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May 10 -- The National Science Foundation invites comments to OMB by June 10, 2024 regarding proposed Grantee Reporting Requirements for the Engineering Research Centers for 2024-2027.

The Engineering Research Centers (ERC) program supports an integrated, interdisciplinary research environment to advance fundamental engineering knowledge and engineered systems; educate a globally competitive and diverse engineering workforce from K-12 on; and join academe and industry in partnership to achieve these goals. ERCs conduct world-class research through partnerships of academic institutions, national laboratories, industrial organizations, and/or other public/private entities. New knowledge thus created is meaningfully linked to society.

ERCs conduct world-class research with an engineered systems perspective that integrates materials, devices, processes, components, control algorithms and/or other enabling elements to perform a well-defined function. These systems provide a unique academic research and education experience that involves integrative complexity and technological realization. The complexity of the systems perspective includes the factors associated with its use in industry, society/environment, or the human body.

ERCs enable and foster excellent education, integrate research and education, speed knowledge/technology transfer through partnerships between academe and industry, and prepare a more competitive future workforce. ERCs capitalize on diversity through participation in center activities and demonstrate leadership in the involvement of groups underrepresented in science and engineering.

Centers are required to submit annual reports on progress and plans, which will be used as a basis for performance review and determining the level of continued funding. To support this review and the management of a Center, ERCs also are required to submit management and performance indicators annually to NSF via a data collection website that is managed by a technical assistance contractor. These indicators are both quantitative and descriptive and may include, for example, the characteristics of center personnel and students; sources of cash and in-kind support; expenditures by operational component; characteristics of industrial and/or other sector participation; research activities; education activities; knowledge transfer activities; patents, licenses; publications; degrees granted to students involved in Center activities; descriptions of significant advances and other outcomes of the ERC effort. Such reporting requirements will be included in the cooperative agreement which is binding between the academic institution and the NSF.

Each Center's annual report will address the following categories of activities: (1) vision and impact, (2) strategic plan, (3) research program, (4) innovation ecosystem and industrial collaboration, (5) education, (6) infrastructure (leadership, management, facilities, diversity) and (7) budget issues.

For each of the categories the report will describe overall objectives for the year, progress toward center goals, problems the Center has encountered in making progress towards goals and how they were overcome, plans for the future and anticipated research and other barriers to overcome in the following year, and specific outputs and outcomes.

The data collected will be used for NSF internal reports, historical data, performance review by peer site visit teams, program level studies and evaluations, and for securing future funding for continued ERC program maintenance and growth.

Since the program's start in 1985, NSF has funded 75 ERCs throughout the United States. NSF supports each center for up to 10 years. This investment has led to:

-- more than 240 spinoff companies,
-- more than 900 patents,
-- more than 14,400 total bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees to ERC students, and
-- numerous research outcomes enabling new technologies

Over the years, the ERC program has adapted to meet the nation's future workforce and technological needs. In late fiscal year (FY) 2020, NSF launched the 4th generation of centers, known as Gen-4 ERCs. In FY 2022, NSF announced four additional ERCs.

The annual reports and renewal proposals contain qualitative and quantitative information that contributes to NSF’s efforts to answer broad evaluative research questions: 1) What is the overall value-added of the NSF ERC program? 2) What is the quality and impact of the research conducted in the Centers? 3) What is the quality and impact of education supported by the Centers? 4) What is the quality and impact of the knowledge transfer of the Centers? 5) Do the Centers effectively encourage the participation of US citizens and permanent residents, underrepresented minorities, women, and persons with disabilities in their activities? 6) Do the Centers create and sustain organizational connections and linkages within and among academia, government, and industry?

Additionally, to enable effective oversight of its investment, NSF requires that each currently funded center provide data annually to NSF and its contractor (ICF International). ICF International maintains a web-based database, currently known as ERCWeb. The database is used for the production of various reporting tables and charts that are used by the Centers in the preparation of their Annual Reports, Renewal Proposals, and by the Leader of the ERC Program for other NSF reporting requirements.  Our contractor prepares summary tables representing aggregate information contained in the detail of the source tables that provide for easy program monitoring. Ad hoc reports on special topics also are prepared by the contractor to assist the Program in documenting and monitoring specific areas of interest.  

Centers are responsible for submitting quantitative indicators for their most recently completed award year of activity, updated annually. These data are used for NSF internal reports, historical data, analytical studies, assessing program impact and recommending changes to strengthen the program, as well as for strengthening the program and to ensure the program remains responsive to a changing environment in order to secure future funding for continued ERC program maintenance and growth. The data entered by a Center are also available for that Center’s access and use in preparing their Annual Reports.  The indicators are both quantitative and descriptive.

Quantifiable Indicators include: . . .

ERC Program: https://www.nsf.gov/eng/eec/erc.jsp
NSF submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202405-3145-001 Click on IC List for survey instruments, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this site.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2024-10268
For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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