The Importance of Final Technical Reports

Published: 28 February 2020

Over the next few newsletters, we want to discuss the topic of reporting. While we know that reporting on a federal grant is not as exciting or fun as your research, it is a requirement.

From the Program ManagersWe know that PIs have questions and misconceptions about reporting, and we want to help you use your time effectively. In this article, we will focus on final technical reports. We also plan to write about no-cost extensions, progress reports, and other scientific/technical information (e.g., journal articles).

Imagine that you are PI of an ASR award that is scheduled to end in the next six months. Ask yourself whether you are on track to complete the proposed research within the scheduled period of performance. If there have been unexpected delays, you will probably want to request a no-cost extension to the project (the subject of a future “from the Program Managers”). If you are on track to complete the award on schedule, you will want to start thinking about your final report.

In general, you are expected to submit a final technical report to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) within a few months of the project end date. The due date for your project will be in your award’s reporting checklist.

Speaking of reporting checklists, if you don’t have a copy of the one for your award, we suggest that you contact your sponsored research office and ask for a copy. You may be surprised by the contents.

Your final technical report should include a detailed summary of project activities and accomplishments during the entire project period. While specific requirements for your final technical report are included in your award’s reporting checklist, we’ve found that the most effective technical reports:

  • Provide identifying information: Your report should include the DOE award number, sponsoring program office, name of the recipient, project title, name of project director/principal investigator, and consortium/team members. Identifying information is usually provided on a cover page.
  • Include an abstract or executive summary: This should be written in terms understandable by an educated layperson. The abstract is particularly valuable because the entire final report is a public, searchable document.
  • Review project activities: The entire period of funding should be summarized, including original hypotheses, approaches used, and findings. Include, if applicable, facts, figures, analyses, and assumptions used during the life of the project to support the results in a manner that conveys to the scientific community the scientific and technical information created during the project. References to publicly available articles are acceptable, so you don’t necessarily need to go into a lot of technical detail if you can reference a published article. However, we recognize that not all knowledge gained is published in the peer-reviewed literature.
  • Include publications: It is important to document all publications that have resulted from your DOE-supported research, such as journal articles, software, conference proceedings, and student theses/dissertations.

A guiding principle when writing your final report is that it is the public record of what was accomplished through your ASR award.

Other considerations to keep in mind when preparing reports:

You may want to discuss the support of graduate students or participation of undergraduate students, especially if there is not a final product (e.g., journal article or thesis) resulting from that support.

  • Your annual progress reports and original public abstract may be helpful when writing your final report.
  • We ask that you not attach journal article manuscripts or published papers to the final report. Published manuscripts should be submitted to OSTI through E-Link separately from the final report.
  • A report should not include any protected, personally identifiable information (PII).

Do not include publications arising from projects funded outside of DOE that you happened to publish or release while funded by DOE.

Because you can reference publicly available published work, the report does not need to be long. We have read very clear final reports between four and eight pages in length (including cover page; abstract; narrative; personnel; and list of publications, products, and conference presentations).

The final technical report is typically the part of the grant closeout process that most closely involves PIs. University and research institution sponsored research offices and DOE’s Office of Grants and Cooperative Agreements take the award closeout process very seriously. You may get bombarded with emails if you are late in your reporting. Because it’s part of a larger process, it may take a while after you submit the report before it is sent to the program manager for final approval.

Sometimes we request that the PI submit a revised final report. In most cases, this is because the report included too much information, such as protected personally identifiable information (medical information, for example), copyrighted materials, published journal articles, or unpublished manuscripts.

In our next newsletter, we will discuss no-cost extensions. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to email the program managers.

– Shaima Nasiri and Jeff Stehr, ASR Program Managers

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This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, through the Biological and Environmental Research program as part of the Atmospheric System Research program.