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NSF 04-23 September 2004

Chapter IV - Withdrawals, Returns and Declinations


A proposal may be withdrawn at any time before a funding recommendation is made by the cognizant NSF Program Officer. Proposals must be electronically withdrawn via the FastLane Electronic Proposal Withdrawal System. This module in Fastlane automates the proposal withdrawal process and provides a mechanism that will help organizations to more effectively manage their proposal portfolio, as well as to help eliminate the submission of duplicate proposals to NSF. The Electronic Proposal Withdrawal System includes three processes:

  • Principal Investigator's Proposal Withdrawal allows a PI to initiate a proposal withdrawal and forward it to the organization's sponsored projects office (or equivalent) for submission to NSF.

  • Sponsored Projects Office (SPO) Proposal Withdrawal allows an authorized individual in the organization's sponsored projects office (or equivalent) to initiate a proposal withdrawal for submission to NSF.

  • Proposal Submission Duplicate Withdrawal prevents a SPO official from submitting a new proposal if a duplicate (a proposal from the same organization with the same title and same PI and co-PIs) already has been submitted to NSF within the last two weeks prior to the current submission. If these conditions are met, the system will allow the authorized SPO official to either withdraw the previous duplicate and then proceed with the submission of the new proposal, or to modify the new proposal so it is different from the previous proposal.

Principal Investigators can access the Proposal Withdrawal utility via the "Submitted Proposals" screen under the FastLane Proposal Preparation Functions Module. Authorized individuals 36 in the organization's sponsored projects office (or equivalent) can initiate or review a proposal withdrawal using the "Submit Proposals/Supplements/File Updates/Withdrawals" Module via the FastLane "Research Administration Functions". 37

In cases where NSF already has made a funding decision, proposals will not be permitted to be withdrawn via the electronic proposal withdrawal system. When a PI or SPO representative attempts to prepare a proposal withdrawal for such a proposal, a message will be displayed to contact the cognizant NSF Program Officer for further assistance.

NSF must be notified if any funding for the proposed project is received from another source or sponsor. If it is brought to NSF's attention that funding for a proposal to NSF has been accepted from another sponsor, NSF will send a withdrawal confirmation to the PI and the SPO without waiting for the official withdrawal notification.

If a proposal withdrawal is submitted for a proposal that is part of a collaborative effort, regardless of whether the organization is the lead or non-lead, the electronic proposal withdrawal system will withdraw that proposal along with the other remaining proposals that are identified as part of the collaborative effort. If the remaining organizations in the collaborative determine that the project can still proceed, a new collaborative proposal must be submitted.

Copies of reviews received by NSF before a proposal is withdrawn will be provided to the PI. NSF provides notice of a withdrawal, return, declination, or reconsideration to both the PI and the SPO


Proposals may not be considered by NSF for the following reasons.

The proposal:

  1. is inappropriate for funding by the National Science Foundation;

  2. is submitted with insufficient lead-time before the activity is scheduled to begin;

  3. is a full proposal that was submitted by a proposer that has received a "not invited" response to the submission of a preliminary proposal;

  4. is a duplicate of, or substantially similar to, a proposal already under consideration by NSF from the same submitter;

  5. does not meet NSF proposal preparation requirements, such as page limitations, formatting instructions, and electronic submission, as specified in the Grant Proposal Guide or program solicitation 38 ;)

  6. is not responsive to the GPG or program announcement/solicitation;

  7. does not meet an announced proposal deadline date (and time, where specified);

  8. was previously reviewed and declined and has not been substantially revised.


A PI whose proposal for NSF support has been declined generally will receive information and an explanation of the reason(s) for declination (via paper or e-mail form) along with copies of the reviews considered in making the decision. If that explanation does not satisfy the PI, he/she may request additional information from the cognizant NSF Program Officer or Division Director.

PIs and co-PIs may access review information electronically via FastLane after the decision has received the concurrence of the cognizant Division Director, when all the review information has been released for their proposal.


If the explanation provided does not satisfy the PI, he/she may request that the cognizant NSF Assistant Director or Office Head reconsider the action to determine whether the proposal received a fair and reasonable review, both substantively and procedurally. A PI whose proposal has not been accepted because it is inappropriate for consideration by NSF also may request reconsideration of this determination. The request for reconsideration must be in writing and must be received within 90 days after the date of the declination letter or return. If the proposing organization is still not satisfied after reconsideration by the responsible Assistant Director/Office Head, it may, within 60 days after the determination by the Assistant Director/Office Head, request further reconsideration by the NSF Deputy Director. Consult GPM Section 900 for additional information on the NSF reconsideration process, including the categories of actions that are subject to the NSF reconsideration policy.


A declined proposal may be resubmitted, but only after it has undergone substantial revision. A resubmittal proposal that has not clearly taken into account the major comments or concerns resulting from the prior NSF review may be returned without review. The Foundation will treat the revised proposal as a new proposal, subject to the standard review procedures.

36 Authorized Organizational Representatives with "submit" permission also can initiate a proposal withdrawal. Back to Text
37 Detailed instructions on the Electronic Proposal Withdrawal System are available on the FastLane Website at: Back to Text
38 Unless a deviation has been authorized in advance of the paper submission. See Chapter II, Section A, Conformance with Instructions for Proposal Preparation, for further information. Back to Text