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NSF Collaborative Proposals

Collaborative proposals are those in which investigators from two or more organizations wish to collaborate on a unified research project. They may be submitted to NSF in one of two methods: as a single proposal, in which a single award is being requested (with subawards administered by the lead organization); or by simultaneous submission of proposals from different organizations, with each organization requesting a separate award (lead institution links the separate awards in Fastlane).

Single Proposal

To complete a subaward budget:

  • As lead institution/PI: On the "Form Preparation" screen, select "Budgets" and "Go to Form." On the "Organization Selector" screen click on "Add New Org.", and pull up the subaward organization. Then on the "Organization Selector" screen click on "Use" to create a budget for an organization (may need to “Add Senior Person”). You will need to add the subaward total amount of request to item G.5 Subawards of the PI's Awardee organization budget.
  • The subaward organization can access the proposal budget in several ways (e.g., through a proposal PIN, through a Co-PI at the non-lead institution, or via passing around the FastLane budget as a spreadsheet).  Specifically –
    • If not a PI: Either the individual or the Research Administration person can log in under OAU (other authorized users), enter your last name, NSF ID#, password, then enter the temporary proposal ID# , and the proposal PIN number.
    • If a co-PI, submitting institutions needs co-PI’s ID# or email address to add person to the proposal, and then co-PI can get in to the proposal in usual way (with name, ID#, and password in own screen).

For proposals involving subawards, see Obtain Subrecipient Information.

Simultaneous Submission

The collaborative proposal mechanism requires that one institution be named the "lead" for the purpose of submitting the proposal. The lead institution is typically the one whose scientists are doing the bulk of the work in terms of writing the proposal and/or those that will manage the largest portion of the funds should the proposal be awarded. 

Who does what

  • Both the lead and non-lead institutions must create a new proposal. The non-lead institutions should use either Fastlane or, as determined by the lead institution. In
  • completing the cover sheet, institutions should list only those PIs and coPIs affiliated with their own institution.
  • The proposal title must begin with "Collaborative Research:" and all titles, start dates, durations, and NSF programs must be the same across the institutions.

Lead institutions’ submission will include a:

  • Proposal Cover Sheet;
  • Project Summary;
  • Project Description;
  • References Cited;
  • Biographical Sketches (for senior personnel affiliated with their institution);
  • Budgets and budget justification (for the portion of work to be managed by their institution);
  • Current & Pending Support;
  • Data Management Plan; and
  • Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources (for their institution).
  • Post-doc Mentoring Plan (if required) for the entire project
  • All supplementary single copy documents (ie conflicts of interest tables)
  • Any other supplementary documents (ie letters of commitment, quotes, etc.) allowed by the program

Non-lead institution submissions must include the following for their organization. The project summary, project description, and references cited (which are the same for all collaborating organizations) are only submitted by the Lead. 

  • Cover Sheet
  • Budget and budget justification (for the portion of work to be managed by their institution)
  • Facilities, Equipment & Other Resources (for their institution)
  • Proposal Classification Form (if submitting to BIO)
  • Biographical Sketches (for senior personnel affiliated with their institution)
  • Current & Pending Support (for senior personnel affiliated with their institution)

While it is acceptable for the non-lead institutions to upload their own supplementary documents, it is recommended that this only be done by the lead institution so that the order of the documents can be controlled.

Linking the Proposals Together

Important: None of the proposals should be submitted to NSF until they are all linked together. 

  • Once the proposals are linked, Fastlane will combine the proposal submission for printing or electronic viewing.

Collaborative proposals require simultaneous submission of proposals. One organization has the lead role but all are required to submit their original proposal to NSF.

For FastLane, this means that

  • Each organization prepares their proposal (thus creating a temporary proposal number).
  • Each non-lead institution assigns a PIN number (PIN # created by the PI: find “Proposal PIN” button on the “Proposals Actions” screen), and provides the temporary proposal number and PIN to the lead org – and then the lead org links. 
  • The lead institution links by entering each non-lead institution’s proposal PIN and temporary proposal ID number into the Fastlane by using the “Link Collaborative Proposals” option found on the “Form Preparation Screen.”  The lead institution needs to let the other collaborators know when that happens.
  • The proposals can be linked together, and each institution can continue to do work on their own institution’s proposal, and submit when ready *within 48 hours of each other* (thus non-lead institutions can submit before the lead institution, as long as the lead institution has linked the proposals; non-lead institutions can also submit after the lead, though less preferable since lead is unable to look at complete proposal before submitting).
  • After linking, each institution submits their proposal. Thus, each institution comes up with a different proposal number – but in the Fastlane system those separate proposals are linked together for printing or electronic viewing (with NO new collaborative number).

OSP is not able to see the submission status of linked proposals. Therefore, PI’s should verify the successful submission of lead and non-lead institution proposals.

Reviewing Linked Proposals

It is important to review the full proposal document that will be submitted. Both the lead and non-lead institutions can review the proposal when linked. To do this, simply click the "Print" button (next to the "Proposal PIN" button) on the "Proposal Actions" page. Then click on the "Go" button next to "Print Entire Proposal". All components of proposal that have been uploaded into Fastlane will appear as a PDF file.

NOTE: While non-lead proposals do not have to be submitted on the same day as the lead collaborative, PAPPG states that all components of the collaborative proposal must meet any established deadline date, and failure to do so may result in the entire collaborative proposal being returned without review. NSF requires submission of linked proposals within "a reasonable time" of one another but does not set a specific timeframe. OSP recommends within 48 hours of each other to help ensure a successful submission.

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: 12/2/20