NSF Checklist

NSF Checklist

NSF Checklist - updated Jan. 2017

If the submission instructions do not require one of the GPG-required sections of a proposal, proposers will need to insert text or upload a document in that section of the proposal that states “NOT APPLICABLE.”  Doing so will enable FastLane to accept the proposal.

Deadline of 5:00:00 (NO EXCEPTIONS) and the time zone to which the deadline applies.

Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) must provide the proposal certifications concurrently with submission of the proposal. In addition, proposal file updates and revised budgets (Chapter III.C and D, respectively) must be signed and submitted by an AOR and only an AOR can perform a withdrawal function on behalf of a proposing organization. Research Coordinators without Delegated Signature Authority will no longer be able to submit proposals.



Proposal Preparation

-All PIs and Co-PIs listed on a proposal must have an NSF ID.

-PI needs to start the proposal in Fastlane and give AOR access.

-To allow for review time, project start date should be at least 6 months from proposal due date.

-Upon entering the proposal preparation module in FastLane, the PI will be prompted to select:

1. Whether the proposal is:

  • A collaborative proposal from one organization (see GPG Chapter II.D.3.a);
  • A collaborative proposal from multiple organizations (see GPG Chapter II.D.3.b); or
  • Not a collaborative proposal.

2. The type of proposal being developed

•     Research (see Chapter II, Sections A through C);

  •  Rapid Response Research (RAPID) (see Chapter II.E.1);

•     Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) (see Chapter II.E.2);

•     Research Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (RAISE)(see Chapter II.E.3);

•     Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) (see Chapter II.E.4);

•     Ideas Lab (see Chapter II.E.5);

•     Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities (FASED) (see Chapter II.E.6);

•     Conference (see Chapter II.D.7);

•     Equipment (see Chapter II.D.8);

•     Travel (see Chapter II.D.9);

•     Center (see relevant funding opportunity);

  • Research Infrastructure (see relevant funding opportunity) or

•     Fellowship (see relevant funding opportunity).





  • Each section of the proposal that is uploaded must be individually paginated.
  • 1” margins (minimum requirement) in all directions.
  • Must use one of the following fonts: Arial, Courier New, 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 fonts at a font size of 11 points or larger. Font size of less than 10 points may be used for mathematical equations, tables, diagrams, captions, or special characters as long as legible.
  • No more than 6 lines of type within a vertical space of 1 inch.
  • Small type size makes it difficult for reviewers to read the proposal; consequently, the use

of small type not in compliance with the above guidelines may be grounds for NSF to return the proposal without review.

  • Use only a standard, single-column format for text.
  • If using a Windows-based Mac computer, please convert your files to pdf using Acrobat Distiller before uploading to FastLane. Allowing FastLane to convert Word documents for you is causing major compliance issues with font size. It looks compliant on screen, but is not compliant when printed out.


Cover Sheet

  • Program Announcement # if applicable, if not program specific, select “PAPPG” with

division, program, etc. (can choose more than one).

  • Deadline or target date (choose “No Closing Date” if not program specific).
  • Title of Project.
  • Start date / # of months in duration.
  • PIs/Co-PIs (no more than 5 total this includes the PI).
  • All projects involving human subjects must either (1) have approval from the organization's Institutional Review Board (IRB) before issuance of an NSF award or, (2) must affirm that the IRB has declared the research exempt from IRB review, in accordance with the applicable subsection, as established in section 101(b) of the Common Rule. If certification of exemption is provided after submission of the proposal and before the award is issued, the exemption number corresponding to one or more of the exemption categories also must be included in the documentation provided to NSF. If the research is not designated as exempt, the IRB approval date should be identified in the space provided. This date, at minimum, should cover the period at which the project is initiated. If IRB approval has not been obtained prior to submission, the proposer should indicate "Pending" in the space provided for the approval date.
  • International Activities Country Name(s):  Proposers also should enter the country/countries with which project participants will engage and/or travel to attend international conferences.  If the specific location at the international conference is not known at the time of the proposal submission, proposers should enter “Worldwide”.



Project Summary1 page max. 

Self-contained description of activity written in third-person which includes statement of objectives and methods employed.

  • Use the three separate text boxes in Fastlane to upload the 1) Overview, 2) Intellectual Merit, and 3) Broader Impact sections of the Summary (note: separate headings are no longer needed).
  • If the Project Summary contains special characters (ie. mathematical symbols or Greek letters) it may be uploaded as a Supplementary Document. Project Summaries submitted as a PDF must be formatted with separate headings for the overview, statement on the intellectual merit of the proposed activity, and statement on the broader impacts of the proposed activity. Failure to include these headings may result in the proposal being returned without review.


Table of Contents – generated automatically by FastLane.

Project Description May Not Exceed 15 Pages (See special requirements for the following funding mechanisms: Rapid Response Research (RAPID) Proposal, EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) Proposal, Research Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (RAISE) Proposal, Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) Proposal, Ideas Lab Proposal, Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities (FASED) Proposal, Conference Proposal, Equipment Proposal, Travel Proposal, Center Proposal, and Research Infrastructure Proposal.)


  • A clear statement of the work to be undertaken and must include the objectives for the period of the proposed work and expected significance; 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.  A description of broader impacts must be in a separate section within the narrative labeled “Broader Impacts”.
  • Results of prior and current NSF support – limit of 5 pages within 15 page total required only for PI’s and Co-PI’s who have received NSF support with a start date within the last 5 years (including any current funding and no cost extensions).
    • Must include all NSF funding regardless of whether there is salary support or whether the project is directly related to the proposal.
    • NSF award number, amount and period of support, title, summary of results, listing of publications, evidence of research products, and if proposal is renewed for support, description of relation to completed work.
    • In cases where the PI or co-PI has received more than one award (excluding amendments), they need only report on the one award most closely related to the proposal.
    • URL’s that provide information necessary to review should not be used.
  • URLs must not be used in the project description.               


References Cited - No page limits.

  • Must include all authors in order in which they appear in publications. (No et al.)
  • If the document is available electronically, the website address should be identified.
  • If no references, a statement to that effect should be uploaded.


Biosketch – Two Pages per Person required for each individual identified as Senior Personnel

(1 .pdf per person)

  • No personal information is allowed. (examples: home address; home telephone, fax, or cell phone numbers; home e-mail address)
  • Must be in the following order:

a.)    Professional Preparation – Earliest to most recent.

b.)    Appointments – Reverse chronological order beginning with current appointment.

c.)    10 Products (use to be called Publications) – Up to five products most closely related to the proposed project (may include, but not limited to, publications, data sets, software, patents, and copyrights) and up to five other significant products, whether or not related to the proposed project. Unacceptable products are unpublished documents not yet submitted for publication, invited lectures, and additional lists of products.  The heading “Publications” may be used for this section if only publications are included.

d.)    Synergistic Activities – List of up to 5 examples that show broader impact.

  • Other Personnel biographical information should be uploaded as a single PDF file in the Other Supplementary Documents section of the proposal.



Each senior project personnel needs to provide this information as a new single-copy document--it is no longer included in the biosketch.  This is needed to help identify potential bias or conflicts in the selection of reviewers.

  • Collaborators and Co-Editors - A list of all persons in alphabetical order (including their current organizational affiliations) who are currently, or who have been collaborators or co-authors with the individual on a project, book, article, report, abstract or paper during the 48 months preceding the submission of the proposal. Also include those individuals who are currently or have been co-editors of a journal, compendium, or conference proceedings during the 24 months preceding the submission of the proposal. If there are no collaborators or co-editors to report, this should be so indicated.
  • Graduate Advisors - A list of the names in alphabetical order by last name of the individual’s own graduate advisor(s) and their current organizational affiliations, if known.
  • Ph.D. Advisor - A list of all persons with whom the individual has had an association as a Ph.D. advisor.


Budget/Justification (No more than 3 pages per proposal)

For preparation- need the start/end dates of the project. Building your budget using the NSF format as indicated below will make filling out the NSF budget forms easier. (Prepare budget notes in this sequence as well.)

  1. SENIOR PERSONNEL: PI/PD, Co-PIs, Faculty and Other Senior Associates
  • Faculty salary – No more than 2 months of their regular salary allowed in any one year under the GPG basic guidelines. This limit includes salary compensation received from all NSF-funded grants. If anticipated, any compensation for such personnel in excess of two months must be disclosed in the proposal budget, justified in the budget justification, and must be specifically approved by NSF in the award notice budget.
  • If no person months or salary is requested for Senior Personnel, they must be removed from Section A of the budget.  Their names will remain on the Cover Sheet and the individual(s) role on the project should be described in the Facilities, Equipment and other Resources section of the proposal.


  • Administrative and Clerical Salaries & Wages Policy – Should normally be treated as indirect (F&A) costs.  Inclusion of such costs on a proposal budget may be appropriate only if the conditions outlined in the PAPPG are met.
  • Graduate Assistants – Stipend, Tuition, Percentage of Time, Semester(s)
  • Professionals/Technicians – Name of person if known, number of full-time-equivalent person-months and total amount of salaries requested per year or hourly rate and number of hours if applicable.
  • Undergraduates/Wage Payroll – Need hourly rate and number of hours.
  2. EQUIPMENT (LIST ITEM AND DOLLAR AMOUNT FOR EACH ITEM EXCEEDING $5,000.) Allowable items ordinarily will be limited to research equipment and apparatus not already available for the conduct of the work.
  3. TRAVEL- Provide as much information as is available to ensure the travel and its relation to the proposed activities including itemization and justification by destination and cost.

FOREIGN TRAVEL – The proposal must include relevant information, including countries to be visited (also enter names of countries on the proposal budget), dates of visit, if known. For restrictions concerning directly charging visa costs to an NSF award, see 2 CFR § 200.474.

  1. PARTICIPANT SUPPORT - Refers to costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with NSF sponsored conferences or training projects.  Any additional categories of participant support costs other than those described in 2 CFR 200.75 must be justified in the budget justification, and such costs will be closely scrutinized by NSF.  Participant support costs must be accounted for separately should an award be made.
    1. MATERIALS AND SUPPLIES (including Costs of Computing Devices if the cost is less than <$5,000 regardless of the length of its useful life and doesn’t have to be solely dedicated to the performance of the NSF project).
    3. CONSULTANT SERVICES (also referred to as Professional Service Costs) Anticipated services must be justified and information furnished on each individual’s expertise, primary organizational affiliation, normal daily compensation rate, and number of days of expected service. Consultants’ travel costs, including subsistence, may be included. If requested, the proposer must be able to justify that the proposed rate of pay is reasonable.
    4. COMPUTER SERVICES including computer-based retrieval of scientific, technical and educational information, may be requested only where it is institutional policy to charge such costs as direct charges.
    5. SUBAWARDS A separate budget and budget justification (no more than three pages) must be provided for each subrecipient if already identified, along with a description of the work to be performed. (NSF awardees will use the domestic subrecipient’s applicable U.S. federally negotiated indirect cost rate(s). If no such rate exists, the NSF awardee may either negotiate a rate or use a de minimus indirect cost rate recovery of 10% of modified total direct costs.   It is also NSF’s expectation that NSF awardees will use the foreign subrecipient’s applicable U.S. federally negotiated indirect cost rate(s). However, foreign subrecipients that do not have a U.S. federally negotiated indirect cost rate are entitled to a de minimus indirect cost rate recovery of 10% of modified total direct costs.
    6. OTHER - Any other direct costs not specified in Lines G1 through G5. Such items must be itemized and detailed in the budget justification.  Payments to Human Subjects or incentives to promote completions of a survey should be included here. Visa costs may be included if it is a short-term visa, critical and necessary to conduct the project, allowable under 2 CFR&200.463., consistent with cost accounting practices and organizational policies, meet the definition of “direct cost”.

Performance based incentives payments to employees as described in 2 CFR&200.430(f) should not be included in this section.


Cost Sharing, has been revised to implement the National Science Board’s recommendations regarding cost sharing. The inclusion of voluntary committed cost sharing in NSF proposals will be prohibited. Mandatory cost sharing will only be required when explicitly authorized by the NSF Director.

  • Voluntary Un-Committed Cost Share should be shown in Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources


Current and Pending Support (INCLUDES the proposal being submitted) 1 single .pdf / per person

The proposed project, all other projects, including internal funds allocated toward specific projects and 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).

  • The total award amount for the entire award period covered (including indirect costs) must be shown as well as the number of person-months per year to be devoted to the project, regardless of source of support.
  • Concurrent submission to other organizations will not prejudice NSF review except for the Biological Sciences Directorate.
  • If the project now being submitted has been funded previously by a source other than NSF, the information requested must be furnished for the last period of funding.



Export Control Language


The Pennsylvania State University employs individuals and accepts students and graduate research students from a multitude of national backgrounds. As an entity, the University is subject to, and works diligently to obey, federal regulations regarding the export of controlled technologies and data. Sponsor, as an independent entity, is individually responsible for ascertaining its compliance with federal export laws and procedures. If Sponsor anticipates disclosure or provision of controlled technology or data to University as part of the proposed sponsored project, Sponsor should inform University, in writing, of the existence of, and information concerning the scope and extent of, such anticipated disclosures or provisions.

Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources

  • Used to assess adequacy of resources available.  
  • If applicable, both internal and external resources (both physical and personnel) should be included.
  • Describe only resources that are directly applicable.
  • The description should be narrative in nature and must not include any quantifiable financial information.
  • Any Voluntary Un-Committed Cost Share should be described here.
  • If none, a statement to that effect should be uploaded.

Special Information and Supplementary Documentation (Note:  Sometimes an RFP will restrict the number of documents for this section)

  • Postdoctoral Researcher Mentoring Plan. Each proposalthat requests funding to support postdoctoral researchers must include, as a supplementary document, 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.

In situations where a postdoctoral researcher is listed in Section A of the NSF Budget, and is functioning in a Senior Project personnel capacity (i.e., responsible for the scientific or technical direction of the project), a mentoring plan is not required.

  • Data Management Plan – In no more than two pages, proposals must describe how the proposal will conform to NSF policy on dissemination and sharing of research results (see AAG Chapter VI.D.4) and may include:
    • the types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum materials, and other materials to be produced in the course of the project;
    • 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);
    • policies for access and sharing including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements;
    • policies and provisions for re-use, re-distribution, and the production of derivatives; and
    • plans for archiving data, samples, and other research products, and for preservation of access to them.

Simultaneously submitted collaborative proposals and proposals that include subawards are a single

unified project and should include only one supplemental combined Data Management Plan, regardless of the number of non-lead collaborative proposals or subawards included.

Other Supplementary Documentation:

  • Other Personnel Biographical Sketches should be uploaded in the Other Supplementary Documents section of the proposal (Postdocs, Other professionals, or students (research assistants) (UPLOAD AS ONE SINGLE .pdf) – The proposal also may include information on exceptional qualifications that merit consideration in the evaluation of the proposal.  Should be clearly identified as “Other Personnel” biographical information that is uploaded.
    • Rationale for performance of all or part of the project off-campus or away from organizational headquarters.
  • Documentation of collaborative arrangements of significance to the proposal through letters of collaboration.  Letters of collaboration should be limited to stating the intent to collaborate and should not contain endorsements or evaluation of the proposed project. While letters of collaboration are permitted, unless required by a specific program solicitation, letters of support should not be submitted as they are not a standard component of an NSF proposal.


Recommended format for letters of collaboration is as follows:

“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 or Other Resources section of the proposal.”

  • If a proposed project might have an environmental impact, the proposal should furnish sufficient information to assist Foundation officials in assessing the environmental consequences of supporting the project.
  • Work in foreign countries. PIs are responsible for obtaining the required authorizations and for advising NSF that they have been obtained or requested. (See detail under GPG Chapter II.C.2.j.)
  • Research in Greenland and Antarctic (Polar Programs)
  • Research in a location designated, or eligible to be designated, a registered historic place.  (See AAG Chapter VI.K).  Where applicable, the box for “Historic Places” must be checked on the Cover Sheet.
  • Research involving field experiments with genetically engineered organisms.
  • Special components in new proposals or in requests for supplements, such as Facilitation awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities (FASED), Research Opportunity Awards (ROAs), Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) or Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUIs).  (See GPG Ch. 11.D.4 for information on FASED, and for the other programs identified, consult the relevant program solicitation.)
  • In addition, the supplementary documentation section should alert NSF officials to unusual circumstances that require special handling, including, for example, proprietary or other privileged information in the proposal ,matters affecting individual privacy, required intergovernmental review under E.O. 12372 (Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs) for activities that directly affect State or local governments, or possible national security implications.
  • Documentation regarding research involving the use of human subjects, hazardous materials, vertebrate animals, or endangered species. The box for "Human Subjects" must be checked on the Cover Sheet if use of human subjects is envisioned. If human subject activities are exempt from IRB review, provide the exemption number(s) corresponding to one or more of the exemption categories. The six categories of research that qualify for exemption from coverage by the regulations are defined in the Common Rule for Protection of Human Subjects. If the research is not designated as exempt, the IRB approval date should be identified in the space provided.


  • MAY NOT be included unless a deviation has been authorized by the Program Director.

Special Programs
See sections in the PAPPG for special program requirements that may deviate from the standard proposal guidelines.  Special programs include: RAPID, EAGER, RAISE, GOALI, Ideas Lab, FASED, Conference, Equipment, Travel, Center, Research Infrastructure and Fellowship projects.


NSF Checklist:


[ ] General:

[ ] 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.

[ ] 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.

[ ] Cover Sheet:

[ ] For interdisciplinary proposals, ensure all relevant programs are identified.

[ ] Title includes any necessary prefix, e.g., “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.

[ ] 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 subawardee.

[ ] 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.

[ ] 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).

[ ] Other types of information identified in Chapter II.C.2.j have been included, as appropriate.

[ ] Any additional items specified in a relevant program solicitation have been included.

[ ] Appendices:

[ ] Appendices many not be included unless a deviation has been authorized.