Instructions for Proposal Preparation

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Organizations applying for the first time, or which have not received a NSF award within the preceding two years, should refer to GPM Section 501, for instructions on specific information that may be requested by NSF or consult the Prospective New Awardee Guide (NSF 99-78) on the NSF Web site at: <https://www.nsf.gov/bfa/cpo/oversite/start.htm>.

To facilitate proposal preparation, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding proposal preparation and submission are available electronically on the NSF Web site at: <https://www.nsf.gov/bfa/cpo/policy/ques.htm>. FAQs regarding FastLane proposal preparation and submission are available at: <http://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/a1/newstan.htm>.

With the exception of item B.3 below, all standard NSF proposal format items, including single copy documents, are supported by FastLane.

A. Conformance with Instructions for Proposal Preparation

It is important that all proposals conform to the instructions provided in the GPG and in the Proposal Forms Kit. Conformance is required and will be strictly enforced unless a deviation has been approved. Proposals that are not consistent with these instructions may not be considered by NSF. Particular attention is given to proposal length, content and formatting, including the page limitation on the Project Description and other proposal sections, such as the use of Appendices and required content of the Biographical Sketches.

Any deviations from these instructions must be authorized in advance by NSF. Deviations may be authorized in one of two ways:

  1. through specification of different requirements in a NSF solicitation; or

  2. by the written approval of the cognizant NSF Assistant Director/Office Head or designee. Such deviations may be a "blanket deviation" for a particular program or programs or, in rare instances, an "individual" deviation for a particular proposal.

Proposers may deviate from these instructions only to the extent authorized. Proposals must identify the deviation in one of the following ways as appropriate: (a) by identifying the program announcement number in the appropriate block on the NSF Form 1207; or (b) by identifying the date of the deviation authorization in the program announcement block on the NSF Form 1207, and including one copy of the written deviation authorization with the single-copy documents identified in paragraph B. below. For proposals submitted via FastLane, the name, date and title of the NSF official authorizing the deviation should be entered. Further instructions are available on the FastLane Web site.

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B. Special Instructions for Single-Copy Documents

The following single-copy documents, if applicable, should be attached to the front of the proposal in the order identified below.

1. Information About Principal Investigators/Project Directors and co-Principal Investigators/co-Project Directors (NSF Form 1225)

NSF is committed to providing equal opportunities for participation in its programs and promoting the full use of the Nationís research resources. To aid in meeting these objectives, NSF requests information on the gender, race, ethnicity and disability status of individuals named as PIs/co-PIs on proposals and awards. Except for the required information about current or previous Federal research support and the name(s) of the PI/co-PI, submission of the information on the form is voluntary, and individuals who do not wish to provide the personal information should check the box provided for that purpose. One copy of the form should be submitted for each PI/co-PI identified on the proposal. The forms and the information they contain are accessible by NSF personnel only.

2. List of Suggested Reviewers or Reviewers Not to Include (optional)

Proposers may include, in a cover letter or separate sheet, a list of suggested reviewers that the proposers believe are especially well qualified to review the proposal. Proposers may also designate persons they would prefer not review the proposal, indicating why. These suggestions are optional. The cognizant Program Officer handling the proposal considers the suggestions and may contact the proposer for further information.

3. Certification Page (Page 2 of the Cover Sheet for Proposal to the National Science Foundation, NSF Form 1207)

By signing Page 2 of the NSF Form 1207, PIs and authorized organizational representatives are providing certain required certifications. (See Section II.D.1 for further information regarding certifications.) The NSF FastLane system currently cannot be used to submit this information. Section F of Chapter I contains further instructions for proposals submitted via FastLane.

C. Format of the Proposal

Every page of the proposal must be numbered at the bottom center. Proposers however, may select any numbering mechanism for the proposal (e.g., sections may be separately paginated and include both the section and page number on the bottom of each page, or the entire proposal may be numbered consecutively).

Proposals must be stapled in the upper-left-hand corner (for copies other than the original, a simple binding such as a comb binding also is permitted) and have 2.5 cm margins at the top, bottom and on each side. The type size must be clear and readily legible, in standard size which is 10 to 12 points. (No smaller than 10 point font size will be accepted.) If constant spacing is used, there should be no more than 12 characters per 2.5 cm, whereas proportional spacing should provide no more than an average of 15 characters per 2.5 cm. While line spacing (single-spaced, double-spaced, etc.) is at the discretion of the proposer, established page limits must be followed and there also must be no more than 6 lines in a vertical space of 2.5 cm. (Individual program solicitations may eliminate this proposer option.) The original signed copy of the proposal should be printed only on one side of each sheet. Additional copies may be printed on both sides.

Pages submitted must be of standard size. Metric A4 (210 mm x 297 mm) is preferred, however, 8 1/2" x 11" (216 mm x 279 mm) may be used. Pages must conform to the formatting instructions (in particular, 2.5 cm margins and type size limitations) described above.

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D. Sections of the Proposal

Proposers may select any numbering mechanism for the proposal (e.g., sections may be separately paginated and include both the section and page number on the bottom center of each page, or the entire proposal may be numbered consecutively.) The proposal must be assembled in the following sequence:

1 = Use of format required{8}
2 = Use of format optional
3 = Use instructions provided in GPG for preparation of this section

Note: NSF is in the process of recording all the contents of a proposal in electronic format. Therefore the various forms contained in the Proposal Forms Kit now include barcodes as part of the form. All paper proposals submitted to NSF must include the bar codes provided on each NSF required format.

Barcodes are not relevant to proposals prepared via FastLane.

Section in Proposal
* Cover Sheet for Proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF Form 1207) (page 1 – all copies; page 2 – original signature copy only – see Section II.B.3)1
A Table of Contents (NSF Form 1359)1
B Project Summary3
C Project Description (including Results from Prior NSF Support)3
D References Cited3
E Biographical Sketches3
F Summary Proposal Budget (NSF Form 1030) (cumulative and annual budgets, including subaward budget(s), if any, and up to three pages of Budget Justification)1
G Current and Pending Support (NSF Form 1239)2
H Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources (NSF Form 1363)2
I Special Information and Supplementary Documentation3
J Appendices (Include only if approved in advance of proposal submission by NSF Assistant Director/Office Head, or designee, or by program solicitation)

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1. Cover Sheet for Proposal to the National Science Foundation

The required format for the Cover Sheet for Proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF Form 1207) is shown in the Proposal Forms Kit. One copy of the proposal must be signed by the PI(s) and an official authorized to commit the organization in business and financial affairs. Other copies may include page 1 of the NSF Form 1207 only.

Proposers are required to enter the applicable program announcement or solicitation number and closing date in the block entitled, "Program Announcement/Solicitation No./Closing Date." If the proposal is not submitted in response to a specific program announcement or solicitation, proposers must enter "NSF 00-2." Compliance with this requirement is critical to determining the relevant proposal processing guidelines. Using Appendix A as a guide, proposers also are required to enter the NSF Program(s) (and associated Division) to which the proposal should be directed in the block entitled, "For Consideration by NSF Organizational Unit."

A block is included for the proposer to enter its organizationís Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number. The DUNS number is a nine-digit number assigned by Dun and Bradstreet Information Services. If the proposer does not have a DUNS number, it should contact Dun and Bradstreet by telephone directly at 800.333.0505 to obtain one. A DUNS number will be provided immediately by telephone at no charge.

Should the project be performed at a place other than where the award is to be made, that should be identified in the block entitled, "Name of Performing Organization." Examples are as follows:

Grantee Organization Performing Organization

Northern Virginia University

Northern Virginia University Health Center
Southern Virginia University Research Foundation Southern Virginia University

The title of the project should be brief, scientifically or technically valid, intelligible to a scientifically or technically literate reader, and suitable for use in the public press. The NSF may edit the title of a project before making an award.

Some NSF program solicitations require submission of both a preproposal and full proposal as part of the proposal process. A block has been added to identify, in submission of the full proposal, any related preproposal number assigned by NSF.

The proposed duration for which support is requested should be consistent with the nature and complexity of the proposed activity. Grants are normally awarded for up to three years but may be awarded for periods up to five years. The Foundation encourages PIs to request awards for durations of three to five years when such durations are necessary for completion of the proposed work and when such durations are technically and managerially advantageous. Specification of a desired starting date for the project is important and helpful to NSF staff; however, requests for specific effective dates may not be met. Except in special situations, requested effective dates should allow at least six months for NSF review, processing and decision. Should unusual situations (e.g., a long lead time for procurement) create problems regarding the proposed effective date, the PI should consult his/her organizationís sponsored projects office.

Should any of the listed items on page 1 apply to a proposal, the appropriate box(es) should be checked.

The following blocks on page 1 are for NSF USE ONLY and should be left blank by the proposer: NSF Proposal Number; Date Received; Number of Copies; Division Assigned; Fund Code; and File Location.

The proposer must sign page 2 of the NSF Form 1207 to submit the following required certifications (see Page 2 of the NSF Form 1207 for important considerations regarding completion of the required certifications):

Certification for Principal Investigators and Co-Principal Investigators: The PI (and co-PIs) are required to complete certifications regarding statements contained in the proposal, authorship and reporting of the research and scientific conduct of the project. The signature(s) of the PI (and co-PIs) (including date of signature(s)) are required.

Certification for Authorized Organizational Representative or Individual Applicant: The Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) is required to complete certifications regarding the accuracy and completeness of statements contained in the proposal; as well as to certify that the organization (or individual) agrees to accept the obligation to comply with award terms and conditions. The AORís signature (including date of signature) is required. It is the proposing organizationís responsibility to assure that only properly authorized individuals sign in this capacity.

Certification Regarding Conflict of Interest: A certification is also included that requires an organizational representative to certify that the institution has implemented and is enforcing a written policy on conflicts of interests consistent with the provisions of Grant Policy Manual, Section 510; that, to the best of his/her knowledge, all financial disclosures required by the conflict of interest policy were made; and that conflicts of interests, if any, were or, prior to the institutionís expenditure of any funds under the award, will be, satisfactorily managed, reduced or eliminated in accordance with the institutionís{9} conflict of interest policy. Conflicts that cannot be satisfactorily managed, reduced or eliminated must be disclosed to NSF.

Drug-Free Workplace: The AOR (or individual applicant) is providing the Drug-Free Workplace Certification by signing page 2.

Debt/Debarment and Suspension: The AOR is required to complete the Debt and Debarment or Suspension questions by checking the appropriate boxes.

Certification Regarding Lobbying: The certification on Lobbying Restrictions, entitled Certification for Contracts, Grants, Loans and Cooperative Agreements, is included in full text on page 2 of the Cover Sheet. This certification is required when the proposal exceeds $100,000. Only if, pursuant to paragraph 2 of the certification, submission of the "Disclosure of Lobbying Activities," SF LLL, is required, should the box for "Disclosure of Lobbying Activities" be checked on the Cover Sheet. The signed SF LLL, when applicable, should be included behind the single-copy documents identified in Section II.B. A copy of this form may be obtained from the Policy Office at 703.306.1243 or by e-mail to: <policy@nsf.gov>.

Profit-making organizations must certify their status by completing each of the appropriate submitting organization boxes on the Cover Sheet, using the following guidelines:

  1. A small business must be organized for profit, independently owned and operated (not a subsidiary of or controlled by another firm), have no more than 500 employees, and not be dominant in its field. The appropriate box should also be checked when the proposal involves a cooperative effort between an academic institution and a small business.
  2. A minority business must be: (i) at least 51 percent owned by one or more minority or disadvantaged individuals or, in the case of a publicly owned business, have at least 51 percent of the voting stock owned by one or more minority or disadvantaged individuals; and (ii) one whose management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more such individuals.
  3. A woman-owned business must be at least 51 percent owned by a woman or women, who also control and operate it. "Control" in this context means exercising the power to make policy decisions. "Operate" in this context means being actively involved in the day-to-day management.

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2. Project Summary – Proposal Section A

The proposal must contain a summary of the proposed activity suitable for publication, not more than one page in length. It should not be an abstract of the proposal, but rather a self-contained description of the activity that would result if the proposal were funded. The summary should be written in the third person and include a statement of objectives, methods to be employed and the potential impact of the project on advancing knowledge, science and mathematics education, and/or human resource development. It should be informative to other persons working in the same or related fields and, insofar as possible, understandable to a scientifically or technically literate lay reader.

3. Table of Contents – Proposal Section B

The required format for the proposal Table of Contents (NSF Form 1359) is included in the Proposal Forms Kit. A Table of Contents is automatically generated for proposals submitted via FastLane.

4. Project Description – Proposal Section C (Including Results from Prior NSF Support)

All proposals to NSF will be reviewed utilizing the merit review criteria described in greater length in Chapter III.

The main body of the proposal should be a clear statement of the work to be undertaken and should include: objectives for the period of the proposed work and expected significance; relation to longer-term goals of the PIís project; and relation to the present state of knowledge in the field, to work in progress by the PI under other support and to work in progress elsewhere. The statement should outline the general plan of work, including the broad design of activities to be undertaken, an adequate description of experimental methods and procedures and, if appropriate, plans for preservation, documentation, and sharing of data, samples, physical collections and other related research products.

The statement should also indicate any broader impacts of the proposed activity, addressing the following: indicate how the project will integrate research and education by advancing discovery and understanding while at the same time promoting teaching, training, and learning; discuss any ways in which the proposed activity will broaden the participation of underrepresented groups; if relevant, discuss how the project will enhance the infrastructure for research and/or education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships; indicate how the results of the project will be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding; and, identify potential benefits of the proposed activity to society at large.

Any substantial collaboration with individuals not included in the budget should be described and documented with a letter from each collaborator, which should be provided as supplementary documentation and included in Proposal Section I.

Brevity will assist reviewers and Foundation staff in dealing effectively with proposals. Therefore, the Project Description (including Results from Prior NSF Support, which is limited to five pages) may not exceed 15-pages. Visual materials, including charts, graphs, maps, photographs and other pictorial presentations are included in the 15-page limitation. Conformance to the 15-page limitation will be strictly enforced and may not be exceeded unless a deviation has been specifically authorized. (Section II.A contains information on deviations.)

PIs wishing to submit a group proposal (a proposal that is submitted by 3 or more investigators and combines into one administrative mechanism several projects that ordinarily would be funded separately) that might exceed the 15-page limitation should discuss that possibility with the cognizant program officer prior to submission, or examine the relevant divisional Web page{10}. (See section II.12.b. for additional instructions on preparation and submission of collaborative proposals.)

A proposal for renewed support, may be either a "traditional" proposal in which the proposed work is documented and described as fully as though the proposer were applying for the first time; or, an "Accomplishment-Based Renewal" (ABR) proposal, in which the project description is replaced by copies of no more than six reprints of publications resulting from the re-search supported by NSF during the preceding three to five year period, plus a brief summary of plans for the proposed support period. (See Section VI.B.2 for additional information on preparation of Renewal Proposals.)

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 are also encouraged to use metric units in reports, publications and correspondence relating to proposals and awards.

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Results from Prior NSF Support

If the PI (or any co-PI identified on the proposal) has received NSF funding in the past five years, information on the prior award is required. If the proposer has received more than one prior award (excluding amendments), the proposer should report on the award most closely related to the proposal. The following information should be provided:

  1. the NSF award number, amount and period of support;
  2. the title of the project;
  3. summary of the results of the completed work, including, for a research project, any contribution to the development of human resources in science and engineering;
  4. publications resulting from the NSF award;
  5. brief description of available data, samples, physical collections and other related research products not described elsewhere; and
  6. if the proposal is for renewed support, a description of the relation of the completed work to the proposed work.

Reviewers will be asked to comment on the quality of the prior work described in this section of the proposal. Please note that a PI with prior support may use up to five pages to describe the results. Results may be summarized in fewer than five pages, which would give the proposer the balance of the 15 pages for the Project Description.

Proposals for renewed support of research projects, for academic institutions only, must include information on human resources development at the postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate levels. This may involve, but is not limited to, the role of research in student training, course preparation and seminars (particularly for undergraduates). Special accomplishments in the development of professional scientists and engineers from underrepresented groups should be described. Graduate students who participated in the research should be identified by name. This requirement does not apply to non-academic organizations.

5. References Cited – Proposal Section D

Reference information is required. Each reference must include the names of all authors in the same sequence in which they appear in the publication, the article title, book or journal title, volume number, page numbers and year of publication. Proposers should be especially careful to follow accepted scholarly practices in providing citations for source materials relied upon when preparing any section of the proposal.

While there is no established page limitation, this section should include bibliographic citations only and should not be used to provide parenthetical information outside of the 15-page project description.

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6. Biographical Sketches – Proposal Section E

Biographical sketches are limited to two pages each and are required for all senior project personnel. (See Appendix C for definition of Senior Personnel.) The following information must be provided:

  1. Professional Preparation. A list of the individualís undergraduate and graduate education and postdoctoral training as indicated below:

    Undergraduate Institution(s)

    Major Degree & Year
    Graduate Institution(s) Major Degree & Year
    Postdoctoral Institution(s) Area Inclusive Dates (years)

  2. Appointments. A list, in reverse chronological order, of all the individualís academic/professional appointments beginning with the current appointment.

  3. Publications. (i) A list of up to 5 publications most closely related to the proposed project. (ii) A list of up to 5 other significant publications, whether or not related to the proposed project. Each reference must include:
    • the names of all authors (in the same sequence in which they appear in the publication);
    • the article (or book or journal) title;
    • volume number;
    • page numbers;
    • year of publication; and
    • Web site address if available electronically

    For unpublished manuscripts, list only those submitted or accepted for publication (along with most likely date of publication). Patents, copyrights and software systems developed may be substituted for publications. Additional lists of publications, invited lectures, etc., should not be included. Only the list of 10 will be used in the review of the proposal.

  4. Synergistic Activities. A list of up to five examples that demonstrate the broader impact of the individualís professional and scholarly activities that focus on the integration and transfer of knowledge as well as its creation. Examples could include, among others: innovations in teaching and training (e.g., development of curricular materials and pedagogical methods); contributions to the science of learning; development and/or refinement of research tools; computation methodologies, and algorithms for problem-solving; development of databases to support research and education; broadening the participation of groups underrepresented in science, mathematics, engineering and technology; and service on national boards and committees.

  5. Collaborators & Other Affiliations.
    1. Collaborators. A list of all persons in alphabetical order (including, where possible, their current organizational affiliations) who are currently or who have been collaborators or co-authors with the individual on a project, book, article, report, abstract or paper during the 48 months preceding the submission of this proposal. Include collaborators on this proposal. If there are no collaborators, this should be so indicated.
    2. Graduate and Post Doctoral Advisors. A list of the names of the individualís own graduate advisor(s) and principal postdoctoral sponsor(s), and their current organizational affiliations.
    3. Thesis Advisor and Postgraduate-Scholar Sponsor. A list of all persons (including, where possible, their organizational affiliations), over the last five years with whom the individual has had an association as thesis advisor or postgraduate-scholar sponsor. The total number of graduate students advised and postdoctoral scholars sponsored should also be identified.

The information in part e of the biographical sketch is used to help identify potential conflicts or bias in the selection of reviewers.

For the personnel categories listed below, the proposal also may include information on exceptional qualifications that merit consideration in the evaluation of the proposal.

  1. Postdoctoral associates
  2. Other professionals
  3. Students (research assistants)

For equipment proposals, the following should be provided for each auxiliary user:

  1. Short biographical sketch
  2. List of up to five publications most closely related to the proposed acquisition.

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7. Budget – Proposal Section F

The required format for the Summary Proposal Budget (NSF Form 1030) is shown in the Proposal Forms Kit. In addition to the material provided below, further instructions for completion of the budget (including areas that require justification) are contained on the back of the NSF Form 1030. Locally produced versions of the form may be used, but changes or substitutions should not be made in prescribed budget categories. Unless a particular program solicitation stipulates otherwise, each proposal must contain a budget for each year of support requested and a cumulative budget for the full term of requested NSF support. The proposal may request funds under any of the categories listed so long as the item and amount are considered necessary to perform the proposed work and are not precluded by specific program guidelines or applicable cost principles. In addition to the forms, the proposal may include up to three pages of budget justification for the entire period of support.

a. Salaries and Wages (Lines A and B on NSF Form 1030)

(i) Policies

As a general policy, NSF recognizes that salaries of faculty members and other personnel associated directly with the project constitute appropriate direct costs and may be requested in proportion to the effort devoted to the project.

NSF regards research as one of the normal functions of faculty members at institutions of higher education. Compensation for time normally spent on research within the term of appointment is deemed to be included within the faculty memberís regular organizational salary. Grant funds may not be used to augment the total salary or rate of salary of faculty members during the period covered by the term of faculty appointment or to reimburse faculty members for consulting or other time in addition to a regular full-time organizational salary covering the same general period of employment. Exceptions may be considered under certain NSF science and engineering education program solicitations for weekend and evening classes or for administrative work done as overload. (See GPM Section 611.)

Summer salary for faculty members on academic-year appointments is limited to no more than two-ninths of their regular academic-year salary. This limit includes summer salary received from all NSF-funded grants.

These same principles apply to other types of organizations, such as research institutes. Since their employment periods are usually annual, salary should be shown under "calendar months." For such persons, "summer salary" is normally inappropriate under a NSFgrant.

Sometimes an independent institute or laboratory proposes to employ college or university faculty members on a part-time basis. In such cases, the general intent of the policies above apply, so that an individualís total income will not be augmented in ways that would not be possible under a grant to an academic institution.

In most circumstances, particularly for institutions of higher education, salaries of administrative or clerical staff are included as part of indirect costs (F&A). Salaries of administrative or clerical staff may be requested as direct costs, however, for a project requiring an extensive amount of administrative or clerical support and where these costs can be readily and specifically identified with the project with a high degree of accuracy. The circumstances for requiring direct charging of these services should be clearly described in the budget justification. Such costs, if not clearly justified, may be deleted by NSF.

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(ii) Procedures

The names of the PI(s), faculty, and other senior personnel and the estimated number of full-time-equivalent academic-year, summer, or calendar-year person-months for which NSF funding is requested should be listed. For postdoctoral associates and other professionals, each position must be listed, with the number of full-time-equivalent person-months and rate of pay (hourly, monthly or annual). For graduate and undergraduate students, secretarial, clerical, technical,etc., whose time will be charged directly to the project, only the total number of persons and total amount of salaries per year in each category is required. Salaries requested must be consistent with the organizationís regular practices.

The budget may request funds for support of graduate or undergraduate research assistants to help carry out the proposed research. Compensation classified as salary payments should be requested in the salaries and wages category. Any direct costs requested for tuition remission should be listed under "Other Direct Costs".

(iii) Confidential Budgetary Information

The proposing organization may request that salary data on senior personnel not be released to persons outside the Government during the review process. In this case, the item for senior personnel salaries in the proposal may appear as a single figure and the person-months represented by that amount omitted. If this option is exercised, however, senior personnel salaries and person-months must be itemized in a separate statement, a single copy of which should accompany the proposal. This statement must include all of the information requested on the NSF Form 1030 for each person involved. NSF will not forward the detailed information to reviewers and will hold it privileged to the extent permitted by law. The information on senior personnel salaries will be used as the basis for determining the salary amounts shown in the grant budget. The box for "Pro-prietary and Privileged Information" should be checked on the NSF Form 1207 when the proposal contains confidential budgetary information. This feature also may be accomplished for proposals submitted electronically via FastLane{11}.

b. Fringe Benefits (Line C on NSF Form 1030)

If the granteeís usual accounting practices provide that its contributions to employee benefits (social security, retirement, etc.) be treated as direct costs, NSF grant funds may be requested to defray such expenses as a direct cost, but only in proportion to salaries and wages requested in the budget.

c. Equipment (Line D on NSF Form 1030)

Equipment is defined as an item of property that has an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more (unless the organization has established lower levels) and an expected service life of more than one year. Items of needed equipment should be listed individually by description and estimated cost, including tax, and adequately justified. Allowable items will ordinarily be limited to research equipment and apparatus not already available for the conduct of the work. General purpose equipment, such as a personal computer, is not eligible for support unless primarily or exclusively used in the actual conduct of scientific research. (See Section II.D.7.f.(iv).)

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d. Travel (Line E on NSF Form 1030)

(i) General

Travel and its relation to the proposed activities should be specified. Funds may be requested for field work, attendance at meetings and conferences, and other travel associated with the proposed work, including subsistence. In order to qualify for support, however, attendance at meetings or conferences must enhance the PIís ability to perform the work, plan extensions of it, or disseminate its results.

Allowance for air travel normally will not exceed the cost of round-trip, economy air fares. (See also GPM Section 614.) Persons traveling under NSF grants must travel by US-flag carriers, if available.

(ii) Domestic Travel

For budget purposes, domestic travel includes travel in the US, its possessions, Puerto Rico, and travel to Canada and Mexico.

(iii) Foreign Travel

For budget purposes, travel outside the areas specified above is considered foreign. The proposal should include relevant information, including countries to be visited (also enter names of countries on the NSF Form 1030) dates of visit, if known, and justification for any foreign travel planned in connection with the project.

Travel support for dependents of key project personnel may be requested only when all of the following conditions apply:

  1. the individual is a key person who is essential to the research on a full-time basis;
  2. the individualís residence away from home and in a foreign country is for a continuous period of six months or more and is essential to the effective performance of the project; and
  3. the dependentís travel allowance is consistent with the policies of the organization administering the grant.

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e. Participant Support (Line F on NSF Form 1030)

This budget category refers to costs of transportation, per diem, stipends and other related costs for participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with NSF-sponsored conferences, meetings, symposia, training activities and workshops. (See Section V.B.) Generally, indirect costs (F&A) are not allowed on participant support costs. The number of participants to be supported should be entered in the parentheses on the NSF Form 1030. These costs should also be justified in the budget justification section of the proposal.

f. Other Direct Costs (Lines G1 through 6 on NSF Form 1030)

Any costs charged to a NSFgrant must be reasonable and directly allocable to the supported activity. The budget should identify and itemize other anticipated direct costs not included under the headings above, including materials and supplies, publication costs, computer services and consultant services. Examples include aircraft rental, space rental at research establishments away from the grantee organization, minor building alterations, payments to human subjects, service charges, tuition remission, and construction of equipment or systems not available off the shelf. Reference books and periodicals may be charged to the grant only if they are specifically required for the project.

(i) Materials and Supplies (Line G1 on NSF Form 1030)

The budget should indicate the general types of expendable materials and supplies required, with their estimated costs. The breakdown should be more detailed when the cost is substantial.

(ii) Publication/Documentation/Dissemination (Line G2 on NSF Form 1030)

The budget may request funds for the costs of documenting, preparing, publishing or otherwise making available to others the findings and products of the work conducted under the grant. This generally includes the following types of activities: reports, reprints, page charges or other journal costs (except costs for prior or early publication); necessary illustrations; cleanup, documentation, storage and indexing of data and data bases; development, documentation and debugging of software; and storage, preservation, documentation, indexing, etc., of physical specimens, collections or fabricated items.

(iii) Consultant Services (Line G3 on NSF Form 1030)

Anticipated consultant services should be justified and information furnished on each individualís expertise, primary organizational affiliation, normal daily compensation rate, and number of days of expected service. Consultantsí travel costs, including subsistence, may also be included. Payment for a consultantís services, exclusive of expenses, may not exceed the consultantís normal rate or the daily maximum rate established annually by NSF, whichever is less{12}.

(iv) Computer Services (Line G4 on NSF Form 1030)

The cost of computer services, including computer-based retrieval of scientific, technical and educational information, may be requested. A justification based on the established computer service rates at the proposing organization should be included. (See also Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure in Section V.J.) The budget also may request costs, which must be shown to be reasonable, for leasing of automated data processing equipment. Special purpose computers or associated hardware and software, other than general purpose PCs, should be requested as items of equipment and justified in terms of their necessity for the activity proposed.

(v) Subawards{13} (Line G5 on NSF Form 1030)

Except for the procurement of such items as commercially available supplies, materials, equipment or general support services allowable under the grant, no significant part of the research or substantive effort under a NSF grant may be contracted or otherwise transferred to another organization without prior NSF authorization. The intent to enter into such arrangements should be disclosed in the proposal. At a minimum, the disclosure shall include a clear description of the work to be performed, the basis for selection of the subawardee (except for collaborative/joint arrangements), and a separate budget in the prescribed NSF format for each subaward, signed by an authorized representative of the organization receiving the subaward. Collaborative/joint arrangements may include closely related and coordinated activities at another organization; a joint activity by several organizations or a consortium; group proposals from multiple organizations, etc. The total amount for proposed subawards, not included elsewhere, should be entered on Line G5 in the Summary Proposal Budget for the project. For proposals submitted via FastLane, budgets signed by the authorized organizational representative of the subawardee organization must be forwarded to the proposing organization and accompany the signed Proposal Cover Sheet (NSF Form 1207).

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g. Total Direct Costs (Line H on NSF Form 1030)

The total amount of direct costs requested by the proposer, to include Lines A through G, should be entered on Line H.

h. Indirect Costs (also known as Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A) for Colleges and Universities) (Line I on NSF Form 1030)

The applicable indirect cost rate(s) negotiated by the organization with the cognizant Federal negotiating agency must be used in computing indirect costs (F&A) for a proposal. If an organization has no established indirect cost rate, it should contact the Cost Analysis/Audit Resolution Branch of NSFís Division of Contracts, Policy and Oversight. An organization may obtain guidelines for submitting rate proposals from that Branch, telephone 703.306.1244. These guidelines also are available electronically at the following Web site at: <https://www.nsf.gov/bfa/cpo/oversite/indirect.htm>.

Within Government guidelines, unless otherwise indicated in a specific program solicitation, it is NSF policy that grantees are entitled to reimbursement from grant funds for indirect costs (F&A) allocable to the NSF share of allowable direct costs of a project, except grants:

  • solely for the support of travel, equipment, construction of facilities, or doctoral dissertations;
  • for participant support costs;
  • to foreign grantees; and
  • to individuals (i.e., Fellowship awards).

i. Total Direct and Indirect Costs (F&A) (Line J on NSF Form 1030)

The total amount of direct and indirect costs (F&A) (sum of Lines H and I) should be entered on Line J.

j. Residual Funds (Line K on NSF Form 1030)

This line is used only for budgets for incremental funding requests on continuing grants. Grantees should provide a rationale for residual funds in excess of 20% as part of the annual project report.

k. Amount of This Request (Line L on NSF Form 1030)

The total amount of funds requested by the proposer will be the same as the amount entered on Line J unless the Foundation disapproves the carry-over of residual funds. If disapproved, Line L will be equal to Line J minus Line K.

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l. Cost Sharing (Line M on NSF Form 1030)

In accordance with Congressional requirements (see GPM 330), NSF requires that each grantee share in the cost of research projects resulting from unsolicited proposals. The grantee may meet the statutory cost sharing requirement by choosing either of two alternatives:

  1. by cost sharing a minimum of one percent on the project; or
  2. by cost sharing a minimum of one percent on the aggregate costs of all NSF-supported projects requiring cost sharing.

The statutory cost sharing referenced above is not required for grants that provide funds solely for the following purposes (not considered to be support of "research"), although such awards may be subject to other cost sharing requirements identified in a specific solicitation:

  1. international travel;
  2. construction, improvement or operation of facilities;
  3. acquisition of research equipment;
  4. ship operations;
  5. education and training;
  6. publication, distribution and translation of scientific data and information;
  7. symposia, conferences and workshops; and
  8. special studies authorized or required by Subsections 3a(5) through 3a(7) of the NSF Act, as amended.

For research proposals submitted solely in response to the Grant Proposal Guide, only the statutory cost sharing amount (1%) is required. Such amounts should not be entered on Line M of the Summary Proposal Budget (NSF Form 1030). If organizational or other commitments in excess of NSFís statutory requirement are voluntarily included in the proposal, the amount of these contributions should be included on Line M of the NSF Form 1030. The sources and amounts should be included in the budget justification. Any amount listed on Line M will be a condition of the award, should an award be made.

Proposals submitted in response to NSF solicitations may be subject to additional cost sharing requirements. Proposers are advised that all cost sharing commitments, if incorporated into the award, are subject to audit.

The estimated value of any in-kind contributions should be included on Line M. An explanation of the source, nature, amount and availability of any proposed cost sharing should also be provided in the budget justification{14}. It should be noted that contributions counted as cost sharing toward projects of another Federal agency may not be counted towards meeting the specific cost sharing requirements of the NSF grant. Failure to provide the level of cost sharing reflected in the approved grant budget may result in termination of the NSF grant, disallowance of grant costs and/or refund of grant funds to NSF.

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m. Unallowable Costs

Proposers should be familiar with the complete list of unallowable costs that is contained in the applicable cost principles. Because of their sensitivity, the following categories of unallowable costs are highlighted:

(i) Entertainment

Costs of entertainment, amusement, diversion and social activities and any costs directly associated with such activities (such as tickets to shows or sports events, meals, lodging, rentals, transportation and gratuities) are unallowable. Expenses of grantee employees who are not on travel status are unallowable. This includes cases where they serve as hosts or otherwise participate at meals that are primarily social occasions involving speakers or consultants. Costs of employees on travel status are limited to those allowed under the governing cost principles for travel expenses. (See GPM Section 614.)

(ii) Meals and Coffee Breaks

No NSF funds may be spent on meals or coffee breaks for intramural meetings of an organization or any of its components, including, but not limited to, laboratories, departments and centers.

(iii) Alcoholic Beverages

No NSF funds may be spent on alcoholic beverages.

8. Current and Pending Support – Proposal Section G

A model format to provide Current and Pending Support information (NSF Form 1239) is shown in the Proposal Forms Kit. Use of this format is optional; however, the categories of information included on the NSF Form 1239 must be provided. This section of the proposal calls for required information on all current and pending support for ongoing projects and proposals, including subsequent funding in the case of continuing grants. All current project support from whatever source (e.g., Federal, State or local government agencies, private foundations, industrial or other commercial organizations) must be listed. The proposed project and all other projects or activities requiring a portion of time of the PI and other senior personnel should be included, even if they receive no salary support from the project(s). The total award amount for the entire award period covered (including indirect costs) should be shown as well as the number of person-months per year to be devoted to the project, regardless of source of support. Similar information must be provided for all proposals already submitted or submitted concurrently to other possible sponsors, including NSF.

If the project now being submitted has been funded previously by a source other than NSF, the information requested in the paragraph above should be furnished for the last period of funding.

If the proposal is also being submitted to other possible sponsors, all of them must be listed. Concurrent submission of a proposal to other organizations will not prejudice its review by NSF. Note the Biological Sciences Directorate exception to this policy identified on page 1.

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9. Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources – Proposal Section H

A model format to provide Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources information (NSF Form 1363) is included in the Proposal Forms Kit. Use of this format is optional. This section of the proposal is used to assess the adequacy of the organizational resources available to perform the effort proposed. Proposers should describe only those resources that are directly applicable.

10. Special Information and Supplementary Documentation – Proposal Section I

Except as specified below, special information and supplementary documentation should be part of the Project Description (or part of the budget justification) if it is relevant to determining the quality of the proposed work. Information in the following areas should be included in Section I and not counted as part of the 15-page Project Description limitation. This Special Information and Supplementary Documentation Section is not considered an appendix. Specific guidance on the need for additional documentation may be obtained from the organizationís sponsored projects office or in the references cited below.

  • Rationale for performance of all or part of the project off-campus or away from organizational headquarters. (GPM Section 633)
  • Documentation of collaborative arrangements of significance to the proposal through letters of commitment. (GPG II.D.4)
  • Environmental impact statement for activities that have an actual or potential impact on the environment. (GPM Section 830) Where applicable, the box for "National Environmental Policy Act" should be checked on the NSF Form 1207.
  • Work in foreign countries. Some governments require nonresidents to obtain official approval to carry out investigations within their borders and coastal waters under their jurisdiction. PIs are responsible for obtaining the required authorizations and for advising NSF that they have been obtained or requested. Advance coordination should minimize disruption of the research. (GPM Section 763)
  • Research in the Antarctic and Greenland. (Contact the NSF Office of Polar Programs (OPP) for additional information; see Appendix A for phone numbers.)
  • Research in a location designated, or eligible to be designated, a registered historic place. (GPM Section 840) Where applicable, the box for "Historic Places" should be checked on the NSF Form 1207.
  • Research involving field experiments with genetically engineered organisms. (GPM Section 712)
  • Documentation regarding research involving the use of human subjects, hazardous materials, vertebrate animals, or endangered species. (GPM Section 710, GPG II.D.12.d and e)
  • Projects that involve technology utilization/transfer activities, that require a management plan, or that involve special reports or final products.
  • Projects that involve technology utilization/transfer activities, that require a management plan, or that involve special reports or final products.
  • Projects containing a special component, such as Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities or Research Opportunity Awards. (GPG V.G. and H.)
  • Research in Undergraduate Institutions. (See program announcement for information.)

In addition, Section I should alert NSF officials to unusual circumstances that require special handling, including, for example, proprietary or other privileged information in the proposal, matters affecting individual privacy, required intergovernmental review under E.O. 12372 (Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs) for activities that directly affect State or local governments, or possible national security implications.

For proposals submitted via FastLane, special information or supplementary documentation should be included at the end of the Project Description Portable Document Format (PDF) file{15}.

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11. Appendices – Proposal Section J

All information necessary for the review of a proposal should be contained in Sections A through I of the proposal. Appendices may not be included unless a deviation has been authorized. Section II.A. contains information on deviations.

12. Special Guidelines

a. Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER)

Proposals (only one copy required) for small-scale, exploratory, high-risk research in the fields of science, engineering and education normally supported by NSF may be submitted to individual programs. Such research is characterized as:

  • preliminary work on untested and novel ideas;
  • ventures into emerging research ideas;
  • application of new expertise or new approaches to "established" research topics;
  • having a severe urgency with regard to availability of, or access to data, facilities or specialized equipment, including quick-response research on natural disasters and similar unanticipated events; or
  • efforts of similar character likely to catalyze rapid and innovative advances.

Investigators are strongly encouraged to contact the NSF program(s) most germane to the proposal topic before submitting an SGER proposal. This will facilitate determining whether the proposed work meets the guidelines described above and availability and appropriateness for SGER funding, or whether the work is more appropriate for submission as a fully reviewed proposal. (See Appendix A for programs.) SGER proposal preparation and submission are fully supported through FastLane and NSF strongly encourages the submission of SGER proposals through this mechanism.

The project description should be brief (two to five pages) and include clear statements as to why the proposed research should be considered particularly exploratory and high risk, the nature and significance of its potential impact on the field and why an SGER grant would be a suitable means of supporting the work.

Brief biographical information is required for the PI and co-PI(s) only, and should list no more than five significant publications or other research products. The box for "Small Grant for Exploratory Research" should be checked on the Cover Sheet, NSF Form 1207.

These proposals will be subject to internal NSF merit review only. Renewed funding of SGER awards may be requested only through submission of a non-SGER proposal, which will be subject to full merit review.

Under a three-year experiment, effective until October 1, 2000, the maximum SGER award amount will not exceed $100,000. Although the maximum award amount is $100,000, the award amount usually will be substantially less than a given program's average award amount. The project's duration will normally be one year, but may be up to two years.

For participating directorates and at the discretion of the Program Officer, with the concurrence of the Division Director, a small fraction of especially promising SGER awards may be extended for a period of six additional months and supplemented with up to $50,000 in additional funding{16}. The SGER award extensions will be possible for awards of two-year initial duration as well as for those of shorter initial duration. Requests for extensions should be submitted one to two months before the expiration date of the initial award. A project report and outline of proposed research, not to exceed five pages, should be included.

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b. Collaborative Proposals

A collaborative proposal is one in which investigators from two or more organizations wish to collaborate on a unified research project. Collaborative proposals may be submitted to NSF in one of two methods: as a single proposal, in which a single award is being requested (with subawards administered by the lead organization); or by simultaneous submission of proposals from different organizations, with each organization requesting a separate award. In either case, the lead organizationís proposal should contain all of the requisite sections as a single package to be provided to reviewers. All collaborative proposals should clearly describe the roles to be played by the other organizations, specify the managerial arrangements, and explain the advantages of the multi-organizational effort within the project description. PIs are strongly encouraged to contact the cognizant NSF Program Officer prior to submission of a collaborative proposal.

(i) Submission of a single proposal

The single proposal method allows investigators from two or more institutions who have developed an integrated research project to submit a single, focused proposal. A single investigator bears primary responsibility for the administration of the grant and discussions with NSF, and, at the discretion of the organizations involved, investigators from any of the participating institutions may be designated as co-PIs.

By submission of the proposal, the organization has determined that the proposed activity is administratively manageable. NSF may request a revised proposal, however, if it considers that the project is so complex that it will be too difficult to review or administer as presented. (See GPG Section II.D.7.f.(v) for additional instructions on preparation of this type of proposal.)

(ii) Simultaneous submission of proposals from different organizations

In many instances, simultaneous submission of proposals that contain the same project description from each organization might be appropriate. For these proposals, the project title must begin with the words "Collaborative Research:"

Note: Until FastLane is fully implemented there are two ways to submit simultaneous collaborative proposals. One is the traditional paper process and the other is electronically via FastLane. Some NSF programs may require electronic submission of all or part of a proposal. Please check the FastLane Web site prior to proposal submission for a listing of programs and program announcements and solicitations that require submission via FastLane.

Instructions for paper and electronic submission are specified below:

Paper Submission

For purposes of NSF review and processing, a complete package should be submitted, including the Cover Sheets, biographical sketches and statements of current and pending support for individuals designated as senior project personnel, budgets and budget justifications, and Facilities Equipment and Other Resources for each organization. A single copy of the project summary, project description and references cited also should be submitted. One organization must take the lead, submitting the original from that organization plus the required number of copies for use in the review process. The other organization(s) need only submit their original copy of the complete proposal to NSF.

Electronic Submission

The lead organization submission will include a cover sheet, project summary, project description, references cited, biographical sketches, budgets and budget justification, current and pending support, and facilities, equipment and other resources for their organization. Non-lead organization submissions will include all of the above for their organization except the project summary, project description, and references cited which are the same for all collaborating organizations. The proposal submission will be combined for printing or electronic viewing by FastLane.

To submit the collaborative proposal, the following two step process must be completed:

(i) Before the lead organization submits their proposal, each non-lead organization must provide to the lead organization the temporary proposal ID generated by FastLane when the non-lead proposal is being created. The lead organization must then enter each non-lead organization(s) temporary proposal ID into the FastLane lead proposal by using the "Link Collaborative Proposals" option found on the FastLane "Form Preparation" screen. This provides an electronic link to all of the non-lead proposals for printing.

(ii) To facilitate the lead organizationís role in submitting the proposal, each non-lead organization must also provide their proposal number (assigned on proposal submission), to the lead organization. The lead organization should then include a list of these collaborative proposal numbers with its signed Cover Sheet (NSF Form 1207).

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c. Equipment Proposals

Proposals for specialized equipment may be submitted by an organization for: (1) individual investigators; (2) groups of investigators within the same department; (3) several departments; (4) organization(s) participating in a collaborative or joint arrangement; (5) any components of an organization; or (6) a region. One individual should be designated as PI. Investigators may be working in closely related areas or their research may be multidisciplinary.

Note: Many organizations within NSF have formal instrumentation programs that may include special guidelines such as cost sharing or other requirements. It is important to use the applicable guidelines in these competitions. The appropriate program should be consulted.

Instrumentation and equipment proposals should follow the format of research proposals. Each potential major user should describe the project(s) for which the equipment will be used. These descriptions should be succinct, not necessarily as detailed as in an individual research proposal, and should emphasize the intrinsic merit of the activity and the importance of the equipment to it. A brief summary will suffice for auxiliary users.

Equipment to be purchased, modified or constructed should be described in sufficient detail to allow comparison of its capabilities with the needs of the proposed activities. Equipment proposals should also describe comparable equipment already at the proposing organization(s) and explain why it cannot be used. This includes comparable government-owned equipment that is on-site.

Equipment proposals should discuss arrangements for acquisition, maintenance and operation, including:

  • overall acquisition plan;
  • biographical sketch of the person(s) who will have overall responsibility for maintenance and operation and a brief statement of qualifications, if not obvious; description of the physical facility, including floor plans or other appropriate information, where the equipment will be located;
  • statement of why the equipment is severable or non-severable from the physical facility;
  • annual budget for operation and maintenance of the proposed equipment, indicating source of funds, and particularly related equipment; and
  • brief description of other support services available and the annual budget for their operation, maintenance and administration.

The terms of a grant require that special-purpose equipment purchased or leased with grant funds be subject to reasonable inventory controls, maintenance procedures and organizational policies that enhance its multiple or shared use on other projects, if such use does not interfere with the work for which the equipment was acquired.

If the government retains title, those items must be included in the annual inventory submitted to the NSF Property Administrator. Equipment proposals should include the information described above within the 15-page project description. These proposals normally compete with proposals for research or education projects. For additional information on other NSF opportunities in this area, see Section V.A. on the Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI).

d. Proposals Involving Vertebrate Animals

For proposals involving the use of vertebrate animals, sufficient information should be provided within the 15-page project description to allow for evaluation of the choice of species, number of animals to be used, and any necessary exposure of animals to discomfort, pain or injury. All projects involving vertebrate animals must have approval from the organizationís Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) before issuance of an NSF award. The box for "Vertebrate Animals" should be checked on the NSF Form 1207 with the IACUC approval date (if available) identified in the space provided.

If the IACUC has not reviewed the proposed work, the proposer should include the date at which the review is scheduled to be completed.

e. Proposals Involving Human Subjects

Projects involving research with human subjects must ensure that subjects are protected from research risks in conformance with the Common Rule (Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, 45 CFR ß690). All projects involving human subjects must either: (1) have approval from the organizationís Institutional Review Board (IRB) before issuance of a NSF award; or (2) identify the applicable subsection exempting the proposal from IRB review, as established in section 101(b) of the Common Rule. The box for "Human Subjects" should be checked on the NSF Form 1207 with the IRB approval date (if available) or exemption subsection from the Common Rule identified in the space provided.

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