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How to Apply for Federal Assistance
Writing a Winning Grant Proposal
Understanding the Federal Program Descriptions

Content provided by the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance
47.050 Geosciences

FEDERAL AGENCY:

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

AUTHORIZATION:

National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended, Public Law 106-377, 42 U.S.C. 1861 et seq.
OBJECTIVES: Click here for help!
To strengthen and enhance the national scientific enterprise through the expansion of fundamental knowledge and increased understanding of the integrated Earth system through the support of basic research in the atmospheric, earth and ocean sciences. Major objectives include the discovery of new knowledge of the atmosphere from the sun to the Earth's surface over the entire spectrum of physical and chemical phenomena; a better understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological character of the Earth and the processes that govern its evolution; and increased insight into the world's oceans, their composition, structure, behavior, and tectonics. Support is also provided for science and technology centers, undergraduate Student research, facility enhancement, instrumentation, and laboratory equipment; and for research opportunities for women, minority, and disabled scientists and engineers.

TYPES OF ASSISTANCE:

Project Grants.
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USES AND USE RESTRICTIONS:

Grant funds may be used for paying costs necessary to conduct research or studies such as salaries and wages, permanent equipment and supplies, computer services, travel, publication costs, and other direct and indirect costs. Primary responsibility for general supervision of all grant activities rests with the grantee institution; the principal investigator is responsible for the scientific work. Funds may not be used for purposes other than those specified in the proposal.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS:

Applicant Eligibility:   Public and private colleges and universities, nonacademic research institutions, private profit organizations and unaffiliated scientists under special circumstances. Grants are made on a competitive basis and are open to all individuals regardless of sex, race, creed, or color.

Beneficiary Eligibility:   Public and private colleges and universities, nonacademic research institutions, private profit organizations, and unaffiliated scientists under special circumstances.

Credentials/Documentation:   Proposals must be signed electronically by an official authorized to commit the institution or organization in business and financial affairs and who can commit the organization to certain proposal certifications. Costs will be determined in accordance with OMB Circular Nos. A-21 for colleges and universities and A-122 for nonprofit organizations. This program is excluded from coverage under OMB Circular No. A-87.

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APPLICATION AND AWARD PROCESS:
Pre-application Coordination:   None required, but preliminary discussions with the relevant National Science Foundation program officer are encouraged, particularly for projects requiring logistic or facility support or involving coordination with other projects and programs. This program is excluded from coverage under E.O. 12372.

Application Procedure:   By electronic submission via FastLane of a formal proposal describing the research or study to be undertaken. Guidelines are contained in publication, "Grant Proposal Guide," NSF 03-2, and "Guide to Programs Fiscal Year 2003," NSF 03-009. This program is subject to the provisions of OMB Circular No. A-110. This program is excluded from coverage under OMB Circular No. A-102.

Award Procedure:   NSF staff members review and evaluate all proposals, usually with the assistance and advice of other qualified scientists and other appropriate persons who are specialists in the field covered by the proposal. Awards are made based on merit and program relevance to the extent permitted by available funds. States will be notified of Federal assistance awards through the Federal Assistance Awards Data System (FAADS).

Deadlines:   Deadlines vary depending upon the nature of the program. Write to the address below for specific programs. Deadlines are published in the NSF Bulletin. NSF World Wide Web site URL: http://www.nsf.gov/.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time:   From 90 to 180 days.

Appeals:   The Principal Investigator whose proposal for support has been declined may request, in writing, and receive from the cognizant program officer the reasons for declination. The applicant may also obtain verbatim copies of reviews of his/her proposals, though not the names of reviewers. If not satisfied, the Principal Investigator may request the NSF Assistant Director for Geosciences to reconsider the procedural aspects of the declination action. Request for reconsideration must be received within 90 days of the declination letter.

Renewals:   Standard grants may be renewed once by amendment of the original grant. Proposals for renewal should be submitted 6 months prior to the expiration of the original grant and should contain the same type of information as the original proposal plus a summary of progress to date, a proposed budget for the ensuing period, and a statement of expenditures to date and existing commitments that will require expenditure of residual funds from the original grant after the requested renewal date. Renewals compete with other proposals for available funds.

ASSISTANCE CONSIDERATIONS:

Formula and Matching Requirements:   In general, cost-sharing is not required for awards made solely for symposia, conferences and workshops, publication, education and training, facilities, equipment, ship operations, or travel. The Grant Proposal Guide (GPG)(Chapter II) and the Grant Policy Manual (Sec. 330) provide additional information on the general NSF policy on cost-sharing.

Length and Time Phasing of Assistance:   Normally 1 to 5 years.

POST ASSISTANCE REQUIREMENTS:

Reports:   For all multi-year grants (including both standard and continuing grants), the PI must submit an annual project report to the cognizant program office at least 90 days before the end of the current budget period. Within 90 days after the expiration of a grant, the PI is required to submit a final project report. Quarterly Federal Cash Transaction Reports are required. Other reporting requirements may be imposed via the grant instrument.

Audits:   In accordance with the provisions of OMB Circular No. A- 133 (Revised, June 24, 1997), "Audits of States, Local Governments, and Non-Profit Organizations," nonfederal entities that expend financial assistance of $300,000 or more in Federal awards will have a single or a program-specific audit conducted for that year. Nonfederal entities that expend less than $300,000 a year in Federal awards are exempt from Federal audit requirements for that year, except as noted in Circular No. A-133.

Records:   Grantees are expected to maintain separate records for each grant to insure that funds are used for the general purpose for which the grant was made. Records are subject to inspection during the life of the grant and for three years thereafter.

FINANCIAL INFORMATION:

Account Identification:   49-0100-0-1-251.

Obligations:   (Grants) FY 01 $563,600,000; FY 02 est $609,470,000; and FY 03 est $691,070,000.

Range and Average of Financial Assistance:  
Range Low $7,500
Range High $42,578,139
Average $186,872.

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PROGRAM ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
In fiscal year 2001, 5,071 proposals were received and 2,899 awards were made. In fiscal year 2002, about 5,270 proposals are expected to be received and approximately 3,010 awards will be made, and in fiscal year 2003 approximately 5,800 proposals are expected to be received and approximately 3,310 awards will be made.

REGULATIONS, GUIDELINES, AND LITERATURE:

48 CFR Chapter 25; 45 CFR Chapter VI; "Guide to Programs, Fiscal Year 2003," NSF 03-009 (http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/getpub?nsf03009); "Grant Proposal Guide," NSF 03-2 (http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/getpub?nsf032). In addition, information is made available on the World Wide Web at http://www.nsf.gov/ and http://www.geo.nsf.gov/.

INFORMATION CONTACTS:

Regional or Local Office:   Not applicable.

Headquarters Office:  
Melissa Lane 4201 Wilson Blvd., Stafford I-705, Arlington, Virginia 22230 Email: mlane@nsf.gov Phone: 7032928500 Fax: 7032929042

Web Site Address:  
http://nsf.gov/dir/index.jsp?org=geo

EXAMPLES OF FUNDED PROJECTS:

Atmospheric Sciences: Research on meteorology, climate, paleoclimate, chemistry and physics of the lower and upper atmosphere; and solar-terrestrial relationships. Earth Sciences: Research on structure, composition, history, and the physical, chemical, and biological processes affecting the Earth. Ocean Sciences: Research on physical, chemical, geological, and biological processes in the ocean.

CRITERIA FOR SELECTING PROPOSALS:

Proposals received by NSF are assigned to the appropriate NSF program for acknowledgement and, if they meet NSF requirements, for review. All proposals are carefully reviewed by a scientist, engineer, or educator serving as an NSF Program Officer, and usually by three to ten other persons outside NSF either as ad hoc reviewers, panelists, or both, who are experts in the particular fields represented by the proposal. Proposers are invited to suggest names of persons they believe are especially well qualified to review the proposal and/or persons they would prefer not review the proposal. These suggestions may serve as one source in the reviewer selection process at the Program Officer's discretion. In addition, Program Officers may obtain comments from site visits before recommending final action on proposals. Senior NSF staff further review recommendations for awards. A flowchart that depicts the entire NSF proposal and award process (and associated timeline) is included as GPG Exhibit III-1. A comprehensive description of the Foundation’s merit review process is available on the NSF website at: http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/meritreview/. Proposal review is one step in the NSF program planning and implementation process. Embedded in this process are core strategies that are fundamental to the fulfillment of NSF’s mission. More information about NSF’s mission and strategies can be found in Empowering the Nation Through Discovery and Innovation: NSF Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years (FY) 2011-2016. NSF’s mission is particularly well-implemented through the integration of research and education and broadening participation in NSF programs, projects, and activities. A. Merit Review Principles and Criteria The National Science Foundation strives to invest in a robust and diverse portfolio of projects that creates new knowledge and enables breakthroughs in understanding across all areas of science and engineering research and education. To identify which projects to support, NSF relies on a merit review process that incorporates consideration of both the technical aspects of a proposed project and its potential to contribute more broadly to advancing NSF’s mission “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes.” NSF makes every effort to conduct a fair, competitive, transparent merit review process for the selection of projects.

1. Merit Review Principles These principles are to be given due diligence by PIs and organizations when preparing proposals and managing projects, by reviewers when reading and evaluating proposals, and by NSF program staff when determining whether or not to recommend proposals for funding and while overseeing awards. Given that NSF is the primary federal agency charged with nurturing and supporting excellence in basic research and education, the following three principles apply: • All NSF projects should be of the highest quality and have the potential to advance, if not transform, the frontiers of knowledge. • NSF projects, in the aggregate, should contribute more broadly to achieving societal goals. These broader impacts may be accomplished through the research itself, through activities that are directly related to specific research projects, or through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to, the project. The project activities may be based on previously established and/or innovative methods and approaches, but in either case must be well justified. • Meaningful assessment and evaluation of NSF funded projects should be based on appropriate metrics, keeping in mind the likely correlation between the effect of broader impacts and the resources provided to implement projects. If the size of the activity is limited, evaluation of that activity in isolation is not likely to be meaningful. Thus, assessing the effectiveness of these activities may best be done at a higher, more aggregated, level than the individual project. With respect to the third principle, even if assessment of Broader Impacts outcomes for particular projects is done at an aggregated level, PIs are expected to be accountable for carrying out the activities described in the funded project. Thus, individual projects should include clearly stated goals, specific descriptions of the activities that the PI intends to do, and a plan in place to document the outputs of those activities. These three merit review principles provide the basis for the merit review criteria, as well as a context within which the users of the criteria can better understand their intent.

2. Merit Review Criteria All NSF proposals are evaluated through use of two National Science Board approved merit review criteria. In some instances, however, NSF will employ additional criteria as required to highlight the specific objectives of certain programs and activities. The two merit review criteria are listed below. Both criteria are to be given full consideration during the review and decision-making processes; each criterion is necessary but neither, by itself, is sufficient. Therefore, proposers must fully address both criteria. (GPG Chapter II.C.2.d.(i) contains additional information for use by proposers in development of the Project Description section of the proposal.) Reviewers are strongly encouraged to review the criteria, including GPG Chapter II.C.2.d.(i), prior to the review of a proposal. When evaluating NSF proposals, reviewers will be asked to consider what the proposers want to do, why they want to do it, how they plan to do it, how they will know if they succeed, and what benefits could accrue if the project is successful. These issues apply both to the technical aspects of the proposal and the way in which the project may make broader contributions. To that end, reviewers will be asked to evaluate all proposals against two criteria: • Intellectual Merit: The Intellectual Merit criterion encompasses the potential to advance knowledge; and • Broader Impacts: The Broader Impacts criterion encompasses the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes. The following elements should be considered in the review for both criteria:

1. What is the potential for the proposed activity to: a. Advance knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields (Intellectual Merit); and b. Benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes (Broader Impacts)?

2. To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?

3. Is the plan for carrying out the proposed activities well-reasoned, well-organized, and based on a sound rationale? Does the plan incorporate a mechanism to assess success?

4. How well qualified is the individual, team, or organization to conduct the proposed activities?

5. Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home organization or through collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities?.

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