The Award Lifecycle

NSF Proposals

The National Science Foundation is one of the largest external funders of research at NIU.

SPA Guidance for NSF Proposals

Overall Proposal Development: If you are new to applying to NSF, start your journey with our NSF Tipsheet guidance that was compiled by NIU’s Research Development Specialists.

Samples of common NSF documents

Useful Links on NSF’s website

Here are some important links for investigators considering submitting a proposal to NSF:


Announcement: NSF Automated Proposal Compliance Checks in Fastlane

As part of NSF’s efforts to modernize proposal submission and increase competitive fairness in the proposal process, the Foundation continues to implement automated proposal compliance checks in FastLane.

Effective September 26, 2016, FastLane will now check to ensure that the combined text of the Project Summary text boxes (or uploaded PDF if the Project Summary contains special characters) does not exceed one page prior to submission, rather than the current check of 4,600 characters. See the Proposal & Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG)Chapter II.C.2.b, for further information.

The compliance check will trigger an error message in the following circumstances:

  • Project Summary text exceeds the one-page limit
  • Project Summary text is entered and the user also uploads a “Project Summary with Special Characters” supplementary document

The Fastlane system prevents submission of proposals when compliance checks result in error messages. The compliance issue resulting in the error message must be resolved in order for Fastlane to allow submission.

Proposal File Update (PFU) Implications:

Proposers should be aware that if a proposal was received by NSF prior to September 26, 2016, containing a Project Summary that complies with the previous 4,600-character limit but exceeds the one-page limit, a PFU addressing any section of the proposal will result in the proposal not being accepted if it does not comply with these compliance checks. The checks will be run on all sections of the proposal, regardless of which section was updated during the PFU.

The new set of automated compliance checks will trigger error messages for each of the following rules:

  • Biographical Sketch(es) and Current and Pending Support files are required  for each Senior Personnel associated with a proposal; and
  • Biographical Sketch(es) can only be uploaded as a file, must not exceed two pages and can no longer be entered as text.

Note About Proposal File Update (PFU): Proposers should be aware should that if a proposal was received prior to July 25 and contained only one Biographical Sketch and/or Current & Pending Support file (rather than individual files for each senior personnel), a PFU addressing any section of the proposal will result in the proposal not being accepted if it does not comply with these new compliance checks.  The checks will be run on all sections of the proposal regardless of which section was updated during the PFU.

Please note that the new set of compliance checks are in addition to the compliance checks that currently exist in FastLane. You can view a complete list of FastLane auto-compliance checks, including these checks, by clicking here . The list specifies which checks are run depending on funding opportunity type (GPG, Program Description, Program Announcement, or Program Solicitation) and type of proposal (Research, RAPID, EAGER, Ideas Lab, Conference, Equipment, International Travel, Facility/Center, or Fellowship). It also specifies whether the check triggers a “warning” or “error” message for non-compliant proposals.