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Now Open: NSF Big Data Spokes Letters of Collaboration Request Form

Key Dates:

  1. June 14-15: Open Office Hours Q&A with West Hub Leadership (details at — please note the time zone)

  2. June 19th, 2017: Deadline to request a letter of collaboration from the Big Data Hubs. Earlier submissions will receive letters earlier. See the Submissions section below for more information about submitting your request. Proposals should then be sent to the host institution of the PI, which is responsible for selecting one to submit to the NSF. Per the solicitation:

  3. An organization may participate as submitting organization (or, in the case of collaborative proposals, as the lead organization) for at most one proposal responsive to this solicitation. 

  4. Proposal submissions are limited to 1 per organization (except as non-lead in a collaborative proposal) to maintain a balanced geographic representation of the Regional Hubs and Spokes program and to increase diversity of participating institutions.

  5. July 1, 2017: Anticipated date by which all West Big Data Innovation Hub Letters of Collaboration will have been provided. If you need a Letter before July 1, due to your institutional processes, please note this on the form and also let us know via email to ASAP.

  6. July through August: The West Hub Leadership Team will be available to discuss hub-and-spoke collaboration ideas and details.  Please note that our Letters of Collaboration will only include the language,”If the proposal submitted by Dr. [insert the full name of the Principal Investigator] entitled [insert the proposal title] is selected for funding by NSF, it is my intent to collaborate and/or commit resources as detailed in the Project Description or the Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources section of the proposal.”  We encourage the proposal writers to include all relevant details about hub-spoke collaborations — how the Spoke relates to existing and emerging BDHub activities, the sharing of resources and infrastructure, and the relationship with the BDHub Steering Committee — in the Project Description submitted to NSF. 

  7. September 18th, 2017: Deadline to submit full Spoke proposals to NSF, which must include the letter of collaboration from a Big Data Hub.

FAQ updated 6/16/2017

1. What Hub does my proposal fall under? This is determined by the institution of the lead Principal Investigator. i.e. If the lead PI on a collaborative proposal is from Virginia Tech the proposal would be submitted to the South Hub (no matter the locations of other collaborators). MIDWEST: This region includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.NORTHEAST: This region includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.SOUTH: This region includes Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.WEST: This region includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Proposals which do not fall within the West region should be submitted to the appropriate Big Data Hub:

Midwest: |

Northeast: |

South: |

2. Do you have the Google Form fields for the Request for LOC viewable all at once?

Yes! See the PDF view of the whole form that shows all the questions: West LOC request.

3. What if our team would like to collaborate across regional hubs?

NSF guidelines allow a proposal team to seek a Letter of Collaboration from another hub, provided there is justification for doing so.  You may also obtain multiple Letters of Collaboration from more than one hub, if there reason to do so.  Please note that all Spoke proposals must indicate one primary coordinating Hub.

4. What if our team is not selected through our institution’s Limited Submission process?

You are still eligible to submit a revised proposal to NSF through another institution.  Please keep us informed and we will be happy to revise a Letter of Collaboration and revisit hub/spoke collaboration ideas as needed.

5. What about Federally Funded Research & Development Center  (FFRDC) participation?

The NSF Spokes Solicitation notes, “”NSF welcomes proposals that include for-profit organizations or Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs). However, such organizations may only participate as subawardees or unfunded collaborators.”  A relevant section of the NSF PROPOSAL PREPARATION AND SUBMISSION GUIDELINES ( also notes, “Other Federal Agencies– NSF does not normally support research or education activities by scientists, engineers or educators employed by Federal agencies or FFRDCs. Under unusual circumstances, other Federal agencies and FFRDCs may submit proposals directly to NSF. A proposed project is only eligible for support if it meets one or more of the following exceptions, as determined by a cognizant NSF Program Officer:

  1. Special Projects. Under exceptional circumstances, research or education projects at other Federal agencies or FFRDCs that can make unique contributions to the needs of researchers elsewhere or to other specific NSF objectives may receive NSF support.

  2. National and International Programs. The Foundation may fund research and logistical support activities of other Government agencies or FFRDCs directed at meeting the goals of special national and international research programs for which the Foundation bears special responsibility, such as the US Antarctic Research Program.

  3. International Travel Awards. In order to ensure appropriate representation or availability of a particular expertise at an international conference, staff researchers of other Federal agencies may receive NSF international travel awards.Proposers who think their project may meet one of the exceptions listed above must contact a cognizant NSF Program Officer before preparing a proposal for submission. In addition, a scientist, engineer or educator who has a joint appointment with a university and a Federal agency (such as a Veterans Administration Hospital, or with a university and a FFRDC) may submit proposals through the university and may receive support if he/she is a faculty member (or equivalent) of the university, although part of his/her salary may be provided by the Federal agency. Preliminary inquiry must be made to the appropriate program before preparing a proposal for submission.”

6. What are the West Hub’s thematic areas / areas of focus and priority? As noted in the Form, our focus areas are (in no particular order):

  1. Metro/Urban Data Science: including but not limited to Smart Cities, Transportation, Housing, Safety, Criminal Justice, Economic Development

  2. Natural Resource Management + Natural Hazards: including but not limited to Water, Energy, Environment, Agriculture, Sustainability, Disaster Response

  3. Precision Medicine: including but not limited to Diagnostics, Treatment, Prevention, Outcomes, Genomics, Environment/Exposome

  4. Data-Enabled Scientific Discovery and Learning: including but not limited to Open Science and Reproducibility, Education, Workforce Development

  5. Big Data Technology We also support cross-cutting efforts including but not limited to our: Cloud Computing Task Force, Data Hackathons Community of Practice, Data Storytelling Community of Practice, and groups interested in Public Policy, Ethics, Privacy, Security, Infrastructure, and Data Sharing and Licensing.

7. What if I have a great idea that aligns with your mission to build and strengthen partnerships across industry, academia, nonprofits, and government — but it doesn’t seem to “fit” with one of your thematic areas or the areas stated by NSF? Please fill out the form! The areas of focus are not meant to be limiting the scope of submissions.

8. Does my project need to be related to previously-funded NSF Spoke Projects? No. In order to avoid duplication of effort, please note the language from the NSF Solicitation, “If the proposed BD Spoke is on a topic similar to one or more currently funded BD Spokes in any region, the Project Description must describe in what sense the proposed work differs substantially from the existing project(s) or how the proposed BD Spoke activities augment or complement that of the existing project(s) when it does not differ substantially. In the latter case, a Letter of Collaboration(s) from the previously funded BD Spoke(s) is (are) encouraged.”

9. Can I change my list of collaborators and the details about how I anticipate to collaborate with the hub after submitting the form? Yes! We see the Form as the beginning of a conversation between the Hub and potential funded Spoke project, and fully anticipate discussing details after the June 19 form deadline.  As a reference, last year the West Hub helped facilitate new collaborations that resulted in Co-Principal Investigators being added after Letters of Intent but before the final NSF FASTLANE submission.  This year there is not a requirement for a Letter of Intent to NSF, and the final NSF FASTLANE submission (hard deadline) is Sept. 18, 2017, 5pm local submitter’s time.  With a limited submission this year, please be aware of your Institution’s internal timeline.

10. Do you have additional guidance? Please refer to the NSF PROPOSAL  &  AWARD POLICIES & PROCEDURES GUIDE in addition to the original solicitation and webinar.  You can also contact Dr. Fen Zhao, NSF Program Officer, as noted on the Solicitation: (703) 292-7344, email:

Any additional updates, guidance, and FAQs will be posted here at and through our mailing list.  Thanks for your interest, and we look forward to discussing how we can collaborate!


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