DIVISION OF PHYSICS
PRELIMINARY PROPOSAL DUE DATES(S) (required): August 20, 2001
FULL PROPOSAL DEADLINE(S): January 25, 2002
Program Title: Physics Frontier Centers (PFC)
Synopsis of Program:
The Physics Frontiers Centers (PFCs) program supports university-based centers and large groups in cases where this mode of research is required to make transformational advances in the most promising research areas. Proposals will be considered in areas within the purview of the Division of Physics, broadly interpreted, e.g., atomic, molecular, optical, plasma, elementary particle, nuclear, astro-, gravitational, interdisciplinary, and emerging areas of physics. Interdisciplinary physics is taken here to mean research at the interface between physics and other disciplines, e.g., biophysics, quantum information science, mathematical physics. The purpose of the PFC program is to enable major advances at the intellectual frontiers of physics by providing needed resources not usually available to individual investigators or small groups. PFCs make it possible to address major challenges that require, e.g., combinations of talents, skills, and/or disciplines; specialized infrastructure; large collaborations; and centers/institutes that catalyze rapid advances on the most promising research topics. The successful PFC will demonstrate: (1) the potential for a profound advance in physics; (2) creative, substantive activities aimed at enhancing education, diversity, and public outreach; (3) potential for broader impacts, e.g., impacts on other field(s) and benefits to society; (4) a synergy or value-added rationale that justifies a center-like approach.
Cognizant Program Officer(s):
A. Proposal Preparation Instructions
B. Budgetary Information
D. FastLane Requirements
SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS
Physics addresses an inspiring range of phenomena, from quarks to the cosmos, from the Big Bang to the end of the universe, and all length and time scales in between. The results of physics research touch everyone's life every day and promise solutions to some of our most daunting challenges. In a very real sense, advancing the intellectual frontiers in science, generally, and physics, in particular, is vital to the nation's health, prosperity, and defense.
Major advances in physics are produced by efforts of all sizes, from the individual investigator to the large collaborations with hundreds of members. Over time, the small research group has been the most important producer of ideas and innovations, and the large collaborations of today are needed to address certain problems involving large-scale tools, e.g., particle accelerators, large-scale detectors at colliders, gravity-wave detectors, and satellite-based observatories. Within this context, an increasingly important mode of discovery-class research involves intermediate-sized collaborations that involve a mix of disciplines and/or talents, infrastructure for shared use, and center activities. It is this mode of research that the Physics Frontiers Centers program is designed to address.
The PFC program will enable university-based investigators to address research areas that require more resources than are normally available to individual investigators or small groups. PFCs make it possible to address major challenges that require, e.g., combinations of talents, skills, and/or disciplines; specialized infrastructure; large collaborations; and centers/institutes that catalyze rapid advances on the most promising research topics. The PFC program therefore complements but does not substitute for NSF support for individual investigators, small groups, national user facilities, and instrumentation.
Physics Frontiers Centers will address the most exciting questions at the very edge of current understanding. Such activities frequently take new research directions and always involve considerable technical risk. Organization of such activities will vary widely, depending on the particular needs of the research. It follows that maximum flexibility in the design of PFCs is essential. The PFC program will therefore be defined by rather general boundaries, leaving the specific organization to the creativity of the principal investigators. The PFCs will be judged by the two standard NSF criteria of intellectual merit and broader impact, plus the synergy and value added that justifies center-level support.
PFCs are expected to provide an exceptionally stimulating environment for education. Students will benefit from interactions with a large, often interdisciplinary, group of scientists at all career levels. PFCs should strongly attract the most talented and motivated graduate and undergraduate students and postdocs and provide them with broad educational experiences. They should also reach out to involve younger students and the public in ways that increase science interest and literacy.
The purpose of the PFC program is to support timely,
aggressive, and forward-looking research that has the potential to lead to
a major advance in physics and, thereby, to advances in other fields and
to benefits for society. Proposals will be considered in areas within the
purview of the Division of Physics, broadly interpreted, e.g., atomic, molecular,
optical, plasma, elementary particle, nuclear, astro-, gravitational, interdisciplinary,
and emerging areas of physics. Interdisciplinary physics is taken here to
mean research at the interface between physics and other disciplines, e.g.,
biophysics, quantum information science, mathematical physics. Research
in condensed-matter physics and materials science is supported primarily
by the Division of Materials Research. Proposals using experimental, theoretical,
or computational methods, or any combination will be considered. PFCs will
address problem(s) at the frontiers of physics and may involve more than
one subdiscipline of physics as well as other disciplines of science and
PFCs are supported to enable research at the frontiers of physics of a scope and complexity that would not be feasible with standard individual investigator or small group support. The primary purpose of the PFCs is to provide the means necessary for university researchers to form centers or large group efforts that lead to major new ideas, discoveries, or broad advances in physics or at the boundaries of physics with other disciplines. Proposals for PFCs may address any area normally within the purview of the Division of Physics, including interdisciplinary and emerging areas of research.
Since PFCs represent research at the intellectual frontiers, new types of centers may be needed to address the most promising problems. Therefore, preconceived specifications are kept to a minimum. In all cases, however, a center must demonstrate that the whole is substantially greater than the sum of the parts; and there must be a management and governance plan to indicate how the PFC will operate. Such a plan must contain information on how decisions are made, the existence and makeup of any advisory board to be used, principal investigators responsible for different parts of the PFC's activities, including education, diversity, outreach activities, etc.
The main characteristics of a PFC are tailored by the principal investigators to most effectively address the chosen physics goals. Therefore, every PFC will be different, and the concept of "center" in this context is meant to be broad. Nevertheless, it is useful to point out some characteristics of successful centers in physics and other fields. In no particular order, these are: (1) combining talent, skills, or facilities required for a major advance in physics; (2) combining groups, departments, institutions, etc. required to make a major advance; (3) providing critical mass or specialized infrastructure needed for an advance by the center, and often the broader field; (4) providing the context and/or organization to bring together leaders and students to initiate work in a promising new area, a new interdisciplinary field, an important application, or a new facility of strategic importance to physics; (5) making available specialized infrastructure to others; and (6) creation of innovative projects to promote education, diversity, and public outreach using the center as a focal point.
The combination of PFC support with other support will be handled in the following way: If the existing individual support is for work not related to the PFC, it must be listed in the proposal to indicate the context of the proposed work. If an existing grant is related to the objectives of the proposed PFC, that support could be considered to be a base for the incremental PFC support that would then enable the additional benefits of the PFC. (Here, we are referring to typical individual principal investigator grants and not to large group grants that are already on the PFC scale.) If no related support exists, or if the PIs so choose, the PFC budget can include all support for the activity. Examples of both approaches exist, and the PIs are encouraged to discuss such matters with the cognizant Program Director prior to submitting the pre-proposal.
Estimated program budget, number of awards and average award size/duration are subject to the availability of funds.
Individual PFC awards are expected to range in size between $0.5 million/year and $4 million/year, with an average award size of approximately $2M/year. Awards will be made for five years. The number of awards in FY 2002 is expected to be in the range 3-5, depending upon the availability of funds and the quality of proposals received. In future years, renewal proposals from previously funded PFCs will be evaluated in open competition with new proposals.
Anticipated date of awards: On or about August
A. Proposal Preparation Instructions
Preliminary Proposals: Proposals submitted in response to this program announcement should be prepared and submitted in accordance with the general guidelines contained in the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) (NSF 01-2). The complete text of the GPG (including electronic forms) is available electronically on the NSF Web Site at: http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2001/nsf012/start.htm. Paper copies of the GPG may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (301) 947-2722 or by e-mail from email@example.com.
The pre-proposal must be submitted via NSF FastLane. The pre-proposal must be single-spaced in 12-point type, and consist of:
(1) the NSF coversheet (NSF Form 1207) showing the name of the proposed PFC director (principal investigator or PI) and the pre-proposal title. The block indicating that a pre-proposal is being submitted should be checked. Identify the program solicitation number in the program announcement/solicitation block. It is not necessary to send in page two of NSF Form 1207 for pre-proposals.
(2) a summary of the project, including scientific thrusts, educational activities, and other information necessary to provid a concise overview of the PFC activities; enter in the "Project Summary" FastLane form.
(3) a narrative (described at the end of this section); enter in the "Project Description" FastLane form.
(4) a list of participating senior investigators (faculty level and equivalent) by name, institutional affiliation, and departmental affiliation (additional biographical information is not required in the pre-proposal); include this at the end of the narrative along with a title that clearly identifies the section and enter in the "Project Description" FastLane form.
(5) a one-page synopsis of institutional and other commitments to the proposed PFC; include this at the end of the narrative along with a title that clearly identifies the section and enter in the "Project Description" FastLane form.
(6) budget pages (see Budgetary Information, section V.B.), and a one-page budget justification; enter in the "Budgets" FastLane form.
(7) a summary table of requested NSF support (see
Budgetary Information, section V.B.); include this at the end of the narrative
along with a title that clearly identifies the section and enter in the "Project
Description" FastLane form.
Concurrently with submission of the pre-proposal, please submit by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org the following: (1) the title of the pre-proposal, the submitting institution(s), and the name of the PI(s); (2) a list of individuals (and their affiliations) outside the participating institutions whose participation in the review of the pre-proposal might constitute a conflict-of-interest through, e.g., association with the participants or their institutions; and (3) a list of individuals who might be suitable to serve as impartial reviewers.
In the narrative (item 3 above), provide the following:
· a brief overview of the PFC as a whole,
including a concise rationale for establishing the PFC, and an outline of
the existing and planned capabilities of the participating institutions in
physics research and education (Limit: 1 page);
· a description of pertinent achievements under prior NSF support, where applicable (Limit: 2 pages);
· a description of each major research component (MRC), including names of faculty-level participants and numbers of undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral associates in each group (Limit: 2 pages for each major research component);
· a description of proposed activities in education and human resource development, including the promotion of diversity and outreach; proposed collaborations with industry and/or other sectors; shared experimental facilities; international collaboration (Limit: 2 pages);
· and an outline of the proposed arrangements for administration and management of the PFC (Limit: 2 pages);
Limit the narrative section as a whole to no more than thirteen pages total, including tables, and illustrations, regardless of the number of major research activities.
Note that it is not necessary to complete the
rest of the FastLane forms for pre-proposals. If one performs a FastLane
"check," the system will report that not all of the forms have been completed;
but the system will nevertheless permit submission of the pre-proposal.
· Biographical Information.
Include a biographical sketch for each senior participant, listing up to ten publications most pertinent to this proposal. Limit, 1 page for each senior investigator. Enter in the "Biographical Sketch" FastLane form.
· Current and Pending Support.
List current and pending support for each senior investigator. Enter in the "Current and Pending Support" FastLane form.
· Reviewer Information.
Enter the following information
into the FastLane "List of Suggested Reviewers" form: (1) a list of individuals
(and their affiliations) outside the participating institutions whose participation
in the review of the full proposal might constitute a conflict-of-interest
through association with the participants, and (2) a list of individuals
who are suitable to serve as impartial reviewers. Concurrently with the
above submission, send an e-mail to email@example.com with the above information;
include the title of the full proposal, the submitting institution(s), and
the name(s) of the PI(s).
Proposers are reminded to identify the program solicitation number (NSF 01-112) in the program announcement/solicitation block on the proposal Cover Sheet (NSF Form 1207). Compliance with this requirement is critical to determining the relevant proposal processing guidelines. Failure to submit this information may delay processing.
B. Budgetary InformationCost sharing at a level of 15% percent of the requested total amount of NSF funds is required for all proposals submitted in response to this solicitation. The proposed cost sharing must be shown on Line M on the proposal budget. Documentation of the availability of cost sharing must be included in the proposal. Only items which would be allowable under the applicable cost principles, if charged to the project, may be included in the awardee’s contribution to cost sharing. Contributions may be made from any non-Federal source, including non-Federal grants or contracts, and may be cash or in kind (see OMB Circular A-110, Section 23). It should be noted that contributions counted as cost sharing toward projects of another Federal agency may not be counted towards meeting the specific cost sharing requirements of the NSF award. All cost sharing amounts are subject to audit. Failure to provide the level of cost sharing reflected in the approved award budget may result in termination of the NSF award, disallowance of award costs and/or refund of award funds to NSF.
Indirect Cost (F&A) Limitations: In accordance with Federal Negotiated Rate
Other Budgetary Limitations: Five-year awards are expected to range in size between $0.5 million/year and $4 million/year, with an average award size of approximately $2M/year. The budget for the full proposal may not be larger than the pre-proposal budget.
Complete budget pages for each year of support (1-5) and a five-year summary budget justification. A five-year budget summary will be automatically generated by FastLane. Provide separate budget pages for the PFC as a whole and for each participating institution.
Also, in tabular form as follows, summarize the overall support levels planned for each of the major activities of the PFC as a whole. (Note: The Table below should be entered in the "Project Description" FastLane form.)
|Summary Table of Requested NSF Support|
|Activity||Year One||Five Year Total|
|Major Research Component (MRC) 1 (Title)|
|MRC 2 (title) (repeat for each MRC)|
|Seed Funding and Emerging Areas|
|Education and Human Resources|
For each entry in the Table, include indirect costs. Column totals must equal the total budget requested from NSF for the period shown. Include major capital equipment under shared facilities. Support for graduate students should normally be included under research, not under education and human resources.
C. Deadline/Target Dates
Proposals must be submitted by the following date(s):
Pre-proposals MUST be submitted electronically by 5:00 PM, local time, August 20, 2001. Principal Investigators will be notified of the results of pre-proposal review on or about October 30, 2001.
D. FastLane Requirements
Proposers are required to prepare and submit all proposals for this Program Solicitation through the FastLane system. Detailed instructions for proposal preparation and submission via FastLane are available at: http://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/a1/newstan.htm . For FastLane user support, call 1-800-673-6188 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submission of Signed Cover Sheets. The Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) must electronically sign the proposal Cover Sheet to submit the required proposal certifications (see Chapter II, Section C of the Grant Proposal Guide for a listing of the certifications). The AOR must provide the required certifications within five working days following the electronic submission of the proposal. Further instructions regarding this process are available on the FastLane website at: http://www.fastlane.nsf.gov.
A. NSF Proposal Review Process
Reviews of proposals submitted to NSF are solicited from peers with expertise in the substantive area of the proposed research or education project. These reviewers are selected by Program Officers charged with the oversight of the review process. NSF invites the proposer to suggest at the time of submission, the names of appropriate or inappropriate reviewers. Care is taken to ensure that reviewers have no conflicts with the proposer. Special efforts are made to recruit reviewers from non-academic institutions, minority-serving institutions, or adjacent disciplines to that principally addressed in the proposal.
Proposals will be reviewed against the following general review criteria established by the National Science Board. Following each criterion are potential considerations that the reviewer may employ in the evaluation. These are suggestions and not all will apply to any given proposal. Each reviewer will be asked to address only those that are relevant to the proposal and for which he/she is qualified to make judgements.
Principal Investigators should address the following elements in their proposal to provide reviewers with the information necessary to respond fully to both of the above-described NSF merit review criteria. NSF staff will give these elements careful consideration in making funding decisions.
The PFC proposal must exhibit synergy or value-adding features that justify center-type support, rather than an equivalent level of support for individual investigators or small groups. Proposals must address these points for each major research component of the PFC, and the roles and responsibilities of each senior investigator must be described. Reviewers will be asked to assess each major activity and each investigator in their review.
Separate Major Research Component and PI Evaluation:
• Intrinsic Merit of each MRC: Reviewers will be asked to evaluate the overall quality of the proposed MRCs, and likelihood that the research will lead to significant fundamental advances, new discoveries, and/or technological developments.
• Competence of each senior investigator: Reviewers will be asked to evaluate the merit of each senior investigator and their importance to the PFc goals.
The Center as a Whole:
· Synergy and interconnections within the PFC's major activities: Benefits of a multi-investigator, center-level approach; the synergy among the investigators; and the potential for cross fertilization among major research activities.
· Institutional setting and rationale for the PFC: Relationship to existing and planned institutional programs and capabilities in physics research and education; intellectual breadth of the proposed program; potential for stimulating creative interaction and collaboration. Potential for institutional, national, and international impact.
· Achievements under prior NSF support, where applicable.
· Plans and potential to develop and maintain active collaboration with industry and/or other sectors, where applicable; to stimulate and facilitate knowledge transfer among the institutional participants and between the PFC and other institutions; and to strengthen the links between university-based physics research and its broader impacts. Outreach to other institutions, including international collaboration and cooperation.
· Plans to establish, operate, and maintain shared facilities and to provide appropriate access to users from the home institution and from other institutions.
· Potential effect on the infrastructure of science and engineering, particularly in fostering a broadly interactive approach to cutting-edge research and education, developing effective educational outreach programs, fostering a climate of interaction and effective knowledge transfer between the university and its partners, effective use of seed funding, and fostering increased participation in research and education on the part of women and members of underrepresented groups.
· Management plan, and budget. Likely effectiveness of the proposed management plan, including mechanisms for selection of topics and internal allocation of resources, plans for self-evaluation, and plans and potential for maintaining a flexible and innovative program. Appropriateness of the requested budget.
A summary rating and accompanying narrative will be completed and signed by each reviewer. In all cases, reviews are treated as confidential documents. Verbatim copies of reviews, excluding the names of the reviewers, are mailed to the Principal Investigator(s) by the Program Director.
A summary rating and accompanying narrative will be completed and signed by each reviewer. In all cases, reviews are treated as confidential documents. Verbatim copies of reviews, excluding the names of the reviewers, are sent to the Principal Investigator/Project Director by the Program Director. In addition, the proposer will receive an explanation of the decision to award or decline funding.
B. Review Protocol and Associated Customer Service Standard
NSF is striving to be able to tell applicants whether their proposals
have been declined or recommended for funding within six months for 70 percent
of proposals. The time interval begins on the date of receipt.
The interval ends when the Division Director accepts the Program Officer's
OMB control number: 3145-0058.