FastLane Announcement #01-01

This announcement discusses several recent and upcoming changes to the FastLane system including user documentation, support for various file upload formats, solutions for MSIE 5.5, easy ways to get your password reset, revised proposal budget information, reviewer system changes, enhancements to the interactive panel system, how to update your organization’s information online and an upcoming common PI/co-PI login.

User Documentation

User documentation on proposal preparation and basic organizational management functions has been greatly expanded. The new documentation, available presently in PDF format, may be viewed or downloaded under FastLane Advisories on the FastLane Homepage ( ).

File Uploads in Various Formats

FastLane now supports file uploads in a variety of formats including Word, WordPerfect, PostScript and TeX (MiKTeX1.20e). You should continue to use standard fonts to avoid font substitutions and you will need to proofread and accept the uploaded files. PDF files will continue to be accepted if properly created for merging into a single proposal (e.g. ensuring that all fonts are embedded, the files is saved in Acrobat 3 format and that PDFWriter was not used to create the file). For more information on supported document types, see

Note that one of the advantages of PDF files is that the resulting document is supposed to look the same to everyone viewing it. Adobe Acrobat Reader allows users to choose a "fit-to-page" option when printing a file. As this distorts the output depending (e.g. margins and fonts sizes) upon the printer chosen, users should not choose this option when printing out their PDF files. Otherwise, a PDF file that may appear compliant with NSF font size and margin requirements on your printer may appear non-compliant to everyone else. The "fit-to-page" option is not used by NSF’s Proposal Processing Unit when printing proposals at NSF. Therefore, the resulting printed copy at NSF appears at the same scale as the original.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 (MSIE 5.5)

FastLane is one of the few web sites serving PDF files using a secure server and using secure means of posting the files to browsers. Past users of MSIE 5.5 would see a blank screen when trying to view PDF files in FastLane. Microsoft’s Critical Problem Resolution unit has been working on a correction for the MSIE 5.5 Service Pack #1 and for future versions of MSIE. It is still being tested by Microsoft. In the interim, FastLane has programmed a workaround for proposal preparation and will be implementing that in other areas (e.g. proposal review) shortly.

Password Reset

An automated password reset function is now available in FastLane for users who forget their passwords (see "Password Reset" on login pages). Once the user is authenticated through information presently in our database, a one-time password is generated, stored in one-way encrypted format in FastLane, and sent by e-mail to the address on record. As with virtually all FastLane functions, the password reset function is available all the time. Therefore, users no longer need to wait to contact the FastLane Help Desk or their
Sponsored Research Office.

Organization Basic Information Changes

Organizational Management now has an additional permission (Review/Revise Organizational Information) that allows authorized users to update in NSF’s records for an organization’s address, phone number, FAX number, e-mail address, EIN/TIN and DUNS number. The change is immediate. Name changes cannot be performed online. Instead, organizational management users will need to e-mail to inform NSF of these changes.

Revised Proposal Budgets

PIs can now assign their Revised Proposal Budgets a PIN which can be used by other FastLane users to prepare and forward the revised proposal budget to the PI's Sponsored Research Office. Users can now add senior personnel to their revised proposal budgets. Please note that Revised Proposal Budgets submitted via FastLane do NOT require a paper copy to be signed and mailed to NSF.

Frequently when revised proposal budgets are submitted, the Principal Investigator has additional material that may also need to be submitted to NSF in order for a Program Officer to make a final recommendation on the proposal. Examples of such material are: documentation regarding collaborative arrangements of significance to the proposal or research involving the use of human subject, hazardous material, vertebrate animals etc.). Until another mechanism is created in FastLane by which to transmit such material electronically to NSF the PI may scan the special information and supplementary documentation into the PDF file that contains the Impact Statement.

Review System Changes and Print-on-Demand Pilot

FastLane is making a number of enhancements to the Proposal and Panel Review systems. Based upon input from program offices, the user screens now have a different look and feel. The new screens in panel review include tabs which allow the selection of action type and a sort feature that will allow the user to sort proposals via a variety of column headers. Reviewer type has been added as a column header. Both systems now let reviewers download and save a proposal as a PDF file to their computer without first needing to view the proposal with Adobe Acrobat. The capability for panelists to be able to bundle together multiple proposals for download, with options for file compression, will be added later this year.

A new pilot consisting of ten volunteer programs will not automatically send reviewers paper copies of proposals. Rather, for reviewers in these programs, an option will appear in FastLane to have paper copies of the proposals sent through the mail.

The print-on-demand function is expected to be available for other programs later this year.

Interactive Panel System (Panel Meeting System)

Based upon a design team from NSF users in program offices and input from panelists, a new look and some additional features are planned for the second week in April. A version will be available for users to try on our demonstration site by March 26.

Common PI/co-PI Login

FastLane has developed a common login for Principal Investigators (PIs), co-Principal Investigators and other authorized users. Implementation is planned on or about March 20. At the present time, there are ten separate logins available to PIs and many of these require PIs to remember their proposal or award ID numbers. The new login, available for review at our demonstration site ( ), will allow PIs to log into one application instead. PIs then choose a function (e.g. preparing a proposal or a project report).

If the function is associated with an award, they are given a list of existing awards, by number and title, to select. A similar login is available for "other authorized users" who will be able to access, through a PIN provided by the PI or co-PI, proposal preparation, project reporting, revised proposal budgets (new!) and other functions. While this new common login will allow access to all PI functions, the existing separate login links will remain for several weeks while users become familiar with the new entry into the system. A common login for panelists is also planned.

Request for Supplemental Funding

Last October, FastLane added a new module for supplemental funding.  No longer does a PI enter a request for a supplement through Notifications and Requests. To request a supplement, the PI will select the existing award at the beginning of the process.   A temporary proposal is created.  The PI must provide, at a minimum, a summary of the work to be accomplished, a justification, and a budget.  When the SRO submits the supplement, a new proposal is created.

Within five working days, for organization's not participating in the electronic signature pilot, the signed budget must be mailed to NSF program staff.  Although a cover sheet is generated by FastLane, the institution and PI cannot, and need not modify it.  Participants in the electronic signature pilot do not send the budget to NSF.

Here is a list of enhancements made to award supplement recently:

1. The top of the cover sheet is stamped "Supplement" so it can be readily identified.

2. Page 2 is stamped "No Signature Required" in the signature block, as a reminder that the cover sheet does not need to be mailed to NSF.

3. Two buttons were added to the Form Preparation screen, "Supplemental Docs" and "Add/Delete Non Co-PI Senior Personnel."  This will assist PIs preparing supplements for various research opportunities.

4. At the bottom of the SRO submission screen, a reminder was added that they must send a signed budget, but not the cover sheet (except for those participating in the electronic signature pilot).

5. On April 1st, the "Other" button in Notifications and Requests will be disabled.  Until then, if a PI or SRO chooses that option, a warning message states that this option will be disabled on April 1st.  They are directed to the new module.  At the bottom of this screen, we added a button saying "Continue" so processing can continue until then.

6. In several places, text was changed from Supplemental "Proposal" to Supplemental "Request."

7. The word "Funding" was deleted from the Justification label on the forms preparation screen.  It was being confused with a budget requirement.

8. The text in the e-mail message to PIs was revised slightly, reminding them to send the budget (except for those participating in the electronic signature pilot), but not the cover sheet.


About Future Announcements

Questions, comments, or suggestions about FastLane or this announcement may be addressed to . FastLane will no longer use this list of original FastLane institutional contacts for e-mail announcements. Instead, this mailing list is being replaced by the NSF Custom News Service, see The Custom News Service has added a subtype labeled "FastLane Announcements" under the document type "Proposal Announcements & Information." All current Custom News Service subscribers who signed up for documents under Program Announcements will automatically receive FastLane Announcements. Those recipients who use the Custom News Service but do not want to receive FastLane Announcements should edit their profiles and uncheck the FastLane Announcements box under the "Proposal Announcements & Information" subtypes list.