NSF Completes Updates to FastLane and Research.gov

On January 26, 2015, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released updates to FastLane and Research.gov.

A revised version of the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 15-1) was issued on November 20, 2014, which incorporates the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance), as well as other policy updates. FastLane and Research.gov have been updated to support the revised PAPPG.

Updates to FastLane

The following changes have been made to FastLane:

  • Budget Form Update: The budget form has been updated so that the “Residual Funds” line (Line K) is not editable for all programs except Small Business as such “Residual Funds” has been renamed to “Small Business Fee.”
  • Budget Justification Upload: The budget justification can no longer be entered as text. Awardees are required to upload a budget justification for each organization added to the budget via an upload screen.
  • Cost Sharing Notifications Requirement: The requirement that only awards with cost sharing of $500,000 or more must submit a cost sharing certificate has been modified to support the revised policy which specifies that cost sharing notifications must be submitted by all awardees with awards that include cost sharing.
  • New Funding Mechanism: The FastLane proposal cover sheet has been updated to include the new funding mechanism type, Ideas Lab. Ideas Lab is designed to support the development and implementation of creative and innovative project ideas. These projects are typically high-risk/high-impact as they represent new and unproven ideas, approaches, and/or technologies.

FastLane Automated Compliance Checks

Beginning January 26, 2015, FastLane will run an additional 24 automated checks on proposals to ensure they comply with requirements outlined in the PAPPG, Chapter II.C.2of the Grants Proposal Guide (GPG). Detailed below, these checks validate a proposal for compliance with page count, proposal sections per type of funding mechanism and budget-related rules for proposals submitted in response to the GPG, Program Announcements, and Program Descriptions.

  • Page Count: Page count rules are enforced on the following proposal sections:
    • Project Description: 15-page limit [exceptions: 8-page limit for Early-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER), and 5-page limit for Rapid Response Research (RAPID)]
    • Budget Justification: 3-page limit for the proposing institution and a separate, 3-page limit for each sub-recipient organization
    • Mentoring Plan: 1-page limit
    • Data Management Plan: 2-page limit
  • Budget: Budget-related checks focus primarily on proposal duration and requested amount. For example, the system enforces a maximum requested amount of $200,000 for a RAPID proposal and $300,000 for an EAGER proposal.
  • Proposal Section: Proposal sections are enforced by their funding mechanism for Program Announcement, Program Description, and other GPG-type funding opportunities.

The checks detailed above are triggered when the “Check Proposal,” “Forward to SPO,” or “Submit Proposal” functions are selected by a proposer or proposing organization. Depending on the rule being checked, a warning or error message displays when a proposal is found to be non-compliant. If an error message appears, the organization will not be able to submit the proposal until it is compliant. For a detailed list of all compliance checks, see Automated Proposal Compliance Checks for Full Proposals Effective January 26, 2015 on the NSF Automated Compliance Checking of NSF Proposals webpage.

Updates to Research.gov

NSF has completed another round of user enhancements to Research.gov based on feedback received from the community and recommendations from usability experts. These changes will begin to prepare the research community for the Research.gov/FastLane integration while improving the awardee experience.

The following enhancements have been implemented:

  • Updated Branding: The logo, header, footer, and background have been updated for consistency with current NSF branding.
  • Improved Look and Feel: Page widths and font size have been modified in project reports and the Award Cash Management $ervice (ACM$) in order to optimize layout and ease of reading for each visitor’s screen resolution.
  • Streamlined Navigation: The site has been streamlined by removing the left navigation bar and adding top-level navigation across Research.gov.
  • Simplified Login: Login options have been consolidated onto one page in order to simplify the process.
  • Expanded Help: The Research.gov Live Help service has been expanded to now include support for logging in and changing a password.