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National Science Foundation

Note:  Standard NSF Terms and Conditions are a component of the Federal Wide Research Terms and Conditions.  Latest revision is dated October 2020 and identified as ‘Significant Changes’.    

NSF will implement the Research Terms and Conditions for all federal assistance awards (new grants) made after February 25, 2019 subject to 2 CFR Part 215.  The research terms and conditions are not applied to cooperative agreements or NSF fellowship awards made to individuals.      

NSF awards are subject to OMB Uniform Guidance   (UG) 2 CFR 200, implemented December 26, 2014 with latest revision dated October 8, 2020; exceptions are modifications by the sponsor to specific award terms. 

Summary of Standard Terms

Responsible Conduct of Research

  • NSF requires that the PI have a plan in place to provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research (RCR) to undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers who conduct research and are supported by NSF. Training plans are subject to review.   
  • PI must designate a person to oversee compliance with the RCR training plan
  • RCR requirements flow down to all sub-recipients
  • Protect research integrity – report foreign government talent recruitment to DOR Office of Financial Conflict of Interest. (Foreign supplementation in cash or in-kind.)

Period of Performance Extensions

  • May incur pre-award costs up to 90 days before the award date without prior NSF approval.
  • The first no-cost extension can be approved and submitted to NSF by the Office of Contracts and Grants (OCG) Research Administrator (RA).
    • The initial request, not to exceed 12 months, must be submitted no later than ten days before the award end date.
    • For OCG-approved extensions, no amendment will be issued. The revised end date can be viewed via NSF's electronic systems.
    • OCG cannot approve and submit an initial no-cost extension for awards that contains a Zero balance. Such an extension requires program officer and approval by NSF.
  • Subsequent extensions require NSF approval. PI requests must be submitted to the OCG via the NSF electronic system no later than 45 days before expiration.  The PI request must provide:  
    • revised end date (cannot exceed past the next 12 month period)
    • an estimate of award balance with a brief budget justification on spending for the remaining scope of work    
    • the reason an extension is needed
  • The no-cost extension may not be exercised merely for the purpose of using unspent balances.
  • No-cost extension on awards subject to NSF appropriation canceling funds has a limited period of availability for expenditure and may not be eligible for a no-cost extension.

Personnel Changes

  • Change of any key person named in the award requires prior NSF approval
  • Disengagement of the PI for three months requires NSF prior approval
  • A 25% reduction in effort by the PI requires prior NSF approval
  • Salaries and wages charged must be reviewed and verified after the fact for accuracy per the University effort reporting guidelines.

Restrictions on Allowable costs

  • Faculty salary in excess of institutional base salary requires prior NSF approval
  • Salary compensation for senior personnel cannot exceed two months of their regular salary in one year. This limitation includes salary received from all NSF funded grants.
  • Postage, sundry office items, cost of memberships, subscriptions or other professional activities require a project-specific justification uploaded to the finance system for audit purposes
  • Cost of entertainment, amusement diversion, and social activities and any charges directly associated with such costs (meals, lodging, rentals, transportation, and gratuities) are not allowable costs.
  • NSF funds may not be used to pay for coffee breaks for intramural meetings, including laboratories, departments, and centers.
  • The UH established rules must be followed when expending for approved refreshments and or working meals on NSF sponsored workshops or conferences. Contact your OCG/RA should you need those details  
  • A list of generally unallowable cost can be found on the DOR Allowable and Unallowable Costs website

Cost Sharing

Unless cost-sharing is required in the NSF proposal solicitation, the inclusion of voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited.

Re-budgeting Authority

  • The budget awarded for participant support cannot be transferred to other categories of expense unless approved in writing by the Program Officer. I.e., REU participants are trainees and should not be paid as student employees
    • Budget can be moved into existing participant support costs.
    • Rebudgeting between the defined or existing participant support cost categories is permitted.
    • Participant cost category not defined in 2CFR 200.75 is not allowed without prior approval.
  • The addition of participant cost to an award where it was not previously awarded, is generally considered a change in scope requiring prior approval.
  • Re-budgeting between direct cost categories is allowed without prior NSF approval as long as the scope of work is not altered.
  • Carry-forward between the years is permitted without prior NSF approval.


  • Method of Payment is NSF Letter of Credit (LOC) an electronic drawdown system.


  • Unbudgeted special purpose equipment costing over $5,000 may be purchased without prior NSF approval under the following conditions:
    • Capital equipment should be an approved budget line item.
    • A brief justification with a statement confirming the purchase does not change the scope of work must be sent to the OCG RA.
    • The use of the correct account code is necessary to ensure the appropriate charging of IDC.  
    • Fabricated items or separate installation contracts must be linked to primary equipment tag and coded as equipment.
    • For equipment grants, the terms and conditions may be specific to the award and override standard terms and conditions.
  • Unbudgeted special purpose equipment costing less than $5,000 may be purchased without prior NSF approval under the following conditions:
    • Include a clear auditable justification for the purchase along with the allocation method used to change the grant.
  • Grant funds may NOT be used to procure, obtain, extend or renew video surveillance equipment,  telecommunications equipment, services and or systems produced by Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation or  any subsidiary or affiliates of these entities.   This includes but is not limited to video surveillance and telecommunication equipment produced by Hytera Communications Corporation, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company, or Dahua Technology Company or any subsidiary or affiliate entity.  This applies to the People’s Republic of China though it is not limited to the PRC.
  • Title to property generally vests with UH upon expiration of the award.  


  • Use of US Carriers is required per the Fly America Act; exceptions may be made for certain airlines and routes under "Open Skies" agreements. In which case the appropriate waiver must be completed and vetted by the DBA.
  • Foreign and conference travel must be itemized and justified in the approved budget.

Program Income

  • NSF utilizes the additive method to further project objectives. All efforts should be made to avoid having unexpended program income at the end of the grant.


  • Funds may be budget and used for the cost of documenting, preparing, publishing or otherwise making available to others the findings and products of the work to be conducted under the grant
  • Public Access: NSF requires principal investigators who publish peer-reviewed journal articles or juried conference papers to deposit a copy of the item in NSF-PAR.
  • Acknowledgment: NSF requires acknowledgment of its support on any NSF-funded material, including World Wide Web pages, any material based on or developed under this NSF project support. Acknowledgment, including vocal, for news media interviews, radio, and television.  Publication shall be clearly labeled by the award number and other appropriate identifying information.    
  • Copies to Sponsor: PI must provide the NSF Program Officer (PO) access either electronically or by paper form to every publication of material based on or developed under the award.


  • Subaward for the services not initially budgeted in the award proposal requires the prior written of the program manager.
    • Subaward setup and management should be done by following written organizational standards that are in line with the Uniform Guidance.
  • Professional and consultant services are allowable when reasonable in relation to the services rendered.
    • The contractor set up, and management for these services should be done by following written organizational standards that are in line with the Uniform Guidance.


  • Two technical reports are due – A Progress and A Project Outcome report. NSF progress reports must list under participants; all individuals that contributed to the project and received grant funds, including those that received a salary, participant cost payment, tuitions, consulting fees, etc. Also, identify all foreign involvement, including international travel. Refer to the NSF Progress report format for instruction on what information must be in the report and how to prepare. They are due:
    • Annually90 days before the end of the current budget period
    • At the End (Final) - 120 days after expiration
  • Technical Reports submitted to NSF are to provide the following:
    • Full disclosure of any foreign component
    • All individual participating in the project listed on payroll reports and paid tuition instead of salary
    • All award-related travel
  • The Research Accounting office does quarterly and final drawdown that serves as a financial report.

Other Post Award Requirements and Considerations: