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.

Cover Sheet

  • 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.

Project Summary

  • 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 Project Summary should be written in the third person.
  • The Project Summary must not exceed one page.

Project Description

  • 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.

References Cited

  • 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.

Biographical Sketch(es)

  • The content described is in accordance with the instructions, and does not contain additional information beyond that specified.
  • Each biographical sketch must not exceed two pages.
  • Each individual’s biographical sketch must be uploaded as a single PDF file associated with that individual.
  • Assuring compliance with federal regulations
  • Negotiating grant awards and contracts
  • Managing post-award procedures and reporting

Proposal Budget

  • Each budget line item is documented and justified in the budget justification.
  • 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.

Cost Sharing

  • 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

  • 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.

Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources

  • 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.
  • No quantifiable financial information has been provided.
  • Completing standard application forms
  • If there are no facilities, equipment or other resources identified, a statement to that effect has been included in this section of the proposal and uploaded into FastLane.

Special Information and Supplementary Documentation

  • A postdoctoral mentoring plan, limited to one page, has been included, if required.
  • A data management plan, limited to two pages, has been included.
  • Letters of collaboration documenting collaborative arrangements of significance to the proposal have been included (if applicable).Completing standard application forms
  • Other types of information identified in Chapter II.C.2.j have been included, as appropriate.
  • RUI Impact Statement: Funding research at primarily undergraduate institutions is a priority for NSF.  Thus including an RUI Impact Statement strengthens your proposal.
  • Any additional items specified in a relevant program solicitation have been included, eg., Department Chair Letter of Support, Dean Letter of Support.

Single Copy Documents

  • 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).
  • Collaborators and Other Affiliations Information has been separately provided for each individual identified as senior project personnel.
  • Assuring compliance with federal regulations
  • Negotiating grant awards and contracts
  • Managing post-award procedures and reporting


  • Appendices many not be included unless a deviation has been authorized