Frequently Asked Questions

About ACS Petroleum Research Fund

Choosing a Program

Q. What is the PRF patent policy?

The following language from the agreement creating The ACS Petroleum Research Fund governs the policy with regard to patents: "None of the results of any such research shall be turned into profit by the recipient" and "Every patent, United States or foreign, that shall be taken out by or on behalf of the recipient or by or on behalf of any individual or institution acting at the direction of or on behalf of the recipient in carrying out such research shall be immediately dedicated to the public, royalty free."

Q. What is meant by “fundamental research” as it relates to the ACS PRF?

In the ACS PRF context, the term “fundamental” implies that the research addresses the intellectual structure of the discipline and the basic causes and consequences of the phenomena studied, and promises to produce results of broad interest and applicability not only in the immediate field of the investigator, but in other fields of science and engineering as well. Historically, the phrase “fundamental research” has been interpreted to exclude research that aims to develop new experimental techniques or devices, as well as research that is focused on applications such as medical, environmental, and social research.

Q. How far from my current research must I go to be considered for a New Directions (ND) proposal?

The intent of the ND program is to provide “seed money” for new research directions, and not to provide continuation funds for ongoing research projects. There is no hard boundary you must cross, but the further you move from what you are currently doing, the more likely your proposal will be sent out for external peer review. We do not imply that you need to change careers; if you are a geophysicist you needn’t become a synthetic chemist for example. While we are cognizant of the need to bring to bear your existing expertise to a given research program, and that some new projects might be accomplished under the existing umbrella of research themes within your group, we are seeking projects that are a new direction for you.

Q. Are preliminary results required for New Directions proposals?

No. The ACS PRF ND grant is intended for generating preliminary results, or proof-of-concept results that might form the basis of subsequent proposals to agencies that provide sustaining research grant support. Accordingly, ND proposals should not have published preliminary results; indeed, the new project being proposed might have only one or two preliminary experiments showing the idea can work, or, there may be no preliminary results at all in the proposal.

Q. Can you provide a few examples of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable for New Directions proposals?

Without attempting to be comprehensive in our answer, the following examples provide the gist of what is a “new” direction and what is not a “new” direction. We suggest calling the ACS Research Grants Office at 202-872-4481 to discuss the suitability of your project with a Program Manager if you are in doubt.

  1. If you are a computational chemist studying the mechanism of the Diels-Alder reaction and propose studying the Cope rearrangement (another pericyclic reaction), that will not be considered to be a new direction in your research. If, in contrast, you decide to apply your computational expertise to assess some fundamental aspect of oil/mineral interactions, that project would be considered to be a new research direction.
  2. If you are an inorganic chemist studying some aspect of electron transfer in coordination complexes and you propose changing either the metal of those complexes or ligand around a given metal, such a change would not be considered to be a new direction. Contrarily, if you propose to use those coordination complexes to self-assemble into a material that could be used to prevent corrosion in an oil pipeline or for tertiary oil recovery, that would be considered a new direction in your research.
  3. If you are a polymer scientist or engineer and propose to extend your current work by selecting a different set of monomers in the synthesis of polymers, that would be deemed unsatisfactory. However, if you used that new set of monomers in an attempt to explore some new, fundamental characteristic of the polymer material that you have not yet examined, the project would be considered acceptable and sent for review assuming of course it is relevant to alternative energy or the petroleum field.

Eligibility and Application Information

Q. Am I eligible for PRF grant support?

If you are a regularly appointed faculty member at an academic institution in a country where ACS PRF can administer grant, you are eligible. In addition, certain other long-term scientific appointments may be eligible. The present eligibility criteria are:

  1. The PI is authorized by the institution to serve as principal investigator on externally funded grants.
  2. The PI is authorized to serve as the official principal advisor to students at the level for which support is requested. For example, to submit an ND or DNI proposal, you must be eligible to direct dissertation research (i.e., you must be authorized to be the research advisor of a Ph.D. student).
  3. The PI's appointment at the home institution must have a reasonable expectation of continuity for the duration of the period for which support is requested.

Generally the above criteria are automatically met by tenure-track principal investigators. If you are not tenure-track, you should attach a brief statement describing your appointment and you must include a Department Chair's letter affirming that you meet all three of the above criteria to your application. Please call the ACS Research Grants Office at 202-872-4481 to discuss your eligibility with a Program Manager if you have questions.

Q. Must I be an ACS member or a chemist to apply for an ACS PRF grant?

No. Membership in The American Chemical Society is not a requirement or a factor in awarding ACS PRF grants. In addition, we do not restrict submission by departments.

Q. I am a student looking for a fellowship. Does PRF offer any scholarships or fellowships directly to students?

No, the ACS Petroleum Research Fund does not offer any grant programs to which an individual in your circumstances might apply. ACS PRF does support a number of undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students, but this support is provided only through grants to institutions on behalf of faculty members, who then select the students to be funded.

Q. What are the general selection criteria for funding?

Rankings of proposals and recommendations for funding are made on the basis of the following criteria (weight given to each varies, depending on the grant program):

• Overall quality, significance, and scientific merit of the proposed research, including the extent to which it will increase basic knowledge and/or stimulate additional research

• Qualifications or potential of the principal investigator(s) and adequacy of the facilities to conduct the research

• Extent to which advanced scientific education will be enhanced through the involvement of students in the research

• Impact of PRF funding the research, including the effect on the principal investigator’s overall research program

• Newness of the research

Proposal and Grant Budget Information

Q. What budget period must I use on my proposal?

The ACS PRF budget year is from September 1 to August 31 of the following year, but a Principal Investigator may request an early start date. Your start date must be the first day of a month, and all grant periods are at least one year long and end on an August 31. So, proposals requesting an early start date will have a “Year 1” longer than 12 months.

Q. What start date can I use on my proposal budget?

For proposals to be considered in October, the earliest start date is January 1 of the following year. For proposals to be considered in May, the earliest start date is July 1. If you are unsure when a proposal will be considered, this is noted in the footer of the application form.

Q. May ACS PRF funds be used for overhead costs?

No. Overhead or administrative costs may not be charged to any ACS PRF grant.

Q. Are there any restrictions on foreign travel?

ACS PRF has no special restrictions on foreign travel. Prior approval for travel, foreign or domestic, is not needed if travel support was included in the original budget. If travel funds were not included in the original budget, then approval for a budget change request is required. All travel, except previously approved field work necessary to carry out the research project, is subject to the limitation of $2000 per year of the original grant term for student and PI travel combined.

Current Grantees

Q. I would like to make some changes in the budget categories in my PRF grant. How may I do this?

Prior written approval from PRF is required for budget changes. Contact your Program Manager or

Q. I am changing institutions. May my award be transferred to the new institution?

Yes, under most circumstances. Contact the ACS Research Grants Office for approval and the necessary forms.

Q. What are the reporting requirements for grants?

For research grants, annual financial, technical progress, and personnel reports are required and are due by October 1 of each year during which the grant has been in effect for at least twelve months. You will be contacted by the ACS Research Grants Office and sent the necessary instructions in late summer. Note that ACS PRF regulations require only a financial report and a personnel report (if students were supported) to be submitted for a grant time extension year.

Q. Currently, I have an active PRF grant that is about to expire. May I obtain a time extension without additional funds?

Yes. Email your request to your Program Manager. If you are not sure whom to contact, email Please note the PRF Advisory Board has placed a limit of two one-year no-cost, time-extensions to ACS PRF grants, except under extenuating circumstances.