Frequently Asked Questions

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The Civic Innovation Challenge (CIVIC) solicitation comprises two stages. In Stage 1, awarded teams will be funded for up to $50,000 over six months to undertake planning and team development activities to refine their vision for a research-centered pilot project. Stage 1 teams will focus on, for example, solidifying and potentially growing their team, maturing their pilot project plans, and preparing a well-developed full proposal for submission to Stage 2. Stage 1 projects will be selected through an open proposal submission, while only Stage 1 awardees will be allowed to submit proposals for Stage 2. In Stage 2, awarded teams will be funded for up to $1,000,000 over a 12-month timeframe to execute and evaluate their research-centered pilot projects.

In Stage 1, yes, teams or individuals (PI or co-PI) may apply to both tracks. In Stage 2, teams or individuals (PI or co-PI) may apply to only one track.

Teams’ proposals will be assessed in NSF-led merit review panels, comprised of civic leaders and researchers, with expertise reflective of the interdisciplinary character of the proposals. Details regarding NSF’s merit review process are described in the solicitation in section VI; additional details are available through the following link: Teams are encouraged to pay close attention to the solicitation specific review criteria provided in section VI of the solicitation. The final selection of awardees will be made by the CIVIC working group–comprised of program officers from NSF and the partnering federal agencies, Department of Energy and Department of Homeland Security.

Projects are expected to begin on October 1st, 2022.

MetroLab Network will foster communities-of-practice through in-person and web-based activities aimed at enhancing the teams’ collaborative networks. These collaborative networks will enable idea sharing to promote greater impact in each team’s community and empower teams to make their projects more scalable and transferable. Required activities are listed in section II.C of the solicitation. In-person activities will be held if public health guidance allows; teams should budget for travel as indicated in section II.C of the solicitation. Teams will be able to make changes to their budget if all events are virtual.

CIVIC aims to achieve concrete impacts in communities that will also be scalable, sustainable, and transferable. At the same time, NSF supports fundamental research, and thus encourages dissemination of research findings from Stage 2 in academic journals, conferences, or through other means.


No, submitting your proposal earlier does not increase your team’s chances of funding. All proposals will be reviewed after the close of the application window.

Yes, there are no restrictions regarding the number of proposals that may be submitted by an organization, including a research institution or civic organization. However, there are restrictions regarding the number of proposals submitted by individuals (PI or co-PI). For Stage 1, individuals may participate as a PI or Co-PI in up to two proposals. For Stage 2, an individual may participate as a PI or Co-PI in only one proposal.

Stage 1 proposals should describe questions that will be answered by the end of Stage 2. Stage 1 proposals should additionally describe what gaps or deficiencies the team needs to address before it can answer those questions and define a plan and set of activities for how Stage 1 will address those gaps.

The Broader Impact criterion encompasses the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.  For additional detail, refer to section VI in the CIVIC solicitation and to the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG)

Projects can be based on existing technology, but there should be a clear “discovery” element to the research. Explain in your proposal what elements of your project are innovative and how those elements will impact your community.

Those are all potential outcomes of Stage 1, but NSF’s priority is to identify proposals that have a clear vision for their project, demonstrated capability to address likely challenges, and cohesion between partners to follow through with the plan in Stage 2.

Every NSF proposal requires a sub-section called “results from prior NSF support” to assist reviewers in assessing the quality of work conducted with prior or current NSF funding. This section can aid proposers in demonstrating the team’s capability to execute their vision.  If your team does not have prior NSF research to demonstrate this capability, teams are encouraged to offer elsewhere in the proposal evidence that they can successfully deploy the proposed project.

NSF allows teams to define the intellectual property they want to preserve. Proposals are strengthened, however, by the availability of research artifacts that could be made available to the research community at-large.

Yes, all components listed in the PAPPG must be included. Note that Stage 1 proposals are submitted via or as Full Proposals, not as Letters of Intent or Preliminary Proposals.

The information below is only relevant to organizations submitting to NSF as the lead.


Teams are encouraged to become acquainted with the NSF proposal submission process through or and should refer to the section titled “Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions” in the solicitation for more guidance.


This proposal submission process for a lead organization that has not proposed to NSF previously can take time and teams are strongly encouraged to initiate it early in the proposal submission window.


Included below is additional information and several links that new lead proposing organizations to NSF may find useful as they prepare to submit their CIVIC proposal.


Lead organizations must be registered with NSF to submit proposals. Before a new lead  organization can register with NSF, it must first be registered in the System for Award Management (SAM), which requires a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) Number. It is recommended that new lead organizations begin this process at least two months prior to the proposal submission deadline. Note that the vast majority of universities are already registered with NSF.


Additional account management information, including an Account Management Guide with step-by-step instructions and screenshots, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and video tutorials, is available on the About Account Management webpage.


Information on preparing your organization to receive federal funds through an NSF award can be found here:

If teams list civic partners as Senior Personnel, they will be required to include the associated documents listed in the PAPPG. Proposers are strongly encouraged to also include, as a Supplementary Document, Biographical Sketches for all other civic partners listed in the Project Personnel and Partner Institutions Supplementary Document. Teams should refer to section V.A of the solicitation for more information.

Team Composition

CIVIC requires that teams include researchers and civic partners, but only certain types of organizations may submit proposals and receive funds directly from NSF. These are:


  • Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) – Two and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the US associated with educational or research activities.


Eligibility is limited to these organizations largely because of delays that would likely be caused by the time required to qualify as a “new awardee” for those who have not received NSF funding in the past five years. This eligibility restriction will allow for timely progression of CIVIC’s ambitious schedule and is not to be interpreted as a signal that civic partners, or other collaborating organizations, are “lesser” members of the team. Stage 1 and Stage 2 proposals should be submitted by a single organization, from which partnering individuals and organizations may receive funding via subawards. For additional information about subawards, access this link:  

Civic partner(s) may include local, state, or tribal government officials; non-profit representatives; community organizers or advocates; community service providers; and/or others working to improve their communities.

The team composition rules stated in the PAPPG still apply. There are no additional restrictions beyond those listed there.

Although only Institutions of Higher Education and non-profit organizations are eligible to receive funds directly from NSF, other civic partners and organizations (including local, state, and tribal governments) may receive funding via subawards from the awardee organization. Although NSF will not dictate how teams allocate their budgets, teams are encouraged to consider how to fairly distribute funds to or on behalf of all team members.


Due to the short timeframe for Stage 1, teams may find that it is more efficient during that stage to have funds flow to the primary grantee only, and to directly cover any costs on behalf of civic partners or other collaborators, which may include costs like travel expenses or video production. Teams who do choose to include civic partners or other collaborators as subawardees during Stage 1 are encouraged to ensure funds will flow in a timely manner to support the teams during the funded period, which may include setting up partner organizations as subawardees within their institutions as soon as possible. For Stage 2, it is strongly encouraged for civic partner(s) and other partners to receive an appropriate distribution of funds as subawards in the project budget. For additional information about subawards, access this link:

Yes, teams may choose to engage with industry partners. If industry partners seek to receive funds, they should work with an organization that is eligible to submit proposals (see question 1), and this organization may provide funds to the industry partner through a subaward


Private sector partners can be valuable team members in a number of different roles, and their presence could help transition an idea from research to implementation by providing expertise, technology, or additional capacity. Whatever their role, it is important for teams with private sector partners to describe the roles of each partner and how they will manage the collaboration.

For this solicitation, academic and civic partners and the associated civic engagement activities and project deployment must be based in the US or its protectorates. The only exception is the following: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.


Although subawards are not permitted for international entities (with the above exception), teams are encouraged to engage international partners and collaborators where these activities will advance the project and research directions. Teams may especially want to leverage their existing international partnerships.

Because the project timeline is shorter than many other NSF solicitations, teams must be prepared to assemble teams and undertake projects quickly. The Stage 1 activities are designed to give teams time to refine their projects and gather additional partners that will help with rapid implementation. Because the Stage 2 timeline is 12 months with awards up to $1 million, teams may find that they have the resources to offer substantial support to civic partners and research teams across disciplines. CIVIC is designed to be more of a sprint than a marathon — and project teams and plans should reflect that.

Before starting to work with civic partners, establish a foundation of clear communication by having a conversation about the potential of not being funded and allow them to decide for themselves if the partnership is still valuable. During the process of developing stage 1 and 2 budgets, keep in mind that civic partners will be responsible for transitioning the idea from research to the community, so projects will need to have a shared vision and therefore some shared funding.

If you have a partnership, provide clear evidence to show why it is a strong and cohesive partnership, which may involve a letter of collaboration, but this is not a requirement.

Yes. In addition to Institutions of Higher Education, the solicitation states: Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.

There are several questions here.  First, in many cases a person from a government agency can receive funds.  At the local and state level, representatives from a government agency can receive funds if it is consistent with their organization policies.  NSF and its partners do not have any issue with that.


There are special cases for federal agencies, FFRDC and National Labs.


Individuals from federal agencies that are not part of the solicitation can receive funds through a subaward. However, they should not be the lead organization submitting the proposal.


FFRDC in general require permission from NSF to propose as the lead organization in the solicitation.  DOE National Labs can participate in the program and receive funds – but only as a Subawardee. 

The solicitation states that proposals can be submitted by any 2- or 4-year academic institution, nonprofit, or research center; the PI must be an employee of one of these institutions. The entity in question would not be able to submit the proposal nor would its researchers be able to serve as PI. It would have to partner with one of the eligible research partners, and it is recommended that it partner with one that has already been qualified by NSF to receive funds. Teams should consider that the competition (and Stage 1 in particular) will move at a very fast pace and getting qualified by NSF may take several months.

No, civic partners are not required to be paid. However, NSF is looking for strong relationships between research and civic partners, and civic partners should hold an important role on the core team. Teams must demonstrate the strength of their relationship irrespective of whether the civic partner is receiving funds or not.