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Ames Research Center Grants Office Unsolicited Proposals

An unsolicited proposal may result in the award of a contract, grant, cooperative agreement, or other agreement.  If a contract is to be used, then the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and NASA FAR Supplement (NFS) shall apply.  If a grant or cooperative agreement is to be used, then the NASA Grant and Cooperative Agreement Handbook (NPR 5800.1) applies.

Technical Evaluations and Recommendations

Technical Evaluations.  Ames Technical Officers shall evaluate unsolicited proposals in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Subpart 15.6 and NASA FAR Supplement (NFS) Subpart 1815.6, both entitled "Unsolicited Proposals."  The instructions below outline the general procedures.  If there is any conflict between these instructions and the guidance in the FAR or NFS, the regulatory guidance shall prevail. 

Perform and document a technical evaluation of the unsolicited proposal, addressing the following areas:

  • Unique, innovative, and meritorious methods, approaches, or concepts demonstrated by the proposal;
  • Overall scientific, technical, or socioeconomic merits of the proposal;
  • Potential contribution of the effort to the agency's specific mission;
  • The offeror's capabilities, related experience, facilities, techniques, or unique combinations of these that are integral factors for achieving the proposal objectives;
  • The qualifications, capabilities, and experience of the proposed principal investigator, team leader, or key personnel critical to achieving the proposal objectives; and
  • The realism of the proposed cost.

Recommendations.  Make a recommendation regarding acceptance or rejection of the unsolicited proposal:

  • Accept an unsolicited proposal when its substance is favorably evaluated in accordance with the criteria specified above.  A favorable evaluation of an unsolicited proposal does not, in itself, justify awarding a contract without providing for full and open competition.
  • Reject an unsolicited proposal when its substance
    • Is available to the Government without restriction from another source;
    • Closely resembles a pending competitive acquisition requirement;
    • Does not relate to the activity's mission; or
    • Does not demonstrate an innovative and unique method, approach, or concept, or is otherwise not deemed a meritorious proposal.
    • NASA will not accept for formal evaluation unsolicited proposals initially submitted to another agency or to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) without the offeror's express consent.

Other Considerations

  • An unsolicited proposal for a new effort or a renewal, identified by an evaluating office as being within the scope of an open NRA, shall be evaluated as a response to that NRA (see NFS 1835.016-71 ), provided that the evaluating office can either:
    • State that the proposal is not at a competitive disadvantage, or
    • Give the offeror an opportunity to amend the unsolicited proposal to ensure compliance with the applicable NRA proposal preparation instructions.  If these conditions cannot be met, the proposal must be evaluated separately.

Prohibitions.  Government personnel shall not:

  • Use any data, concept, idea, or other part of an unsolicited proposal as the basis, or part of the basis, for a solicitation or in negotiations with any other firm unless the offeror is notified of and agrees to the intended use. (This prohibition does not preclude using any data, concept, or idea in the proposal that also is available from another source without restriction.)
  • Disclose restrictively marked information (see FAR 3.104 and 15.609) included in an unsolicited proposal.  The disclosure of such information concerning trade secrets, processes, operations, style of work, apparatus, and other matters, except as authorized by law, may result in criminal penalties under 18 U.S.C. 1905.

Unclear about which type of request to be evaluated?  Look at the following list of definitions.

New Proposal.   Proposal received for a specific research project being evaluated for the first time.  A new proposal is also required to continue funding a project not initially approved as a multi-year award and/or when the approved period of performance is due to expire.

Solicited Proposals.  A proposal submitted in response to a broad agency announcement (BAA) such as a NASA Research Announcement (NRA), Announcement of Opportunity (AO), Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN), an agencywide program announcement such as the Graduate Student Research Program, or after approval by the Associate Administrator for Procurement or designee.

Unsolicited Proposals.  Guidance on unsolicited proposals is contained in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 48 CFR subpart 15.5 and NFS 48 CFR subpart 1815.5.  Contact with NASA technical personnel prior to proposal submission is encouraged to determine if preparation of a proposal is warranted.  These discussions should be limited to understanding NASA research needs and do not jeopardize the unsolicited status of any subsequently submitted proposal.

New Award.  First time award for a specific research project.  Award can be for a single year or multiple years.

Multi-year Award.  Award documents evaluate basic performance period and includes "priced options" for continued research for up to four additional years.  If there are no changes to the budget or scope/nature of research in subsequent years, the technical monitor is not required to complete parts I and II of the Unsolicited Proposal Evaluation Summary.

Grant.  A grant shall be used as the legal instrument to reflect the relationship between NASA and a recipient whenever the principal purpose is the transfer of a thing of value to the recipient to accomplish a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by Federal statute.  The following general characteristics meet the statutory criteria for use of a grant:

  • Substantial involvement is not expected between NASA and the recipient when carrying out the activity;
  • The exact course of the work and its outcome cannot be defined precisely and specific points in time for achievement of significant results cannot be realistically specified;
  • Simplicity and economy in execution and administration are mutually desirable;
  • Grants are distinguished from contracts in that grant provide financial or other tangible assistance to the recipient to carry on a fairly autonomous research program.

Education Grant.  An education grant is an agreement that provides funds to an educational institution or other nonprofit organization within one or more of the following areas:

  • Capturing student interest and/or improving student performance in science, mathematics, technology or related fields;
  • Enhancing the skill, knowledge, or ability of teachers of faculty members in science, mathematics or technology;
  • Supporting national educational reform movements;
  • Conducting pilot programs or research to increase participation and/or to enhance performance in science, mathematics or technology education at all levels; and
  • Developing instructional materials ... or networked information services for education.

Training Grant. A training grant is an agreement that provides funds to an educational institution or other non-profit organization solely by providing scholarships, fellowships or stipends to students, teachers and/or faculty.

Cooperative Agreement. A cooperative agreement shall be used as the legal instrument to reflect a relationship between NASA and a recipient whenever the principal purpose is the transfer of a thing of value to the recipient to accomplish a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by Federal statute and substantial involvement is expected between NASA and the recipient during performance of the contemplated activity. Under 31 U.S.C. 6305, characteristics inherent in a cooperative agreement include those that apply to a grant, plus the following:

  • Substantial NASA involvement in and contribution to the technical aspects of the effort are necessary for its accomplishment. This could involve an active NASA role in collaborative relations, access to a NASA site or equipment, or sharing NASA facilities and personnel;
  • The project, conducted as proposed, would not be possible without extensive NASA-recipient technical collaboration;
  • The nature of the collaboration can be clearly defined and specified in advance. Cooperative agreements would be appropriate, for instance, where a university investigator works for a substantial amount of time at a NASA Center (or a NASA investigator works at a university), or when the collaboration is such that a jointly authored final report or education curriculum product is appropriate.

Consortium Agreement (Joint Research Interchange).   A JRI is a cooperative agreement with the following special participation understandings:

  • Budget cannot exceed $95k per year;
  • The maximum duration of an agreement is two years;
  • Project administration costs may be included in the budget in an amount not to exceed 20% of total direct costs for projects which will primarily be performed at the university, and 10% when the performance will primarily be at another site(s);
  • The purchase of equipment is not an allowable cost;
  • The final 20% payment is withheld from the university until all of the required final reports are received.

Renewals.  Awards for continuing research projects where initial award was NOT made on a multi-year basis.  A new proposal and a complete evaluation are required, but the agreement title and award number are maintained.  This continued effort is added by supplement to the basic award.

Supplements.  Subsequent awards (modifications) to the basic award document.  Supplements are used for simple (no cost extensions, equipment purchase, travel addition or incremental funding) and more complex (renewal) actions.  Requests for all supplements must be endorsed by the authorized signatory of the institution.  Evaluation requirements for supplements vary.