Notice to NSF Proposal Submitters

For each National Science Foundation (NSF) proposal that proposes to conduct research off-campus or offsite, there must be a plan in place for that proposal that describes how certain behaviors (details below) will be addressed and the plans to ensure a safe and inclusive work environment. 

For NSF-funded projects, CU Boulder requires that this plan be:  

Subaward and Collaborative Proposals 

  • If CU Boulder is a subaward recipient on an NSF-funded project with off-campus/off-site research, CU Boulder does not require CU Boulder’s PI to complete a plan. CU Boulder relies on the lead institution to provide and implement the plan. 

  • For Collaborative Proposals, if a Safe and Inclusive Working Environment Plan is required to be submitted with the proposal, the lead institution will submit one plan for all off-campus/off-site research. If a plan is not required to be submitted with the proposal, each institution is responsible for their own plan with regard to any off-campus or off-site performances their organization is facilitating. 

Background Information 

It is NSF policy (NSF PAPPG, Chapter XI.A.1.g.) to foster safe and harassment-free environments wherever science is conducted. NSF’s policy recognizes that a community effort is essential to eliminate sexual and other forms of harassment in science and to build inclusive scientific climates where people can learn, grow, and thrive. 

Grantees are required, effective with proposals submitted 1/30/23 or later, to certify that we have a plan in place for each project with off-campus or off-site research that addresses: 

  1. Abuse of any person, including but not limited to harassment, stalking, bullying, or hazing of any kind, whether the behavior is carried out verbally, physically, electronically, or in written form; and 

  1. Conduct that is unwelcome, offensive, indecent, obscene, or disorderly. 

As of January 2023, several solicitations from NSF’s BIO and GEO directorates will pilot requiring the submission of a Safe and Inclusive Work Environments Plan that will be considered as part of the Broader Impacts criteria during the review process. A two-page supplementary document must address: 

  1. a brief description of the field setting and unique challenges for the team; 

  1. the steps the proposing organization will take to nurture an inclusive off-campus or off-site working environment, including processes to establish shared team definitions of roles, responsibilities, and culture, e.g., codes of conduct, trainings, mentor/mentee mechanisms and field support that might include regular check-ins, and/or developmental events;  

  1. communication processes within the off-site team and to the organization(s) that minimize singular points within the communication pathway (e.g., there should not be a single person overseeing access to a single satellite phone); and  

  1. the organizational mechanisms that will be used for reporting, responding to, and resolving issues of harassment if they arise.   

OCG will require use of the CU Boulder template for this requirement. The plan will be part of the merit review process under Broader Impacts. Reviewers will evaluate plans on the following:

  • Is there a compelling plan (including procedures, trainings, and communication processes) to establish, nurture, and maintain inclusive off-campus or off-site working environment(s)?
  • Does the proposed plan identify and adequately address the unique challenges for the team and the specific off-campus or off-site setting(s)?
  • Are the organizational mechanisms to be used for reporting, responding to, and resolving issues of harassment, should they occur, clearly outlined?

CU Boulder is committed to preventing and addressing discrimination and harassment based on race, color, national origin, pregnancy, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran (military service) status, political affiliation, or political philosophy. CU Boulder’s Sexual Misconduct and Discrimination and Harassment Policies and University of Colorado’s APS #2027 Code of Conduct, APS #5059 Workplace Bullying apply to all off-campus activities as well as off-campus/off-site research for members of the CU Boulder Community. University of Colorado’s Regent Policy 5: Faculty and CU Boulder’s Student Code of Conduct also apply to some off-campus activities and off-site research. 

All CU Boulder employees who have the authority to hire, promote, discipline, evaluate, grade, formally advise, or direct faculty, staff, or students are considered “responsible employees” and are required to report alleged sexual misconduct (including sexual assault, exploitation and harassment), intimate partner violence (dating and domestic), stalking, protected class discrimination, harassment, or related retaliation to CU Boulder’s Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC).  

  • The reporting obligation applies regardless of whether the member of the CU Boulder community is the person who was subjected to the misconduct or the person accused of the misconduct.  

  • The reporting obligation applies regardless of where or when an incident occurred, including if it occurred off campus and/or before they were a member of the campus community.  

  • The reporting obligation applies regardless of how the information was conveyed to a responsible employee (whether spoken, written, or through a third party).  

The University meets NSF requirements, as well as its own expectations, by using the policies and procedures cited above, and as further amplified to cover special circumstances as dictated by the PI in the project-specific information shown in this document. Principal Investigators are responsible for distributing a copy of the developed plan to each participant in an off-campus or off-site research prior to departure or involvement in the off-campus activity.

Definition of Off-campus or Off-site Research 

For the purposes of this NSF requirement, NSF defines off-campus or off-site research as data/information/samples being collected off-campus or off-site, such as fieldwork and research activities on vessels and aircraft (PAPPG, Chapter 2: D. 2. a. Proposal Contents). CU Boulder further defines off-campus or off-site research for this requirement with the following: 

  • Data/information/samples being collected off-campus or off-site, including at CU Boulder owned locations away from main campus, for more than three consecutive days and/or research activities that include an overnight stay; 

  • Data/information/samples being collected off-campus or off-site by any project team member, including team members from subrecipient organizations performing research outside their primary place of performance; 

  • Meetings and conferences1 that do not include data/information/samples being collected are not considered off-campus or off-site research; 

  • Data/information/samples collected by subrecipients or collaborative organizations at their primary place of performance is not considered off-campus or off-site research and does not need to be included in this project plan.