In this blog, I provide advice for Advanced Technological Education (ATE) principal investigators (PIs) on how to include information from their project evaluations in their annual reports to the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Annual reports for NSF grants are due within 90 days of the award’s anniversary date. That means if your project’s initial award date was September 1, your annual reports will be due between June and August each year until the final year of the grant (at which point an outcome report is due within 90 days after the award anniversary date).
When you prepare your first annual report for NSF at Research.gov, you may be surprised to see there is no specific request for results from your project’s evaluation or a prompt to upload your evaluation report. That’s because Research.gov is the online reporting system used by all NSF grantees, whether they are researching fish populations in Wisconsin lakes or developing technician education programs. So what do you do with the evaluation report your external evaluator prepared or all the great information in it?
1. Report evidence from your evaluation in the relevant sections of your annual report.
The Research.gov system for annual reports includes seven sections: Cover, Accomplishments, Products, Participants, Impact, Changes/Problems, and Special Requirements. Findings and conclusions from your evaluation should be reported in the Accomplishments and Impact sections, as described in the table below. Sometimes evaluation findings will point to a need for changes in project implementation or even its goals. In this case, pertinent evidence should be reported in the Changes/Problems section of the annual report. Highlight the most important evaluation findings and conclusions in these report sections. Refer to the full evaluation report for additional details (see Point 2 below).
|NSF annual report section
||What to report from your evaluation
- Number of participants in various activities
- Data related to participant engagement and satisfaction
- Data related to the development and dissemination of products (Note: The Products section of the annual report is simply for listing products, not reporting evaluative information about them.)
- Evidence of the nature and magnitude of changes brought about by project activities, such as changes in individual knowledge, skills, attitudes, or behaviors or larger institutional, community, or workforce conditions
- Evidence of increased participation by members of groups historically underrepresented in STEM
- Evidence of the project’s contributions to the development of infrastructure that supports STEM education and research, including physical resources, such as labs and instruments; institutional policies; and enhanced access to scientific information
- Evidence of shortcomings or opportunities that point to a need for substantial changes in the project
Do you have a logic model that delineates your project’s activities, outputs, and outcomes? Is your evaluation report organized around the elements in your logic model? If so, a straightforward rule of thumb is to follow that logic model structure and report evidence related to your project activities and outputs in the Accomplishments section and evidence related to your project outcomes in the Impacts section of your NSF annual report.
2. Upload your evaluation report.
Include your project’s most recent evaluation report as a supporting file in the Accomplishments or Impact section of Research.gov. If the report is longer than about 25 pages, make sure it includes a 1-3 page executive summary that highlights key results. Your NSF program officer is very interested in your evaluation results, but probably doesn’t have time to carefully read lengthy reports from all the projects he or she oversees.