04-23 September 2004
Chapter I - Introduction
The Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) provides guidance for the
preparation and submission of proposals to NSF. Contact with NSF
program personnel prior to proposal preparation is encouraged.
Some NSF programs have program solicitations that modify the general
provisions of this Guide, and, in such cases, the guidelines provided
in the solicitation must be followed. (See Section C.4 below for
further information on NSF program solicitations.) The Foundation
considers proposals submitted by organizations on behalf of individuals
or groups for support in most fields of research. Interdisciplinary
proposals also are eligible for consideration.
NSF does not normally support technical assistance, pilot plant efforts, research requiring security classification, the development of products for commercial marketing, or market research for a particular project or invention. Research with disease-related goals, including work on the etiology, diagnosis or treatment of physical or mental disease, abnormality, or malfunction in human beings or animals, is normally not supported. Animal models of such conditions or the development or testing of drugs or other procedures for their treatment also are not eligible for support. However, research in bioengineering, with diagnosis- or treatment-related goals, that applies engineering principles to problems in biology and medicine while advancing engineering knowledge is eligible for support. Bioengineering research to aid persons with disabilities also is eligible.
Research proposals to the Biological Sciences Directorate (not proposals for conferences or workshops) cannot be duplicates of proposals to any other Federal agency for simultaneous consideration. The only exceptions to this rule are: (1) when the proposers and program officers at relevant Federal agencies have previously agreed to joint review and possible joint funding of the proposal; or (2) proposals for PIs who are beginning investigators (individuals who have not been a principal investigator (PI)1 or co-principal investigator (co-PI) on a Federally funded award with the exception of doctoral dissertation, postdoctoral fellowship or research planning grants). For proposers who qualify under this latter exception, the box for "Beginning Investigator" must be checked on the proposal Cover Sheet.
B. NSF PROGRAMS AND FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES
The NSF Website provides the most comprehensive source of information on NSF
Directorates (including contact information), programs and funding opportunities.
Use of this Website by potential proposers is strongly encouraged. In addition,
the NSF Custom News Service is an information-delivery system designed to keep
potential proposers and other interested parties apprised of new NSF funding
opportunities and publications, important changes in proposal and award policies
and procedures, and upcoming NSF Regional Grants Conferences. Subscribers are
informed through e-mail or the user's Web browser each time new publications
are issued that match their identified interests. The Custom News Service also
is available on NSF's Website at http://www.nsf.gov/home/cns/.
Grants.gov provides an additional electronic capability to search for Federal government-wide grant opportunities. NSF funding opportunities may be accessed via this new mechanism. Further information on Grants.gov may be obtained at http://www.grants.gov.
C. CATEGORIES OF FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES
NSF utilizes a variety of mechanisms to generate proposals. A brief description
of each category of funding opportunity follows:
1. Dear Colleague Letter
Dear Colleague letters are intended to provide general information to the community, clarify or amend an existing policy or document, or inform the NSF proposer community about upcoming opportunities or special competitions for supplements to existing awards. In addition, they are often used to draw attention to an impending change in NSF policies or programs.
2. Program Description
The term "program description" includes broad, general descriptions of programs and activities in NSF Directorates and Divisions, such as those included in NSF's Guide to Programs. Program descriptions are often posted on Directorate/Division websites to encourage the submission of proposals in specific program areas of interest to NSF.
Program descriptions, like program announcements, utilize the generic eligibility and proposal preparation instructions specified in the Grant Proposal Guide, as well as the National Science Board (NSB) approved merit review criteria. These funding opportunities do not require specific cost sharing beyond the required statutory (1%) amount, or specify additional award conditions or reporting requirements. (Additional information on NSF cost sharing requirements can be found in GPG Chapter II, Section C.2.g.xii and in the Grant Policy Manual Section 330.) Proposals submitted in response to program descriptions are considered "unsolicited."
3. Program Announcement
The term "program announcement" refers to formal NSF publications that announce
NSF programs. Program announcements and program descriptions (see C.2. above)
are the primary mechanisms used by NSF to communicate opportunities for research
and education support, as well as to generate proposals. Program announcements
utilize the generic eligibility and proposal preparation guidelines specified
in the GPG and incorporate the National Science Board (NSB) approved merit
review criteria. These funding opportunities do not require specific cost sharing
beyond the required statutory (1%) amount, or specify additional award conditions
or reporting requirements. (Additional information on NSF cost sharing requirements
can be found in GPG Chapter II, Section
C.2.g.xii and in the Grant Policy Manual Section 330.) Proposals submitted in response to program announcements also are considered "unsolicited."
4. Program Solicitation
The term "program solicitation" refers to formal NSF publications that encourage the submission of proposals in specific program areas of interest to NSF. They generally are more focused than program announcements, and normally apply for a limited period of time. Competition among proposals is more precisely defined than with program announcements. Program solicitations are issued when the funding opportunity has one or more of the following features:
Provides supplemental proposal preparation guidance or deviates
from the guidelines established in the Grant Proposal Guide;
specially crafted review criteria relevant to the program;
proposal deadline dates for the submission of full proposals;
submission of a letter of intent or preliminary proposal; Deviates from
(or restricts) the standard categories of proposers specified in Section
Deviates from (or restricts) the standard categories of proposers specified
in Section E. below;
Limits the number of proposals that may be submitted by any organization
award conditions or reporting requirements;
Anticipates use of a cooperative
Includes specific cost sharing requirements; or
Permits inclusion of the
payment of fees to awardees, when appropriate.
When a program solicitation is used, the proposals received compete directly with each other. Proposals submitted in response to program solicitations are considered "solicited." This means that the resulting awards are not subject to the statutory cost sharing requirement. Cost sharing is not required unless explicitly included in the solicitation.
D. TYPES OF SUBMISSIONS
1. Letter of Intent
Some NSF program solicitations require or request submission of a Letter of Intent in advance of submission of a full proposal. The predominant reason for its use is to help NSF program staff to gauge the size and range of the competition, enabling earlier selection and better management of reviewers and panelists. In addition, the information contained in a Letter of Intent is used to help avoid potential conflicts of interest in the review process.
A Letter of Intent normally contains the PI's and co-PI's names, a proposed title, a list of possible participating organizations (if applicable), and a synopsis that describes the work in sufficient detail to permit an appropriate selection of reviewers. A Letter of Intent is not externally evaluated or used to decide on funding. The requirement to submit a Letter of Intent will be identified in the program solicitation, and such letters are submitted electronically via the NSF FastLane System.
2. Preliminary Proposal
Some NSF program solicitations require or request submission of a preliminary proposal in advance of submission of a full proposal. The two predominant reasons for requiring submission of a preliminary proposal are to:
reduce the proposers' unnecessary effort in proposal preparation
when the chance of success is very small. This is particularly true of exploratory
initiatives where the community senses that a major new direction is being
identified, or competitions that will result in a small number of actual
increase the overall quality of the full submission.
The NSF program solicitation will specify content and submission requirements when preliminary proposals are to be utilized. Preliminary proposals are prepared by the PI using the Proposal Preparation Module in FastLane. On the Cover Sheet, the PI clicks on the "preliminary proposal" check box. The PI completes only the sections appropriate to the preliminary proposal. The PI then forwards the proposal to his/her Sponsored Projects Office, which then submits the preliminary proposal to NSF.
One of the following two types of decisions may be received from NSF upon submission of a preliminary proposal. The program solicitation will specify the type of decision to be rendered for a particular program.
a. Invite/Not Invite
This type of mechanism is used when the NSF decision made on the preliminary proposal is final, affecting the PI's eligibility to submit a full proposal. Only submitters of favorably reviewed preliminary proposals are invited and eligible to submit full proposals. Invite/Not Invite decisions are generally used where large, complex, or limited-award competitions are contemplated, such as those used for "centers." The PI and the organization's Sponsored Projects Office will be electronically notified of NSF's decision to either invite submission of a full proposal or decline NSF support.
This type of mechanism is used when the NSF decision made on the preliminary proposal is advisory only. This means that submitters of both favorably and unfavorably reviewed preliminary proposals are eligible to submit full proposals. Encourage/Discourage decisions are typically used when the preliminary proposal is very short, focused on the activity to be proposed, and where use of the preliminary proposal is intended to improve the overall quality of the full proposal. The PI and the organization's Sponsored Projects Office will be notified of NSF's decision to either encourage or discourage submission of a full proposal.
3. Full Proposal
The full proposal should present the (1) objectives and scientific, engineering, or educational significance of the proposed work; (2) suitability of the methods to be employed; (3) qualifications of the investigator and the grantee organization; (4) effect of the activity on the infrastructure of science, engineering and education; and (5) amount of funding required. It should present the merits of the proposed project clearly and should be prepared with the care and thoroughness of a paper submitted for publication. The requisite proposal preparation instructions are contained in GPG Chapter II. Sufficient information should be provided to enable reviewers to evaluate the proposal in accordance with the two merit review criteria established by the National Science Board. (See GPG Chapter III for additional information on NSF processing and review of proposals.)
NSF expects strict adherence to the rules of proper scholarship and attribution. The responsibility for proper attribution and citation rests with authors of a proposal; all parts of the proposal should be prepared with equal care for this concern. Authors other than the PI (or any co-PI) should be named and acknowledged. Serious failure to adhere to such standards can result in findings of research misconduct. NSF policies and rules on research misconduct are discussed in Grant Policy Manual (GPM) Section 930 as well as in 45 CFR Part 689.
The Metric Conversion Act of 1975, as amended, and Executive Order 12770 of 1991 encourage Federal agencies to use the Metric System (SI) in procurement, grants and other business-related activities. Proposers are encouraged to use the Metric System of weights and measures in proposals submitted to the Foundation. Grantees also are encouraged to use metric units in reports, publications and correspondence relating to proposals and awards.
PROPRIETARY OR PRIVILEGED INFORMATION
Patentable ideas, trade secrets, privileged or confidential commercial or financial information, disclosure of which may harm the proposer, should be included in proposals only when such information is necessary to convey an understanding of the proposed project. Such information must be clearly marked in the proposal and be appropriately labeled with a legend such as,
"The following is (proprietary or confidential) information that (name of proposing organization) requests not be released to persons outside the Government, except for purposes of review and evaluation."
Such information also may be included as a separate statement. If this method is used, the statement must be submitted electronically as a single-copy document in the Proposal Preparation Module in the FastLane system. (See also Chapter II, Section C.1 for further information regarding submission of single-copy documents.)
The box for "Proprietary or Privileged Information" must be checked on the
proposal Cover Sheet when the proposal contains such information. While NSF
will make every effort to prevent unauthorized access to such material, the
Foundation is not responsible or in any way liable for the release of such
material. (See also Chapter VI, Section
K, "Release of Grantee Proposal Information.")
E. WHO MAY SUBMIT PROPOSALS
Scientists, engineers and educators usually initiate proposals that are officially
submitted by their employing organization. Before formal submission, the proposal
may be discussed with appropriate NSF program staff. Graduate students are
not encouraged to submit research proposals, but should arrange to serve as
research assistants to faculty members. Some NSF divisions accept proposals
for Doctoral Dissertation Research Grants when submitted by a faculty member
on behalf of the graduate student. The Foundation also provides support specifically
for women and minority scientists and engineers, scientists and engineers with
disabilities, and faculty at predominantly undergraduate academic institutions.
CATEGORIES OF PROPOSERS
Except where a program solicitation establishes more restrictive eligibility criteria,
individuals and organizations in the following categories may submit proposals:
Universities and colleges - US universities and two- and four-year colleges
(including community colleges) acting on behalf of their faculty members.
Such organizations also are referred to as academic institutions.
non-academic organizations - Independent museums, observatories, research
laboratories, professional societies and similar organizations in the US
that are directly associated with educational or research activities.
organizations - US commercial organizations, especially small businesses
with strong capabilities in scientific or engineering research or education.
An unsolicited proposal from a commercial organization may be funded when
the project is of special concern from a national point of view, special
resources are available for the work, or the proposed project is especially
meritorious. NSF is interested in supporting projects that couple industrial
research resources and perspectives with those of universities; therefore,
it especially welcomes proposals for cooperative projects involving both
universities and the private commercial sector.
State and Local Governments
- State educational offices or organizations and local school districts
may submit proposals intended to broaden the impact, accelerate the pace,
and increase the effectiveness of improvements in science, mathematics and
engineering education in both K-12 and post-secondary levels.
Individuals - Scientists, engineers or educators in the US and US citizens
may be eligible for support, provided that the individual is not employed
by, or affiliated with, an organization, and:
the proposed project is sufficiently meritorious and otherwise
complies with the conditions of any applicable proposal-generating
the proposer has demonstrated the capability and has access to any
necessary facilities to carry out the project; and
the proposer agrees to fiscal arrangements
that, in the opinion of the NSF Division of Grants & Agreements,
ensure responsible management of Federal funds.
Unaffiliated individuals should contact the appropriate program before preparing a proposal for submission.
Foreign organizations - NSF rarely provides support to foreign organizations.
NSF will consider proposals for cooperative projects involving
US and foreign organizations, provided support is requested only for the
US portion of the collaborative effort.
NSF does not normally support research or education
activities by scientists, engineers or educators employed by Federal
agencies or Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs).
A scientist, engineer or educator, however, who has a joint appointment
with a university and a Federal agency (such as a Veterans Administration
Hospital, or with a university and a FFRDC) may submit proposals through
the university and may receive support if he/she is a bona fide faculty
member of the university, although part of his/her salary may be provided
by the Federal agency. Under unusual circumstances, other Federal agencies
and FFRDCs may submit proposals directly to NSF. Preliminary inquiry
should be made to the appropriate program before preparing a proposal
F. WHEN TO SUBMIT PROPOSALS
Proposers should allow adequate time for NSF review and processing of proposals
(see Section H below). Many NSF programs accept proposals at any time. Other
programs, however, establish due dates for submission of proposals. The following
types of due dates are utilized by NSF:
Target dates: dates after which proposals will still
be accepted, although they may miss a particular panel or committee meeting.
dates: dates after which proposals will not be accepted for review
by NSF. The deadline date will be waived only in extenuating circumstances.
Such a deviation only may be authorized in accordance with GPG, Chapter
II. Section A.
Submission windows: designated periods of time during
which proposals will be accepted for review by NSF. For purposes of
NSF, the end date of a submission window converts to, and follows the same
policies as, a deadline date.
These target dates, deadlines, and submission windows are published in specific program descriptions, program announcements and solicitations that can be obtained from the NSF Clearinghouse at firstname.lastname@example.org or electronically through the NSF Website.5 Unless otherwise stated in a program announcement or solicitation, proposals must be received by the specified date. If the deadline date falls on a weekend, it will be extended to the following Monday; if the date falls on a holiday, it will be extended to the following business day. Unless otherwise specified in a program solicitation that has an identified deadline date, proposals must be received by 5 p.m. submitter's local time on the established deadline date.6
G. HOW TO SUBMIT PROPOSALS
1. Electronic Requirements
Proposals to NSF must be submitted electronically via the FastLane system.
For proposers who cannot submit electronically, a deviation must be approved
in advance of submission of the paper proposal in accordance with GPG Chapter
II, Section A, Conformance
with Instructions for Proposal Preparation.
Special instructions for proposals that contain high-resolution graphics or other graphics where exact color representations are required for proper interpretation by the reviewer
For cost and technical reasons, the Foundation cannot, at this time, reproduce proposals containing color. PIs, therefore, generally should not rely on colorized objects to make their arguments. PIs who must include in their project descriptions high-resolution graphics, or other graphics where exact color representations are required for proper interpretation by the reviewer, must submit the required number of copies of the entire paper proposal, including the proposal Cover Sheet, for use in the review process. This submission is in addition to, not in lieu of, the electronic submission of the proposal via FastLane. Given that many NSF programs have converted to use of a primarily electronic review process, PIs are strongly encouraged to contact the cognizant Program Officer prior to submission of the paper copies of a proposal. The cognizant NSF Program Officer is ultimately responsible for reviewing the color materials submitted and making a determination of whether or not to send the paper copies out for merit review.
Upon submission of the proposal, the proposing organization will be notified of the required number of paper copies of the proposal that must be submitted to NSF. The exact number of copies required will appear in an electronic message at the time of FastLane submission and will depend on the NSF Division selected.
7 Such proposals must be postmarked (or provide a legible proof of mailing date assigned by the carrier) within five working days following the electronic submission of the proposal.
2. Submission Instructions
The same work cannot be funded twice, so a proposal should be submitted only
once to NSF. If the proposer envisions review by multiple programs, more than
one program may be designated on the proposal Cover Sheet. The submission of
duplicate or substantially similar proposals concurrently for review by more
than one program without prior NSF approval may result in the return of the
redundant proposals. (See Chapter
IV, Section B, Return Without Review, for further information.)
In submission of a proposal for funding, the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR)
8 is required to provide
certain proposal certifications. (See Chapter
II, Section C.1.e for listing.) This process can occur concurrently with submission of the proposal for those organizations where the individual authorized to submit a proposal to NSF also is a designated AOR, or as a separate function for those organizations that choose to keep the certification process separate from the submission function. For those organizations that designate separate authorities in FastLane for these functions, the AOR must provide the required certifications within 5 working days following the electronic submission of the proposal.
A proposal may not be processed until NSF has received the complete proposal (including the electronic certifications from the AOR.)
3. Proposal Receipt
Once the proposal is submitted, PIs can access the number assigned to the proposal via the "Submitted Proposals" list in the FastLane Proposal Preparation module. If a proposal number is not reflected in the FastLane System, contact the FastLane Help Desk at (800) 673-6188, or (703) 292-8142 or by e-mail to email@example.com.
When the proposal is assigned to an NSF program, the cognizant program information is available through the FastLane "Proposal Status Inquiry" function for PIs and through the "Recent Proposals" report for sponsored projects offices. Communications about the proposal should be addressed to the cognizant Program Officer with reference to the proposal number. Proposers are strongly encouraged to use FastLane to verify the status of their submission to NSF.
H. PROPOSAL PROCESSING
Proposers should allow up to six months for programmatic review and processing
(see Chapter III for additional information on the NSF
merit review process). In addition, proposers should be aware that the NSF
Division of Grants and Agreements generally makes awards to academic institutions
within 30 days after the program division makes its recommendation. Grants
being made to organizations that have not received an NSF award within the
preceding two years, or involving special situations (such as coordination
with another Federal agency or a private funding source), cooperative agreements,
and other unusual arrangements may require additional review and processing
time. Proposals that are time-sensitive (e.g., conference, group travel, and
research involving ephemeral phenomena) will be accepted for review only if,
in the opinion of the cognizant Program Officer, they are received in sufficient
time to permit appropriate NSF review and processing to support an award in
advance of the activity to be supported. Every effort is made to reach a decision
and inform the proposer promptly. Until an award is made, NSF is not responsible
for any costs incurred by the proposing organization.
used in this Guide, the term "Principal Investigator" also includes
the term "Project Director." Back to Text
otherwise specified, the term "organization" refers to all categories
of proposers. Back to Text
NSF FastLane system uses Internet/Web technology to facilitate the
way NSF does business with the research, education, and related communities.
The NSF FastLane system should be used for proposal preparation, update,
submission and status checking, project reporting, and post-award administrative
activities. All FastLane functions are accessed by using a Web browser
on the Internet. Detailed information about the FastLane system is
available from the FastLane Website at https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/fastlane.jsp.Back
instructions for submission of proprietary or privileged information is available
on the FastLane Website at https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/a1/newstan.jsp#proprietary. Back
listing of upcoming target dates and deadlines, sorted by date and
by program area is available electronically on the NSF Website at https://www.nsf.gov/home/deadline/deadline.jsp. Back
solicitations that require letters of intent or preliminary proposals,
unless otherwise specified, also follow the 5 p.m. submitter's local
time standard. Back to Text
instructions for submission of proposals that include high-resolution
graphics or exact color representations that are required for proper
interpretation by reviewers are available on the FastLane Website
at https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/a1/newstan.jsp#color. Back
defined in the NSF Grant
Policy Manual, Chapter II, Section 210a. the Authorized Organizational
Representative is the administrative official who, on behalf of the
proposing organization, is empowered to make certifications and assurances
and can commit the organization to the conduct of a project that NSF
is being asked to support as well as adhere to various NSF policies
and grant requirements.Back to Text
instructions for this process are available on the FastLane Website.Back to Text