NSF Interoperability Solicitation

From Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)

Synopsis of Program:

Science and engineering research and education are increasingly digital and increasingly data-intensive. Digital data are not only the output of research but their analysis provide input to new hypotheses, enabling new scientific insights, driving innovation and informing education. Therein lies one of the major challenges of this scientific generation: how to develop, implement and support the new methods, management structures and technologies to store and manage the diversity, size, and complexity of current and future data sets and data streams.

NSF's vision for a Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science and Engineering (CIF21) considers an integrated, scalable, and sustainable cyberinfrastructure as crucial for innovation in science and engineering (see www.nsf.gov/cif21). Data Infrastructure Building Blocks is an integral part of the CIF21 portfolio and seeks to provide support for the following research activities:

Conceptualization: Conceptualization Awards are planning awards aimed at further developing disciplinary and interdisciplinary communities' understanding of their data storage and management requirements with the goal of developing an initial prototype. Any activity that brings the community together to address common problems, further refine requirements and avoid unnecessary and wasteful duplication of resources and efforts will be eligible for funding. Funded activities could include focused workshops, special sessions at professional meetings, focus groups, etc. Awards will be up to 1 year in duration. The output of a conceptualization award will be design specifications for creating a sustainable data infrastructure that will be discoverable, searchable, accessible, and usable to the entire research and education community.

Implementation: Implementation awards will support development and implementation of technologies addressing a subset of elements of the data preservation and access lifecycle, including acquisition; documentation; security and integrity; storage; access, analysis and dissemination; migration; and deaccession. These data preservation and access technologies will enable science and engineering research, such that the scientific and engineering problems serve as use cases for data technology development. Awards will be up to 5 years in duration.

Interoperability: Interoperability awards will develop frameworks that provide consistency or commonality of design across communities and implementation for data acquisition, management, preservation, sharing, dissemination, etc. This includes data and metadata format and content conventions, standardized constructs or protocols, taxonomies, or ontologies. The development of interoperability frameworks through community-based mechanisms provides a means for ensuring that existing conventions and practices are appropriately recognized and integrated, that implementation is made realistic and feasible, and, most importantly, that the real needs of the community are identified and met. Awards will be up to 3 years in duration.

The Office of CyberInfrastucture (OCI) is partnering with Directorates and Offices across the foundation to support DIBBs, a program to develop data infrastructure usable by multiple scientific disciplines, recognizing these disciplines may vary in their current state of development. The goal of DIBBs is to foster cross-community infrastructure development that solves common problems, while building blocks of data infrastructure that can support and provide data solutions to a broader range of scientific disciplines while reducing duplicative efforts.

In particular, the Geosciences Directorate is interested in using DIBBs to support its EarthCube activities, seeking to develop data infrastructure building blocks needed across and beyond the geosciences community. Context and objectives for EarthCube can be found at EarthCube.ning.com. Math and Physical Sciences will use DIBBs in support of existing efforts to ensure disparate data are widely interoperable; will consider proposals for efforts that are complementary to existing infrastructure; and will consider proposals that offer availability, accessibility, and broad usability to heterogeneous data sets. The Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences encourages SBE scientists to utilize DIBBS to follow-up on activities begun by our other CIF21 initiatives: META-SSS (www.nsf.gov/pubs/2011/nsf11583/nsf11583.htm) and, together with the Directorate for Education and Human Resources, BCC-SBE/EHR (www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=504747&org=OCI). For information on the priorities of other Offices/Directorates please contact the appropriate CIF21 representative, listed on the CIF21 contact page (www.nsf.gov/cif21).

Award Information

  • Anticipated Type of Award: Standard Grant or Cooperative Agreement
  • Estimated Number of Awards: 17 to 19
  • Conceptualization Awards: 8-10 awards pending availability of funds.
  • Implementation Awards: 4 awards pending availability of funds.
  • Interoperability Awards: 5 awards pending availability of funds.
  • Anticipated Funding Amount: $41,500,000 pending availability of funds; the average award size for conceptualization awards is anticipated to be $100,000 for one year; the average award size for implementation awards is anticipated to be approximately $8 million total over 5 years; the award size for interoperability awards is anticipated to be up to $1.5 million total over 3 years.

A. Proposal Preparation Instructions

  • Full Proposals submitted via FastLane: NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide, Part I: Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) Guidelines apply. The complete text of the GPG is available electronically on the NSF website at: http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=gpg.
  • Full Proposals submitted via Grants.gov: NSF Grants.gov Application Guide: A Guide for the Preparation and Submission of NSF Applications via Grants.gov Guidelines apply (Note: The NSF Grants.gov Application Guide is available on the Grants.gov website and on the NSF website at: http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=grantsgovguide)

B. Budgetary Information

  • Cost Sharing Requirements: Inclusion of voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited.
  • Indirect Cost (F&A) Limitations: Not Applicable
  • Other Budgetary Limitations: Not Applicable

C. Due Dates

Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time):

Implementation: August 30, 2012


NSF's Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science and Engineering (CIF21) investment focuses on the interconnected cyberinfrastructure components necessary to realize the research potential of theoretical, experimental, observational and simulation-based research efforts. The CIF21 data cyberinfrastructure component builds on and extends NSF commitments to the preservation of and access to critical high-value datasets generated by federally funded science and engineering research programs. In addition, NSF seeks to foster the requisite communication and planning within and across scientific domains that will allow the community to assess its data requirements and come up with common ways to address those needs that respect the fundamental or intrinsic differences between domains.

For purposes of this solicitation, data are defined as any information that can be stored in digital form and accessed electronically, including, but not limited to, numeric data, text, publications, sensor data streams, video, audio, algorithms, software, models and simulations, images, etc. Digital data are both the output of research and their analysis provides input to new research hypotheses. New methods, management structures and technologies are required to manage the diversity, size, and complexity of current and future data sets and data streams. Also required are data services to support acquisition; documentation; security and integrity; storage; access, analysis and dissemination; migration; and deaccession (that is the process of removing objects from a collection) of data archives and repositories generated by federally funded research programs.


Program Goals

The specific goals of this program are to support the development or expansion of new types of digital data storage, preservation, and access that: (1) enable engagement at the frontiers of science and engineering research and education; (2) work cooperatively and in coordination to overcome conventional barriers due to data type and format, discipline or subject area, and time and place to facilitate sharing of data; (3) combine expertise in cyberinfrastructure; library and archival sciences; computer, computational, and information sciences; and various domain sciences; (4) lead to long-term governance models for economic and technological sustainability over multiple decades.

A DIBBs proposal must describe the vision and rationale for the data service and infrastructure, as building blocks must be service oriented, taking into account accessibility, usability and the value they provide to science and engineering researchers. The data service rationale must also demonstrate a strong and credible connection to the communities it serves and to other essential cyberinfrastructure capabilities required by that community. The proposal must make a compelling case for its likely impact on the target communities, with actual (or potential in the case of conceptualization awards) community support and usage, technology testing and adoption approaches specified.

Interoperability Awards:

Interoperability Awards support community efforts to provide broad interoperability of datasets, enhancing interaction and information sharing to benefit all areas of NSF-funded science, engineering and education. The program supports the formation of Data Interoperability Networks (hereafter, 'Networks') that enable communities to work together in the development of effective strategies and tools for data interoperability.

Each Network is responsible for:

  1. enabling broad community engagement in the development of consensus and agreement on strategies, priorities, and best approaches for achieving broad interoperability; and
  2. providing the technical expertise necessary to turn consensus and agreement into robust interoperability tools and resources for their broad use and implementation.

Proposals for activities not based on significant community engagement and consensus-building activities will be deemed unresponsive to this solicitation and will be returned without review. Networks shall consist of members from the science, engineering and education communities supported by NSF, with the goal of providing interoperability across a wide variety of disciplinary domains, topic areas, and/or data types and sources. Members may include individuals, professional societies and organizations, community database and information resource managers, etc. Network size should scale with the scope of the interoperability goals. While an initial core group of participants may be identified in the proposal, an immediate goal should be to expand participation in the Network and to become an organization that is fully embraced by the relevant communities. Credible mechanisms for achieving this goal, maintaining openness, ensuring access, and actively promoting broad participation should be explicitly described in the proposal.

A single organization must serve as the lead for each proposal, with support for all other organization members provided through subawards. The PI is the designated contact person for the Network and is expected to provide leadership in fully coordinating and integrating the activities of the group.

Common Elements

The DIBBs program recognizes that scientific communities differ in their stages of data infrastructure development, including the requisite community building and establishment of governance structures and mechanisms for financial and operational support, to effectively deploy and manage data cyberinfrastructure. At an early stage there will be a need for moving an established multi-disciplinary community to the next step, where common problems and common approaches to their solution are further refined (Conceptualization track). Proposals to the Implementation and Interoperability tracks should provide clear evidence of having already achieved the goals specified in the Conceptualization track.

DIBBs Implementation and Interoperability proposals should also include a clearly defined management plan. The plan should describe: (1) a clear and concise definition of the data service to be provided; (2) the specific roles and responsibilities of the PI and other members of the team/network; (3) mechanisms for orderly change and adaptation to accommodate changes in technologies and the changing needs of the relevant communities; (4) means for effective communication and engagement with the relevant communities and stakeholders; (5) specific milestones including an expected 'go live' date; (6) selection of an approved open source license (see www.opensource.org) for distributing any software; and (7) mechanisms for assessing overall progress in meeting the needs of the community, including metrics to rigorously assess the effectiveness of the team/network in achieving community engagement.

All DIBBS teams/networks are expected to include participation of underrepresented groups. The inclusion of new researchers, post-docs, graduate students, and undergraduates in relevant activities is also encouraged.

International Participation: Networks should include international participants as a means of achieving global interoperability wherever that enhances the goals of the proposal. Activities of the international partners outside the U.S. must be supported by funds from their own sources and programs.