Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

NSF DEPLOYMENT POOL (DP)

OBSERVING FACILITIES ASSESSMENT PANEL (OFAP)

FACILITY REQUEST PROCESS & LAOF ACCESS

NCAR-led Field Campaigns

Scientific Program Overviews

Out of Cycle Requests

Educational Deployments

 


NSF DEPLOYMENT POOL QUESTIONS

What is the NSF Deployment Pool, and what expenses can be charged to it?
The NSF Deployment Pool supports expenses directly associated with the deployment of the NSF Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities (LAOF) for NSF-supported research. Allowable expenses include extraordinary salaries (e.g., overtime) and benefits, aircraft/field system operations, travel, materials, and supplies, and purchased services including equipment rental. Non-allowable expenses include regular salaries and benefits, operation and maintenance, research and development costs, purchase of new instrumentation in excess of $5,000, PI expenses, non-NSF supported instruments and observing systems.

How much money is in the NSF Deployment Pool? Do leftover funds carry over into the next year?
The amount changes from year to year, but currently, there is about $5 Million available per fiscal year. If for some reason, not all of the money is allocated or a project costs less than originally estimated, the money goes back into the pool and will be applied to the following fiscal year.

What NSF LAOF are eligible for support from the NSF Deployment Pool?
The following facilities are currently funded by the deployment pool:

  • Aircraft: NSF/NCAR EC-130Q Hercules, NSF/NCAR G-V (HIAPER), and University of Wyoming King Air
  • Airborne Radars: Wyoming Cloud Radar (WCR), HIAPER Cloud Radar (HCR)
  • Airborne Instrumentation: HAIS instruments, Airborne Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System (AVAPS), all HAIS instruments
  • Airborne and Ground-based Lidars: Wyoming Cloud Lidar (WCL), High Spectral Resolution Lidar (HSRL)
  • Ground-based Radars: NCAR S-Band Dual Polarization Doppler Radar (SPOL), CSWR Doppler on Wheels Radars (DOW)
  • Surface and Sounding Systems: NCAR Integrated Sounding System (ISS), NCAR Integrated Surface Flux System (ISFS), CSWR Tornado Pods, CSWR Mobile Mesonets

How does a scientific platform get added to the suite of Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities that are eligible for NSF Deployment Pool funding?
The decision is made by NSF on an as needed basis and depends on the current mix of existing facilities. 

Does the NSF Deployment Pool fund expenses associated with facilities that are operated by groups other than the LAOF Partner Organizations?
Not at the present time. For example, if a Learjet is hired by a private company to support dropsonde operations, the deployment pool will fund the expendables and the staff needed to drop the sondes. However, the NSF Program Officer will provide special funds to pay for the actual aircraft operations.

Does the NSF Deployment Pool fund campaigns led by NCAR investigators?
Yes. Since NCAR is funded through the NSF/UCAR Cooperative Agreement, requests by NCAR-led investigators are considered NSF-funded.

 

OBSERVING FACILITIES ASSESSMENT PANEL (OFAP) QUESTIONS

What is OFAP?
OFAP stands for Observing Facilities Assessment Panel. The OFAP is an independent advisory panel to the LAOF Partner Organizations, composed of a pool of scientists with broad-based experience in observational studies of the atmospheric and related sciences. The role of the OFAP is to conduct reviews of field project plans and designs early in the project cycle and to provide objective input and recommendations on issues associated with operational and technical challenges linked to facility support requirements. 

Does the OFAP make the final decision whether or not to fund a project?
No. The NSF Program Officer makes the final decision on whether to fund a proposed field campaign or not. The role of the OFAP is to provide a written assessment to the management of the LAOF Partner Organizations regarding deployment of a requested facility, and which will be shared with the NSF Program Officers and the PIs. While this input will be part of the overall consideration, it is NOT the determining factor whether a project will be approved for funding.

Do I get to see the OFAP assessment of my project request?
Yes. The LAOF Request Coordinator will send you the OFAP recommendations together with the facility-prepared feasibilities or EDO assessments within days of the OFAP meeting. You will be invited to respond to the documents within three weeks in writing to address any comments and concerns. Your response will be part of the final summary documentation that EOL sends to NSF after the assessment process and before NSF makes a final funding decision.

How can I become a member of the OFAP?
OFAP members are appointed by the EOL Director based on recommendations by NSF Program Officers, current or retired OFAP members, facility managers, and facility staff. If you are interested in serving on the OFAP, please contact your NSF Program Officer or the EOL Director.

 

FACILITY REQUEST PROCESS QUESTIONS

Who are the LAOF Partner Organizations?
The LAOF Partner Organizations are a consortium of three institutions that manage and operate the Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities on behalf of NSF. The Partner Organizations include the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the University of Wyoming (UWYO), and the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR). All three NSF LAOF partner organizations provide support directly to the science community on facility needs and capabilities, as well as process their requests for use in coordination with NSF.

What is the difference between a large and a small campaign?
The process for considering requests and setting priorities is determined based on the complexity of a field campaign, which would fall into one of two distinct categories. Large projects require significant resources. They are often referred to as “complex“ or “costly” and display one or more of the following attributes: remote or international deployments, significant international and/or interagency collaboration, a large investigator team, involvement of multiple facilities, especially aircraft that require operations coordination, difficult deployment logistics, and lengthy field activities. Small projects are of more modest scope as they generally domestic, involve a smaller number of facilities and participants, do not require long-term planning, and cost less than $1.25 Million in deployment pool funds, though this is not a hard threshold.

Do I have to send a Letter of Interest for a small field campaign?
Yes, Letters of Interest have to be submitted to the NSF LAOF Program Director and the LAOF Request Coordinator no later than 3 months ahead of the request submission deadline.

I receive my funding from another government agency (such as NASA or NOAA.) Do I still have access to NSF facilities such as the NSF/NCAR GV?
Yes. PIs from other funding agencies do have access to NSF facilities on a non-interference basis. Similar to NSF and NCAR-funded investigators, PIs have to go through the standard request process. Programs funded entirely by government agencies other than NSF (i.e., NASA, NOAA, DOD) or non-governmental organizations will be charged on a full cost-recovery basis. Costs include all operational expenses, maintenance, and UCAR/NCAR overhead. Maintenance and overhead are charged through the application of overhead and facility use rates approved on an annual basis by NSF. Currently approved rates are available from EOL.

What happens in the time frame between the submission of my facility request and the OFAP meeting?
During the time between the submission of the request and the OFAP meeting, personnel from the various LAOF Partner Organizations prepare various documents such as feasibilities, EDO assessments, risk analyses and cost estimates, which will be reviewed at the OFAP. During the same time frame, NSF is responsible for conducting the scientific proposal review.

What is the Global Feasibility?
The Global Feasibility is prepared by the LAOF Request Coordinator ahead of each OFAP meeting. The document takes into consideration staffing and facility resources, and lays out all possible project combinations that can be accommodated.

 

NCAR-led Field Campaigns Questions

I am an NCAR investigator and would like access to one of the LAOF.  Why do I have to write a science proposal even if my research is funded by NCAR?
To ensure equal treatment of all requests, it is important that the scientific justification for all facility requests undergo comparable science reviews. Scientific proposals from university scientists that require LAOF are reviewed using standard NSF procedures. NCAR‑led scientific efforts that require LAOF have to be reviewed by a similar peer-review process, mirroring NSF procedures and therefore need a scientific proposal. The proposal has to be submitted to the EOL Director, who will be in charge of the review process. 

I am an NCAR investigator and submitted a scientific proposal to the EOL Director. Who will make the final decision on whether or not I have access to the requested LAOF?
The decision resides with NSF since observational resources are limited and all requests that require LAOF have to be considered as a whole. The decision is of course influenced by the outcome of the NCAR-led peer review and programmatic decisions made by NCAR management. Only if NCAR has determined that it is meritorious and programmatically supportable and wishes to support a proposed campaign will the EOL Director ask NSF to consider support of the program.

 

 

Scientific Program Overview Questions

How is the review of an SPO handled?
SPOs are always handled by NSF, regardless of where institutions the Lead PIs are from. The main reason is that there is often direct competition for resources among large projects. Without an equivalent review process, it would be too hard to make fair comparison and judgments about which campaign(s) to support. 

I am an NCAR investigator and will want to submit an SPO for a complex campaign to NSF.  Am I allowed to submit an SPO and also attach a small budget to the SPO to request a modest amount of funding for project planning activities?
Yes, NCAR investigators who submit an SPO are allowed to include a small budget for workshops, site visits, and other planning activities. This is a blanket policy, and there is no requirement to obtain permission from the relevant NSF Program Officer ahead of time.

My SPO got approved, does this automatically mean that my project will go forward?
No. The approval of the SPO is just the first step in the process. The PI team still has to submit individual science proposals to NSF via Fastlane following the requirements specified in the NSF Grant Proposal Guide. The review of each project proposal is handled through the NSF merit review process. Only if the scientific proposals review well and the facility requests are declared feasible, will a large campaign get funded.

What's the percentage of SPOs/EDOs that get declined?
As of Spring 2018, 63% of SPOs got declined. 

 

Out of Cycle Request Questions

I just realized that I missed the deadline for submitting my request by several months. Can I send it out-of-cycle?
Out of cycle requests are strongly discouraged but are possible. However, they will only be accepted with prior approval by the responsible NSF Program Officer and the LAOF Program Director. As the situation allows, these will then be accommodated on a non‑interference basis with fully approved projects. Out of cycle requests also will have low priority for deployment pool funds and most often have to be paid for by NSF program funds.

What defines an Out-of-Cycle Request?
Any request for a field program not meeting the described schedules and deadlines will be considered “out of cycle”.

 

Educational Deployments Questions

What information needs to be included in the Final Report for Educational Deployments and whom should I send it to?
The final report for educational deployments should include a recap of the educational objectives conducted; a description of the deployment and class procedures, including student assignments; an assessment of the success of the activity both from the instructor’s and participating students’ points of view; a narrative of outreach activities; and a section on lessons learned. The report should also include a detailed breakdown of the number of individuals reached during the entire deployment. The report is due no later than eight weeks after the end of the deployment and should be sent to the Facility Manager and the NSF LAOF Program Director (laof@nsf.gov).