabilities and institutional resources, NSF should broaden the intent and usage of the existing Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources (FER) section of proposals. Specifically, the FER section should contain a comprehensive description of all resources necessary for and available to a project, without reference to cost, date of acquisition, and whether the resources are currently available or would be provided upon receipt of the grant. The prohibition of voluntary committed cost sharing will eliminate tracking and reporting requirements, imposed externally on institutions, previously associated with such resources. In recognition of the culture shift in the research community necessitated by this change, NSF should clearly and regularly communicate this new policy to program officers, external reviewers, and the proposer community.
The full report is available at

February 3 Research Advocate article: NSB Requests Comments on NSF Cost-Sharing Policy