The evaluation requirements and expectations expressed in the new ATE program solicitation are generally consistent with those that were in the prior version. However, there are two important changes that relate specifically to ATE centers:

First, the solicitation states that proposals for center renewals “may submit up to five pages on Results of Prior Support in the supplemental documents section and refer the reader to that section in the Project Description section.”  The requirement that all proposals must begin with a subsection titled Results of Prior Support has not changed. What is new is the option—for Centers only—of describing results of prior support in a supplementary document, allowing proposers to devote more of their 15-page project descriptions to what they intend to do, rather than what they have accomplished in the past. Whether embedded in the project description or appended as a supplementary document, this section should identify the prior grant’s outcomes and impacts, supported with evidence from the evaluation. Reviewers will be looking for strong evidence that NSF made a good investment in the center and that a renewal grant is warranted given the center’s track record.

Second, the new solicitation calls for national center proposals to include evaluation plans that describe how impacts on institutions, faculty, students, and industry will be assessed. This is a more specific expectation for the evaluation than in the previous solicitation, which called for evaluations to provide evidence of impacts relating to a center’s disciplinary focus. Thus, proposals for national centers should describe the intended impacts at each of these levels (institutions, faculty, students, industry) and the evaluation plan should explain what data will be used to determine the quality and magnitude of those impacts.

Although not directly related to evaluation, other notable changes in the 2014 solicitation include the following:

  • there is a new track for ATE projects called “ATE Coordination Networks”
  • the Targeted Research track has been expanded
  • Resource Centers have been renamed Support Centers
  • all grantees are required to work with ATE Central to archive materials developed with grant funds to ensure they remain available to the public after funding ends

The archiving requirement relates directly to the data management plans that are required with all NSF proposals. To learn more about DMPs and how to develop yours, check out the article on page 3 of this newsletter.

Also, note the submission deadline is earlier this year—October 9!  To learn more about developing an evaluation plan to include in your ATE proposal,  join our webinars on August 20 and 26 (see page 4).

Check out the new solicitation at www.nsf.gov/ate.

 

About the Authors

Lori Wingate

Lori Wingate box with arrow

Executive Director, The Evaluation Center, Western Michigan University

Lori has a Ph.D. in evaluation and more than 20 years of experience in the field of program evaluation. She is co-principal investigator of EvaluATE and leads and a variety of evaluation projects at WMU focused on STEM education, health, and higher education initiatives. Dr. Wingate has led numerous webinars and workshops on evaluation in a variety of contexts, including CDC University and the American Evaluation Association Summer Evaluation Institute. She is an associate member of the graduate faculty at WMU.

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