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NSF 04-23 September 2004

Chapter 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 required information is described in the NSF Prospective New Awardee GuideProspective New Awardee Guide10, available electronically on the NSF Website. The information contained in this Guide will assist the organization in preparing documents that 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 Website.11


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. NSF may return without review proposals that are not consistent with these instructions. See Chapter IV.B, for additional information. NSF must authorize any deviations from these instructions in advance of proposal submission. Deviations may be authorized in one of two ways:

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

  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 solicitation number that authorized the deviation in the appropriate block on the proposal Cover Sheet; or (b) for individual deviations, by identifying the name, date and title of the NSF official authorizing the deviation. 12 Further instructions are available on the FastLane Website.


Prior to electronic submission, it is strongly recommended that proposers conduct an administrative review to ensure that proposals comply with the proposal preparation guidelines established in the GPG. Appendix A contains a proposal preparation checklist that may be used to assist in this review. This checklist is not intended to be an all-inclusive repetition of the required proposal contents and associated proposal preparation guidelines. It is, however, meant to highlight certain critical items so they will not be overlooked when the proposal is prepared.

  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.

  1. Proposal Margin and Spacing Requirements

The proposal must be clear, readily legible, and conform to the following four requirements:

a. The height of the letters must not be smaller than 10 point, unless otherwise specified in the program solicitation to which the proposal is being submitted;

b. Type density, including characters and spaces, 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;

c. No more than 6 lines of type within a vertical space of 2.5 cm.; and

d. Margins, in all directions, must be at least 2.5 cm.

While line spacing (single-spaced, double-spaced, etc.) is at the discretion of the proposer, established page limits must be followed. (Individual program solicitations, however, may eliminate this proposer option by requiring other type size, margin or line spacing requirements.)

The guidelines specified above establish the minimum type size requirements; however, PIs are advised that readability is of paramount importance and should take precedence in selection of an appropriate font for use in the proposal. Small type size makes it difficult for reviewers to read the proposal; consequently, the use of small type not in compliance with the above guidelines may be grounds for NSF to return the proposal without review. Adherence to type size and line spacing requirements also is necessary to ensure that no proposer will have an unfair advantage, by using smaller type or line spacing to provide more text in the proposal.


1. 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 Representative function 13 ), these documents should be submitted electronically via the Proposal Preparation Module in the FastLane system. A summary of each of these categories follows:

a. 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(es) provided for that purpose.

b. Deviation Authorization (if applicable)

Instructions for obtaining a deviation from NSF proposal preparation instructions are provided in Chapter II, Section A, Conformance with Instructions for Proposal Preparation.

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

Proposers may include a list of suggested reviewers who 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. GPG Appendix B, Potentially Disqualifying Conflicts of Interest, contains information on conflicts of interest that may be useful in preparation of this list. 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.

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.

d. Proprietary or Privileged Information (if applicable)

Instructions for submission of proprietary or privileged information are provided in Chapter I, Section D.3.

e. Proposal Certifications

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. 14

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 15 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's conflict of interest policy. Conflicts that cannot be satisfactorily managed, reduced or eliminated must be disclosed to NSF via use of the Notifications and Requests Module in the NSF FastLane System.
  • Drug-Free Workplace: The AOR is required to complete a certification regarding the Drug-Free Workplace Act. See Appendix C 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 D for the full text of the Debarment and Suspension Certification.
  • Certification Regarding Lobbying: When the proposal exceeds $100,000, 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 as well as in Appendix E. The box for "Disclosure of Lobbying Activities" must be checked on the proposal Cover Sheet only if, pursuant to paragraph 2 of the certification, submission of the SF LLL is required. 16
2. Sections of the Proposal

The sections described below represent the body of a proposal submitted to NSF. With the exception of "Special Information and Supplementary Documentation" and "Appendices," all sections are required parts of the proposal. These documents must be submitted electronically via the Proposal Preparation Module in the FastLane system. 17

a. Cover Sheet

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.

Proposals with "Grant Proposal Guide" selected to Division and Program combinations with active program descriptions will default to the nearest target date. Proposers are advised to select "No Closing Date" when the proposal is not submitted in response to any relevant NSF funding opportunity (which includes program announcements, solicitations or program descriptions.)

A block is included for the proposer to enter its organization's Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number. Every organization that applies for NSF funding must include its DUNS number in every proposal. Unaffiliated individuals who apply for NSF funding are exempt from this requirement. This identifier will be used for tracking purposes, and to validate address and point of contact information. Proposing organizations should verify that they have a DUNS number or take steps needed to obtain one as soon as possible. Organizations that do not have a DUNS number may receive one at no cost by calling the dedicated toll-free DUNS number request line at (866) 705-5711. Proposers will need to provide the following information to obtain the DUNS number:

  • Proposing Organization name;

  • Proposing Organization address;

  • Local phone number;

  • Name of the CEO/Organization owner;

  • Legal structure of the organization (corporation, partnership, proprietorship);

  • Year the organization started;

  • Primary line of business; and

  • Total number of employees (full and part time).

As a result of obtaining a DUNS number, proposers will have the option to be included on the Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) marketing list that is sold to other companies. Proposers that do not want the name/organization included on this marketing list should request not to be listed when speaking with a D&B representative. Once the registration has been completed, the DUNS number should be available the next business day from D&B.

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

Examples are as follows:

Grantee Organization

Performing Organization

Northern Virginia University

Northern Virginia University Health Center

Southern Virginia University
Research Foundation

Southern Virginia University

The title of the project 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.

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.

Some NSF program solicitations require submission of both a preliminary and full proposal as part of the proposal process. In such cases, the following instructions apply:

  • During the preliminary proposal stage, the proposing organization should identify the submission as a preliminary proposal by checking the block entitled, "Preliminary Proposal" on the proposal Cover Sheet;

  • During the full proposal submission stage, the proposing organization should identify in the block entitled, "Show Related Preliminary Proposal Number", the related preliminary proposal number assigned by NSF.

Should any of the listed items on the proposal Cover Sheet apply to a proposal, the applicable 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. 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.

b. 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.

c. 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.

b. Project Summary

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 reader. Proposals that do not separately address both merit review criteria within the one page Project Summary will be returned without review.

c. Table of Contents

A Table of Contents is automatically generated for the proposal by the FastLane system. The proposer cannot edit this form.

d. Project Description (including Results from Prior NSF Support)
(i) Content

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

The Project Description should provide 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 Website18.

(ii) Page Limitations and Inclusion of Universal Resource Locators (URLs) within the Project Description

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. PIs are cautioned that the project description must be self-contained and that URLs that provide information related to the proposal should not be used because 1) the information could circumvent page limitations, 2) the reviewers are under no obligation to view the sites, and 3) the sites could be altered or abolished between the time of submission and the time of review.

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, Conformance with Instructions for Proposal Preparation, contains information on deviations.)

(iii) 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 award(s) is required. Each PI and co-PI who has received more than one award(excluding amendments) must report on the award most closely related to the proposal. The following information must be provided:

(a) the NSF award number, amount and period of support;

(b) the title of the project;

(c) a 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;

(d) publications resulting from the NSF award;

(e) a brief description of available data, samples, physical collections and other related research products not described elsewhere; and

(f) 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 contain up 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.

(iv) Unfunded Collaborations

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 in the supplementary documentation section of the FastLane Proposal Preparation Module. Collaborative activities that are identified in the budget should follow the instructions in Chapter II, Section D.3.

(v) Group Proposals

NSF encourages submission of proposals by groups of investigators; often these are submitted to carry out interdisciplinary projects. Unless stipulated in a specific program solicitation, however, such proposals will be subject to the 15 page Project Description limitation established in Section (ii) above. PIs who wish to exceed the established page limitations for the Project Description must request and receive a deviation in advance of proposal submission. (Chapter II, Section A, contains information on deviations.)

(vi) Proposals for Renewed Support

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.)

e. References Cited

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. 19 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.

f. Biographical Sketch(es)
(i) Senior Personnel

A biographical sketch (limited to two pages) is required for each individual identified as senior project personnel. (See Appendix F 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:

Undergraduate Institution(s)


Degree & Year

Graduate Institution(s)


Degree & Year

Postdoctoral Institution(s)


Inclusive Dates (years)

(b) Appointments

A list, in reverse chronological order, of all the individual's academic/professional appointments beginning with the current appointment.

(c) Publications

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 focuses 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 Affiliations
  • Collaborators and Co-Editors. 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. Also include those individuals who are currently or have been co-editors of a journal, compendium, or conference proceedings during the 24 months preceding the submission of the proposal. If there are no collaborators or co-editors to report, this should be so indicated.
  • 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.
  • Thesis Advisor and Postgraduate-Scholar Sponsor. A list of all persons (including their organizational affiliations), with whom the individual has had an association as thesis advisor, or with whom the individual has had an association within the last five years as a postgraduate-scholar sponsor. The total number of graduate students advised and postdoctoral scholars sponsored also must be identified.

The information in section (e) above of the biographical sketch is used to help identify potential conflicts or bias in the selection of reviewers. See GPG Appendix B, Potentially Disqualifying Conflicts of Interest for additional information on potential reviewer conflicts.

(ii) Other Personnel

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

(a) Postdoctoral associates

(b) Other professionals

(c) Students (research assistants)

(iii) Equipment Proposals

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

(a) Short biographical sketch; and

(b) List of up to five publications most closely related to the proposed acquisition.

g. Budget

Each proposal must contain a budget for each year of support requested, 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 specified below.

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. Specific categories budgeted must be consistent with the organization's cost accounting practices used in accumulating and reporting costs.

A full discussion of the budget and the allowability of selected items of cost is contained in the GPG, the GPM, as well as other NSF program solicitations. Cost principles governing the allowability of costs are contained in OMB Circulars A-21, A-87 and A-122 and are available at

(i) Salaries and Wages (Lines A and B on the Proposal Budget) 20
(a) Policies

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

NSF regards research as one of the normal functions of faculty members at institutions of higher education. Compensation for time normally spent on research within the term of appointment is deemed to be included within the faculty 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 two-ninths of their regular academic-year salary. This limit includes summer salary received from all NSF-funded grants.

These same principles apply to other types of 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. Salaries for administrative or clerical staff shall be budgeted as a direct cost only if this type of cost is consistently treated as a direct cost in like circumstances for all other projects and cost objectives. 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.

(b) Procedures

The names of the PI(s), faculty, and other senior personnel and the estimated number of full-time-equivalent academic-year, summer, or calendar-year person-months for which NSF funding is requested and the total amount of salaries per year must be listed. For postdoctoral associates and other professionals, the total number of persons for each position must be listed, with the number of full-time-equivalent person-months and total amount of salaries per year. 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 justification should detail the rates of pay by individual for senior personnel, postdoctoral associates, and other professionals.

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.

(c) 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 D.3. 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 information. 21

(ii) Fringe Benefits (Line C on the Proposal Budget)

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 fund fringe benefits as a direct cost.

(iii) 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 also GPG Chapter VI, Section E, and GPM Section 612 for further information on equipment.)

(iv) Travel (Line E on the Proposal Budget)
(a) General

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 airfares. (See also GPM Section 614.) Persons traveling under NSF grants must travel by US-flag carriers, if available. 22

(b) Domestic Travel

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

(c) 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 when all of the following conditions apply:

(i) the individual is a key person who is essential to the research on a full-time basis;

(ii) 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

(iii) the dependent's travel allowance is consistent with the policies of the organization administering the grant.

(v) 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. 23 (See Chapter II, Section D.7) 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, have special instructions for treatment of participant support.

(vi) 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, 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.

(a) Materials and Supplies (Line G1 on the Proposal Budget)

The proposal 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.

(b) Publication/Documentation/Dissemination (Line G2 on the Proposal Budget)

The proposal 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.

(c) 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. 24

(d) 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 proposal budget also may request costs, which must be shown to be reasonable, for leasing of computer 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.

(e) Subawards 25 (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.

(f) Other (Line G6 on the Proposal Budget)

Any other direct 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

(vii) 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.

(viii) 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 Institution & Award Support. An organization may obtain guidelines for submitting rate proposals from that Branch, telephone (703) 292-8244. 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).

(ix) 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.

(x) 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.

(xi) 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.

(xii) Cost Sharing (Line M on the Proposal Budget)

(a) Statutory Cost Sharing Requirement. In accordance with Congressional requirements (see GPM 330), NSF requires that each grantee share in the cost of research projects resulting from unsolicited proposals. In addition to proposals submitted solely in response to the Grant Proposal Guide, proposals submitted in response to NSF program announcements are considered unsolicited 26 and are subject to the statutory cost sharing requirement.

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 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:

  • international travel;

  • construction, improvement or operation of facilities;

  • acquisition of research equipment;

  • ship operations;

  • 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.

In accordance with Important Notice 128, Revision of the NSF Cost Sharing Policy, for unsolicited proposals submitted in response to the Grant Proposal Guide and for proposals submitted in response to NSF program announcements, only the statutory cost sharing amount (1%) is required. For these proposals, proposers are advised NOT to identify cost sharing amounts on Line M of the proposal budget. A set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding the cost sharing issue is available for use by the proposer and awardee community on the NSF Website.

(b) Cost Sharing Requirements Under NSF Program Solicitations. Proposals submitted in response to NSF solicitations may be subject to special cost sharing requirements. In cases where cost sharing is required, NSF has determined that proposals submitted in response to the solicitation provide a tangible benefit to the award recipient(s) (normally beyond the immediate term or scope of the NSF-supported activity). Benefit is defined in terms of capacity building, potential dollar revenues, time frames, or third party users. NSF-funded activities that are characterized by such benefits are awards for infrastructure-building purposes (instrumentation/equipment/centers/facilities) or for awards where there is clear potential to make profit or generate income (e.g., curriculum development). In accordance with Important Notice 128, proposers are advised not to exceed the cost sharing level or amount specified in the solicitation.

When cost sharing is required, it is considered an eligibility rather than a review criterion. In order to retain this concept, NSF has modified the FastLane system to ensure that Line M is masked from peer reviewers during the review process.

Proposers are advised that all proposed cost sharing commitments, if incorporated into the award, are subject to audit. When applicable, 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. 27 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 by the grantee.

(xiii) 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:

(a) Entertainment

Costs of entertainment, amusement, diversion and social activities and any costs directly associated with such activities (such as tickets to shows or sporting 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.)

(b) 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.

(c) Alcoholic Beverages

No NSF funds may be spent on alcoholic beverages.

h. Current and Pending Support

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.

i. Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources

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.

j. Special Information and Supplementary Documentation

Except as specified below, special information and supplementary documentation must be included as part of the project description (or part of the budget justification), if it is relevant to determining the quality of the proposed work. Information submitted in the following areas is not considered part of the 15-page project description limitation. This Special Information and Supplementary Documentation section also 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 D.3)

  • Environmental impact statement for activities that have an actual or potential impact on the environment. ( GPM Section 830)

  • Work in foreign countries. Some governments require nonresidents to obtain official approval to carry out investigations within their borders and coastal waters under their jurisdiction. PIs are responsible for obtaining the required authorizations and for advising NSF that they have been obtained or requested. Advance coordination should minimize disruption of the research. ( GPM Section 763 and GPM 715)

  • Research in Greenland. ( GPM Section 763)

  • Antarctic proposals to any NSF program require operational worksheets by the first Wednesday of June in the year before any proposed fieldwork. See "proposals with fieldwork" in Chapter V.A, of Antarctic Research. Special budget considerations also apply. See Chapter V.B, Antarctic Research).

  • 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 proposal 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 D.5 and D.6) Where applicable the box for "Human Subjects" or "Vertebrate Animals" must be checked on the proposal Cover Sheet.

  • 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 (FASED), Research Opportunity Awards or Research Experiences for Undergraduates. (See GPG Chapter II, Section D.2 for information on FASED, and for the other programs identified, consult the relevant program solicitation.)

  • Research in Undergraduate Institutions. (See program solicitation for information.)

  • Research Experiences for Undergraduates. (See program solicitation for REU site proposals 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.

k. Appendices

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 further information.


1. 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 as:

  • preliminary work on untested and novel ideas;

  • ventures into emerging and potentially transformative 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 or anthropogenic 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 (no more than 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 proposal 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 $200,000. Although the maximum award amount is $200,000, 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.

At the discretion of the Program Officer, and 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. 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.

2. Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities (FASED)

As part of its effort to promote full utilization of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, and to develop scientific and technical talent, the Foundation has the following goals:

  • to reduce or remove barriers to participation in research and training by physically disabled individuals by providing special equipment and assistance under awards made by NSF; and

  • to encourage disabled individuals to pursue careers in science and engineering by stimulating the development and demonstration of special equipment that facilitates their work performance.

Individuals with disabilities eligible for facilitation awards include principal investigators, other senior project personnel, and graduate and undergraduate students. The cognizant NSF Program Officer will make decisions regarding what constitutes appropriate support on a case-by-case basis. The specific nature, purpose, and need for equipment or assistance should be described in sufficient detail in the proposal to permit evaluation by knowledgeable reviewers.

There is no separate program for funding of special equipment or assistance. Requests are made in conjunction with regular competitive proposals, or as a supplemental funding request to an existing NSF award. Specific instructions for each type of request are provided below.

a. Requests as part of a competitive proposal submission

Funds may be requested to purchase special equipment, modify equipment or provide services required specifically for the work to be undertaken. Requests for funds for equipment or assistance that compensate in a general way for the disabling condition are not permitted. For example, funds may be requested to provide: prosthetic devices to manipulate a particular apparatus; equipment to convert sound to visual signals, or vice versa, for a particular experiment; access to a special site or to a mode of transportation (except as defined below); a reader or interpreter with special technical competence related to the project; or other special-purpose equipment or assistance needed to conduct a particular project. Items, however, such as standard wheel chairs, prosthetics, hearing aids, TDD/text-phones, or general readers for the blind would not be supported because the need for them is not specific to the proposed project. Similarly, ramps, elevators, or other structural modifications of research facilities are not eligible for direct support under this program.

No maximum funding amount has been established for such requests. It is expected, however, that the cost (including equipment adaptation and installation) will not be a major component of the total proposed budget for the project. Requests for funds for special equipment or assistance to facilitate the participation of individuals with disabilities should be included in the proposed budget for the project and documented in the budget justification. The specific nature, purpose and need for such equipment or assistance should be described in sufficient detail in the Project Description to permit evaluation of the request by knowledgeable reviewers.

b. Supplemental Funding Requests to existing NSF grants

Supplemental funds for special equipment or assistance to facilitate participation in NSF-supported projects by persons with disabilities may be provided under existing NSF grants. Normally, title is vested in the grantee organization for equipment purchased in conjunction with NSF-supported activities. In accordance with the Grant General Conditions (GC-1) 28 , the grantee organization guarantees use of the equipment for the specific project during the period of work funded by the Foundation, and assures its use in an appropriate manner after project completion. In instances involving special equipment for persons with disabilities, the need for such may be unique to the individual. In such cases, the grantee organization may elect to transfer title to the individual to assure appropriate use after project completion.

Supplemental requests should be submitted electronically by using the "Supplemental Funding Request" function in FastLane and should include a brief description of the request, a budget and a budget justification. Requests must be submitted at least two months before funds are needed. Funding decisions will be made on the basis of the justification and availability of program funds with any resultant funding provided through a formal amendment of the existing NSF grant.

3. 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.

a. Submission of a single proposal

The single proposal method allows investigators from two or more organizations 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 organizations 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.2.g.(vi)(e) for additional instructions on preparation of this type of proposal.)

b. 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: 29

(i) 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.

(ii) 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.

Given that such separately submitted collaborative proposals constitute a "single" proposal submission to NSF, it is imperative that the proposals be submitted within a reasonable timeframe to one another. Failure to submit all components of the collaborative proposal on a timely basis may impact the review of the proposal.

4. 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 also must 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; 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. 30 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.

5. Proposals Involving Vertebrate Animals

For proposals involving the use of vertebrate animals 31 , 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 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 (PHS).

If the organization does not have such an Assurance in place, then approval of the project by the IACUC of an organization 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. Questions regarding this requirement should be directed to the cognizant NSF Program Officer.

The box for "Vertebrate Animals" must be checked on the proposal 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 "Pending" in the space provided for the approval date.

These same rules apply to awards to individuals (fellowships) for activities that involve use of vertebrate animals. The "Vertebrate Animals" box should be checked on the proposal Cover Sheet. Evidence of IACUC approval can be provided in a letter giving the date of IACUC approval with the appropriate organizational signature 32 .

6. 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 must either (1) have approval from the organization's Institutional Review Board (IRB) before issuance of an NSF award or, (2) must affirm that the IRB or an appropriate knowledgeable authority previously designated by the organization (not the Principal Investigator) has declared the research exempt from IRB review, in accordance with the applicable subsection, 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. If IRB approval has not been obtained prior to submission, the proposer should indicate "Pending" in the space provided for the approval date. Advice is available at

7. 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. Proposals for Conferences, Symposia and Workshops 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, Format of the Proposal) must contain the following elements:

  • Cover Sheet;

  • A statement of the objectives of the project (summarized in one page or less);

  • Statement of the need for such a gathering and a list of topics;

  • A listing of recent meetings on the same subject, including dates and locations;

  • The 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;

  • A 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);

  • An 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. (Note: participant support costs must be excluded from the indirect cost base.) See Chapter II, Section C.2.g.(v); and

  • The support requested or available from other Federal agencies and other sources. (Chapter II, Section C.2.h 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.

8. 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 7 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 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.

9. 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 Office of International Science and Engineering. 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.

10 The NSF Prospective New Awardee Guide is available electronically on the NSF Website at Back to Text
11 FAQs regarding FastLane proposal preparation and submission also are available electronically on the FastLane Website. Back to Text
12 Requests for approval of a deviation from NSF's electronic submission requirement must be forwarded to the cognizant NSF program for review and approval prior to submission of the paper proposal.Back to Text
13 Further instructions for this process are available electronically on the FastLane Website. Back to Text
14 Detailed instructions for completion of this process are available electronically on the FastLane Website.Back to Text
15 For consistency with the Department of Health and Human Services conflict of interest policy, in lieu of "organization," NSF is using the term "institution" which includes all categories of proposers.Back to Text
16 Detailed instructions for submission of the SF LLL are available on the FastLane Website.Back to Text
17 Requests for approval of a deviation from NSF's electronic submission requirement must be forwarded to the cognizant NSF program for review and approval prior to submission of the paper proposal.Back to Text
18 Examples illustrating activities likely to demonstrate broader impacts are available electronically on the NSF Website at Back to Text
19 If the proposer has a Website address readily available, that information should be included in the citation, as stated above. It is not NSF's intent, however, to place an undue burden on proposers to search for the URL of every referenced publication. Therefore, inclusion of a Website address is optional. A proposal that includes reference citation(s) that do not specify a URL address is not considered to be in violation of NSF proposal-preparation guidelines and the proposal will still be reviewed. Back to Text
20 Only salaries and wages for employees of the proposing organization should be identified on Lines A and B of the proposal budget. Consultants and subawardee salaries and wages should be budgeted on Lines G. 3 and G.5 of the proposal budget, respectively. Back to Text
21Detailed instructions for submission of confidential budgetary information are available on the FastLane website.Back to Text
22See also the NSF Grant General Conditions (GC-1) for additional information on use of US Flag Air-Carriers at: Back to Text
23 Proposers are advised that the GC-1 require the grantee to obtain written authorization from the cognizant NSF program officer prior to the reallocation of funds budgeted for participant support.Back to Text
24 The current maximum consultant daily rate is available electronically on the NSF website at to Text
25 The term "subaward" also includes contracts, subcontracts and other arrangements. Back to Text
26Proposals submitted in response to program solicitations are considered "solicited." This means that the resulting awards are not subject to statutory cost sharing.Back to Text
27 Section .23 of OMB Circular A-110 describes criteria and procedures for the allowability of cash and in-kind contributions in satisfying cost sharing and matching requirements.Back to Text
28 See the NSF Grant General Conditions, Article 6. Back to Text
29 Detailed instructions for the electronic preparation and submission of collaborative proposals are available on the FastLane Website at Back to Text
30See GPM 542 for additional information on vesting of title to equipment.Back to Text
31 In addition to vertebrate animals covered by the Animal Welfare Act, the requirements specified in this GPG coverage also are extended to rats, birds and mice. Back to Text
32 Such letters should be provided as supplementary documentation and should be submitted electronically via the Proposal Preparation Module in the FastLane system.Back to Text