Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The NSF Annual Report

The NSF has been getting very strict about having PIs (primary investigators) fill out an annual report listing publications and activities related to their grants. The report is due 90 days before the anniversary of the start of the grant, so if you have a grant that started in the fall you are probably getting notices reminding you that your report is now overdue. 

There are few academic tasks more painful than filling out annual grant reports but best to just grit your teeth and do it or the NSF could cut off your money. Would you rather the alternative, not having to do a report because you don't have a grant?

Annual reports are used more for gathering information than for evaluation so you don't need to worry about the style as much as you might for a grant proposal. 

There is one confusing part of the reporting system on NSF Fastlane: There are separate sections for conferences and publications. Most of our conferences don't show up under conferences so best to just list your other conference papers as proceedings in the publications section, probably under "Books or Other One Time Publications".

Fastlane reporting is a one-size fits all system so it is not well designed for the way computer science handles conferences. But we computer scientists always know how to implement the Kludge.

Update 7/10: NSF Theory Program Director Richard Beigel makes available a Sample Report (Dan Spielman) and Sample Findings (Mihir Bellare).


  1. Get papers => get funding & get funding => get papers

    So, there is pressure to get papers in conferences to get funding to get papers in conferences.

    So, if NSF has given 10 proposals funding related to theory conferences - then there ought to be about 10-15 papers in these conferences for that funding, otherwise both NSF and PIs will look bad.

    It is not clear how much good this cycle will do to longterm research in CS in US.

  2. The proceedings of an annual conference is not a "one-time" publication. Conference proceedings don't fit in either category. They are more like journals than books or other monographs.

  3. Oh, how hard it must be for you to write reports for your NSF grant! You want someone to take the grant off your hands?

  4. I was thinking about the following question just today: how many papers per year is one "expected" to publish for an NSF grant? Considering that a typical NSF grant covers only 1 month of salary, it seems the answer is the number of papers you can write in a month. Surely, on average, this is at most one paper. Yet I always feel like one paper is too little for the annual report...

  5. Sorry to be off topic but does anyone know where all the 09 ECCC papers went ?

  6. Yeah, second the last anon reviewer - what on earth is going on with ECCC?