The following provides essential information for applying to NSF. The following does not replace detailed information that NSF provides in the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG).
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) proposals do not go through OCG. For information on GRFPs, see OCG’s Fellowships and Student Research Grants page.
Starting an NSF Proposal
- Contact OCG Proposal Analyst. At least 5 business days before a deadline, provide your Proposal Analyst with a Proposal Submission Request (PSR) form and budget information.
- Research.gov/FastLane Registration. Each PI must have a Research.gov/FastLane account with an NSF ID associated with CU Boulder to submit a proposal to NSF. If you don't have a Research.gov/FastLane account or need to relate your account with CU Boulder, please contact Lyn Milliken.
- Disclosure of External Professional Activities (DEPA). Your DEPA must be up to date and reviewed prior to your proposal being submitted. For information, see CU Boulder's Conflicts of Interest & Commitment website.
- Proposal Package Preparation. CU Boulder submits NSF proposals through Research.gov or FastLane, which is a portal to prepare and submit proposals to NSF. Your Proposal Analyst will complete the "Cover Page" and "Budget" in Research.gov/FastLane. The PI is expected to upload all other required documents to Research.gov/FastLane.
Proposal Preparation Process
- Proposal Budget. Correspond with your Proposal Analyst to prepare the proposal budget. Review the FOA/solicitation for specific funding requirements.
- Prepare Proposal Documents. Following the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) and specific FOA for the program you're applying to, prepare proposal documents. See the section below, Required NSF Documents, for details.
- Upload Documents to Research.gov/FastLane. With the exception of the Cover Page and the Budget (your Proposal Analyst will complete these forms), upload required documents to the correct pages in Research.gov/FastLane.
- Research.gov/FastLane will convert all documents to PDF; however, documents generally look better after upload if converted to PDF before uploading.
- The Collaborators and Other Affiliations document must be uploaded as an .xlsx, .xls or .txt file. Do not convert this document to PDF before uploading.
- Project Summary must be copy/pasted into provided text boxes. Uploaded Project Summaries are for summaries containing special characters ONLY.
- Reference OCG's How to Prepare and Edit Proposals in Research.gov for additional step-by-step instructions.
- Review Proposal. Your Proposal Analyst will review your proposal documents for compliance with NSF proposal requirements. Your Proposal Analyst may also email you a PDF of the compiled proposal. This is your opportunity to review the proposal and make changes prior to submission.
- Allow SPO Access and Approve Proposal for Submission. To submit, the PI must grant "SPO Access" to view, edit and submit in Research.gov/FastLane and send an email to the Proposal Analyst confirming that the proposal is ready for submission.
- To allow SPO access, log in to Research.gov/FastLane and click on Proposal Functions > Proposal Preparation > Prepare Proposal > Highlight this proposal. Click on Allow SPO Access > Proceed > Go for Allow AOR to view, edit and submit proposal.
- Submission! Your Proposal Analyst will submit your proposal to NSF and confirm the submission has gone through.
- Check Proposal in Research.gov/FastLane. A successfully submitted proposal will be available to view in Research.gov/FastLane.
- You can make changes to an NSF proposal up until the deadline date and time.
- Notify your Proposal Analyst if any changes need to be made to the proposal. We recommend only making changes to items of major concern to avoid errors in the submission process.
- Most changes can be made through a Proposal File Update without compiling a new, full proposal.
Formatting NSF Documents
- Acceptable fonts: Arial/Palatino 10 point, Times/Computer Modern 11 point
- Black text
- 1 inch margins
- Fastlane: Paginate each document starting with page 1
- Research.gov: Do not paginate the pages nor include any other headers/footers
Required NSF Documents
- Any time you do not follow NSF guidelines, you put your proposal at risk of being returned without review.
- Proposal Analysts will assist in reviewing your proposal for compliance, but PIs are ultimately responsible for ensuring proposals are compliant with sponsor and program guidelines.
- Everything from font size to number of pages to excluding unallowable documents is vital to ensure that your proposal will be reviewed for scientific merit.
For a quick list of required documents and page limits, see:
- NSF Proposal Documents PI Checklist
- NSF Proposal Submission Review Checklist
- NSF CAREER Proposal Submission Review Checklist - FastLane
- NSF CAREER Proposal Submission Review Checklist - Research.gov
- NSF CAREER Proposal Synopsis of Solicitation Requirements
Details on document requirements are provided in:
NSF Templates and Samples
- OCG Budget Justification Template
- Data Management Plan Tool (DMPTool)
- NSF Biosketch and Current & Pending Support Summary and Links to Instructional Guides
- NSF Collaborator and Other Affiliations
Post Submission Materials
When NSF is ready to recommend an award, you may be asked to provide the following:
- Revised Budget. You will need to work with your Proposal Analyst to revise and submit a budget through Research.gov/FastLane. Your Proposal Analyst can walk you through these steps.
- Updated Proposal Documents. If any documents need to be updated after scientific review, your Proposal Analyst will usually need to submit or be copied on submission of these documents.
Other NSF Resources
NSF proposal resources are available through the following links:
- NSF Proposal Submission through Research.gov (April and May 2018 OCG presentation)
- Funding - How to Prepare Your Proposal
- Register to receive notifications about future NSF Grants Conferences
- NSF Public Access FAQs
- NSF Proposal & Award Policy Newsletter (quarterly publication)
- NSF Prospective New Awardee Guide
- Broader Impacts Network
- OCG's How to Prepare and Edit Proposals in Resarch.gov (step-by-step guide)
NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER)
- NSF Synopsis of Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Proposal Requirements Checklists
- CAREER Program page on the NSF website - has FAQs and other useful links
- Current CAREER Program Solicitation - includes details on proposal requirements and review process
- Current CAREER Program FAQs
- Search all recent CAREER awards, including narrowing it to the discipline(s) and program(s)
- NSF Budget Requests to Congress and Annual Appropriations, which has links to the requests for all of NSF's science directorates