II. Proposal Preparation Instructions
Each proposing organization that has not received an NSF grant within
the previous two years should be prepared to submit basic organization
and management information and certifications, when requested, to the
Division of Grants and Agreements. The information required is contained
in the NSF Prospective
New Awardee Guide, available electronically on the NSF website.
The information contained in this Guide will assist the organization in
preparing documents which the National Science Foundation requires to
conduct administrative and financial reviews of the organization. This
Guide also serves as a means of highlighting the accountability requirements
associated with Federal awards.
To facilitate proposal preparation, Frequently
Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding proposal preparation and submission
are available electronically on the NSF website13
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 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 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. 14
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
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 the cognizant NSF Assistant Director/Office Head, or designee,
or by program solicitation)
Single Copy Documents
Certain categories of information that are submitted in conjunction
with a proposal are for "NSF Use Only". As such, the information is
not provided to reviewers for use in the review of the proposal. With
the exception of proposal certifications (which are submitted via the
Authorized Organizational Management function)15
, these documents should be submitted
electronically via the Proposal Preparation module in the FastLane system.
A summary of each of these categories follows:
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
and engineering 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 (optional)
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. However, the decision
whether or not to use the suggestions remains with the Program Officer.
Proprietary or Privileged Information
Instructions for submission of proprietary or privileged information
are provided in Chapter I,
With the exception of the Disclosure of Lobbying Activities
(SF LLL) identified below, the procedures for submission of the proposal
certifications differ from those used with other single copy documents.
The AOR must use the "Authorized Organizational Representative function"
in the FastLane system to electronically sign and submit the proposal
certifications. It is the proposing organization's responsibility
to assure that only properly authorized individuals sign in this capacity.
(See also Chapter I, Section E.2 for
additional information on submission of proposal certifications.)16
The required proposal certifications are as follows:
Certification for Authorized Organizational Representative or
Individual Applicant: The 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.
Certification Regarding Conflict of Interest: The AOR is required
to complete certifications stating 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 institution's
expenditure of any funds under the award, will be, satisfactorily
managed, reduced or eliminated in accordance with the institution's17
conflict of interest policy. Conflicts
that cannot be satisfactorily managed, reduced or eliminated must
be disclosed to NSF.
Drug-Free Workplace: The AOR is required to complete a certification
regarding the Drug-Free Workplace Act. See Appendix
A for the full text of the Drug-Free Workplace Certification.
Debarment and Suspension: The AOR is required to complete
a certification regarding Debarment and Suspension. See Appendix
B for the full text of the Debarment and Suspension Certification.
Certification Regarding Lobbying: The AOR is required to complete
a certification regarding lobbying restrictions. The 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. The box for "Disclosure
of Lobbying Activities" must be checked on the Cover Sheet, only if,
pursuant to paragraph 2 of the certification, submission of the SF
LLL, Disclosure of Lobbying Activities, is required."18
Cover Sheet for Proposal to the National
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 an award.
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 by NSF.
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.
Profit-making organizations must identify their status by completing
each of the appropriate submitting organization boxes on the Cover Sheet,
using the following guidelines:
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 and
methods to be employed. It must clearly address in separate statements
(within the one page summary): (1) the intellectual merit of the proposed
activity; and (2) the broader impacts resulting from the proposed activity.
(See Chapter III for further descriptive
information on the NSF merit review criteria.) 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
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 two 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 must 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 Project Description should outline the general plan of work, including
the broad design of activities to be undertaken, and, where appropriate,
provide a clear description of experimental methods and procedures and
plans for preservation, documentation, and sharing of data, samples, physical
collections, curriculum materials and other related research and education
products. It must describe as an integral part of the narrative, the broader
impacts resulting from the proposed activities, addressing one or more
of the following as appropriate for the project: how the project will
integrate research and education by advancing discovery and understanding
while at the same time promoting teaching, training, and learning; ways
in which the proposed activity will broaden the participation of underrepresented
groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.); how the
project will enhance the infrastructure for research and/or education,
such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships; how the
results of the project will be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific
and technological understanding; and potential benefits of the proposed
activity to society at large. Examples illustrating
activities likely to demonstrate broader impacts are available electronically
on the NSF website at https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2002/nsf022/bicexamples.pdf.
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 on deviations.)
A group proposal is one submitted by 3 or more investigators whose activities
are combined into one administrative unit.19
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. In addition, PIs
that intend to submit a group proposal that uses the page limitations
identified above are strongly encouraged to contact the cognizant program
officer prior to submission.
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 electronically
on the NSF website.
Instructions for uploading other file formats also are available electronically
on the NSF website. (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 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 Description.
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 and journal title, book title, volume number, page numbers,
and year of publication. If the document is available electronically,
the website address also should be identified.20
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 Sketch(es) -- Proposal Section E
A biographical sketch (limited to two pages) is required for each individual
identified as senior project personnel. (See Appendix
C 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.
A list of: (i) up to 5 publications most closely related to the proposed
project; and (ii) 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 and journal title, book title,
volume number, page numbers, and year of publication. If the document
is available electronically, the website address also should be identified.
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 immediate organization.
e. Collaborators & Other
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 proposal.
- Postdoctoral associates
- Other professionals
- Students (research assistants)
For equipment proposals, the following must be provided
for each auxiliary user:
- Short biographical sketch
- List of up to five publications most closely related to the proposed
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 and documentation.
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
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 solicitations.
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
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 institution.
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
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 or Privileged Information"
must be checked on the proposal Cover Sheet when the proposal contains
confidential budgetary information21.
b. Fringe Benefits (Line C on the
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
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, Section C.6.f.(iv).)
d. Travel (Line E on the Proposal
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
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 basis;
(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 Budget)
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 Budget)
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. 22
(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 proposed.
(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 Budget)
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 Proposal Budget)
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 Proposal Budget)
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 on the NSF website. 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 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 Budget)
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 Budget)
In accordance with Congressional requirements (see GPM
330), NSF requires that each grantee share in the cost of research
projects resulting from unsolicited proposals. 24
The grantee may meet the statutory cost sharing requirement
by choosing either of two alternatives:
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
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 the Grant
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
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.
25 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
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
(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
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
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 Section H
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
Rationale for performance of all or part of the project off-campus
or away from organizational headquarters. (GPM
Documentation of collaborative arrangements of significance to the
proposal through letters of commitment. (GPG Chapter
II, Section C.11b)
Environmental impact statement for activities that have an actual
or potential impact on the environment. (GPM
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
Research in the Antarctic and Greenland. (GPM
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
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
Projects that involve technology utilization/transfer activities,
that require a management plan, or that involve special reports or
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
01-121 for information.)
Research in Undergraduate Institutions.
(See program solicitation for information.)
Research Experiences for Undergraduates. (See program solicitation
for REU site proposals [NSF
01-121] 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 (SGER) Proposals
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
preliminary work on untested and novel ideas;
ventures into emerging research ideas;
application of new expertise or new approaches to “established”
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;
- efforts of similar character likely to catalyze rapid and innovative
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 Sheet.
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 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
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
(i) Submission of a single
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 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 viewing.
To submit the collaborative proposal, the following process must
be completed: 27
(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
(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" screen.
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
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 facility;
annual budget for operation and maintenance of the proposed equipment,
indicating source of funds, and particularly related equipment;
- 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 enable reviewers
to evaluate the choice of species, number of animals to be used, and
any necessary exposure of animals to discomfort, pain, or injury.
Consistent with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act [7 U.S.C.
2131 et seq] and the regulations promulgated thereunder by the Secretary
of Agriculture [9 CFR, 1.1-4.11], NSF requires that proposed projects
involving use of any vertebrate animal for research or education be
approved by the submitting organization's Institutional Animal Care
and Use Committee (IACUC) before an award can be made. For this approval
to be accepted by NSF, the organization must have a current Institutional
Animal Welfare Assurance established with the Public Health Service
If the organization does not have such an Assurance in place, then
approval of the project by the IACUC of an institution with a current
PHS Assurance will be acceptable if the IACUC agrees to provide the
required oversight of facilities and activities during the award. Alternatively,
the submitting organization may create its own IACUC by establishing
a single-project Institutional Animal Welfare Assurance with NSF. In
any case, IACUC approval must be received prior to an award. Proposers
with questions on this requirement should contact the cognizant NSF
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 IACUC approval has not been obtained prior to submission,
the proposer should indicate "Planned" in the space provided for the
e. Proposals Involving Human Subjects
Projects involving research with human subjects must ensure that subjects
are protected from research risks in conformance with the relevant Federal
policy known as the Common Rule (Federal Policy for the Protection
of Human Subjects, 45 CFR 690). All projects involving human subjects
either must have approval from the organization's Institutional Review
Board (IRB) before issuance of an NSF award or affirm that the IRB has
declared the research exempt from continued oversight, in accordance
with the applicable subsection of section 101(b) of the Common Rule.
The box for "Human S ubjects" 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.
Advice is available electronically on the NSF website.
On occasion, an organization or unaffiliated PI will have no established
IRB and no possibility of obtaining approval from the Department of
Health & Human Services, Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP)
or any other Federal agency participating in the Common Rule. In such
cases, the best alternative is for the PI to contact a nearby organization
with a valid IRB (normally a nearby State university or research facility),
and arrange for that organization's IRB to review the proposal and certify
it as conforming to the human subjects regulations.
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 and engineering 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 affiliations;
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;
A plan for recruitment of, and support for speakers and other
attendees, that includes participation of groups underrepresented
in science and engineering (e.g., underrepresented minorities, women,
and persons with disabilities);
Estimated total budget for the conference, together with an itemized
statement of the amount of support requested from NSF(the NSF 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
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 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. Proposals submitted for this purpose should address
the same items as those indicated for conferences, symposia, and workshops
(see Section f. above), with particular attention to plans for composition
and recruitment of the travel group. Information on planned speakers
should be provided where available from the conference organizer.
Group travel proposals may request support only for the international
travel costs of the proposed activity. However, in addition, group travel
proposals also 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
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.