NSF Proposal Guide and Checklist
All proposals must conform to the proposal preparation and submission instructions specified in Part I of the PAPPG (NSF 23-1 January 30, 2023), unless a deviation has been approved in advance of proposal submission and submitted with the proposal.
This checklist is not all-inclusive or definitive. It does, however, include the baseline required documents for most proposals. Always check the solicitation and PAPPG to ensure you are including all required documents.
Note that some NSF program solicitations modify standard NSF proposal preparation guidelines, and, in such cases, the guidelines provided in the solicitation must be followed (e.g., Research, RAPID, EAGER, RAISE, GOALI, Ideas Lab, FASED, Conference, Equipment, or Travel).
Proposers are strongly advised to review the applicable sections of Chapter II.E relevant to the type of proposal being developed PRIOR to submission. NSF will not accept or will return without review proposals that are not consistent with these instructions. See Chapter IV.B and visit Automated Compliance Checking of NSF Proposals for additional information.
- The proposal is compliant with the provisions in the PAPPG and/or the relevant program solicitation.
- The proposal is responsive to the relevant program description or announcement (if applicable).
- If the proposal has been previously declined and is being resubmitted, the proposal has been revised to take into account the major comments from the prior NSF review.
- The proposed work is appropriate for funding by NSF, and is not a duplicate of, or substantially similar to, a proposal already under consideration by NSF from the same submitter.
- The proposal must be submitted by 5 p.m. submitter’s local time on the established deadline date.
- For interdisciplinary proposals, ensure all relevant programs are identified.
- Title includes any necessary prefix, e.g., “RUI:,” “CAREER,” “Collaborative Proposal:.”
- For renewal proposals, previous award numbers have been entered.
- Related preliminary proposal number has been entered (if applicable).
- The “Special Exception to the Deadline Date Policy” box has been checked on the NSF Cover Sheet and the requisite Single Copy Document has been provided (if applicable).
- Appropriate box(es) have been checked, and requisite information has been provided.
- For interdisciplinary proposals, all relevant programs have been identified.
- Appropriate box(es) have been checked, and requisite information has been provided.
- If the box for “Funding of an International Branch Campus of a U.S. IHE” or “Funding of a Foreign Organization or Foreign Individual” has been checked on the Cover Sheet, the name of the applicable country(ies) in the International Activities Country Name(s) box(es) has been provided.
- The Project Summary may ONLY be uploaded as a Supplementary Document if use of special characters is necessary. Such Project Summaries must be formatted with separate headings for Overview, Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts.
- The Overview includes a description of the activity that would result if the proposal were funded and a statement of objectives and methods to be employed. The statement on Intellectual Merit should describe the potential of the proposed activity to advance knowledge. The statement on Broader Impacts should describe the potential of the proposed activity to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.
- The Project Summary should be informative to other persons working in the same or related fields, and, insofar as possible, understandable to a broad audience within the scientific domain. It should not be an abstract of the proposal.
- The Project Summary should be written in the third person.
- The Project Summary must not exceed one page.
- The Project Description must not exceed the 15-page limitation, the limit specified in a specific program solicitation, or the limit provided in the instructions for types of proposals (e.g., RAPID, EAGER and Ideas Lab).
- Project Description contains, as a separate section within the narrative, a section labeled “Broader Impacts.”
- Project Description is self-contained, and Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) have not been included.
- Results from Prior NSF Support have been provided for PIs and co-PIs who have received NSF support with a start date in the past five years. Results related to Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts are described under two separate, distinct headings, and are limited to five pages of the Project Description.
- More information on the Project Description can be found in the current NSF PAPPG II.D.2.d.
- This section includes bibliographic citations only and does not provide parenthetical information outside of the 15-page Project Description.
- Each reference is in the required format, which may vary according to the norms of the scientific discipline.
- There is no page limit.
- A separate biographical sketch (limited to two pages) must be provided through use of an NSF-approved format, for each individual designated as senior personnel. (See Exhibit II-3 in the PAPPG for the definitions of Senior Personnel.)
- NSF now requires one of two NSF-approved formats for submissions of ‘BioSketches.’
- Generated through the NIH Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae (SciENcv) platform, which integrates with ORCID (this will be the required format as of January 2023); or
- The official NSF template (fillable pdf here).
- Each individual’s biographical sketch must be uploaded as a single PDF file associated with that individual.
- Please review the NSF Disclosures Table to review what needs to be captured in the BioSketch
Proposal Budget and Budget Justification
- The proposal budget sets forth how much money the proposer is requesting, by category, to complete the project. The budget justification provides a more detailed breakdown of proposed spending in each category as well as a justification supporting the numbers provided in each budget category. This information is relied upon by NSF in formulating the total award amount and final award budget that is incorporated into any resultant award.
- Each proposal must contain a budget for each year of support requested. The budget justification must be no more than five pages per proposal. The amounts for each budget line item requested must be documented and justified in the budget justification as specified below.
- For proposals that contain a subaward(s), each subaward must include a separate budget justification of no more than five pages. See Chapter II.D.2.f(vi)(e) for further instructions on proposals that contain subawards. For collaborative proposals submitted by multiple organizations, each organization must include a separate budget justification of no more than five pages.
- The proposal may request funds under any of the categories listed so long as the item and amount are considered necessary, reasonable, allocable, and allowable under 2 CFR §200, Subpart E, NSF policy, and/or the program solicitation. For-profit entities are subject to the cost principles contained in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, Part 31. Amounts and expenses budgeted also must be consistent with the proposing organization’s policies and procedures and cost accounting practices used in accumulating and reporting costs.
- A budget justification must be provided for the proposer AND any proposed sub-awardee. Each budget justification must not exceed three pages or the page limitation specified in a specific program solicitation.
- Please use HMC’s NSF Budget Worksheet and Budgeting Information to develop your budget.
- PAPPG II.D.2.f
- Unless required by an NSF program solicitation, voluntary committed cost sharing has not been included. Note that voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited and Line M on the proposal budget will not be available for use by the proposer. While not required by NSF, proposing organizations may, at their own discretion, continue to contribute voluntary uncommitted cost sharing to NSF-sponsored projects. These resources are not auditable by NSF and should not be included in the proposal budget or budget justification.
Current and Pending Support
- Current and pending (C&P) support is used by the NSF to assess the PI and other personnels’ capacity to carry out the program as proposed. In addition to submitting the C&P at the time of the proposal, NSF will now ask for an updated C&P at the time of making an award, and will expect updates to this document throughout the life of the award.
- All current and pending support from whatever source (e.g., Federal, State, local or foreign government agencies, public or private foundations, industrial or other commercial organizations, or internal funds allocated toward specific projects) 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).
- Information on this proposal is included.
- Each individual’s current and pending support must be uploaded as a single PDF file or inserted as text associated with that individual.
- Please review the NSF Disclosures Table to understand all activities that must be included on the C&P.
- As with BioSketches, NSF now requires one of two NSF-approved formats for reporting Current and Pending Support:
- Generated through the NIH SciENcv platform; or
- Additional clarification and FAQs about both formats are here.
- PAPPG II.D.2.h.ii
Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources
- This section of the proposal is used to assess the adequacy of the resources available to perform the effort proposed to satisfy both the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts review criteria. Proposers should describe only those resources that are directly applicable.
- Proposers should include an aggregated description of the internal and external resources (both physical and personnel) that the organization and its collaborators, and subawardees will provide to the project, should it be funded. Such information must be provided in this section, in lieu of other parts of the proposal (e.g., Budget Justification, Project Description).
- The description should be narrative in nature and must not include any quantifiable financial information. Reviewers will evaluate the information during the merit review process and the cognizant NSF Program Officer will review it for programmatic and technical sufficiency. An aggregated description of the internal and external resources (both physical and personnel) that the organization and its collaborators will provide to the project, should it be funded, has been included.
- PAPPG II.D.2.g
Data Management Plan
Proposals must include a document of no more than two pages uploaded under “Data Management Plan” in the supplementary documentation section of Research.gov. This supplementary document should describe how the proposal will conform to NSF policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results, and may include:
- the types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum materials, and other materials to be produced in the course of the project;
- the standards to be used for data and metadata format and content (where existing standards are absent or deemed inadequate, this should be documented along with any proposed solutions or remedies);
- policies for access and sharing including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements;
- policies and provisions for re-use, re-distribution, and the production of derivatives; and
- plans for archiving data, samples, and other research products, and for preservation of access to them.
- PAPPG XI.D.4
Special Information and Supplementary Documents
- A Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan, limited to one page, has been included (if applicable).
- Letters of Collaboration documenting collaborative arrangements of significance to the proposal have been included (if applicable).
- Letters of collaboration should be limited to stating the intent to collaborate and should not contain endorsements or evaluation of the proposed project. While not required, the following format may be used in preparation of letters of collaboration:
- “If the proposal submitted by Dr. [insert the full name of the Principal Investigator] entitled [insert the proposal title] is selected for funding by NSF, it is my intent to collaborate and/or commit resources as detailed in the Project Description or the Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources section of the proposal.”
- RUI Impact Statement: Funding research at primarily undergraduate institutions is a priority for NSF. Thus including an RUI Impact Statement strengthens your proposal.
- All RUI proposals must include a RUI Impact Statement that does not exceed five (5) pages. The statement is an opportunity to provide information that will help a reviewer to assess the likely impact of the proposed project on the research environment of the predominantly undergraduate institutions(s); the impact on the career(s) of the faculty participants, and on the ability of the involved department(s) to better prepare students for entry into advanced-degree programs and/or careers in science and engineering. An enhanced departmental environment may be reflected in direct student training in research and in increased involvement of the faculty in competitive research. These factors, in turn, may lead to improved student preparation, curricular impact and faculty development.
- Sample RUI Impact statements as well as RUI Certificate of Eligibility are available from OSR.
- Any additional items specified in a relevant program solicitation have been included, eg., Department Chair Letter of Support, Dean Letter of Support, Certificate of Eligibility.
Single Copy Documents
- Collaborators and Other Affiliations (COA) must be separately provided for each individual identified as senior project personnel through use of the COA template.
- Authorization to Deviate from NSF Proposal Preparation Requirements is included (if applicable).
- List of Suggested Reviewers or Reviewers Not To Include has been provided (if applicable).
- SF LLL, Disclosure of Lobbying Activities has been provided (if applicable).
- Appendices may not be included unless a deviation has been authorized
Faculty Grant Administration Contacts
Roles: Assists faculty members with proposal development, preparation, and submission, funding agencies liaison
Roles: Assists faculty members with proposal budgets, grant compliance support, budget revisions, cost transfers, R&D audit, and grant/contract review
Roles: Grant/contract review
Roles: Grant/contract review, authorized signer for Grants/contracts.