Sustainability is about ensuring that at least some aspects of a project or center’s work—such as faculty positions, partnerships, or curricula—have “a life beyond ATE funding” (nsf.gov/ate). By definition, sustainability “happens” after NSF funding ends—and thus, after the project or center’s evaluation has concluded. So how can sustainability be addressed in an evaluation? There are three sources of information that can help with a prospective assessment of sustainability, whether for external evaluation purposes or to support project planning and implementation:
(1) Every ATE proposal is supposed to include a sustainability plan that describes what aspects of the grant will be sustained beyond the funding period and how. (2) Every proposal submitted in 2012 or later required a data management plan. This plan should have described how the project’s data and other products would be preserved and made available to others. Both the sustainability and data management plans should be reviewed to determine if the project will be able to deliver on what was promised. (3) Developed by Wayne Welch, the Checklist for Assessing the Sustainability of ATE Projects and Centers can be used to determine a project’s strengths and weaknesses in regard to sustainability. The checklist addresses diverse dimensions of sustainability related to program content and delivery, collaboration, materials, facilities, revenue, and other issues. See bit.ly/18l2Fcb.