3

Is there a possibility that an NSF proposal recommended for funding might not be awarded the funds? If so, what could be possible reasons? Also, how long does it typically take for a recommended proposal to be awarded to the university?

3 Answers 3

10

Research administrator here. I have received hundreds of NSF awards and have never seen one declined after recommendation of funding, however, they do reserve the right for several reasons (previously answered). One of the main things to remember about any federal grant process -- Program Officers (PO) are not contract people. They can tell you things that are not entirely true. They may not be checking all of the detailed compliance, and while the science is great, there are other reasons it cannot be done.

As for the time it takes to get an award-- that depends largely on your directorate and solicitation. CAREER awards for example, are nearly always awarded in the January/February timeframe, and are submitted in July. In my extensive experience with CISE, they most frequently dump their funding at the end of the government fiscal year, so summer is frequently when you will hear back. However, I have seen some programs, e.g., the CCF program officer, has been responsive within only a few months (e.g. awarding in January/February), so it can vary by the program officer as well.

After the recommendation is made, the execution similarly will depend on the PO and also the science and its required compliance. If more information is required "just in time", then this can delay the award. They mostly require updated current and pending files prior to award, in addition to any other compliance-related documentation, e.g., around human subjects. They may also require a revised budget and budget impact statement. In my experience, most of the programs dump their budgets at the end of the government fiscal year, so I would expect everything to be executed by end of September, unless you/your institution delays the process. That is not a guarantee, but more a strong pattern of observation.

If you would like to spend now -- check your institution's rules on procuring an "advance account". You also should be entitled to spend 90 days prior to award, but that is tricky to do now without a guaranteed start date. Check with your assigned research administrator, and they will guide you appropriately.

4
  • 1
    thank you for sharing your perspective. I like you answer and learned from it. Would you mind defining acronyms in your answer? Jul 8, 2023 at 1:32
  • 1
    sure -- CISE = Computer and Information Science and Engineering; CCF = Computing and Communication Foundations -- see more about the directorates and programs here: new.nsf.gov/about/directorates-offices -- PO = Program Officer (should have made that more obvious). Jul 8, 2023 at 1:48
  • Would you mind adding those into you answer? Comments are ephemeral on this site :) Jul 10, 2023 at 12:54
  • 1
    I thought I did? Well, I linked right to CISE which lists the name and the programs instead of putting that into the answer. I suppose I could list them all out if that was helpful. Jul 10, 2023 at 13:07
5

From an NSF FAQ:

Program Officers "recommend" proposals for award but lack authority to commit NSF funds. After recommendation, applications are reviewed, primarily by non-scientist NSF grant administrators, for technical correctness. This process can take up to two months and an electronic award notification is then sent to the grantee sponsored research office. No grant is official and no NSF commitment final until this time. I almost always contact the Principal Investigator directly when I make the recommendation. This allows for a pleasant exchange in the midst of more difficult ones and also permits the applicant to plan ahead. It is extremely rare for a recommended project not to become an award and most researchers and institutions act with this realization in mind.

To your questions:

Is there a possibility that an NSF proposal recommended for funding might not be awarded the funds?

Yes. See above.

If so, what could be possible reasons?

The FAQ does mention "technical correctness". For example, NSF finds something wrong the proposal (e.g., the PI is not eligible).

Also, changes in funding from Congress (who may decrease funding unexpectedly to NSF) might be another reason (this is a guess on my part).

Also, how long does it typically take for a recommended proposal to be awarded to the university?

The above FAQ notes: "This process can take up to two months and an electronic award notification is then sent to the grantee sponsored research office."

0

As other answers have noted:

Yes

No grant is official and no NSF commitment final until this time.

However, likelihood is low if you've already received a "Recommmended" letter.

Can elaborate a bit as an academic who went to work with the feds and did proposal reviews (NASA though, not NSF, so gov. science general view).

There can be money issues:

  • Budgets are often interim / projected at the feds, yet writers need to state how much money they "believe" they'll have and how many they expect to fund months in advance.
  • The "color" of the money can occasionally be wrong. We believed this could be used for proposals, yet its only allowable for other purposes.
  • NSF budget is historically generally stable, yet agency budgets can occasionally get adjusted.
  • Money can also get shifted around within Directorates or Divisions. "We thought we were going to fund Infrastructure more in Biological Sciences, but we ended pushing that money into Emerging Frontiers." This mostly tends to happen if the agency has a major strategy change (went through Space Shuttle to SLS transition personally)

On the proposal side, from my experience, they often get binned into something like:

  • We will fund this (even in our worst budget projection)
  • We'll probably fund this (if its our moderate projection)
  • We'd like to fund this (if we get more than we expect)
  • We probably won't fund these (unless money floods in)

The first and second tiers probably get "Recommended" letters.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .