University of Southern California


NSF-20-530: Competition for the Management of Operations and Maintenance of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)

Slots:                                                     An organization may only submit 1 proposal as the lead. There is no limit on the number of proposals on which an organization can be included as a subawardee.

Internal Deadline:                           First-come, first-served.

LOI:                                                        February 21, 2020 (required)

External Deadline:                          September 18, 2020 – Extended due to COVID-19

Award Information:                        Type: Cooperative Agreement

Estimated Number of Awards: 1

Anticipated Amount: $65,000,000

Submission Process:                     PIs must submit their application as a Limited Submission through the Office of Research Application Portal:

Materials to submit:

Link to Award:                        

Who May Serve as PI:                    The Principal Investigator (PI) must be an employee of the proposing organization.

Purpose:                                   NSF invites proposals from qualified organizations to manage the operation and maintenance of NEON for the next five years beginning November 2021. Proposals should address the full suite of activities including, but not limited to, data collection, processing, curation, and access; sample collection, storage, and archiving; engagement of the scientific community; refining NEON protocols and operations; promotion of and training in the use of NEON data; maintenance of all physical infrastructure and equipment; and education and outreach. NEON was designed as a continental-scale platform for understanding and forecasting the ecological impacts of climate change, land use change and invasive species on the biosphere.

More than a decade of planning by the scientific community and NSF resulted in the design and construction of a robust observatory that is providing standardized data on a comprehensive suite of 180 data products at 81 sites distributed in 20 eco-climatic domains across the United States. These data reflect atmospheric processes; biogeochemistry; ecohydrology; biological organisms, populations, and communities; land use and land cover change across the Network. All NEON data are served freely to the scientific community and the public. NEON is expected to be in operations for 30 years.

Data is collected at sites in geographically distributed terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems across 20 eco-climatic domains in the United States and its territories, including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico using a combination of automated instrument measurements, airborne remote sensing surveys, and observational sampling.

Proposing organizations are expected to present a convincing strategy to manage NEON’s geographically distributed infrastructure to ensure success of the scientific goal to generate data for ecological research over the lifespan of the Observatory. Plans for the operations and maintenance of the components of NEON must also be clearly articulated. While the overall NEON observatory became fully operational in May 2019, the 81 sites vary in age from nearly new to as much as 5 years old due to the phased transition to operations. The decision-making capabilities in terms of logistics and maintenance strategies will be paramount to the success of NEON throughout the solicited period. Proposals should directly address the organization’s maintenance plan and capabilities for NEON.

Associated with the operations and maintenance of the above components of NEON are the permitting and compliance requirements. The managing organization is expected to work to maintain updated permitting, build relationships with site owners, and ensure that NEON is compliant with local, state and federal regulations. A full list of current permits and land use agreements will be made available in the Resource Library.

Budgetary Requirements:           For planning purposes, proposers can assume a base budget of approximately $65 million during the first year of the award, beginning November 2021 and should plan for no more than a 3% budget increase in each of the subsequent years. All budget amounts given herein are tentative and for initial planning purposes only. Actual annual funding increments will be determined on the basis of the detailed cost estimate required per Section V.B below and an Annual Program Operating Plan that is submitted by the awardee to and approved by NSF. Funding increments are also subject annually to the availability of funds and will be contingent on the performance of the awardee. Escalation factors used for cost estimating should be articulated in the Cost Estimating Plan.

If needed, additional funding of up to $1,000,000 may be requested to support a transition period of up to 6 months in duration. The request of funding for a transition period should be made within the Transition Plan and should not be included in the formal cost estimate or proposed budget for the initial 5-year period but must conform to the same requirements. If this amount is not sufficient for the proposed transition, please contact the NEON program for additional guidance.


Visit our Institutionally Limited Submission webpage for updates and other announcements.