Implementation of Enhanced Automated Compliance Checking

The following outlines NSF policy on the handling of late proposals following implementation of enhanced automated compliance checking in FastLane.

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Policy

 

Beginning Monday, March 18, 2013, NSF will enhance FastLane to begin automated compliance checking for all GPG-required sections (http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=nsf13001) of full proposals. If a proposal is submitted late in FastLane on or after March 18, 2013, for reasons related to enhanced automated compliance checking, it may be returned without review.

 

Rationale

 

The system will not allow a proposal to be submitted if it is missing any of the following information.  Except for the Data Management Plan and Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan, these sections have been required for over twenty years:

  • Project Summary
  • Budget Justification
  • Project Description
  • Current and Pending Support
  • References Cited
  • Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources
  • Biographical Sketch(es)
  • Data Management Plan
  • Budget
  • Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan (if applicable)

Conformance to the preparation instructions provided in the GPG is required and will be strictly enforced unless a prior written authorization to deviate from the standard proposal preparation requirements has been approved as described in GPG Chapter II.A. Submission of complete proposals promotes consistent and equitable treatment of proposers across the Foundation and enables reviewers to evaluate proposals in accordance with the two merit review criteria established by the National Science Board.

 

The Foundation has taken a myriad of steps to ensure that proposers have been informed of this change and have adequate time to prepare for it. Such mechanisms include:

  • Adding a new “Proposals Not Accepted” category in the October 2012 GPG defined as FastLane will not permit submission of a proposal if required sections are missing. If proposers do not have information to include for certain sections, the GPG instructs them to insert “Not applicable”.
  • Updating FastLane screens, solicitation boilerplate language and program webpages with information on this enhancement. For example, as of February 12, 2013, the FastLane Proposal Preparation screen, which every PI must view in order to work on a proposal, includes a message on required sections of the proposal and automated compliance checking.
  • Enhanced FastLane validation checks and error messages for both PIs and Sponsored Projects Offices (SPO). If any GPG-required sections are missing when a PI sends their full proposal to the SPO, an error message will inform them which section(s) are missing. PIs may take corrective action then or forward the proposal to the SPO. If the required sections are still missing when the SPO attempts to submit the proposal, an error message will appear, preventing submission. These validation checks (which can be performed at any time) and error messages provide ample opportunity for proposers to act in order to avoid late submissions.
  • Extensive outreach via targeted emails to FastLane users who have begun proposals in the last three months and to Grants.gov users who have downloaded NSF application packages. Additional communication in the form of webinars, presentations at the NSF Grants conference and professional society meetings, suggested tag lines for NSF staff’s signature blocks and development of a web page and FAQs also has been conducted.

 

Treatment of Proposals Submitted Late On or After March 18, 2013

 

Despite all of the communication that has been provided regarding this enhancement, NSF anticipates that some proposals will be submitted late. PIs and proposers may contend that they were unaware of the system enhancement and, as a result, will request that their proposal still be considered. Allowing consideration of late proposals, however, would not be the proper course of action. Given all of the communication mentioned above regarding the system enhancement of NSF’s long-standing policy requiring submission of the proposal sections, if a proposer misses a deadline on or after March 18th, and requests approval for late submission for reasons related to implementation of enhanced automated compliance checking, the appropriate response would be to not authorize the late submission. If a proposal is submitted late on or after March 18th, for reasons related to implementation of enhanced automated compliance checking, the appropriate response would be to return it without review.