NSF Solicitation for Network Information Services Manager for NSFnet and the NREN

Title: NSF9224--Network Information Services Manager(s) for NSFNET and NREN
Type: Program Guideline
Date: March 19, 1992
File: nsf9224

Project Solicitation

I. Purpose of This Solicitation

The rapid growth of the NSFNET has created the need for expanded network information services. That growth, together with the expiration of the funding arrangement for the NSFNET National Service Center (NNSC), has prompted this solicitation for one or more Network Information Services Managers (NIS Manager(s)) for the NSFNET.

This solicitation invites proposals for one or more NIS Manager organizations to: extend and coordinate directory and database services and information services for the NSFNET; and provide registration services for non-military internet networks now performed by the Defense Information Systems Agency Network Information Center (the DISA NIC). The DISA NIC will continue to provide for the registration of military networks.

It is anticipated that this solicitation will result in one or more five-year cooperative agreements between NSF and the organization(s) chosen as the NIS Manager(s). NSF funding is expected to be approximately $2,000,000 per year.

This project solicitation is issued pursuant to the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended (42 U.S.C. 1861 et seq) and the Federal Cooperative Agreement Act (31 U.S.C. 6305) and is not subject to the Federal Acquisition Regulations.

II. Background

During the past two decades computer networks have facilitated collaboration among members of many research and education communities and provided them with remote access to information and computing resources. These networks have continued to grow both in the number of users connected and in the capabilities provided to the individual users. It is anticipated that such networks will become essential to research and education during this decade. In particular, the collection of interconnected networks known as the Internet has become important for many research communities. It is also of increasing importance for education.

Today more than 5,000 networks comprise the Internet. These networks link together hundreds of thousands of computers and millions of users throughout the world. The domestic, non-military portion of the Internet includes NSFNET. It also includes other federally sponsored networks such as NASA Science Internet (NSI) and Energy Sciences Network (ESnet). NSFNET, NSI, and ESnet, as well as some other networks of the Internet, are related to the National Research and Education Network (NREN) which was defined in the President's Fiscal 1992 budget and which has been au-thorized by the passage in December, 1991, of Public Law 102-194.

The NREN is projected to evolve from a part of the Internet containing portions of NSFNET, NSI, and ESnet. This evolution will reflect the legal requirements of the various sponsoring agencies. For example, NASA and DOE are mission agencies whose networks' traffic must relate to the agencies' missions. NSF, on the other hand, is chartered to support most science and engineering research and education; hence NSFNET can carry all traffic contemplated for the NREN and may in fact support additional traffic as well.

Because of the breadth of the charter of the NSFNET, it is projected that it will continue to serve an expanding base of research and education users. The provision of enhanced network information services for NSFNET will be an important part of the expansion in user base.

In cooperation with the Internet community, the National Science Foundation has developed this solicitation for one or more NIS Managers to provide and/or coordinate Registration Services, Directory and Database Services, and Information Services for the NSFNET. It is anticipated that the definition and provision of these services will help facilitate the evolution of the NSFNET and the development of the NREN. References to NSFNET in this solicitation should in general be understood to include the NREN as well.

Certain network information services are currently being offered by a variety of providers. Some of these existing services are as follows.

It is expected that the NIS Manager organization(s) selected for award(s) as a result of this solicitation: will, as discussed in Section III below, provide services to end users and to campus- and mid-level network service providers; will replace certain network service providers (such as those mentioned in the first and second bullets above); and will coordinate with mid-level and other network organizations (such as those mentioned in the third through fifth bullets above).

III. Project Requirements

Considerable latitude exists for creative proposer responses to this solicitation and a definitive list of services will not be given. This latitude exists for several reasons. First, the provision of network information services on the scale called for in this solicitation is a novel undertaking for which innovative solutions are sought. Second, it is possible for responders to propose to charge user fees for some services and the income from such fees could affect the total amount of services offered.

The services shown below are grouped into two categories, priority and desirable. As stated above, the given list of services should not be viewed as definitive and proposers are encouraged to propose other services that they feel are important.

  1. Priority Services

All services listed below that are preceded with a "(P)" are priority services, and an award for those services will be made, if possible. (This does not imply that all responders must propose priority services since multiple NIS Manager awards may be made.)

B. Desirable Services

All services listed below that are not preceded with a "(P)" are viewed as suggested services that may be considered by proposers as they prepare their responses.

Some services listed below are to be provided to end users and others are to be provided to other network information service providers. The NIS Manager(s) called for in this solicitation will be primarily a "NIS for NISs" but should also function as a "NIS of first resort" and a "NIS of last resort" for end users. NIS of first resort refers to activities such as helping a potential network user find a more localized contact who will assist with the process of becoming a network user. NIS of last resort refers to activities such as assisting a network user who has proceeded from more local to less local requests for help without resolving a problem or getting a question answered. In many cases, however, the NIS Manager(s) would work with network service providers who are closer to the end users.

Thus the provision of some of the services listed below might be accomplished by coordinating information resources and services provided by others. A coordinated, hierarchical set of information services should result from the collaboration of the NIS Manager(s) with (but not limited to) the mid-level and campus-level providers of network information services. Responders should seek to utilize such resources and services where possible rather than to duplicate them.

The following list is divided into three subareas: registration services, directory and database services, and information services.

  1. (P) Registration Services

The provider of registration services will function in accordance with the provisions of RFC 1174. As stated in RFC 1174, "[T]he Internet system has employed a central Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) for the allocation and assignment of various numeric identifiers needed for the operation of the Internet. The IANA function is performed by the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute. The IANA has the discretionary authority to delegate portions of this responsibility and, with respect to numeric network and autonomous system identifiers, has lodged this responsibility with an Internet Registry (IR)." Moreover, in cooperation with the IANA, the IR may create delegate registries to carry out registration services for specified domains.

The NIS Manager responsible for non-military registration services will function either as the IR or as a delegate registry authorized by the IR to provide non-military registration services. NSF, DISA, and other interested parties will determine which organization (the DISA NIC, the NSFNET NIS Manager, or another organization) will function as IR and which will function as a delegate registry.The NIS Manager responsible for non-military registration services will in any case be required to work with the DISA NIC to design and implement a transition plan that will minimize inconvenience to the networking community during and after the transition. Non-military internet registration services to be provided include the following:

Proposed directory implementations should utilize distributed database and other advanced technologies wherever practicable. This may place the NIS Manager(s) in a coordination role with respect to other organizations that have created and maintained relevant directories and databases. Procedures for creation and maintenance of proposed directories and databases should be clearly specified.

  1. (P) A "Directory of Directories" which points to other directories and databases such as those listed below in 2B and 2C
  2. Desirable Directory Services
  3. users accessible by name, discipline, and


ii. institutions on the network and characteristics of their


iii. organizations accessible by function

iv. resources available on the network (e.g., computing

facilities, libraries, databases)

C. Desirable Database Services

i. databases of contributed materials

ii. databases of communications documents such as RFCs, FYIs,

IDs, and IENs

iii. databases maintained for other groups, possibly for fee

3. Information Services

  1. (P) Network Reference Desk Services These services should provide for electronic mail, facsimile, telephone, and postal queries and should be available for personnel from mid-level and campus networks and for end users and must include the following:
    • answer general questions,
    • distribute general information in response to questions,
    • route questions to the appropriate information source,
    • record and track all queries,
    • prepare and provide to NSF (for planning purposes) summary reports and analyses of all queries, and
    • develop and deploy a NIS trouble ticket system (using available software as appropriate) for queries and NIS problems that cannot be immediately resolved. (This should complement, not replace, Network Operations Center trouble ticket systems.)
  2. (P) Coordination Services

Coordination services will involve all NSFNET NIS Manager organizations and must include the following:

ii) Outreach Services:

  1. publish a monthly newsletter for end users and/or provide materials for use by other newsletters
  2. publish a monthly network report like the current "Internet Monthly Report"
  3. work with the appropriate groups to distribute materials dealing with network security
  4. work with the appropriate groups to help K-12 school districts and two- and four-year colleges increase their level of networking involvement

iii) Documentation Services:

  1. develop and provide customizable end-user training materials using a variety of media
  2. develop and provide "how to" templates covering the use of the network
  3. develop, collect, and provide documents describing resources available on the network
  4. develop, and provide a historical archive of network development
  5. develop and provide self-evaluation guidelines for mid-level and campus NIS providers
  6. maintain and distribute a written procedures and policies manual relating to network use

IV. Questions about this solicitation

In order that all proposers receive the same information, all questions regarding this solicitation should be directed to the NSF in the manner indicated below. All questions must be submitted in writing. Questions must be received by 3:00 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, Monday, March 30, 1992, at:
     National Science Foundation
     Division of Networking and Communications Research and
     1800 G Street, N.W., Room 416
     Washington, D.C. 20550

     ATTN: G Strawn (NIS Inquiry)

Telephone, facsimile, and electronic mail questions will not be accepted.Substantive questions received and the NSF's answers to them will be sent to all solicitation recipients approximately fourteen (14) calendar days thereafter.

V. Proposal Submission Information

  1. Who May Submit

Proposals for the implementation of and operation as NIS Manager may be submitted by U.S. entities including academic institutions, not-for-profit or for-profit or-ganizations, or any combination thereof.

Proposers may include consortia of several organizations. Should an award be made to a consortium in response to this solicitation, that consortium must have a single lead organization, and the Principal Investigator (PI) must be an employee of that organization.

It is recommended that appropriate administrative officials of proposing organizations be familiar with the policies and procedures stated in the NSF Grant Policy Manual1 (GPM) which are applicable to NSF awards. If a proposal is recommended for an award, the NSF Division of Grants and Contracts will request certain organizational, management, and financial information from the submitting organizations. These requirements are described in Chapter III of the NSF GPM.

B. Key Personnel

For each award made, the individual designated as principal investigator/project director and other personnel deemed critical to the effort will be named in a key personnel clause which requires NSF approval prior to diversion or replacement. The principal investigator/project director will be the primary point of contact with NSF.

C. Proposal Submission and Due Date

Ten (10) copies of the proposal, including one copy bearing original signatures, should be mailed to:

     Proposal Processing Unit - Room 223
     Attn: Network Information Services Project, NSF 92-24
     National Science Foundation
     1800 G Street, NW
     Washington, D.C. 20550

Only one (1) copy of NSF Form 1225, Information About Principal Investigator/Project Director, should be sent, attached to the original signed proposal.

Proposals may also be submitted electronically. For information, contact the Electronic Proposal Submission Program Director, Division of Information Systems (DIS), via phone (202) 357-7439, or via electronic mail (eps@nsf.gov).

Proposals submitted in response to this solicitation must: (a) be received by NSF no later than Monday, May 18, 1992; (b) be postmarked no later than five (5) days prior to the deadline date; or (c) be sent via commercial overnight mail no later than two (2) days prior to the deadline date to be considered for award. Proposals submitted electronically will be dated when they enter the NSF system.

D. Rights to Proposal Information

A proposal that results in an NSF award will become part of the record of the transaction and will be available to the public on specific request. Information or material that NSF, after consultation with the awardee, determines to be of a privileged nature will be held in confidence to the extent permitted by law, including the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552). Without assuming any liability for inadvertent disclosure, NSF will seek to limit dissemination of such information to its employees and, for purposes of evaluation of the proposal, to outside reviewers.

Accordingly, any privileged information contained in the proposal should be clearly marked or indicated (as with an asterisk or highlighter) and identified by a legend similar to the following: "Following is ((proprietary) or (specify)) information that (name of proposing organization) requests not be released to persons outside the Government, except for purposes of evaluation."

E. Evaluation of Proposals

Proposals will be reviewed in accordance with the special criteria given below. Evaluation of proposals in response to this solicitation will be administered by the Division of Networking and Communications Research and Infrastructure of NSF (NSF/DNCRI).

The proposals will be reviewed by one or more merit review panels chosen by NSF. The merit review panels may include representatives of other federal agencies. At the discretion of NSF, site visits may also be conducted.

The proposal or proposals offering the greatest overall merit in meeting the requirements of the NIS Manager(s) Project will be determined in accordance with the general criteria and the following special criteria which are listed in descending order of importance:

VI. Award Information

The Foundation reserves the right to make one or more awards as a result of proposals received in response to this solicitation. If multiple awards are made, the responsibilities for registration services will be made to a single proposer, but directory and database services and information services may be divided and/or duplicated as deemed appropriate. NSF also reserves the right to make no award.

Should one or more awards be made, it is contemplated that they will be Cooperative Agreements providing operational support for a period of five (5) years. It is expected that any resulting awards will be announced in the summer of 1992.

Following the award(s), the NIS Manager for Registration Services will be required to develop operations agreements with the DISA Internet Registration contractor (GSI) to insure that domestic and international Internet Registration continues to operate smoothly both during the transition and afterwards.

The progress, plans, and services of the NIS Manager(s) will be assessed annually. In particular, the quality and quantity of the services should be ascertainable annually during the period of the agreement by performance measures which the proposer must develop and adopt. Determination(s) may be made at any time about any additional, increased, decreased, or modified services within the general scope and context of the agreement and NSF may negotiate appropriate modification(s) to the award(s).

After 24 months of operation, the performance of the NIS Manager(s) will be externally reviewed. The review will determine if the NIS Manager(s) are meeting the established goals and objectives. The review will be used to determine whether NSF will continue to support the awardee(s) at the previously agreed to level.

Awards resulting from this solicitation are administered in accordance with the terms and conditions of GC-1, "Grant General Conditions", and CA-1, "Cooperative Agreement General Conditions". Copies of these documents are available at no cost from the NSF Forms and Publications Unit, via phone (202)357-7861, or via electronic mail (pubs@nsf.gov). More comprehensive information is contained in the NSF GPM.

VII. Contents of Proposal

Proposals should be prepared as follows in accordance with the guidelines contained in the brochure Grants for Research and Education in Science and Engineering, (GRESE) (NSF 90-77 rev 8/90) (available from the NSF Forms and Publications Unit as referred to above). Each proposal should reflect the unique combination of the proposing organization's interests and capabilities in providing information services to support research and education users of the NSFNET. Since reviewers will be asked to review more than one proposal, lengthy proposals are not recommended. The narrative portion (Sections I through M below) should be not more than 15 (8 1/2 x 11 inch) single-sided pages of singlespaced text (with one inch margins and 10 point type). A separate budget narrative/business plan (Section S below) should not be more than six similar pages (exclusive of the required budget forms which comprise Section R). Appendices other than those from the GRESE brochure and Appendix A described below will not necessarily be considered in the merit review process. Proposals should be securely fastened together, but not placed in ring binders.

The proposals should contain the following Sections A through S, plus Appendix A. (references to appendices are to those in GRESE brochure):

  1. NSF Cover Page(s) (Appendix IV). All consortium members and/or all major subcontractors should complete and submit a copy of this page.
  2. Information about Principal Investigator/Project Director (Appendix III). Attach one copy to the original signed proposal. Do not include the form within the body of the proposal.
  3. "Certification Regarding Lobbying" form. See page 26 of GRESE.
  4. Results from prior NSF support.
  5. List of collaborators within past 48 months and names of graduate and postdoctoral advisors of each investigator.
  6. Current and pending support for key individuals (Appendix VII).
  7. Table of Contents with page numbers keyed to the major sections of the proposal.
  8. Executive Summary of no more than two pages which provides a brief description of the proposed effort.
  9. A plan to accomplish the tasks and furnish the services described in Section III (Project Requirements) of this solicitation.2
  10. Explicit procedures for monitoring the quality, availability and effectiveness of the services provided.
  11. Evidence of organizational knowledge and understanding of the current Internet environment and vision of how the NSFNET should evolve.
  12. Documentation of the qualifications of the proposing organization(s), including:
    • experience applicable to the provision, operation and management of the NIS Manager(s) Project; and
    • if a consortium and/or major subcontracts are proposed, experience in managing subcontracts with special emphasis on establishing performance standards and monitoring quality control.
  13. Documentation of technical and managerial qualifications of key personnel. (Curricula vitae of key personnel should be placed in Appendix A.)
  14. Explicit procedures for interaction with NSF/DNCRI.
  15. Explicit procedures for interaction with existing Network Information Services (NISs) and Network Operation Centers (NOCs).
  16. (For Registration Services proposers) A clear plan for the transition from current procedures and practices to those proposed for non-military network Internet Registration services and explicit procedures for interaction with the DISA NIC.
  17. Explicit procedures for interaction with international organizations and network providers.
  18. Summary Proposal Budget (NSF Form 1030) for the cumulative five-year period plus individual annual budgets (on NSF Form 1030) for each year (Appendix V). As instructed on the reverse side of NSF Form 1030, identify each year's request (e.g., "Cumulative Budget", "First Year", etc.) in the margin at the top right of the form.
  19. A proposed five-year budget narrative/business plan (referred to as "the narrative" in this paragraph) for funds requested from NSF. The narrative should be organized by the three subareas of Registration Services, Directory and Database Services, and Information Services described in Section III, Project Requirements of this solicitation on a per year basis. The narrative should contain information about the services proposed and explain the significant costs associated with the individual subareas proposed. The annual costs of each subarea should be explained in sufficient detail to allow identification of such items as the proposed level of effort for professional and support personnel (and associated direct and indirect costs), travel, equipment, sub-contracting and profit (if any). If for estimating purposes, the proposer normally uses fully loaded labor rates, such rates may be used if their derivation is explained.

Appendix A. Curricula Vitae

Biographical information (limited to two pages) on the principal investigator and other key individuals from all organizations who will be directly involved in the management and operation of the project. Lists of publications for each individual should be limited to the ten most relevant.

1 The NSF Grant Policy Manual (NSF 88-47, July 1989) is for sale through the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. Telephone (202)783-3288.

2 Upon completion of the project, a Final Project Report (NSF Form 98A), including the Part IV Summary, will be required. Applicants should review this form prior to proposal submission so that appropriate tracking mechanisms are included in the proposal plan to ensure that complete information will be available at the completion of the project. 

This file last modified 3/26/96.