The National Science Foundation (NSF) awards funding to researchers affiliated with institutions of higher education, non-profit and for-profit organizations, and state and local governments to conduct research relevant to engineering, natural, and social sciences. These grants allow researchers to undertake significant data-gathering projects and to conduct field research in settings away from their campus that would not otherwise be possible. Proposals are judged based on their scientific merit, including the theoretical importance of the research question and the appropriateness of the proposed data and methodology to be used in addressing the question.
Research.gov: Online grants management for the NSF community
SU OSP Budget Template: Required in order to develop and submit budgets consistent with current University rates and policies
SU OSP Internal Routing and Review (IRR) Form: Required in order to submit an external-grant application
- NSF accepts applications from scientists, engineers, and educators that are officially submitted by their employing organization.
- Applicants do not need to have an advanced degree. Nevertheless, they must be affiliated with an accredited institution that can officially submit their application.
- Graduate students typically do not submit research proposals through the general program but can arrange to serve as research assistants to faculty members. Graduate students who wish to fund their research should explore NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grants and Awards.
What will NSF fund?
- Up to two months of regular salary compensation for senior faculty. Any additional compensation for personnel must be included and justified in the proposal’s budget and specifically approved in the NSF award notice budget.
- Equipment, which is defined as tangible personal property having a useful life of more than a year. Please review the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide for information about equipment costs.
- Travel related to research in the application. Applicants may request travel funds for fieldwork, attendance at meetings and conferences, and other travel associated with proposed work.
- Cost of documenting, preparing, publishing, or otherwise making results of the proposed research available to members of the public.
- Professional consulting services that provide services that help further the research project.
- Incentive payments to human subjects or incentives to promote the completion of a survey.
- Computer services, including computer-based retrieval of scientific, technical, and educational information.
- NSF does not usually support technical assistance, pilot plant efforts, research requiring security classification, the development of products for commercial marketing, or market research for a particular project or invention.
- NSF does not usually support research on the mechanisms of disease in humans, including etiology, diagnosis, or treatment of disease. However, projects with etiology, diagnosis, or treatment-related goals that advance knowledge in engineering, mathematical, physical, computer, or information sciences are eligible for support. Check the specific eligibility criteria for COVID-19 pandemic grant programs.
Programs and Due Dates
Submission Deadlines and Windows
Unless otherwise noted, all proposals must be received by 5 pm the submitter’s local time on the established deadline date. NSF programs use the following types of due dates in their calls for submission:
- Target Dates, which designate a specific time when a panel or committee will meet to review applications. Applicants can still submit applications after a target date, but it may be a while before their application is reviewed for approval.
- Deadline Dates, which mark the end of a period when an NSF program will accept proposals for review. Proposals received after the deadline date will be returned without review.
- Submission Windows, which are periods of time when an NSF program will accept applications for review. Proposals received after a submission window will be returned without review.
Planning Time Required for an NSF Proposal
The Syracuse University Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) requests the final, complete application by no later than three business days before the application due date. The OSP Service Guidelines page gives other key timeframes leading up to submission.
As a general rule, preparing an NSF application takes a minimum of four to six weeks lead time. In addition to time devoted to writing your project description and other narrative components that comprise your proposal, you should plan for two weeks ahead of the submission deadline to work with University staff to finalize the complex paperwork required to submit your application.
Please note that the same work cannot be funded twice. Nevertheless, the applicant indicate that they would like to have their proposal reviewed by more than one program on their cover sheet. Concurrent submission of duplicated or similar proposals for review by more than one program without prior NSF approval will result in the return of these submissions.
Strategies for Success
- Start the process early.
- Read the entire solicitation very carefully and repeatedly.
- Ask questions of University grant specialists and NSF program officer (Caroline McMullin (email@example.com), Research Administrator in the SU Office of Sponsored Programs).
- Demonstrate review criteria in application materials.
- Write clearly, concisely, confidently, and truthfully.
- Draw on accomplishments more than aspirations.
- Write multiple drafts and show them to others for review.
- Check for spelling, grammar, and required formatting.
- Verify materials are uploaded correctly in the appropriate places in the application system.
- Be ready to submit your application before the deadline day to allow for any unexpected technical issues or system errors.
Application Submission Process
These grant awards are not fellowships directly paid to the applicant. Rather, the Office of Sponsored Programs at Syracuse University submits the grant application on behalf of the PI and funds are awarded to the University. Funds are held in a university or department account and utilized by the applicant for research expenses as described in the application.
- You must work with the SU Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) to submit the application.
- In the Maxwell School, your contact person for assistance and submission is Caroline McMullin (firstname.lastname@example.org), Research Administrator in the SU Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP). Depending on your academic department, the departmental administrator or budget manager might also be able to help.
- You and your co-writers will need NSF IDs in order to access the FastLane system (see Registering for an NSF ID).
Proposal Development Steps
1. Review the program solicitation from the applicable NSF program. Talk with your colleagues and collaborators to determine which program is a good fit for your research interests.
2. Review recent awards using the "What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)" link on the program page.
3. Leverage your network to find successful proposals and/or peers who have been through the application process (whether successful or not).
4. Prepare a 1-page summary of your project to send by email to the NSF program officer(s) for your chosen program. Request a phone call to discuss your project, including its fit with the program, or feedback by email.
5. Read carefully pertinent sections of the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG). Highlight or otherwise take note of important information.
6. Draft your Project Description, Budget Justification, and other components of your application, carefully following the content and format requirements as described in the program solicitation and PAPPG.
7. Obtain written documentation from hosting institutions, collaborators, or other auxiliary resources, if applicable.
8. Request required documents/information from collaborators and co-writers and mark your calendar to follow up to ensure you receive all documents/information well in advance of the submission deadline.
9. Finalize and submit your proposal and all necessary paperwork to Caroline McMullin (email@example.com) in OSP well in advance of the deadline. Caroline will review, work with you to revise as needed, and submit the application to the NSF.