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Evidence suggests that the majority of funded proposals involved contact with the program officers at the funding agency

Program staff influence and guide decisions

  • In the business of making investments
  • Can guide applicants to more suitable funding opportunity or agency
  • Can be incredible resources both in terms of information but also proposal review and award management

Contacting the program officer/building the relationship

Why make contact? 

  • Pre-proposal communication helps to establish a relationship with the sponsor. 
  • The program officer's immediate response to the project is a good predictor (although not a guarantee) of success. Confirming if a proposed idea fits with the program's objectives is especially important. Many proposals are rejected because they do not align with program objectives. 

Note: Before contacting a foundation, work with Syracuse University Foundation Relations. 


Before Speaking with the Program Officer 


Potential Questions for the Program Officer 


After the Call 


What Not to Do 


Why You Should Volunteer to Serve as a Reviewer 

Zaryab commented that when reviewers roll off panels, they submit really good proposals … so something to maybe pass along to your faculty:

Why You Should Volunteer to Serve As An NSF Reviewer

Reviewers are Essential - NSF needs YOU

The success of the peer review process, which enables NSF to make wise investments in all fields of science and engineering research and education, depends on the willingness of qualified reviewers like you to share your time and expertise. Your experience and up-to-date knowledge enables you to provide helpful advice to NSF program officers on the merits of proposals and constructive comments to proposers that strengthen their projects. In making its decisions on proposals, the counsel of these merit reviewers has proven invaluable to the Foundation in the identification of meritorious projects. The Foundation also may ask reviewers to serve on panels, for which NSF pays travel expenses.

To implement peer review, NSF depends upon the reviewer community for nearly 240,000 reviews per year. We try to limit the number of requests made to any single individual, recognizing the many demands our reviewers have on their time. Therefore, NSF strives to increase both the size and diversity of the pool of reviewers to ensure that the NSF merit review process benefits by receiving broad input from a variety of different perspectives. You can help by volunteering to review proposals in your area of expertise.

Benefits to You as a Reviewer

In addition to providing a great service to NSF and the science and engineering community, reviewers benefit from reviewing and serving on panels. For example, reviewers gain first-hand knowledge of the peer review process; learn about common problems with proposals; discover strategies to write strong proposals; and, through serving on a panel, meet colleagues and NSF program officers managing programs related to your interests.

How to Become a Reviewer

To become an NSF reviewer, send an e-mail to the NSF program officer(s) of the program(s) that fits your expertise. Introduce yourself and identify your areas of expertise, and let them know that you are interested in becoming a peer reviewer. It is most helpful if you also attach a 2-page CV with current contact information. We also encourage you to share this request with other colleagues who might be interested in serving as NSF reviewers. NSF welcomes qualified reviewers from the academic, industrial, and government sectors.

If you are selected as a reviewer, NSF will ask you to provide some demographic information on a voluntary basis1. Although submission of demographic information by reviewers is voluntary-and there are no adverse consequences if it is not provided-reviewers are strongly encouraged to provide this information to NSF. These data are used in the design, implementation, and monitoring of NSF efforts to increase the participation of various groups in science and engineering.

Contact NSF Now

Please take a few minutes now to contact NSF.



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