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Summary of NSF PAPPG 18-1 Changes Effective January 2018

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a revised version of the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG), version 18-1. Below are some notable policy changes that we wanted to draw your attention to. Please note, these changes will be effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after January 29, 2018. For the complete PAPPG including NSF's summary of changes, please visit:  Please contact your OSP Proposal Team with any proposal related questions, or the CGA Awards Group with any post-award questions.

Proposal - Project Description

Project Description has been modified to reflect that the description must now contain a separate section specifically identified as "Intellectual Merit"

Results from Prior NSF Support guidance when writing the proposal Project Description has been updated related to the timeframe and how to handle the inclusion of any NSF funded support.  Changes have been noted in red and green for ease in referencing.

“The purpose of this section is to assist reviewers in assessing the quality of prior work conducted with prior or current or prior NSF funding. If any PI or co-PI identified on the proposal has received prior NSF support including:

  • An award with an end start  date in the past five years; or
  • (including any current funding, including any and no cost extensions,

information on the award is required for each PI and co-PI, regardless of whether the support was directly related to the proposal or not. In cases where the PI or any co-PI has received more than one award (excluding amendments to existing awards), they need only report on the one award that is most closely related to the proposal. Support means includes not just salary support, as well as, but any other funding awarded by NSF, including research, NSF awards such as standard or continuing grants, Graduate Research Fellowship, Major Research Instrumentation, conference, equipment, travel, and center awards, etc., are subject to this requirement.”

Proposal – Budget Justification

The page limitation has been increased from three pages to five pages

The justification must spell out the Senior Personnel Salaries & Wages term "year" and how it is applied.  As a general policy, NSF limits the salary compensation requested in the proposal budget for senior personnel to no more than two months of their regular salary in any one “year”.

The justification should state the amounts for indirect costs.  The amount for indirect costs should be calculated by applying the current negotiated indirect cost rate(s) to the approved base(s), and such amounts should be specified in the budget justification.

Collaborators & Other Affiliations (COA) Information

The COA information must be provided through use of the NSF COA template.  This information is used to manage reviewer selection.

  • The template has been developed to be fillable, however, the content and format requirements must not be altered by the user.
  • This template must be saved in .xlsx or .xls format, and directly uploaded into FastLane as a Collaborators and Other Affiliations Single Copy Document.
  • FastLane will convert the uploaded .xlsx or .xls files to .PDF. Using the .xlsx or .xls format will enable preservation of searchable text that otherwise would be lost.
  • Uploading a document in any format other than .xlsx or .xls may delay the timely processing and review of the proposal. 
  • The information in the tables is not required to be sorted, alphabetically or otherwise.  

Proposal - Data Management Plan

Content guidance has been updated for the proposal Data Management Plan that involves collaborative activities. Simultaneously submitted collaborative proposals and proposals that include subawards are a single unified project and should include only one supplemental combined Data Management Plan, regardless of the number of non-lead collaborative proposals or subawards included in the project.

Proposal - Use of Human Subjects or Vertebrate Animals

Guidance has been updated related to the Use of Human subjects or Vertebrate Animals involving international projects or organizations. Projects involving the care or use of vertebrate animals at an international organization or international field site requires approval of research protocols by the US grantee’s IACUC. If the project is to be funded through an award to an international organization or through an individual fellowship award that will support activities at an international organization, NSF will require a statement from the international organization explicitly listing the proposer’s name and referencing the title of the award to confirm that the activities will be conducted in accordance with all applicable laws in the international country and that the International Guiding Principles for Biomedical Research Involving Animals (see: will be followed.

Proposal – Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC)

Guidance has been updated for Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC), including new coverage regarding NSF’s funding of research that would be considered to lead to a gain of function of agents.  NSF will not fund research that would be considered to lead to a gain of function of agents associated with the US Government Policy on DURC (See also Chapter XI.B.5 for additional information.)

NSF is committed to preserving the benefits of life sciences research while minimizing the risk of misuse of the knowledge, information, products, or technologies provided by such research. The purpose of NSF's implementation of the Policy is to clarify proposer expectations about NSF-funded research with certain high-consequence pathogens and toxins with potential to be considered DURC.

Proposing organizations are responsible for identifying NSF-funded life sciences proposals that could potentially be considered DURC as defined in the Policy and for compliance with the requirements established in that Policy therein. 

Proposal – Preparation Checklist

Proposal Preparation Checklist has been updated to reflect relevant changes made to Chapter II of the PAPPG. Additional checklist components also have been added to assist proposers in the pre-submission administrative review of proposals to NSF.

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