NSF safe and inclusive working environment plan for off-campus or off-site research

Effective January 30, 2023, if you submit a new or renewal proposal that is funded, NSF will require that PIs take an additional step to safeguard participants when engaging in off-campus research activities.

NSF's new requirement states that there must be a plan for a safe and inclusive work environment created—and distributed to each participant—in advance of departure for an off-campus research activity. Off-campus or off-site research is defined by NSF for this requirement as "data/information/samples being collected off-campus or off-site, such as fieldwork or research activities on vessels and aircraft." The underlying premise is that all participants need to know how to recognize and report inappropriate behavior and receive guidance in advance about how to feel safe and protected, even when they are away from campus.

The creation and distribution of the plan is the responsibility of the award PI. To ease the administrative burden, the Office of the Vice President for Research has created a template plan for PIs to use, which is attached to the following Program Plan. You will need to complete the boxes of the template document for your specific grant. You may use or re-use the same plan throughout your grant if your off-site work is the same throughout the grant period, but you must make sure that all participants (regardless of when they join the grant) receive a copy before they participate in off campus research. If the work varies (e.g., fieldwork in a remote location one year and research activities at another US institution at another time), you will need to update your plan to reflect the specific special needs pertinent to each activity and re-distribute the updated plan.

The template has been designed to help you identify areas where you may need to think about special circumstances. We have also created a Frequently Asked Questions to help you think through good and viable options that you may wish to deploy for those special circumstances.

For ease of implementation, feel free to begin deploying these plans on any of your NSF funded grants immediately. However, if you prefer to wait until the plan is required for a specific grant, that is also acceptable. You will know if you are mandated to complete a plan and distribute it to participants by looking at your Notice of Grant Award (NOGA) from PreAward Services. Your NOGA will include a term and condition requiring this type of plan, if applicable. Most likely, you will start seeing these terms in the summer of 2023 as awards are issued in response to competitive proposals submitted after January 30, 2023. For additional information, please read the instructions on the next page and refer to the FAQs which contains helpful clarifications about when and how to apply this new NSF requirement.

Instructions for NSF principal investigators

NSF PIs are responsible for:

  1. Determining whether any “off-campus or off-site research” will occur on their NSF-funded award (see definition below). Plans are only required for NSF-funded awards containing research that is conducted off-site or off-campus. See the associated FAQs for more information.
  2. Completing the project specific information form (PDF).
  3. Distributing “the plan” to everyone who will participate in an off-campus or off-site research activity prior to those individuals leaving campus to engage in the off-site or off-campus research.
  4. Retaining documentation of who received the plan (email or signup sheet is sufficient) and the plan itself in their grant files and/or in the departmental grant file. PreAward Services can deposit the plan within the Cayuse project file, as well.

The plan should not be submitted to NSF or to PreAward Services unless requested. Plans may be re-used and re-distributed for multiple off-campus research activities but must be updated if the specific content needs to change.

NSF defines “off-campus or off-site research” for the purposes of this requirement as “data/information/ samples being collected off-campus or off-site, such as fieldwork on research vessels and aircraft.”

Download the Kansas State University code of conduct and safe and inclusive working environment program statement. (PDF)


Updated February 10, 2023