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Implementation of Electronic Signatures at the National Science Foundation

For the past several months, NSF has been assessing various solutions for use in implementing electronic signatures for proposals submitted to the Foundation. Upon consideration of the results of pilots conducted on electronic signatures, as well as re-reviewing the existing legal and regulatory requirements relative to government-wide certification requirements, the Foundation has concluded that the most appropriate method for obtaining electronic signatures is to require only Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) signatures in proposals submitted to NSF.

The result of this new approach is that, beginning June 1st, NSF will receive an electronic password-based signature from the AOR, but will no longer require the signature (paper or electronic) of any identified PI or co-PI. With implementation of this electronic signature strategy, NSF will be able to eliminate the requirement for organizations to submit a paper signed proposal Cover Sheet.

In order to implement NSF's electronic signature process, effective immediately, all organizations are required to designate the individual(s) authorized to sign on behalf of their organizations. This can be done by accessing the “Change User Permissions” function available via the Research Administration section of FastLane and then assigning the organization's AOR(s) the "Authorized Organizational Representative Functions" permission. Further instructions regarding this process are available on the FastLane website.

Effective June 1, 2001, all proposals to NSF are required to be electronically signed by the AOR. This process can concurrently occur with submission of the proposal for those organizations where the individual authorized to submit proposals to NSF also is a designated AOR, or as a separate function for those organizations that choose to keep the certification process separate from the submission function. For those using the separate function, AORs with the Authorized Organizational Representative Functions permission will use the "Authorized Organizational Representative Functions" application within Research Administration to electronically sign proposals.

An addendum to the Grant Proposal Guide has been issued that implements this new electronic signature process for use in submission of proposals to NSF. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) assist in transition to this new process.

We believe that the electronic signature strategy developed is the least burdensome and most prudent approach to resolution of the electronic signature issue. We look forward to working with the NSF proposer community in implementing this important new change.

Any questions regarding the new signature policy should be addressed to the Policy Office, Division of Contracts, Policy & Oversight by e-mail to policy@nsf.gov or by phone to: (703) 292-8243. For FastLane user support, phone 1-800-673-6188 or e-mail fastlane@nsf.gov.

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