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NSF Proposal Components

  • Cover Sheet – choose program announcement number; input title, proposal duration, requested starting date, any co-PI names/email addresses, and check over the rest.
  • Project Summary– a one-page self-contained description of the project with statement of objectives and methods to be employed. Must be written in third person, and clearly address in separate statements the criteria of:
    1. What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity? And;
    2. What are the broader impacts resulting from the proposed activity?

    Suggested: make it easy for the reviewer to see that you’ve met the criteria by using a bold header for each criteria section.

  • Table of Contents - generated automatically by Fastlane
  • Project Description – the project narrative usually may not exceed 15 pages, and content desired is described in program announcement (do check individual program specifications as page limits and content required can vary).
  • References Cited – no page limit. includes bibliographic citations only, based on project description narrative
  • Biographical Sketch – limited to two pages, for each PI/co-PI/senior project personnel; has specific format for info from a CV: "the following information must be provided in the order and format specified": Professional Preparation, Appointments, Publications, Synergistic Activities, Collaborators and Other Affiliations (please refer to the PAPPG for the particulars on this one, &/or Templates with bio specifications).
  • Budget
  • Current and Pending – any external support in hand or sought needs to be listed, including the pending proposal (amount of support, grant period, title, source of support, location of project, person-months per year committed to project).
  • Facilities, Equipment and other Resources – addresses infrastructure; your department administrator or chair can help with the completion of this category, if needed.
  • Data Management Plan – NSF now requires that all proposals include a data management plan (maximum of two pages). This documentation should describe how the proposal will conform to NSF policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results. The plan should describe the data generated by the research, and your plan for managing that data, including storage, human subjects protection, data dissemination and level of aggregation. A valid plan may include only the statement that no data will be generated. For more information, please consult the NSF Data Management Plan Policy (PDF). For help developing your Data Management Plan, see the Data Management Plan Libguide.  
  • Post-Doctoral Scholars Mentoring Plan – If your proposal requests funding to support postdoctoral researchers, provide "a description of the mentoring activities that will be provided for such individuals." In no more than one page, the mentoring plan must describe the mentoring that will be provided to all postdoctoral researchers supported by the project, irrespective of whether they reside at the submitting organization, any subawardee organization, or at any organization participating in a simultaneously submitted collaborative project. The guidelines include specifics and examples of mentoring plan activities.
    • If the proposal is collaborative and includes support of a post-doc researcher at any of the collaborating institutions, NSF procedures dictate that the lead organization's submission must include a supplemental mentoring plan not to exceed one page, addressing the mentoring activities to be provided for all postdoctoral researchers supported under the entire collaborative project.

    For help developing your Mentoring Plan, see our Templates and the Post-doc Faculty Toolkit.  

  • Supplementary – not considered an appendix; provide supplementary docs only as specified in program announcement. As needed, may include letters of support, equipment purchase estimates, documentation regarding specific research locations or involving use of specific entities, and more (see PAPPG Chapter II, C. 2. j).
    • For RUI proposals – always need to include an RUI Impact Statement and an RUI Eligibility Certification page
    • REUs allow for an Optional Ethics Component and letters of commitment.
Grant Life Cycle step 1: Generate Your Idea Step 2: Find Funding Step 3: Develop Your Proposal Step 4: Submit Your Proposal Step 5: Manage Your Award step 6: Share Your Research
Last Updated: 4/4/17