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Office of the Vice President for Research

NSF Proposal

Please read the solicitation for your grant and review the most recent NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG).

PDF download of PAPPG available here.

***** This page is in the process of being updated to the PAPPG effective October 4, 2021. *****


Proposal Pagination Instructions

Each section of the proposal uploaded as a file must be individually paginated prior to being uploaded to the electronic system.

Proposal Font, Spacing and Margin Requirements

Font and Font Size

  • Arial (not Arial Narrow), Courier New, or Palatino Linotype at a font size of 10 points or larger
  • Times New Roman at a font size of 11 points or larger
  • Computer Modern family of fonts at a font size of 11 points or larger

Note: A font size of less than 10 points may be used for mathematical formulas or equations, figures, tables or diagram captions and when using a Symbol font to insert Greek letters or special characters. Other fonts not specified above, such as Cambria Math, may be used for mathematical formulas, equations, or when inserting Greek letters or special characters. Text must still be readable.

Spacing, Margin, and Paper Size

  • No more than six (6) lines of text within a vertical space of one inch. (In Microsoft Word, set spacing to single.)
  • Margins, in all directions, must be at least an inch. No proposer-supplied information may appear in the margins.
  • Paper size must be no larger than standard letter paper size (8 ½" by 11").

These requirements apply to all uploaded sections of a proposal, including supplementary documentation.


Proposal Contents:

Single Copy Documents (including Collaborators & Other Affiliations)

Note: NSF Use Only – The information as Single Copy Documents is not provided to reviewers for use in the review of the proposal

Collaborators & Other Affiliations Information

Collaborators and other affiliations (COA) must be separately provided for each individual identified as senior personnel on the project. The information in the tables is not required to be sorted, alphabetically or otherwise. 

Use the COA template provided by NSF, and follow the instructions in the header. The template has been developed to be fillable; the content and format requirements must not be altered by as this will create printing and viewing errors. Refer to NSF's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on COA document for frequently asked questions. 

Fastlane (most common): This template must be saved in .xlsx format and directly uploaded into FastLane

List of Suggested Reviewers or Reviewers Not to Include 

This document is optional

Proposers may include a list of suggested reviewers (including email address and organizational affiliation) who they believe are especially well qualified to review the proposal. Proposers also may designate persons they would prefer not to review the proposal. 

For potentially disqualifying conflicts of interest, please see PAPPG Exhibit II-2.

Authorization to Deviate from NSF Proposal Preparation Instructions

Complete only if applicable

NSF authorization to deviate from these instructions must be received prior to 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 approvals to deviate from NSF proposal preparation instructions may cover 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 include an authorization to deviate from standard NSF proposal preparation instructions in one of the following ways, as appropriate: (1) by identifying the solicitation number that authorized the deviation in the appropriate block on the Cover Sheet; or (2) for individual deviations, by identifying the name, date and title of the NSF official authorizing the deviation.

Proprietary or Privileged Information

see PAPPG Chapter II.D.1

Proposal Certifications

see PAPPG Chapter II.C.1.d

Submission of Proposals by Former NSF Staff

see PAPPG Chapter II.C.1.f

Cover Sheet

Cover Sheet is filled out in Fastlane. Please work with your research or grants administrator to complete.

Project Summary

Project Summary should be completed in Fastlane*

Summary of the proposed project not more than one page in length:

  • Overview: description of the activity that would result if the proposal were funded and a statement of objectives and methods to be employed
  • Intellectual merit of the proposed activity: description of the potential of the proposed activity to advance knowledge
  • Broader impacts of the proposed activity: description of 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 may be uploaded as a Supplementary Document ONLY if use of special characters is necessary. Such Project Summaries must be formatted with separate headings for Overview, Intellectual Merit, and Broader Impacts. Failure to include these headings will result in the proposal being returned without review.

Project Description (including Results from Prior NSF Support)

Project Description should be uploaded to Fastlane. 

Please refer to your solicitation for any deviations from the PAPPG Project Description instructions summarized below:


  • Clear statement of the work to be undertaken
  • Must include objectives for period of the proposed work and expected significance
  • Include the relationship of this work to the present state of knowledge in the field, as well as to work in progress by the PI under other support
  • Outline the general plan of work, including the broad design of activities to be undertaken
  • Provide a clear description of experimental methods and procedures (where appropriate)
  • Address what they want to do, why they want to do it, how they plan to do it, how they will know if they succeed, and what benefits could accrue if the project is successful
  • Must contain a separate section labeled "Broader Impacts"* 

Page Limitations and Inclusion of URLs

  • Must not exceed 15 pages*
    • This includes Results from Prior NSF Support
  • Visual materials, including charts, graphs, maps, photographs and other pictorial presentations are included in the page limitation
  • URLs must not be used because:
    • the information could circumvent page limitations
    • the reviewers are under no obligation to view the sites; and
    • the sites could be altered or deleted between the time of submission and the time of review

Results from Prior NSF Support

If any PI or co-PI identified on the proposal has received prior NSF support including an award with an end date in the past five years or any current funding, including any no cost extensions, information on the award is required for each PI and co-PI, regardless of whether the support was directly related to the proposal or not.

In cases where the PI or any co-PI has received more than one award (excluding amendments to existing awards), they need only report on the one award that is most closely related to the proposal. Support means salary support, as well as any other funding awarded by NSF, including research, Graduate Research Fellowship, Major Research Instrumentation, conference, equipment, travel, and center awards, etc.

The following information must be provided (for each applicable PI or co-PI):

  • the NSF award number, amount and period of support
  • the title of the project
  • summary of the results of the completed work, including accomplishments, supported by the award. The results must be separately described under two distinct headings: Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts;
  • listing of the publications resulting from the NSF award (a complete bibliographic citation for each publication must be provided either in this section or in the References Cited section of the proposal); if none, state “No publications were produced under this award.”
  • evidence of research products and their availability, including, but not limited to: data, publications, samples, physical collections, software, and models, as described in any Data Management Plan
  • if the proposal is for renewed support, a description of the relation of the completed work to the proposed work

If the project was recently awarded and therefore no new results exist, describe the major goals and broader impacts of the project.

Note: The proposal may contain up to five (5) pages to describe the results


*Please review your specific solicitation for any deviations.

References Cited


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 proposer has a website address readily available, that information should be included in the citation, but inclusion of a website address is optional. A proposal that includes reference citation(s) that do not specify a URL is not considered to be in violation of NSF proposal preparation guidelines and the proposal will still be reviewed.

There is no established page limitation for the references; however, this section must include bibliographic citations only and not be used to provide parenthetical information outside of the Project Description.

Biographical Sketches (Biosketches)

For the most up-to-date biosketch specifications and format, visit 

NSF recorded a webinar on the use of NSF-approved formats:

[In the latest PAPPG (effective October 4, 2021), the page limits for biosketches are three pages.]


Professional Preparation

List the individual’s undergraduate and graduate education and postdoctoral training (including location)


List in reverse chronological order by start date all of the individual's academic, professional, or institutional appointments, beginning with the current appointment.

Appointments include any titled academic, professional, or institutional position whether or not remuneration is received, and whether full-time, part-time, or voluntary (including adjunct, visiting, or honorary).


List up to five (5) products most closely related to the proposed project and up to five (5) other significant products, whether or not related to the proposed project.

Acceptable products must be citable and accessible including but not limited to publications, data sets, software, patents, and copyrights. Unacceptable products are unpublished documents not yet submitted for publication, invited lectures, and additional lists of products. Each product must include full citation information including (where applicable and practicable) names of all authors, date of publication or release, title, title of enclosing work such as journal or book, volume, issue, pages, website and URL or other Persistent Identifier.

Synergistic Activities

List of up to five (5) distinct examples that demonstrate the broader impact of the individual's professional and scholarly activities that focus on the integration and transfer of knowledge as well as its creation.

Synergistic activities should be specific and must not include multiple examples to further describe the activity. Examples may include, among others: innovations in teaching and training; 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 STEM; and service to the scientific and engineering community outside of the individual’s immediate organization.

Current and Pending Support

  • Includes all resources made available to an individual in support of and/or related to all research efforts, regardless of whether or not they have monetary value
  • Includes in-kind contributions (such as office/laboratory space, equipment, supplies, employees, students)
    • In-kind contributions not intended for use on the project/proposal being proposed also must be reported
  • Must use an NSF-approved format

For the most up-to-date current and pending support requirements and format, please visit

NSF recorded a webinar on the use of NSF-approved formats:

Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources

  • Describe only those resources that are directly applicable
  • Include 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
    • Narrative in nature and must not include any quantifiable financial information
  • Provide this information in this section, not in other parts of the proposal (e.g., Budget Justification, Project Description)
  • 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
  • Reviewers will evaluate the information during the merit review process and the cognizant NSF Program Officer will review it for programmatic and technical sufficiency

NSF expects that the resources identified in the Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources section will be provided, or made available, should the proposal be funded. 

Special Information/Supplementary Documents (including Data Management Plan)

Data Management Plan


  • No more than two pages
  • Describe how the proposal with conform to the NSF policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results
  • May include: 
    1. The types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum materials, and other materials to be produced in the course of the project
    2. 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)
    3. Policies for access and sharing including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements
    4. Policies and provisions for re-use, re-distribution, and the production of derivatives
    5. Plans for archiving data, samples, and other research products, and for preservation of access to them
  • A valid Data Management Plan may include only the statement that no detailed plan is needed, as long as the statement is accompanied by a clear justification

Note: Data management requirements and plans specific to the Directorate, Office, Division, Program, or other NSF unit, relevant to a proposal are available at: If guidance specific to the program is not available, then the requirements established in this section apply.

    Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan 

    Complete if requesting funding to support postdoctoral researchers

    • No more than one page
    • Describe the mentoring that will be provided to all postdoctoral researchers supported by the project 
    • Mentoring activities provided to postdoctoral researchers supported on the project will be evaluated under the Broader Impacts review criterion

    Examples of mentoring activities include, but are not limited to:

    • career counseling
    • training in preparation of grant proposals, publications, and presentations
    • guidance on ways to improve teaching and mentoring skills
    • guidance on how to effectively collaborate with researchers from diverse backgrounds and disciplinary areas
    • training in responsible professional practices

    Letters of Collaboration

    Please consult the solicitation for your grant for any specifications related to letters of collaboration (or support).

    Any substantial collaboration with individuals not included in the budget should be described in the Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources section of the proposal and documented in a letter of collaboration from each collaborator. Letters should state only the intent to collaborate and not contain endorsements or evaluation of the proposed project.

    NSF recommends the following format for 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."

    Note: While letters of collaboration are permitted, letters of support should not be submitted unless required by a specific program solicitation. A letter of support is typically from a key stakeholder and is used to convey a sense of enthusiasm for the project and/or to highlight the qualifications of the PI or co-PI. A letter of support submitted in response to a program solicitation requirement must be unique to the specific proposal submitted and cannot be altered without the author’s explicit prior approval. Proposals that contain letters of support not authorized by the program solicitation may be returned without review.

    Other Documents

    Complete only if applicable

    These documents include:

    • Research Involving the Use of Human Subjects, Hazardous Materials, Vertebrate Animals, or Endangered Species

    • Off-Campus Rationale

    • Environmental Impacts Assessment

    • Logistical Requirements and Field Plan (required if Antarctic proposal)

    • Research in Registered Historic Place

    • Research Involving Field Experiments with Genetically Engineering Organisms

    See PAPPG Chapter II.C.2.j for additional information

    Budget and Budget Justification


    Work with your department/School's research or grant administrator(s) to complete your budget.

    Budget Justification

    No more than five (5) pages

    Amounts for each budget line item requested must be justified in the budget justification


    See PAPPG II.C.2.g for additional information


    Note: Appendices may not be included unless a deviation has been authorized.


    Back to Proposal Outlines and Templates



    This page last updated to reflect the PAPPG Effective October 4, 2021 (NSF 22-1, OMB Control Number 3145-0058). Please email us if errors are found. (Thanks!)