This outline addresses key development components of a standard NSF proposal; however, it does not address all elements required to complete the application or budget. Be sure to refer to the program solicitation applicable to your proposal and the application instructions in the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG).

Formatting Instructions

Application Materials

Project Summary

Required; limited to 1 page 

The Project Summary should be informative to other persons working in the same or related fields and, insofar as possible, understandable to a broad audience within the scientific domain. It should not be an abstract of the proposal. The summary must include three separate sections, each of which is input into a text box in FastLane*:

*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.

For additional guidance including an example Project Summary, see: https://granttrainingcenter.com/blog/important-part-nsf-proposal-summary-page/ 

Project Description

Required; limited to 15 pages unless otherwise specified in the program solicitation 

From the PAPPG (NSF 22-1): 

The Project Description should provide a clear statement of the work to be undertaken and must include the objectives for the period of the proposed work, expected significance, and 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. 

The Project Description should outline the general plan of work, including the broad design of activities to be undertaken, and, where appropriate, provide a clear description of experimental methods and procedures. Proposers should address what they want to do, why they want to do it, how they plan to do
it, how they will know if they succeed, and what benefits could accrue if the project is successful. The project activities may be based on previously established and/or innovative methods and approaches, but in either case must be well justified. These issues apply to both the technical aspects of the proposal and the way in which the project may make broader contributions.

Additionally: 

Broader Impacts 

From the PAPPG (NSF 22-1): 

This section should provide a discussion of the broader impacts of the proposed activities. Broader impacts may be accomplished through the research itself, through the activities that are directly related to specific research projects, or through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to the project. NSF values the advancement of scientific knowledge and activities that contribute to the achievement of societally relevant outcomes. Such outcomes include, but are not limited to: full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); improved STEM education and educator development at any level; increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology; improved well-being of individuals in society; development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce; increased partnerships between academia, industry, and others; improved national security; increased economic competitiveness of the U.S.; use of science and technology to inform public policy; and enhanced infrastructure for research and education. These examples of societally relevant outcomes should not be considered either comprehensive or prescriptive. Proposers may include appropriate outcomes not covered by these examples.

Dear Colleague Letter: A Broader Impacts Framework for Proposals Submitted to NSF’s Social, Behavioral, and Economic (SBE) Sciences Directorate (March 2021)

Syracuse Resources 

Results from Prior NSF Support

If applicable; limited to 5 pages 

The purpose of this section is to assist reviewers in assessing the quality of prior work conducted with prior or current NSF funding. If any PI or co-PI identified on the proposal has received prior NSF support—including an award with an end date in the past five years or any current funding (including any no cost extensions)—information on the award is required for each PI and co-PI, regardless of whether the support was directly related to the proposal or not. In cases where the PI or any co-PI has received more than one award (excluding amendments to existing awards), they need only report on the one award that is most closely related to the proposal. Support means salary support, as well as any other funding awarded by NSF, including research, Graduate Research Fellowship, Major Research Instrumentation, conference, equipment, travel, and center awards, etc. The following information must be provided:

If the project was recently awarded and therefore no new results exist, describe the major goals and broader impacts of the project. Results may be summarized in fewer than five pages, which would give the balance of the 15 pages for the Project Description.

References Cited

Required; no page limit

While there is no page limit for the references, this section must contain bibliographic citations only and cannot include parenthetical information outside of the 15-page Project Description.

Biographical Sketch

Required; limited to 3 pages each

Provide a biographical sketch for each person identified as senior personnel. An NSF-approved biographical sketch format must be used. Instructions and templates for creating an NSF-approved biographical sketch can be found here.

Budget and Budget Justification

Required; justification limited to 5 pages

Syracuse Resources 

Current and Pending Support

Required; no page limit

Provide current and pending support information for each person identified as senior personnel. An NSF-approved current and pending support format must be used. Instructions and templates for creating an NSF-approved current and pending support form can be found here.   

Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources

Required; no page limit

Syracuse Resources 

Special Information and Supplementary Documentation 

Data Management Plan

Required; limited to 2 pages

From the PAPPG (NSF 22-1): 

This supplementary document should describe how the proposal will conform to NSF policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results (see Chapter XI.D.4), and may include:

  1. the types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum materials, and other materials to be produced in the course of the project;
  2. 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);
  3. policies for access and sharing including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements;
  4. policies and provisions for re-use, re-distribution, and the production of derivatives; and
  5. plans for archiving data, samples, and other research products, and for preservation of access to them.

Additionally: 

Syracuse Resources 

Postdoctoral Researcher Mentoring Plan

If applicable; limited to 1 page

Documentation of Collaborative Arrangements 

From the PAPPG (NSF 22-1): 

Letters of collaboration should be limited to stating the intent to collaborate and should not contain endorsements or evaluation of the proposed project. The 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 proposal title] is selected for funding by NSF, it is my intent to collaborator and/or commit resources as detailed in the Project Description or the Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources section of the proposal."

Other Documents

If applicable

Single-Copy Documents 

Collaborators and Other Affiliations Information

Required; no page limit