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Online Collections & Datasets
Selected highlights from the many research resources online at the Smithsonian.



It is worth noting that Smithsonian staff are encouraged to seek private funds in support of Smithsonian activities. Congress had expressly assured the Smithsonian that supplementary private support will not be viewed as a substitute for federal appropriations. However, some special conditions, which are outlined in this chapter, do apply to the following Federal sponsors:

  • National Science Foundation
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Institute of Museum Services


The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent Federal agency that funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering.

Smithsonian Employees as Principal Investigators

NSF funds many Smithsonian projects; however, the agency occasionally places certain restrictions on Smithsonian employees submitting applications.
Internal NSF procedure indicates establishes policy on NSF support of research, science education, and related activities to be performed by other Federal agencies or their employees. Although the Smithsonian is not a Federal agency, this circular specifically states that this policy applies to the Smithsonian.

According to NSF Circular No. 108, Smithsonian staff may be eligible for NSF support if a proposed project involves one or more of the following exceptions:

  • Special or Unique Projects
  • National and International Programs
  • International Travel Awards

For example, Smithsonian staff may submit proposals for educational projects that are national in scope.

Further details on this NSF policy may be obtained from a Grant and Contract Administrator at OSP. The Administrator will assist with interpretation of these guidelines for individual projects.
Principal Investigators are encouraged to contact the Program Officer of the most appropriate NSF Directorate to discuss their potential project and NSF’s interest in accepting an SI proposal.

Smithsonian Research Associates as Principal Investigators

Individuals who have a formal affiliation with the Smithsonian (e.g., Fellows or Research Associates) are allowed to submit applications to NSF listing the Smithsonian as the source of their institutional support. Research Associates, and Fellows whose stipend support will be ending, may request salary support for themselves in their proposal if appropriate. Any such proposal should follow the standard Smithsonian procedures for proposal submission, which require internal approvals before being submitted to the sponsoring agency.


Congress prohibits the NEA, the NEH, and the IMS from making any grants directly to agencies and organizations funded through the Interior appropriations Act, which includes the Smithsonian. However, the Smithsonian may collaborate with another institution and receive funding by means of a sub-grant or sub-contract from that institution. The collaborating institution then is the primary recipient of funding from the NEA, NEH, IMS.

OSP encourages Smithsonian Principal Investigators to collaborate with other institutions on projects of potential interest to NEA, NEH, or IMS, with the understanding that the collaborating institution is a partner in the proposed work.