Professional Development

Updated information and professional development information from funding agencies.

National Science Foundation:  Updates to the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) - Effective October 5, 2020, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will enhance the Project Reporting System in Research.gov to implement the revised Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR). The RPPR is a uniform format for reporting performance progress on Federally funded research projects and research related activities. NSF awardees use the RPPR to prepare and submit annual and final project reports to NSF. Further details about the RPPR can be found on the Research.gov About Project Reports website.

New Question for Project Reports with Active Other Support Changes

  • The NSF-approved formats for Current and Pending Support are SciENcv: Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae and an NSF fillable PDF.
  • Current and Pending Support documents not in an NSF-approved format will trigger a compliance error preventing document upload and submission of the annual or final project report.
  • On October 5, 2020, NSF will add the following new question to the Edit Participants screen: Has there been a change in the active other support of the PI/PD(s) since the last reporting period? If Principal Investigators (PIs)/Project Directors (PDs) and co-PIs/co-PDs select “Yes,” they will be required to upload their most up-to-date Current and Pending Support document in an NSF-approved format to notify NSF that active other support has changed since the award was made or since the most recent annual report.
  • The NSF Current and Pending Support website includes additional information as well as links to system-related Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for both NSF-approved formats. A set of policy-related FAQs related to current and pending support is also available.
  • The complete lists of FastLane and Research.gov automated proposal compliance checks effective October 5, 2020, are available on the Automated Compliance Checking of NSF Proposals website   

Additional New Questions from the Revised RPPR
Beginning October 5, 2020, NSF will also add the following three questions to the "Impact" and "Changes/Problems" tabs:

  • What was the impact on teaching and educational experiences? (Impact tab);
  • What percentage of the award’s budget was spent in a foreign country? (Impact tab); and
  • Has there been a change in primary performance site location from that originally proposed? (Changes/Problems tab).

NSF-specific Updates 

  • NSF-specific help text updates have been added throughout, and NSF-specific instructions have been clarified or enhanced.
  • To reduce administrative burden, NSF has consolidated data entry fields where possible.

Current and Pending Support Format Training Resources
To learn more about the NSF-approved formats for Current and Pending Support, please view the NSF PAPPG (NSF 20-1) webinar and NSF-Approved Formats for the Biographical Sketch & Current and Pending Support Sections of NSF Proposals webinar.

SciENcv has created the following materials to guide the community through the preparation of the NSF Current and Pending Support document in SciENcv:

Questions? Policy-related questions should be directed to policy@nsf.gov. If you have IT system-related or technical questions regarding the NSF-approved formats or the Research.gov Project Reporting System, please contact the NSF Help Desk at 1-800-381-1532 (7:00 AM - 9:00 PM ET; Monday - Friday except federal holidays) or via rgov@nsf.gov.

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National Science Foundation:  Enforcement of NSF-approved Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support Formats Begins - Effective October 5, 2020, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will begin enforcing the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 20-1) requirement to use NSF-approved formats for the preparation of the Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support proposal documents. The NSF-approved formats are SciENcv: Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae and an NSF fillable PDF.

All other PAPPG (NSF 20-1) changes were effective on June 1, 2020. Please refer to the complete list of PAPPG (NSF 20-1) significant changes and clarifications which include the IT system changes and other policy-related changes. A set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on proposal preparation and award administration related to NSF PAPPG (NSF 20-1) is also available and includes Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support information.

Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support Websites

  • The NSF Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support websites include links to the NSF-fillable PDF formats, updated FAQs, and instructions.
  • For the fillable PDF formats, NSF recommends users download and save the blank PDF document prior to adding content. Populating content directly into a web browser (e.g., Chrome or Safari) may result in formatting inconsistencies. The completed and saved PDF can then be uploaded via FastLane, Research.gov, or Grants.gov.
  • Beginning on October 5, 2020, links to the Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support websites will also be located in FastLane (on the Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support Personnel pages), in Research.gov (on the Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support Upload pages), and in Grants.gov (on the NSF Senior Key Person Profile form version 2.0).

Change of Principal Investigator (PI) and Add/Change Co-PI Requests

  • Effective October 5, 2020, Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support documentation must also be in an NSF-approved format when uploaded with a Change of PI and an Add/Change co-PI request in FastLane.

Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) Submissions with Active Other Support Changes

  • Effective October 5, 2020, PIs and co-PIs must include an NSF-approved format for Current and Pending Support when notifying NSF that active other support has changed since the award was made, or since the most recent annual report.
  • This new requirement serves as NSF’s implementation of the revised RPPR, a uniform format for reporting performance progress on Federally-funded research projects and research-related activities.

Automated Compliance Checks for NSF-approved Formats

  • Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support documents not in an NSF-approved format will trigger a compliance error and ultimately will prevent proposal submission or completion of the post-award action. This compliance check applies to proposals, Change of PI requests, Add/Change co-PI requests, and relevant RPPR submissions.
  • Note that automated compliance checks also apply when a proposal file update (PFU) is performed on a proposal. Proposers should be aware that if a proposal was previously submitted successfully, a PFU performed on the proposal will be prevented from submission if the proposal does not comply with the compliance checks in effect at the time.

NSF-approved Format Updates
Based on feedback from the research community, NSF has enhanced both approved formats, and users are encouraged to use the latest versions. Please see the system-related FAQs on using SciENcv and the system-related FAQs on using the NSF fillable PDF for a list of the improvements to each format. In particular, note the permitted use of “et al.” for publication citations in the Biographical Sketch when listing multiple authors. Senior personnel who wish to include publications in the products section of the Biographical Sketch that include multiple authors may, at their discretion, choose to list one or more of the authors and then "et al." in lieu of including the complete listing of authors' names.

SciENcv Enhancements
The SciENcv module for creating NSF Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support documents will be updated prior to October 5, 2020; however, all SciENcv-generated Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support PDF documents created on or after April 1, 2020 remain compliant in NSF systems.

Prior to the October 5th requirement to use the NSF-approved format, SciENcv will make a number of enhancements that include:

  • ability for users to reorder products and appointments in the Biographical Sketch 
  • ability for users to edit long author citations imported from ORCID on the Biographical Sketch and add “et al.” 
  • addition of a Current and Pending Support tool tip to provide clarification and guidance on how users should document support under a fiscal year calendar

Please see the system-related FAQs on using SciENcv for details. 
As a reminder, the SciENcv tool integrates with ORCID, enabling users to populate the Biographical Sketch by importing data directly from ORCID records rather than having to manually enter all the required information. This helps reduce administrative burden associated with the Biographical Sketch preparation process. Additionally, SciENcv allows users to grant access to delegates to assist with maintaining and updating data. SciENcv also offers users a dynamic and more customized PDF. For example, users with fewer Current and Pending Support entries may elect to use SciENcv to generate their Current and Pending Support PDF document since SciENcv will produce a PDF without any blank pages. Conversely, the Current and Pending Support fillable PDF will always be 15 pages regardless of how much data is included.

Latest NSF Fillable PDF Version

  • Revised NSF fillable PDF formats were released on May 1, 2020; however, the previous versions remain compliant in NSF systems.
  • The May 1, 2020 version is indicated by "Revised 05/01/2020" printed on the first page of each form.

Additional Training Resources
To learn more about the NSF-approved formats for Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support, please view the NSF PAPPG (NSF 20-1) webinar and NSF-Approved Formats for the Biographical Sketch & Current and Pending Support Sections of NSF Proposals webinar.

SciENcv has created the following materials to guide NSF users through the preparation of the NSF documents available in SciENcv:

Other Updates for Proposers
A revised NSF Grants.gov Application Guide will be published on September 16th and effective October 5, 2020. The Guide will be updated to remove references and instructions for the Research & Related Personal Data Form. NSF will no longer require this form, and this form will no longer be included in NSF's packages effective October 5, 2020.

Questions? Policy-related questions should be directed to policy@nsf.gov. If you have IT system-related or technical questions regarding the SciENcv or NSF fillable PDF formats, please contact the NSF Help Desk at 1-800-673-6188 (7:00 AM - 9:00 PM ET; Monday - Friday except federal holidays) or via fastlane@nsf.gov.

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NIH All About Grants Podcast Series (https://grants.nih.gov/news/virtual-learning/podcasts.htm)

NIH has a number of podcasts related to topics such as Prepare a Successful Grant Application; Understand How Your Grant is Reviewed; and Keep Up With What's Hot.  To get new podcasts as they are released, subscribe by visiting NIH on iTunes or catch our podcast RSS using your favorite software.

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Follow Sounds of eRA on Apple Podcasts (https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/sounds-of-era/id631289889- podcasts for grant writers and administrators.  Edward Johnson, Jr. (aka Eddie) discusses various topics such as tools and time-saving techniques for finding available funding, proposal preparation, and project management.  

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NASA Wants You!  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) currently has opportunities available for individuals interested in becoming reviewers. This is an excellent way for proposal writers and sponsored programs officers to see first-hand what makes a winning proposal and to learn the nuances of the NASA proposal review process. Visit the NSPIRES website and click on "Getting an Account" in the menu on the left to get started. For more information on the peer review process within NASA, see Section 3.3 of the NASA Procedural Requirements page.

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Guarding Against Grant Fraud - TheNonProfitTimes (thenonprofittimes.com (12/03/2012)

Given the stiff competition for grant funding and the amount of money at stake, the field of grant proposal writing is unfortunately fertile ground for fraud. When someone blows the whistle and the lawsuit flies, the person who wrote the grant proposal is in the line of fire. And, the organization that submitted the proposal - the applicant organization, is likewise in hot water.  Link to full article http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/news-articles/guarding-against-grant-fraud/

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Writing a Successful NIH Fellowship Application

The Office of Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducts periodic podcasts on writing successful NIH grant applications. The latest installment, conducted by NIH director of policy and liaison activities Henry Khachaturian, provides strategies for writing the best possible pre-doctoral or postdoctoral fellowship application. NIH fellowship applications differ from research applications in substantive ways. Although they certainly require a solid research hypothesis, fellowship applications focus more on the applicant, his or her mentor, and the training plan. Trainee candidates need to write about themselves, their strengths, and their weaknesses. Khachaturian encourages candidates both to brag about themselves and to be realistic about their weaknesses. He also stresses that reviewers will be looking for an applicant's passion for doing research, and the strength of the mentor, who must be well-respected and well-funded (a status that is not often reached by the assistant professor level, so choose your mentor wisely). Candidates from non-research intensive institutions may not have access to an appropriate mentor on campus. NIH Report can serve as an excellent tool for identifying experienced researchers at other institutions who have secured NIH support for research connected to the candidate's own discipline and area of interest.

 Khachaturian's advice for fellowship applicants can be applied to most any type of federal grant application:

* Assess your career situation. Be explicit about what you want to do after the period of support ends.

* Contact program directors. These individuals are especially open to talking to new investigators. Identify the appropriate contact (at NIH, begin with the contact list for institutes and centers) and send him or her a one- or two-paragraph e-mail to open a dialogue.

* Start early, and give yourself at least three months to write the application.

* Don't propose too much. New researchers can be tempted to over-promise, submitting far-reaching proposals that do not convince experienced reviewers that all the goals can be achieved.

* Use charts, graphs, headers, and bullets to communicate ideas and provide visual support for the narrative. Reviewers don't want to read an application with no white space.

* Balance the technical and nontechnical writing, and make sure the abstract (which reviewers read first) contains mostly nontechnical writing. In the case of early-career fellowship applicants, all of these strategies should work toward helping reviewers understand that the fellowship will be an important step in launching the candidate's career as an independent researcher. 

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 The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Research Integrity has posted an interactive movie and facilitator's guide on research misconduct entitled "The Lab: Avoiding Research Misconduct." To view this movie or download the guide go to http://ori.hhs.gov/TheLab.