UW Research
Policies, Procedures and Guidance

NSF Office of Polar Programs-Physical Qualification Determination: Waiver


The National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs (OPP) funds research, including some carried out by UW researchers. OPP policy requires an advance Physical Qualification (PQ) determination for individuals deploying either to certain remote Arctic regions or to Antarctica. See the NSF policy for details of the PQ determination process. Please note that the medical evaluation leading to the PQ determination is made by an NSF contractor, not by UW.

In the case where an individual is determined not physically qualified, the NSF policy allows the individual to request a waiver of the PQ requirement. Such a waiver request must be endorsed by the UW, and requires the UW to waive claims against NSF and the PQ contractor. Because UW Employee Health healthcare providers do not have expertise related to Arctic/Antarctic conditions that could affect the UW employee’s/student’s medical condition and wellbeing, they are not able to assess the risks associated with the travel. Since UW is unable to evaluate the risk assumed by its waiver, it therefore, defers to the expertise of healthcare providers with expertise in polar medicine — the NSF contractor who made the original physical qualification determination. We regret that, as a result, the University is not in a position to endorse waivers for these programs.

We advise UW PIs of these programs to alert prospective students, postdocs, faculty, and staff anticipating deployment to regions covered by this policy to the reality that a physical disqualification determination will mean they may not participate on-site in the research program.