II. Proposal Preparation Instructions
Organizations applying for the first time, or which have not received an NSF
award within the preceding two years, should refer to GPM
Section 501 (https://www.nsf.gov:80/bfa/cpo/gpm95/ch5.htm#ch5-2),
for instructions on specific information that may be requested by NSF or consult
the Prospective New Awardee Guide (NSF
99-78) on the NSF website 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 website
FAQs regarding FastLane proposal preparation and submission are available at http://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/a0/about/a1faq.htm.
A. CONFORMANCE WITH INSTRUCTIONS FOR PROPOSAL PREPARATION
It is important that all proposals conform to the instructions provided in
the GPG. 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
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 an NSF solicitation;
2. by the written approval of the cognizant NSF Assistant Director/Office
Head or designee. These deviations may be in the form of 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 solicitation number that authorized the deviation
in the appropriate block on the Cover Sheet; or for individual deviations, (b)
by identifying the name, date and title of the NSF official authorizing the deviation.
10 Further instructions are
available on the FastLane website.
B. FORMAT OF THE PROPOSAL
1. Proposal Pagination Instructions
Proposers are advised that FastLane does not automatically paginate a proposal.
Each section of the proposal that is uploaded as a file must be individually paginated
before upload to FastLane.
2. Proposal Margin and Spacing Requirements
Proposals must have 2.5 cm margins at the top, bottom and on each side. The
type size must be clear and readily legible, and conform to the following three
requirements: 1) the height of the letters must not be smaller than 10 point;
2) type density must be no more than 15 characters per 2.5 cm; (for proportional
spacing, the average for any representative section of text must not exceed 15
characters per 2.5 cm); and 3) no more than 6 lines must be within a vertical
space of 2.5 cm. The type size used throughout the proposal must conform to all
three requirements. While line spacing (single-spaced, double-spaced, etc.) is
at the discretion of the proposer, established page limits must be followed. (Individual
program solicitations may eliminate this proposer option.)
While the guidelines specified above establish the minimum type size
requirements, PIs are advised that readability is of paramount importance and
should take precedence in selection of an appropriate font for use in the proposal.
C. SECTIONS OF THE PROPOSAL
Information About Principal Investigators/Project Directors and co-Principal
Deviation Authorization (if applicable)
List of Suggested Reviewers or Reviewers Not to Include (optional)
Cover Sheet for Proposal to the National Science Foundation
Table of Contents
Project Description (including Results from Prior NSF Support)
Proposal Budget (cumulative and annual budgets, including subaward budget(s),
if any, and up to three pages of Budget Justification)
Current and Pending Support
Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources
Special Information and Supplementary Documentation
Appendices (Include only if approved in advance of proposal submission by
NSF Assistant Director/Office Head, or designee, or by program solicitation)
• Information About Principal Investigators/Project
Directors and co-Principal Investigators/co-Project Directors
NSF is committed to providing equal opportunities for participation in its
programs and promoting the full use of the Nation’s 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 is voluntary,
and individuals who do not wish to provide the personal information should check
the box provided for that purpose.
• Deviation Authorization (If applicable)
Instructions for obtaining a deviation from NSF proposal preparation instructions
are provided in Chapter II, Section A.
• List of Suggested Reviewers or Reviewers Not to Include
Proposers may include a list of suggested reviewers that they believe are
especially well qualified to review the proposal. Proposers also may 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.
• Cover Sheet for Proposal to the National Science
Proposers are required to select the applicable program announcement, solicitation
or program description. If the proposal is not submitted in response to a specific
program announcement, solicitation, or program description, proposers should select
“Grant Proposal Guide.” Compliance with this requirement
is critical to determining the relevant proposal processing guidelines. Proposers
must then follow instructions for selection of an applicable NSF Division and
Program(s) to which the proposal should be directed.
A block is included for the proposer to enter its organization’s 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 must 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:
Northern Virginia University
Northern Virginia University Health Center
Southern Virginia University
Southern Virginia University
The title of the project must be brief, scientifically or technically valid,
intelligible to a scientifically or technically literate reader, and suitable
for use in the public press. NSF may edit the title of a project prior to making
Some NSF program solicitations require submission of both a preliminary and
full proposal as part of the proposal process. A block is provided to identify,
in submission of the full proposal, any related preliminary proposal number assigned
The proposed duration for which support is requested must 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 of 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 must 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 organization’s sponsored projects office.
Should any of the listed items on the Cover Sheet apply to a proposal, the
appropriate box(es) must be checked.
The AOR must electronically sign the proposal Cover Sheet to submit the following
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
AOR's electronic signature is required. It is the proposing organization's responsibility
to assure that only properly authorized individuals sign in this capacity.
Certification Regarding Conflict of Interest: A certification also is
included that requires an organizational representative to certify that the institution
has implemented and is enforcing a written policy on conflicts of interest consistent
with the provisions of GPM 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 interest, if any, were, or prior to the institutions
expenditure of any funds under the award, will be, satisfactorily managed, reduced
or eliminated in accordance with the institutions 11
conflict of interest policy. Conflicts that cannot be satisfactorily managed,
reduced or eliminated must be disclosed to NSF.
Drug-Free Workplace: By electronically signing the proposal, the AOR
(or individual applicant) is providing the Drug-Free Workplace Certification.
See Appendix A for the full text of the Drug-Free Workplace Certification.
Certification Regarding Lobbying: The certification on Lobbying Restrictions,
entitled Certification for Contracts, Grants, Loans and Cooperative Agreements,
is included in full text on the FastLane submission screen. This certification
is applicable 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, must the box for "Disclosure of Lobbying Activities"
be checked on the Cover Sheet. A PDF version of this form is available on the
Office of Management and Budget website at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/grants/sflllin.pdf.
The SF LLL, when applicable, should be accompanied by a copy of page 1 of the
proposal Cover Sheet and sent within 5 working days following the electronic submission
of the proposal to the following address:
National Science Foundation PPU
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Room P60
Arlington, VA 22230
Profit-making organizations must certify their status by completing each of
the appropriate submitting organization boxes on the Cover Sheet, using the following
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 also must be checked when
the proposal involves a cooperative effort between an academic institution and
a small business.
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.
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.
1. 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.
2. Table of Contents -- Proposal Section B
A Table of Contents is automatically generated for the proposal by the FastLane
system. The proposer cannot edit this form.
3. Project Description (Including Results from Prior NSF
Support) -- Proposal Section C
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 PI’s 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 also should 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.
On September 20, 1999, the NSF Director issued Important Notice 125, Merit
Review Criteria. This Important Notice reminds proposers of
the importance of ensuring that, in addition to the criterion relating to intellectual
merit, the criterion relating to broader impacts is considered and addressed in
the preparation and review of proposals submitted to NSF. The Important Notice
also indicates NSF’s intent to continue to strengthen its internal processes to
ensure that both criteria are appropriately addressed when making funding decisions.
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. (Chapter II, Section A contains information
A group proposal is one submitted by 3 or more investigators whose activities
are combined into one administrative unit. In general, group proposals that contain
up to ten pages of overall project description (including overall progress under
the appropriate prior award) plus up to five pages (per person) of individual
project descriptions will be acceptable. PIs who are unsure of the appropriateness
of their proposal as a group proposal should contact the cognizant program officer
prior to submission. (See also Chapter II, Section C.11.b.
for instructions on preparation and submission of collaborative proposals.)
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.
The project description must be submitted as a PDF file or a word processing
file capable of being converted through FastLane into a PDF file for use by NSF.
Detailed instructions for creation of the PDF file are available at http://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/a1/pdfcreat.htm.
Instructions for uploading other file formats are available at http://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/a1/A1AcceptableFileExtensions.html.
(See also "Special Instructions for Proposals That Contain High Resolution
Graphics or Other Graphics Where Exact Color Representations are Required for
Proper Interpretation by the Reviewer", Chapter
I, Section E.1.)
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 12 of
publications resulting from the research supported by NSF during the preceding
three to five year period, plus a brief summary of plans for the proposed support
period. (See Chapter V, Section B.2 for additional
information on preparation of Renewal Proposals.)
All proposals for renewed support of research projects from academic institutionsonly
must include, as part of Results from Prior NSF Support, information about any
contribution of the completed project to the education and development of human
resources in science and engineering at the postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate
levels. Non-academic organizations are exempt from this requirement. (See Chapter
V, Section B.2. for more information.)
Results from Prior NSF Support
If any PI or co-PI identified on the project has
received NSF funding in the past five years, information on the prior award(s)
is required. Each PI and co-PI that has received more than one
prior award (excluding amendments), must report on the award
most closely related to the proposal. The following information must be provided:
the NSF award number, amount and period of support;
the title of the project;
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;
publications resulting from the NSF award;
brief description of available data, samples, physical collections and other
related research products not described elsewhere; and
- 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 the proposal may containup to
five pages to describe the results. Results may be summarized in fewer
than five pages, which would give the balance of the 15-pages for the Project
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.
4. 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, year of publication,
and website address if available electronically. Proposers must 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 for the references, this section
must include bibliographic citations only and must not be used to provide parenthetical
information outside of the 15-page project description.
5. Biographical Sketches -- Proposal Section E
Biographical sketches are limited to two pages each and are required for all
senior project personnel. (See Appendix B for the definition of Senior Personnel.)
The following information must be provided in the order and format specified below:
a. Professional Preparation.
A list of the individual’s undergraduate and graduate education and postdoctoral
training as indicated below:
Degree & Year
Degree & Year
Inclusive Dates (years)
A list, in reverse chronological order, of all the individual’s academic/professional
appointments beginning with the current appointment.
(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 publication identified 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, year of publication,
and website 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., must not be included. Only the list of 10 will be used
in the review of the proposal.
d. Synergistic Activities.
A list of up to five examples that demonstrate the broader impact of the individual’s
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 to the scientific and engineering community outside of the individual’s
e. Collaborators & Other Affiliations
(i) Collaborators. A
list of all persons in alphabetical order (including 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.
(ii) Graduate and Postdoctoral
Advisors. A list of the names of the individual’s own graduate advisor(s)
and principal postdoctoral sponsor(s), and their current organizational affiliations.
(iii) Thesis Advisor and Postgraduate-Scholar
Sponsor. A list of all persons (including 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 also must 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
- Postdoctoral associates
- Other professionals
- Students (research assistants)
For equipment proposals, the following must be provided for each
- Short biographical sketch
- List of up to five publications most closely related to the proposed acquisition
6. Budget -- Proposal Section F
Each proposal must contain a budget for each year of support requested and
a cumulative budget for the full term of requested NSF support, unless a particular
program solicitation stipulates otherwise. Completion of the budget does not eliminate
the need to document and justify the amounts requested in each category. A budget
justification of up to three pages is authorized to provide the necessary justification
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.
A full discussion of the budget and the allowability of selected items of
cost is contained in the following sections, the GPM, as well as other NSF program
a. Salaries and Wages (Lines A and
B on the Proposal Budget)
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 member’s 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 twoninths 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 non-academic organizations, such
as research institutes. Since their employment periods are usually annual, salary
must be shown under “calendar months.” For such persons, “summer salary” is normally
inappropriate under an NSF grant.
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 individual’s total income will
not be augmented in ways that would not be possible under a grant to an academic
In most circumstances, particularly for institutions of higher education, salaries
of administrative or clerical staff are included as part of indirect costs (also
known as Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A) for Colleges and Universities).
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 must be clearly described in the budget justification.
Such costs, if not clearly justified, may be deleted by NSF.
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 and the rates of pay, must 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 organization’s 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 must be requested in the salaries and wages category. Any direct
costs requested for tuition remission must be listed in the "Other"
category 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 such
cases, 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, senior personnel salaries and person-months must be itemized
in a separate statement, and forwarded to NSF in accordance with the instructions
specified in Chapter I, Section B, Proprietary or Privileged Information. This
statement must include all of the information requested on the Proposal Budget
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 "Proprietary and Privileged
Information" must be checked on the proposal Cover Sheet when the proposal
contains confidential budgetary information13.
b. Fringe Benefits (Line C on the Proposal
If the grantee’s 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 the Proposal Budget)
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 must be listed individually
by description and estimated cost, including tax, and adequately justified. Allowable
items ordinarily will 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 Chapter II,
d. Travel (Line E on the Proposal Budget)
Travel and its relation to the proposed activities must be specified and itemized
by destination and cost. 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 PI’s 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 must include relevant information, including countries to be visited
(also enter names of countries on the Proposal Budget), 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
whenall of the following conditions apply:
(a) the individual is a key person who is essential to the research on a full-time
(b) the individual’s 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
(c) the dependent’s travel allowance is consistent with the policies of the
organization administering the grant.
e. Participant Support (Line F on the Proposal
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 Chapter II, Section C.11.f) Generally, indirect costs
(F&A) are not allowed on participant support costs. The number of participants
to be supported must be entered in the parentheses on the Proposal Budget. These
costs also must be justified in the budget justification section of the proposal.
Some programs, such as Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF
00-107) have special instructions for treatment of participant support. See relevant
program solicitation for further information.
f. Other Direct Costs (Lines G1 through G6 on the Proposal
Any costs charged to an NSF grant must be reasonable and directly allocable
to the supported activity. The budget must 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 the Proposal Budget)
The budget must 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.
(Line G2 on the Proposal Budget)
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 databases; 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 the Proposal Budget)
Anticipated consultant services must be justified and information furnished on
each individual’s expertise, primary organizational affiliation, normal daily
compensation rate, and number of days of expected service. Consultants’ travel
costs, including subsistence, also may be included. Payment for a consultant’s
services, exclusive of expenses, may not exceed the consultant’s normal rate or
the daily maximum rate established annually by NSF, whichever
is less. 14
(iv) Computer Services (Line G4 on
the Proposal Budget)
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 must be
included. 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, may be requested
as items of equipment and justified in terms of their necessity for the activity
(Line G5 on the Proposal Budget)
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 an NSF grant may be contracted
or otherwise transferred to another organization without prior NSF authorization.
The intent to enter into such arrangements must be disclosed in the proposal.
At a minimum, the disclosure must include a clear description of the work to be
performed, and the basis for selection of the subawardee (except for collaborative/joint
arrangements) and a separate budget for each subaward. Submission of a paper budget
signed by the AOR of the subawardee organization is no longer necessary.
(vi) Other (Line G6 on the Proposal
Any other directs costs not specified in Lines G1 through G5 must be identified
on Line G6. Such costs must be itemized and justified in the budget justification.
g. Total Direct Costs (Line H on the
The total amount of direct costs requested by the proposer, to include Lines
A through G, must be entered on Line H.
h. Indirect Costs (also known as Facilities
and Administrative Costs (F&A) for Colleges and Universities) (Line I on the
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 NSF’s Division
of Contracts, Policy and Oversight. An organization may obtain guidelines for
submitting rate proposals from that Branch, telephone (703) 292-8244. These guidelines
also are available electronically 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
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 the Proposal Budget)
The total amount of direct and indirect costs (F&A) (sum of Lines H and
I) must be entered on Line J.
j. Residual Funds (Line K on the Proposal
This line is used only for budgets for incremental funding requests on continuing
grants. Grantees must 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 the Proposal Budget)
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.
l. Cost Sharing (Line M on the Proposal
In accordance with Congressional requirements (see GPM 330), NSF requires
that each grantee share in the cost of research projects resulting from unsolicited
proposals. 16 The
grantee may meet the statutory cost sharing requirement by choosing either of
by cost sharing a minimum of one percent on the project; or
- 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:
construction, improvement or operation of facilities;
acquisition of research equipment;
education and training;
publication, distribution and translation of scientific data and information;
symposia, conferences and workshops; and
- 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 theGrant Proposal
Guide, only the statutory cost sharing amount (1%) is required. Such
amounts should not be entered on Line M of the proposal budget. If organizational
or other commitments in excess of NSF’s statutory requirement are voluntarily
included in the proposal, the amount of these contributions must be included on
Line M of the proposal budget. The sources and amounts must be included in the
budget justification. Any amount listed on Line M shall be included as a condition
of the award, should an award ultimately be made.
Proposals submitted in response to NSF solicitations may be subject to special
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 also must be provided in the budget justification.
17 It should be noted that
contributions derived from other Federal funds or 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.
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:
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.
7. Current and Pending Support -- Proposal Section G
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, local or foreign government agencies, public or
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 must 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) must 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. Concurrent
submission of a proposal to other organizations will not prejudice its review
by NSF. Note the Biological Sciences Directorate exception to this policy however,
delineated in Chapter I, Section A.
If the project now being submitted has been funded previously by a source
other than NSF, the information requested in the paragraph above must be furnished
for the last period of funding.
8. Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources -- Proposal
This section of the proposal is used to assess the adequacy of the organizational
resources available to perform the effort proposed. Proposers must describe only
those resources that are directly applicable.
9. Special Information and Supplementary Documentation
-- Proposal Section I
Except as specified below, special information and supplementary documentation
must 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 organization’s 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 Chapter II, Section C.11)
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” must be checked on the Cover Sheet.
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
Research in the Antarctic and Greenland. (GPM Section 763)
Research in a location designated, or eligible to be designated, a registered
historic place. (GPM Section 840) Where applicable, the box for “Historic Places”
must be checked on the Cover Sheet.
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 Chapter
II, Sections C.11.d and e)
Projects that involve technology utilization/transfer activities, that require
a management plan, or that involve special reports or final products.
Special components in new proposals or in requests for supplements, such as
Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with
Disabilities, Research Opportunity Awards or Research Experiences for Undergraduates
(See NSF 00-107 for
Research in Undergraduate Institutions. (See program
solicitation for information.)
Research Experiences for Undergraduates. (See program solicitation for
REU site proposals [NSF 00-107]
for further information.)
In addition, the supplementary documentation section 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.
10. Appendices -- Proposal Section J
All information necessary for the review of a proposal must be contained in
Sections A through I of the proposal. Appendices may not be included unless
a deviation has been authorized. Chapter II, Section A.
contains information on deviations.
11. Special Guidelines
a. Small Grants for Exploratory Research
Proposals 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. The project description
must 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
must list no more than five significant publications or other research products.
The box for “Small Grant for Exploratory Research” must be checked on the Cover
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 that will be subject to full merit review. 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
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. 18
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 must 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, must be included.
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 organization’s
proposal must contain all of the requisite sections as a single package to be
provided to reviewers (that will happen automatically when procedures below are
followed.) All collaborative proposals must 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
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 Chapter II, Section
C.6.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:"
The lead organization's submission will include a proposal 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. FastLane will combine the proposal submission for printing or electronic
To submit the collaborative proposal, the following process must be completed:
(a) Each non-lead organization must assign their proposal a proposal PIN. This
proposal PIN and the temporary proposal ID generated by FastLane when the non-lead
proposal is created must be provided to the lead organization before the lead
organization submits its proposal to NSF.
(b) The lead organization must then enter each non-lead organization(s) proposal
PIN and temporary proposal ID into the FastLane lead proposal by using the "Link
Collaborative Proposals" option found on the FastLane "Form Preparation"
c. Proposals for Equipment
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 must 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 must follow the format of research
proposals. Each potential major user must describe the project(s) for which the
equipment will be used. These descriptions must be succinct, not necessarily as
detailed as in an individual research proposal, and must 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 must be described in sufficient
detail to allow comparison of its capabilities with the needs of the proposed
activities. Equipment proposals must 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 must 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
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 must
include the information described above within the 15-page project description.
These proposals normally compete with proposals for research or education projects.
d. Proposals Involving Vertebrate Animals
For proposals involving the use of vertebrate animals, sufficient information
must 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 organization’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee
(IACUC) prior to the issuance of an NSF award. The box for “Vertebrate Animals”
must be checked on the Cover Sheet 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 §690). All projects involving human subjects must either: (1) have
approval from the organization’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) before issuance
of an 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” must be checked on the Cover Sheet with the IRB approval
date (if available) or exemption subsection from the Common Rule identified in
the space provided.
f. Proposals for Conferences, Symposia and Workshops
NSF supports conferences, symposia and workshops in special areas of science
and engineering that bring experts together to discuss recent research or education
findings or to expose other researchers or students to new research and education
techniques. NSF encourages the convening in the US of major international conferences,
symposia and workshops. Conferences will be supported only if equivalent results
cannot be obtained at regular meetings of professional societies. Although requests
for support of conferences, symposia and workshops ordinarily originate with educational
institutions or scientific societies, they also may come from other groups. Shared
support by several Federal agencies, States or private organizations is encouraged.
Because proceedings of such conferences normally should be published in professional
journals, requests for support may include publication costs. Requests should
generally be made at least a year in advance of the scheduled date. Conferences
or meetings, including the facilities in which they are held, funded in whole
or in part with NSF funds, must be accessible to participants with disabilities.
A conference, symposium or workshop proposal (that complies with the page
and font size instructions in Chapter II, Section B) must contain
the following elements:
Cover Sheet for Proposal to the National Science Foundation;
Summary of one page or less indicating the objectives of the project;
Statement of the need for such a gathering and a list of topics;
Recent meetings on the same subject, including dates and locations;
Names of the chairperson and members of organizing committees and their organizational
Information on the location and probable date(s) of the meeting and the method
of announcement or invitation;
Statement of how the meeting will be organized and conducted, how the results
of the meeting will be disseminated and how the meeting will contribute to the
enhancement and improvement of scientific, engineering and/or educational activities;
Estimated total budget for the conference, together with an itemized statement
of the amount of support requested from NSF; (The budget may include participant
support for transportation (when appropriate), per diem costs, stipends, publication
and other conference-related costs. Participant support costs must be excluded
from the indirect cost base. (See Chapter II, Section C.6.e.);
- Support requested or available from other Federal agencies and other sources.
(Chapter II, Section C.7 should be consulted to prepare this
portion of the proposal.)
For additional coverage on allowability of costs associated with meetings and
conferences, proposers should consult GPM Section 625.
g. Proposals to Support International Travel
Proposals for travel support for US participation in international scientific
and engineering meetings held abroad are handled by the NSF organizational unit
with program responsibility for the area of research interest.
Group travel awards are encouraged as the primary means of support for international
travel. A university, professional society or other non-profit organization may
apply for funds to enable it to coordinate and support US participation in one
or more international scientific meeting(s) abroad. Group travel grants may include
as compensation for the grantee a flat rate of $50 per traveler for general administrative
costs of preparing announcements, evaluating proposals and handling travel arrangements
customarily associated with this type of project. (See GPM Section 765.) Group
travel grantees are required to retain supporting documentation that funds were
spent in accordance with the original intent of the proposal. Such documentation
may be required in final reports and is subject to audit.
h. Proposals for Doctoral Dissertation Research
NSF awards grants in support of doctoral dissertation research in some disciplines,
primarily field research in the environmental, behavioral and social sciences.
Support may be sought through those disciplinary programs and, in cases involving
research abroad, through the Division of International Programs. The thesis advisor
or concerned faculty member submits proposals on behalf of the graduate student.
Further information can be obtained from the cognizant program office.