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Content provided by the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance
47.078 Polar Programs




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 polar regions. To encourage and support basic research in the Arctic and Antarctic focused on the solid earth, glacial and sea ice, terrestrial ecosystems, the oceans, the atmosphere and beyond. Major objectives include understanding of the natural phenomena and processes in the Antarctic and Arctic regions and their role in global systems. 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.


Project Grants.
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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.


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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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 in order of 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:   They vary depending upon the nature of the program and are published in the NSF Bulletin. Write to the address below for specific programs.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time:   Approximately 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 that the Foundation 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, provided the cumulative duration does not exceed 5 years. 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.


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 3 years.


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 ensure 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.


Account Identification:   49-0100-0-1-251; 49-0551-0-1-251; 49-0100-0-1-054.

Obligations:   (Grants) FY 01 $96,150,000; FY 02 est $103,580,000; and FY 03 est $105,380,000.

Range and Average of Financial Assistance:  
Range Low $1,000
Range High $41,400,000
Average $313,000.

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In fiscal year 2001, 634 proposals were received and 201 awards were made. In fiscal year 2002, about 600-800 proposals are expected to be received and approximately 200-300 awards will be made, and in fiscal year 2003, about 700-800 proposals are expected and approximately 200-300 awards will be made.


48 CFR Chapter 25; 45 CFR Chapter VI; "Guide to Programs, Fiscal Year 2003," NSF 03-009 (; and "Grant Proposal Guide," NSF 03-2, (; "Arctic Research Program Opportunities," NSF 00-96 (no charge); "Antarctic Research," NSF 00-72 (no charge) available from: Forms and Publications, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22230.


Regional or Local Office:   Not applicable.

Headquarters Office:  
Winifred Reuning 4201 Wilson Blvd, Stafford I - Ste 740, Arlington, Virginia 22230 Email: Phone: 7032928033 Fax: 7032929079

Web Site Address:


Polar Sciences: Investigations of atmospheric, earth, biological and ocean sciences, glaciology in the Arctic and the Antarctic, and of social sciences in the Arctic.


The National Science Board approved revised criteria for evaluating proposals at its meeting on March 28, 1997 (NSB 97-72). All NSF proposals are evaluated through use of the two merit review criteria. In some instances, however, NSF will employ additional criteria as required to highlight the specific objectives of certain programs and activities. On July 8, 2002, the NSF Director issued Important Notice 127, Implementation of new Grant Proposal Guide Requirements Related to the Broader Impacts Criterion. This Important Notice reinforces the importance of addressing both criteria in the preparation and review of all proposals submitted to NSF. NSF continues to strengthen its internal processes to ensure that both of the merit review criteria are addressed when making funding decisions. In an effort to increase compliance with these requirements, the January 2002 issuance of the GPG incorporated revised proposal preparation guidelines relating to the development of the Project Summary and Project Description. Chapter II of the GPG specifies that Principal Investigators (PIs) must address both merit review criteria in separate statements within the one-page Project Summary. This chapter also reiterates that broader impacts resulting from the proposed project must be addressed in the Project Description and described as an integral part of the narrative. Effective October 1, 2002, NSF will return without review proposals that do not separately address both merit review criteria within the Project Summary. It is believed that these changes to NSF proposal preparation and processing guidelines will more clearly articulate the importance of broader impacts to NSF-funded projects. The two National Science Board approved merit review criteria are listed below (see the Grant Proposal Guide Chapter III.A for further information). The criteria include considerations that help define them. These considerations are suggestions and not all will apply to any given proposal. While proposers must address both merit review criteria, reviewers will be asked to address only those considerations that are relevant to the proposal being considered and for which he/she is qualified to make judgements. What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity? How important is the proposed activity to advancing knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields? How well qualified is the proposer (individual or team) to conduct the project? (If appropriate, the reviewer will comment on the quality of the prior work.) To what extent does the proposed activity suggest and explore creative and original concepts? How well conceived and organized is the proposed activity? Is there sufficient access to resources? What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity? How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning? How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)? To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships? Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society? NSF staff will give careful consideration to the following in making funding decisions: Integration of Research and Education. One of the principal strategies in support of NSF's goals is to foster integration of research and education through the programs, projects, and activities it supports at academic and research institutions. These institutions provide abundant opportunities where individuals may concurrently assume responsibilities as researchers, educators, and students and where all can engage in joint efforts that infuse education with the excitement of discovery and enrich research through the diversity of learning perspectives. Integrating Diversity into NSF Programs, Projects, and Activities. Broadening opportunities and enabling the participation of all citizens -- women and men, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities -- is essential to the health and vitality of science and engineering. NSF is committed to this principle of diversity and deems it central to the programs, projects, and activities it considers and supports.

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