- Topic/focus of research coordination. For all tracks, research coordination network (RCN) proposals should identify a clear theme as the focus of its activities. RCN proposals should spell out the theoretical and/or methodological foundations of the network's proposed activities, and should specify what activities will be undertaken, what new groups of investigators will be brought together, what products will be generated by network activities, and how information about the network and opportunities to participate will be disseminated. The proposal should also outline the expected benefits of the network's activities in moving a field forward and the implications for the broader community of researchers, educators and engineers.
- Principal investigator (PI). Although research coordination networks are expected to involve investigators from multiple sites, a single organization must serve as the submitting organization for each proposal. Of the two types of collaborative proposal formats described in the Grant Proposal Guide, this solicitation allows only a single proposal submission with subawards administered by that lead organization. The PI is the designated contact person for the project and is expected to provide leadership in fully coordinating and integrating the activities of the network. Strong, central leadership and clear lines of responsibility are essential for successful networking.
- Steering committee. Members of the steering committee will be network participants that assume key roles in the leadership and/or management of the project. The steering committee should be representative of the communities of participants that will be brought together through the RCN. It must include all Co-PIs, if any are listed on the cover page of the proposal, and any other senior personnel, including any foreign collaborators involved as leaders or otherwise considered senior personnel. Therefore, the steering committee constitutes all the senior personnel for the RCN proposal. The name and home organization of each steering committee member should be listed in the project summary. As these individuals are all senior personnel, their Biographical Sketches and Current and Pending Support statements must be included in the appropriate sections of the proposal.
- Network participants. The size of a network is expected to vary depending on the theme and the needs of the proposed activity. The network may be regional, national, or international. It is expected that a proposed network will involve investigators at diverse organizations. The inclusion of new researchers, post-docs, graduate students, and undergraduates is encouraged. Specific efforts to increase participation of underrepresented groups (women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities) must be included. In the proposal, an initial network of likely participants should be identified. However, there should be clearly developed mechanisms to maintain openness, ensure access, and actively promote participation by interested parties outside of the initial participants in the proposed network.
- Coordination/management mechanism. The proposal should include a clearly defined management plan. The plan should include a description of the specific roles and responsibilities of the PI and the steering committee. Mechanisms for allocating funds, such as support for the work of a steering committee, should be clearly articulated. The plan should include provisions for flexibility to allow the structure of the participant group to change over time as membership and the network's foci evolve. Mechanisms for assessing progress and the effectiveness of the networking activities should be part of the management plan.
- Information and material sharing. The goals of this program are to promote effective communication and to enhance opportunities for collaboration. Proposers are expected to develop and present a clearly delineated understanding of individual member's rights to ideas, information, data and materials produced as a result of the award that is consistent with the goals of the program. Infrastructure plans to support the communication and collaboration should be described. When the proposed activity involves generation of community resources such as databases or unique materials, a plan for their timely release and the mechanism of sharing beyond the membership of the RCN must be described in the Data Management Plan, a required Supplementary Document. In addition, a plan for long-term maintenance of such resources must be described without assuming continued support from NSF.
- International participation. NSF encourages international collaboration, and we anticipate that many RCN projects will include participants, including steering committee members, from outside the US. International collaborations should clearly strengthen the proposed project activities. As NSF funding predominantly supports participation by US participants, network participants from institutions outside the US are encouraged to seek support from their respective funding organizations, notably participants from developed countries. NSF funds may not be used to support the expenses of the international scientists and students at their home organization. For RCN projects that involve international partners, NSF funds may be used for the following:
Travel expenses for US scientists and students participating in exchange visits integral to the RCN project
RCN-related expenses for international partners to participate in networking activities while in the US.
RCN-related expenses for US participants to conduct networking activities in the international partner's home laboratory.