FYI – Tricky Acronyms Ahead!

During the NSF Virtual Conference, held June 5-8, 2023, frequently asked questions were, “What is the difference between a Program Officer and a Grants Officer at NSF?” and “Who from the grantee institution should contact which NSF Person if there are questions?”

Each Division within NSF has a Program Officer. They are experts from the research community who guide grant proposals through the merit review process. Also, NSF Program Officers are a valuable resource for both proposal-stage applicants and PIs/Co-PIs who have been funded, as they can provide insight and often give direct feedback on technical and scientific questions.

An NSF Grants Officer works for the NSF Division of Grants and Agreements (DGA) and is responsible for the awarding of grants and agreements that have been recommended for funding and administering the award from pre-award to closeout. The NSF Grants Officer will work with a grantee’s Sponsored Projects/Programs Office (SPO) on questions or prior approval actions that may arise during the lifecycle of an award. (NSF uses SPO and SRO (Sponsored Research Office) interchangeably – both refer to the grantee institution’s central office responsible for award management.)

Quick Reference:

Program Officer (PO)PI should contact for technical/scientific questions.

Grants Officer (GO) – OSP should contact for any administrative questions or prior approval actions.

OSP (aka SPO/SRO) – PI or department should contact if there are award administrative questions.


See more detail about roles and responsibilities under the Guidance tab or in each section of the Award Lifecycle on the OSP Website.

Blog post by Shannon Irey, OSP Training and Information Coordinator