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National Science Foundation (NSF)

Office of Sponsored ResearchNSF

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense..." With an annual budget of about $6.9 billion (FY 2010), NSF is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.

NSF is the only federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for medical sciences. We are tasked with keeping the United States at the leading edge of discovery in areas from astronomy to geology to zoology. So, in addition to funding research in the traditional academic areas, the agency also supports "high-risk, high pay-off" ideas, novel collaborations and numerous projects that may seem like science fiction today, but which the public will take for granted tomorrow. And in every case, we ensure that research is fully integrated with education so that today's revolutionary work will also be training tomorrow's top scientists and engineers.

NSF's task of identifying and funding work at the frontiers of science and engineering is not a "top-down" process. NSF operates from the "bottom up," keeping close track of research around the United States and the world, maintaining constant contact with the research community to identify ever-moving horizons of inquiry, monitoring which areas are most likely to result in spectacular progress and choosing the most promising people to conduct the research.

NSF News

National Science Board Reviewing National Science Foundation's Two Merit Review Criteria

The National Science Board’s (NSB) Merit Review Task Force is undertaking a thorough review of the National Science Foundation's two merit review criteria (Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts). The merit review process is at the heart of NSF's mission, and the merit review criteria form the critical base for that process. Moreover, in the recently enacted America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, the Broader Impacts Review Criterion was specifically mentioned.

The Task Force is now gathering input from a wide variety of stakeholder groups, and will be developing its report and recommendations during 2011.

To ensure that all interested parties have an opportunity to provide input, NSF has established a web site through which you can submit your thoughts and ideas on several issues of interest to the Task Force ( Please take this opportunity to provide comments and suggestions for improvements, as the Task Force undertakes this important review.

We also encourage you to forward this message to your faculty members, so that the Task Force may obtain their perspectives on this important topic.

Effective for NSF applications submitted, or due, on or after January 18, 2011

Summary of Significant Changes

  • Chapter V – Section 2, SF 424 (R&R) (Cover Sheet), 2.15 Enter Estimated Project Funding (Field 15 on the
    Form), includes information related to NSF’s implementation of the National Science Board’s recommendations
    regarding cost sharing (see GPG, Chapter II.C.2.g(xi), Cost Sharing). Applicants are advised that the amount
    entered in the Total Non-Federal Funds (Field 15.b) will be entered on Line M of the NSF budget for those
    programs where cost sharing is required, when entered into the NSF FastLane System. Review of the
    solicitation’s guidance on cost sharing is vital since inclusion of voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited for most solicitations. NSF-required, mandatory cost sharing will only be required when explicitly authorized by the NSF Director.
  • Chapter V – Section 4, R&R Other Project Information, 4.12 Add Other Attachments contains a clarification
    of NSF’s long standing data policy. All proposals must describe plans for data management and sharing of the
    products of research, or assert the absence of the need for such plans. The attachment name must include the
    words “Data Management Plan”. NSF will not permit submission of a proposal that is missing a Data
    Management Plan. The Data Management Plan will be reviewed as part of the intellectual merit or broader
    impacts of the application, or both.

Clarifications and Other Changes

  • Chapter III --Section 6, Proposal File Update – Post Submission, has been revised to explain that the
    Proposal File Update Module can no longer be used to submit revised budgets. They must now be submitted via
    the FastLane Revised Proposal Budget Module.
  • Chapter III.—Section 6,Warning Messages has been supplemented to make it clear that failure to submit all
    required sections of the application may result in the application being returned without review.
  • Chapter V – Section 4, R&R Other Project Information, 4.12 Add Other Attachments, has been clarified to
    Show that a mentoring plan is not required for postdoctoral researchers who are listed as Senior Personnel in
    Section A of the Budget.