General Info

General information for principal investigators

What is the ETAP data System?

This ETAP data system is a web-based system launched to test the collection of data from students interested in applying to participate in the REU or IRES programs using a common application.

What are the plans to pilot test the system?

The first wave of the pilot test is now complete. More than 50 REU Sites from NSF’s Divisions of Biological Sciences, Earth Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematical Sciences tested the predecessor of the current system, the REU Data System, with the 2019 REU cohort.

NSF expects to conduct a second pilot to test the system at scale with volunteer Sites from IRES and all NSF’s REU disciplines and during the 2023 application cycle. In the meantime, the system is continuously upgraded every year and open for use by selected Sites in both REU and IRES programs.

What is the purpose of this data system pilot?

Two key congressional mandates have fueled the creation of this system and shaped its design:

  1. The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 requires that students in the REU program “be tracked, for employment and continued matriculation in STEM fields, through receipt of the undergraduate degree and for at least three years thereafter” (Section 514[a][6] of Public Law 111-358).
  2. The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-435) set the stage of a new area of evidence-based decision making and accountability for government agencies. The act requires NSF to collect, use, or acquire data to support policy making.

This data system is designed to enable NSF to comply with congressional requirements, sponsor future evaluations of the programs, and support studies that contribute to the knowledge base on authentic research experiences.

Who is conducting the pilot?

NSF has selected Mathematica to conduct this study. Mathematica, a nonpartisan policy research organization, conducts research and surveys, mainly for federal and state governments and private foundations. Mathematica has conducted some of the most important evaluations of education, employment, nutrition, welfare, and early childhood policies and programs in the United States. Mathematica strives to improve public well-being by bringing the highest standards of quality, objectivity, and excellence to bear on information collection and analysis for government agencies and foundations.

Registration System

Can my Site use the registration system for program year 2021?

No, the registration system will not be available for applications to the 2021 program. If your Site used the registration system previously, you may use the common application system for program year 2021.

Common Application

How will my Site benefit from participating in the pilot?
  • You will be able to review completed applications online and download them to make admissions decisions as you normally would.
  • By testing and providing feedback on the system, you will have an exclusive opportunity to help NSF decide whether to adopt such a system. For example:
    • You can use and comment on whether the system is user-friendly and facilitates your admissions procedures.
    • You can determine whether the system generates less work for you and your staff than your usual application process.
    • You can suggest enhancements to the system.
What does my participation in the pilot involve?

As part of the pilot, you will be asked to complete three tasks:

  1. Log into a module designed for principal investigators to enter information about your Site, such as the dates you will start and stop accepting applications.
  2. Direct students to apply at
  3. Record admissions decisions (spring) and whether students participated at your Site (late summer).
What support will I receive to participate in the pilot?

You and your staff will receive ongoing technical support—available by calling 1-800-232-8024 or sending an email to

You will also be invited to participate in a live demonstration of the System (November).

What do I have to do for my Site to be part of the pilot?

To participate in the pilot, you first have to register through the principal investigator module and enter information about your Site. This is a prerequisite so that applicants can apply to your Site using the common application. You will then have to direct prospective applicants to complete their applications for your Site at Below is some suggested language you can use to instruct applicants to complete their applications:

Thank you for your interest in [PROGRAM NAME]. To apply to our program, please go to The website will ask you to create a user account. When your account is created, follow the steps provided on the website to complete the common application. Make sure to select [PROGRAM NAME] when selecting the Sites to which you want to apply. The deadline for completing the application to our program is [DATE].