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A Guide for Proposal Writing
Table of Contents
Program Information
Review Process
Criteria for Evaluation
Advice to Proposal Writers
Step 1 - Before You Write
Step 2 - Writing the Proposal
Step 3 - Before Sending Your Proposal to NSF
Step 4 - Awards and Declinations

Review Process

NSF awards grants on a competitive basis. In selecting proposals to be supported, NSF is assisted by reviewers who are scientists, technologists, engineers, mathematicians, and educators in related disciplines. These reviewers are drawn primarily from two- and four-year colleges and universities, secondary schools, industry, foundations, and professional societies and associations, as appropriate for the program being reviewed. The reviewers are chosen based on their demonstrated ability to assess the merits of a proposal based on the criteria for evaluation shown in the next section. Faculty writing proposals are advised to contact NSF Program Directors to learn the general demographics of the reviewers for the program for which they are submitting proposals.

The majority of proposals submitted to DUE are considered by panels of peer reviewers. The purpose of the review is to provide NSF with a written critique and an individual rating from each reviewer as well as a summary analysis by the panel. In DUE, each panelist writes his or her own review for all proposals assigned to the panel. Reviewers are asked to provide a detailed evaluation of both the merits and the shortcomings of each proposal and to provide a rating. The panel then convenes as a group to discuss the proposals. This gives each reviewer the benefit of an informed discussion upon which to base a decision. Following these discussions, panelists complete their individual reviews and one panel member writes a summary of the discussion for each proposal. Reviews are used by NSF Program Directors to inform funding decisions; and anonymous copies are made available to all proposers.

Reviewers are charged with safeguarding the confidentiality of proposals and are asked not to copy, quote, or otherwise use material from any proposal. Reviews are not disclosed to persons outside NSF except to the principal investigator. At the end of the review process, the principal investigator can access via FastLane the written verbatim reviews with the reviewers’ names and affiliations omitted. Reviews are provided whether the proposal is funded or not. All reviews are confidential. NSF releases abstracts and other information about funded proposals only.